6 Common Pitfalls for Clicker Trainers (Which one have you’ve fallen into?)

In decades of teaching and helping other horse people to train their own horses with clicker training I noticed patterns of why many people don’t accomplish their dream behaviours. In this series I’ll share the most common pitfalls clicker trainers fall into and what you can do to avoid them. When you recognize one or more of them, stay tuned. In the next blogs I will elaborate on solutions to solve and prevent each and every one of them!

I’m speaking from experience and I also know that you can learn to avoid these with the strategies I will be sharing.

Keys to Success in Clicker Training your Horse

As a trainer you need to develop your trainer’s skills. It’s not only about timing and using the right appetitive for the behaviour and ‘setting your horse up for success’. There are actions you can take that have a direct correlation to the outcome you want. I call these the HippoLogic Key Lessons.

When we skip (one of the 6) Key Lessons for Trainers, we might start to believe clicker training horses goes slower than using coercion. This is simply not true!

Make Learning Easy for your Horse

In my HippoLogic training system there are 6 HippoLogic Key Lessons for Horses. Those are the basic behaviours that makes training every other behaviours simpler and faster.

These are 6 simple behaviours that you can teach your horse fast and they are the building block for all future behaviours.

Help your horse understand the principles of clicker training so learning becomes easy

In the Key Lessons for Horses your horse learns the principles of positive reinforcement, how he can influence the environment with his behaviour (the actions of trainer, getting treats, etc), he learns to behave safely and also learns to control his emotions (keep calm) and paying attentions to your cues.

I consider these 6 basic behaviours the building blocks, and you can use them like Lego. You might not need each and every one of them all the time, but they are invaluable to train all future behaviours.

As trainer, we always have to ask ourselves: How can we make this as easy as pie for our horses to understand, and keep it interesting and challenging enough at the same time to keep our learner engaged?

Make Learning as Easy for Yourself, as You Do for Your Horse

In my work as clicker coach, I’ve always asked myself: ‘What does my learner (my client) have to know in order to become an autonomous equine clicker trainer?’ How can I set my people up for success, so they know how to avoid common pitfalls and know how to get out of them, once they have fallen into them.

Common pitfalls for Clicker Trainers

The HippoLogic training system is based on the 6 Key Lessons for Horses and the 6 HippoLogic Keys to Success for Trainers. The Success Keys for Trainers are success habits that are beneficial to everyone who trains horses (or want to accomplish goals in live).

1. Getting Stuck: Lack of Knowledge or Info Overload

Pitfall number 1 is getting stuck, because they lack information or knowledge. Or getting too much (contradictive) information. Overwhelm kicks in and training the behaviour want comes to a halt.

Focus is taken off their goal and a new behaviour will become the focus. Until they get stuck and a new goal is taken on, without accomplishing what they really had in mind or what they really want to do with their horse.

Then they get discouraged, feel incompetent or frustrated, sometimes want to give up on positive reinforcement (clicker) training all together.

They see others reaching their goals with traditional/NH training and they want that too: results! They can be tempted to fall back on training with aversives and coercion, even when they don’t enjoy it.

I’ve struggled with this when I started in 1999. I got ‘Results’ in training using NH, but struggled to get the Relationship with my horse in that method. Something I really craved. I knew in my heart that positive reinforcement (R+) could give me the Relationship I wanted, but at that time I didn’t know how to get the Results with R+. This put me on the path to develop a positive reinforcement horse training system that I could teach, so that the results with clicker training could became within reach of all horse people: the HippoLogic system. I will share this in my next blog!

2. Wishy-washy about Your Goals

Being wishy-washy about the behaviours they train. They find it hard to stay focussed on the outcome they want and to keep going. They get stuck. They shift their focus to other behaviours. Behaviours they see other people train, and it looks great, easy and simple! They want that, too!

Then it doesn’t work out the way they imagined (see pitfall #1) and they see something else that is fun and interesting to train! Yeey, let’s do that instead!

I call this the ‘Shiny Behaviour Syndrome’ (instead of shiny object syndrome) because horse people distract themselves from what they really want.

Deep down they believe their dream is impossible, they are afraid of failing, they’re not sure they can do it or that their horse would be able to do it, or they get continuously discouraged by people in their environment: “You can’t train that!”, “You’re spoiling your horse with cookies, he needs a leader! Man up!” and so on.

