Empowering Equestrians to Train their own horse with 100% Force Free & Horse Friendly methods

Posts tagged ‘Clicker training’

Fact Friday: difference between negative and positive reinforcement

Let’s start with explaining what positive and negative reinforcement is. Then I will share what was a real eye-opener for me about the difference between positive reinforcement (R+) and negative reinforcement (R-). It is not so much the obvious difference (the carrot or the stick-difference), it’s way cooler!

Definitions

Reinforcement (R): strengthening (a behaviour)

+ (plus): adding

– (minus): removing

Appetitive: something the animal really wants to have and values

Aversive: something the animal really wants to avoid or escape from

Positive reinforcement: use of an appetitive in order to make a behaviour stronger (reinforce the behaviour).

Negative reinforcement (R-): taking away an aversive in order to make a behaviour stronger (reinforce the behaviour).

reinforcement_hippologic

Positive reinforcement_positive_reinforcement_clicker_training_hippologic

 

In R+ trainers use mostly food rewards because food is of high value to the horse. In R+ the use of a marker signal (often a sound, eg a click) is used to communicate to the animal what behaviour the horse was reinforced for, not the moment of offering the appetitive. Clicker training is an example of positive reinforcement training.

 

Negative reinforcement

Traditional riding aids are based on R-

In R- trainers use mostly pressure to communicate