Sometimes they abandon their dream because they want to fit it with their peers. They want to belong. It’s hard to be the only dressage rider in a barn full of show jumpers, it’s hard to be the only recreational rider in a barn full of competition riders. It’s hard to clicker train your horse in a barn full of people who use force and coercion to train and ride their horses.

3. Only Keeping Your Eye on the Prize (Outcome)

The next pitfall that’s very common, is that people have a goal and only aim for the outcome. They know what they want and what it looks like. Without realizing it, they try desperate to go from 1 to 100 in one go.

They forget to pay attention to the steps needed, that lead to their goal. A common example: when riders want to ride their horse ‘on the bit’ so their horse is fully responsive to the lightest rider aids and they are moving in harmony, together. The aim in dressage.

The picture (outcome) is a horse that has his head on the vertical, the neck is bend and the horse is moving fluently forward in balance. When riders lack knowledge of the How To, they pull the reins to coerce the horse in the desired head position (sometimes with draw reins, martingales or sharp bits), without realizing they block the hind legs from moving more towards the center of gravity, so he can carry them in balance.

They then need to use a lot of leg aid (or the whip) to keep their horse moving fluently forward. Now it looks like the goal is reached, but it’s not. It doesn’t feel that way (and they realize it at some level).

It’s hard to admit it’s not working, so they try harder (and get more frustrated). Or they finally start to believe that ‘this is it’ and the expert is probably right: this is the way. When this is the norm, it becomes normal (“norm [to] all”) to ride this way. Many instructors are at fault, too. They advice using spurs, to get quicker to the look-a-like outcome.

You know you’ve fallen into this pitfall when reaching your goal seems 1) unreachable or 2) isn’t as satisfying as you thought it would be (and that’s hard to admit. Even to yourself). Do not despair, there is a solution! And I’m going to share it with you in the next few blogs!

4. Quitting before Getting Results

Trainers stop before they reach their goals with their horse. Sometimes this happens because they struggle with pitfall #1, #2, #3 or a combination of these factors. In other cases people stop training simply because they feel lonely without someone to cheer them on.

Many clicker trainers, who do have a goal, are clear about it, know how to train it, still don’t accomplish it. Something happens, and they fall out of their training routine. Maybe it’s because of their work, or their family needed their attention, or sometimes just because they went on vacation and never got back in training mode with their horse. Or the weather changed and they thought that it’s impossible to work on their goal behaviour in Winter/Summer/Spring/Autumn. We’ve all experienced it. This is a simple pitfall to avoid and one of the easiest to solve, so stay tuned.

5. Forgetting to Set YOURSELF up for Success, too!

Are you only thinking about your horse in training? How to serve him best?

Some people realize so well what their horse needs, in order to teach their horse a new behaviour quickly and without many detours. They know exactly how to help their horse to learn!

Yet, they forget what they need, in order to speed their learning process. They forget how to make training feel effortlessly and fun for themselves! This struggle often stays under the surface, because we don’t know what we don’t know, right?

It’s like when you discover how to learn to read a street map (or following instructions on Google Maps). Suddenly you realize how many times you’ve taken a detour and it explains why you’ve felt lost. I will share a tool that prevent this from happening. With this tool in hand these things won’t happen anymore!

You can set yourself up for success and speed up your learning process by avoiding making the same mistake over and over. I’ve seen so many times that dedicated horse people are only focussed on the learning process of their horse, without realizing that they are learning about clicker training, too.

6. Getting stuck in Undesired Emotions

Last but not least is the pitfall getting stuck in emotions: they see their horse is frustrated, but don’t know what to do to turn it around or prevent it next time. When we fall into the same pitfall over and over, we want to quit.

We might think: “This [clicker training/clicker training behaviour X] is not for us”. Maybe we have 1 tool (a hammer) and try to treat everything like a nail. That’s frustrating! When we discover that there is a whole range of tools at our disposal, all projects are suddenly so much easier to accomplish! That’s why I will share and explain my tools with you in the next blogs.

When you’re ready, here are 2 ways I help horse people

In my community I teach all the tools I’m talking about and I help you personally to implement them so you can accomplish anything you want with your horse.

Are you a compassionate horse owner who wants to build a strong friendship with your horse? Would you like to understand your horse better and help your horse to understand YOU better? Get access to many online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community in our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Not sure? Start with a free clicker training assessment to get taste of what it feels like to work with me. When you have a specific struggle that you want to overcome, don’t hesitate to contact me. In this assessment you’ll discover what’s holding you back from accomplishing the things you want with your horse. After our conversation you’ll know exactly what to do, in order to move forward towards your goals.

Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic & HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

3 Simple Steps to Create a 2023 Vision for your Horse that lasts until December

It’s January 4th and my mailbox is overflowing with emails about creating New Years Resolutions, Visions for your Horse and Planning for Equestrians. Fact is, most horse people don’t know what they want, let alone knowing what their horse really wants. How to figure out what you really want and stick with it so that you can say in December 2023: “This is what I created in January and here are my results.”

  • Pick a goal that makes your heart sing
  • Connect it to your values
  • Include your horse’s wants and needs

Does it makes your heart sing?

If you think about your goal, do you really wish that you’ve already accomplished it? Can you really see yourself doing it? Can you feel how it feels?

Don’t worry about that you don’t know yet all the steps in order to accomplish it. That’s what you’ll figure out in the next 12 months. Once you’ve determined a clear goal, you can take the next step.

Your Equestrian Values

When you connect your goals to your equestrian values, you’ll align your dreams with your goals.

If it’s important to you that your horse enjoys riding as much as you do, you’ll have find a way to know for sure how your horse feels about your time together. If he doesn’t like it, you can find ways to help him change his mind.

You can do that by accommodating his wants and needs, based on his natural behaviour. When people change from coercive methods to offering choices in training, listening to what their horses are communicating and using positive reinforcement to strengthen their 2-way communication and trust, horses start to enjoy their training/riding more.

If your horse still hates to be ridden, would you be able to give up your dream of riding? Can you find a way to change your dream into spending time together in a way you both enjoy? If riding is more important than (the value of) honoring your horse’s feelings you don’t have to worry about how you can make it more fun for your horse.

To me riding has no value and isn’t an addition to my life if the horse I’m riding dislikes to be ridden. Therefore many horses won’t make it to my ‘riding horse list’, but the ones that do… oh my! They are fabulous to ride! They love it! You can feel it! You feel how it feels to be in harmony with your horse. Even if that would be just one ride a year, I would choose it over weekly rides on horses that ‘sit their time out’ under saddle. How about you?

Do you know what your equestrian values are?

Friends, Freedom and Forage
Friends, Freedom and Forage

Being unaware of your equestrian values can get in the way of accomplishing your dream results! When I was still following a well known horse guru, I finally got the results I was always dreaming about… My horse was listening to me. I taught him so many new behaviours. I felt safe and in control, but…it just didn’t feel good

Why did I stick with Natural Horsemanship for so long? Well, the negative reinforcement training (coercing my horse), was actually very much positive reinforcement for me: I got the results I was dreaming about! What was missing? The part in which my horse loved our time togethers as much as I did. My training results felt colourless as long as my horse didn’t have fun. That’s when I started to let go of negative reinforcement training and fully emerged myself into positive reinforcement.

What does your horse want, in 2023?

This is very much intertwined with your equestrian values, when you’re the person that really loves horses and want what’s good for them. If you would accomplish your dream goal and you hurt your horse in the process, would it still be your goal? Of course not!

Becoming aware of what your horse wants, is therefor a very important part of making your 2023 vision! Build your dreams and goals around his natural behaviour so that you will be happy, because you know your horse is happy!

For instance, I believe that horses in general love to trail ride, because they are natural nomads. Their nature is to spent time in nature and being with the herd (hack out with friends).

If your horse doesn’t love it, because he’s herd bound, how can you help him overcome his (innate) fear of being alone and vulnerable? How can you show your horse you will be his guardian that he can trust to keep him safe? How can you help him more confident without his equine friends, so that he’s love going out with you. That’s how you can help your horse start loving your trail rides, so you can be independent of your barn friends’ schedules to ride.

If your dream is not natural to your horse’s behaviour, ask yourself how you can make it a better fit.

Riding in an arena might not be part of his natural desire or behaviour, but learning is. Exercising is. Spending time with an individual he loves, is. Having choices and feeling in control is natural to horses.

Implementing these important things for your horse into your arena time, will help your horse enjoy your time together more. He will start looking forward to it. Change your horse’s aversive triggers in the arena into appetitive ones. That’s a hot topic for many clicker trainers and our main focus in our clicker community.

What’s next

Now you can create a vision for you and your horse for 2023 that’s based on your dreams, and your values in a way that respects your horse and let your horse shine.
If you want a little support, join my free class “Creating your Equestrian Vision Board for 2023”. Register with the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIufuyhpj0vHtCgsrAOSh9EcImibPG_Tw0t

Are you a compassionate horse owner who wants to build a strong friendship with your horse? Would you like to understand your horse better and help your horse to understand YOU better? Get access to many online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community in our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Not sure? Start with a free clicker training assessment to get taste of what it feels like to work with me. When you have a specific struggle that you want to overcome, don’t hesitate to contact me. In this assessment you’ll discover what’s holding you back from accomplishing the things you want with your horse. After our conversation you’ll know exactly what to do, in order to move forward towards your goals.

Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic & HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

Creating a two-way language with your Horse

You want your horse to listen to you, but are you listening to him? Here’a how you create a solid two-way communication with your horse, so you can build trust. A friendship with your horse, so you can feel safe and enjoy each others company.

  • Listen to what your horse tells you with his body language
  • Re-act to your horse’s message to let him know: “I heard you, and I encourage you to tell me more”
  • Address his feelings. Does he show joy, happiness and other signs of having fun? Offer more of that, so he’ll enjoy his time with you more. If he tells you: “I’m anxious, stressed, or frustrated”, make him feel safe and confident by going back to the point your horse felt calm and safe.
  • The more you listen to him, the more he’ll tell you. This establishes a great amount of trust!
  • When trust is established you can ask him to listen to you. Then he’s ready to respond better to all you ask him, because he has learned you’ll listen, if he gets worried.

Reading equine body language

It can be scary to listen to your horse. After all, most of us have learned that we need to be the leader (read: boss!). He ‘has to listen to us’! We’re not taught to listen to the language of the horse. We are taught to ignore most of his worry signals!

Miscommunication will cause horses to ‘bite out of nowhere’ because we’ve ignored (unconsciously) all his previous warnings. What would happen if you would learn to listen better?

The biggest fear of most horse owners is:

“What if my horse say ‘NO’?”

Hearing a ‘No‘ from your horse is excellent feedback and we can start developing a friendship right there. We learn what he loves, likes and… dislikes. When we can help him feel better about the things that scare him, who do you think he’ll trust? Exactly!

The more he says ‘No’ the more is there to work on. Every time is an opportunity for you to let him know: “I hear you. I listen to you.” The more you do this, the more he’ll trust you. You tell your horse you listen to him with your actions.

The more ‘No’s‘ you address, the better your relationship will become, because the less of his boundaries you overstep (unconsciously).

Signs your horse is saying ‘No’

  • He moves away from you or the object (eg moves his head slightly away from the halter, pulls his leg back when you clean his foot, steps away from the saddle or mounting block)
  • He tenses up (ears back, higher head position, tail swishing, wider opened eyes, wrinkles about the lips or nostrils)
  • He shows signs of stress or fear (flight/freeze/fight)
  • Your horse offers calming signals (looking away for instance)
  • Afterwards he can show signs of recovering from stress (licking, head lowering, blinking) and you need to figure out what happened that caused stress in the first place).

How to tell your horse you’re listening

Sometimes you can tell your horse you’re listening by being patient. When he moves his head away ever so slightly from the halter just wait. Give him time.

Maybe you’re coming on too strong, because you’re in a hurry and therefor you are stressed. He picked up on that. Allowing your horse some time to decide to be haltered will establish trust and a two-way communication..

Maybe your movements were too abrupt and he got startled. A bit. Even though it can be very subtle from the outside. These tiny bits of stress can add up, if you don’t calm your horse down in between. By the time 8 or 9 tiny stressors have happened (he’s telling you NO and you ignored it), he can ‘suddenly explode’ and buck or bite ‘out of nowhere’.

When you notice he’s stressed about something, calm him down by using positive reinforcement or counter conditioning so that he’ll feel better. If he associates the halter with aversives, change his association by offering an appetite (something pleasurable).

If he’s scared of an object simply allow him to investigate it on this own terms (distance, time) will help him build confidence. Reinforce exploration behaviour with a click and treat. The more you do this, the more he’ll learns to trust you. In the future he’ll listen to you when you ask him to walk by the scary object because he has learned you encourage him with time, patience, communication and appetitives. All the good things!

The more you listen, the more your horse will tell you

The more he’ll tell you, the better your communication will be. This is the way you built a friendship: by listening to your horse and make him feel comfortable with you and the things you’re doing together. Make being together a Win-Win.

You can develop a solid language for just the two of you. You’ll discover that he’s giving you all the answers, as long as you’re willing to listen. And listening means also acting on your horse’s message and letting him know you heard him.

Creating a solid two-way communication with your horse will help you and your horse stay safe. It will boost the confidence of your horse and deepen the bond between you two.

Bonding with an Unapproachable Equine

In training Rita the Unapproachable Mule I do exactly this. When she’s afraid, I listen and I won’t approach her. Instead I let her and encourage her to approach me. I also have given her a tool to communicate to me: “Please give me more distance” because I know she’s terrified of people.

Are you a compassionate horse owner who wants to build a strong friendship with your horse? Would you like to understand your horse better and help your horse to understand YOU better? Get access to many online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community in our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Not sure? Start with a free clicker training assessment to get taste of what it feels like to work with me. When you have a specific struggle that you want to overcome, don’t hesitate to contact me. In this assessment you’ll discover what’s holding you back from accomplishing the things you want with your horse. After our conversation you’ll know exactly what to do, in order to move forward towards your goals.

Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic & HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

5 Tips to Improve the Bond with Your Horse

There are many things you can do to improve the relationship with your horse. Even if you already have a great relationship you can still implement these.

1. Listen to Your Horse

Listen to your horse clickertraining.ca

Listen to what your horse communicates

Stop labeling your horse and start describing his behaviour. If you use labels you give away your power to listen. If you have a ‘stubborn’ horse, or a ‘lazy’ one or even a ‘smart cookie’ it feels if you don’t have any influence on his behaviour. Nothing is further from the truth. Study horse behaviour and spent time watching your horse.

2. Act to what your horse communicates

If your horse doesn’t want to come near a new object or doesn’t want to jump over a jump, he is telling you something about his emotions about the object. In order to improve your bond you don’t only have to listen what he has to say, you have to let him know you care. The way you do this is to make him comfortable and increase his courage and confidence about what you want him to do.

3. Break up your training in small steps

A Shaping plan consist of enough small steps for your horse to be successful in your training

Break up your clickertraining so every step leads to success

Your horse has no idea what you have planned for him today and in the future. If you are teaching him something new, make sure you set him up for success and break it down in small steps. Positively reinforce him for every effort he makes, even though it might not look like the end result yet. This is called splitting behaviour in animal training. I teach my students to set and plan their goals so they become very successful.

Milestones in horse training are always based on small steps.

4. Make training, riding and taking care of him fun

Strengthen everything you want your horse to do for  you with something he likes too. Don’t think only about you want if you value the bond with your horse. The more positive reinforcement you use (the more you give), the more you get back from your horse. All people I know that started using clicker training notice very quickly how much your horse suddenly pays attention to what you do if you use a bit of clicker training.

5. Keep track of your Training

One of my pet peeves is to keep track of your training. This helps you to see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already improved. This goes for your training as well as your relationship. My horse Kyra was wild when I got her (feral, I mean!). She didn’t want to have anything to do with me or people in general. Now she seeks out human contact and is the barn favorite. How great is her live now because of that!

clickertraining is fun

Clickertraining makes safe horses if you do it well

When you keep track (and there are many ways to do this!) you can put where you are now in perspective. We are all very tempted to only look at all things we haven’t achieved yet and that can lead to feeling like a failure. I am a fan of comparing yourself only with yourself, not with someone else. You might compare your worst with someone else’s best. That is not setting yourself up for a proud feeling!

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

Shape the community

If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

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Important values in the horse-human relationship: Trust

Personally I think trust is one of the most important values in a horse-human relationship. Without a foundation of trust you don’t have much to built a good relationship on.

It’s easier to love someone you trust, than someone you don’t. That ‘someone’ can be a human as well as an animal. If you trust someone, you can relax in his or her company and rely upon him/her to help keep you safe and not to hurt you.

We can’t learn when we are in fear and our flight-fight response is triggered. The same goes for horses. We learn best when we feel at ease and are relaxed. In other words; when we stay in learning mode.

Trust is not something you can buy (with treats), force (with pressure) or gain quickly. You have to build trust, over time, with your actions. Not with words.

we_trust_actions_hippologic

You want all your actions (handling, training, riding) to contribute to building trust, not to take away trust.

In Dutch we have a saying: ‘Trust comes by foot but leaves on a horse’ which means that trust is built slowly but can be destroyed quickly.

Take this question with you every time you spent time with your horse: Are my actions contributing to building trust or not? If you don’t know the answer, place yourself in his shoes. Observe your horse’s body language, mimic it and see what emotions get triggered. Are you relaxed or tense? Can you still breathe? Do you feel safe or not?

How do you build trust in your relationship and how do you measure it?

clickertraining.ca gets you the results and relationship you want
Clicker training creates mutual understanding and a strong bond with your horse

Are you a compassionate horse owner who wants to build a strong friendship with your horse? Would you like to understand your horse better and help your horse to understand YOU better? Get access to many online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community in our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Not sure? Start with a free clicker training assessment to get taste of what it feels like to work with me. When you have a specific struggle that you want to overcome, don’t hesitate to contact me. In this assessment you’ll discover what’s holding you back from accomplishing the things you want with your horse. After our conversation you’ll know exactly what to do, in order to move forward towards your goals.

Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic & HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

Peer pressure at the barn

One of the most underestimated challenges of positive reinforcement training can be… people in your environment.

It is a journey
The journey to switch from negative reinforcement (most traditional and natural horsemanship methods) to positive reinforcement training (clicker training, on target training) is instructive and beautiful.

peer pressure barn_hippologic_clickertrainingIt is not always a straight, fast or smooth road. It is often a winding, bumpy road with lots of ups and downs, but the views are astonishing. You will see many positive changes in your horse and your relationship.

On your journey you will learn how to think outside of the box, it will teach you to become more creative. It will teach you how to think in solutions instead of problems and it will alter the relationship with your horse in an extraordinarily beautiful way.

good relationship horse

Slowly you start using more and more rewards to reinforce your horse to do things for you. Then you might slowly stop using the tools that your horse experiences as aversive, like a whip, rope halter, training stick or spurs. So far so good, until… you encounter a hiccup.

Believe me when I tell you: this day will happen. Your horse doesn’t do what you ask him to do. You can’t figure out why or you can’t figure out a way to ask him differently so he will understand. You don’t have enough tools yet, so you don’t have an answer right away. That’s OK. It is OK to not know everything right away. What to do?

Back to default
It is perfectly normal to fall back to your old tools or habits of using pressure, force or even to inflict pain. Don’t blame yourself for it. Becoming aware is the first step in changing! Hooray!

peer pressure at barn_hippologic clickertrainingIf you are prepared for this day, and it will happen, you can just simply say to yourself. “Hey, you know what? I don’t know what to do. Let’s figure it out first. Let’s find help and try again another time.” Really, it is OK not to know what to do! And it is also OK to stop your training until you do know how to solve your training problem in a way that is acceptable for you and your horse”.

Remember what is most important
Choosing to make your horse your priority can be extremely hard to do. Especially when other people are watching you work. Imagine that the farrier has come to trim your horses’ feet. Your horse is afraid of the farrier or there is something else that causes your horse not to cooperate the way he normally does. It can be hard to listen to your horse and figure out the ‘why’. Your horse probably has a very good reason.

In most cases it is OK to say: “Sorry, my horse is not prepared enough yet. Let’s do this another time.” Do what you need to do in order to protect your relationship and the trust you have build with positive reinforcement. In Dutch we have a saying:
Trust arrives walking and departs riding. Which means that trust is hard to build and easy to loose.

Do you really want to risk your relationship with your horse so the farrier can do his/her job right now? It can be dangerous for everyone if the farrier is more a traditional person. Or would you rather choose to make sure the farrier and your horse are safe next time?

Would you like to know how to deal with peer pressure at your barn? It is all covered in the Ultimate Horse Training Formula, HippoLogic’s online complete home study course.

Safe the date: Thursday March 7, 2019 and join us!

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Succes 

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Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, use it all situations and for all horses successfully?

If you are ready to get the results in clicker training you really, really want this is the course for you.

  • Do you want to have a more clarity and confidence in training your own horse?
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  • Would you like to have personal support while practising your new skills?

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If you want to get to know me, book your free Discovery Call. Plan your free 30 minute call online.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.
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How to … Listen to Horses

Have you ever had the experience that you followed your horses’ lead and you found out something unexpected?

A story
One day my clients horse was very obstructive. He wouldn’t let her mount, he kept walking away and when she finally managed -with a lot of patience- to sit down, he bucked. That was a bit out of character, so I asked her to dismount. The moment she did, her stallion immediately acted much nicer.

I asked her a lot of questions: did she know why he was suddenly bolting? Could he be sore from the day before? Did something change in the herd? Could one of the mares be in heat? And so on. Alle the answers were ‘No’. We decided to check his saddle. In the meanwhile I asked if she had done something out of the ordinary. She said: I saddled him in the outdoor arena. I put my saddle on the (wooden) fence. We checked his saddle and we found a huge splinter/piece of wood in his saddle pad that was bothering him. We got rid of the splinter, saddled the stallion and all problems where gone instantly.

We want friendship, partnership and to be a team with our horse. We always want the horse to listen to us. But shouldn’t we listen as often to our horse as the horse listens to us in a friendship? We are a team, right? Is your partner or team member allowed to vote or have a voice?

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First sign your horse wants to talk to you
‘Disobedient’. If your horse needs to tell you an important message, he always will act differently. That is his only way to communicate he needs to tell you something important. I put the word disobedient between quotation marks because I don’t believe in disobedient horses. I do believe they have good reasons not to please us, if they do. ‘Listening’ to your horse isn’t listening. It is observing your horse. He is not ‘telling’ you his message, he communicates it through body language and actions. Remember that.

How to ‘listen’
OK, I actually mean ‘How to observe, so you can get the message‘. First, let go of your own agenda! What!? Yes!

Think about what you want from your horse when he is ‘not listening’ and he is trying ‘to speak to you’, then let your agenda go for a moment. You are not ‘losing’ anything when you give up your goal in that moment. You can only win. The horse wins. It will be a win-win situation. That will strengthen the team spirit.

Focus on what your horse needs in that moment. Open your mind. Focus on what you know about horses natural behaviours and needs. He needs safety, clarity, health, his herd and so on. What do you see: Does he wants to flee, does he freeze, what does he wants to do if you let him? What clues is he giving you?

Give your horse responsibility
Let your horse ‘talk’ to you by giving him a bit more freedom to see where he is leading you. What does his strange behaviour tell you? Can you think of a reason? Focus on his needs. If he is bucking, check the saddle, the saddle pad, the girth, his back and so on. Does he refuse to go into the arena? Where does he want to go?

Figure it out
Try to think of reasons why he doesn’t want to do what you want him to do. Especially when he normally doesn’t act this way. What has changed since the last time you asked this specific thing you want him to do? Did you change something? Did you do something you normally wouldn’t do? Do you think this is related? Can you check that?

Accept ‘not knowing’
Sometimes you don’t know the answer(s). So you can ask your horse again to follow your lead. If he still doesn’t want to please you, follow your gut. Not your ego. Your ego can’t stand that you don’t know the answer to the questions ‘What is wrong, my dear?’, so it will urge you to make decisions that makes ‘you look right’ (make the horse obedient).

Breathe, check in with your gut feeling. Just take a moment or two if you need to. Accept that you might not know the answer, sometimes you will never know. You only will know you did the right thing by listening to your horse and changed your plans or goal for that day. Sometimes you’re lucky and Captain Hind Sight makes it clear to you. Then you will be very pleased that you listened to your horse, not to other people.

Examples
I have hundreds of examples of listening to horses messages. What are your horses’ stories? I’d love to hear them.

Related posts
What to do if your horse doesn’t listen? (A question about Clicker training)
How to build a relationship with our horse
Recipe for a Magical Bond
Keeping an open mind is a challenge

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin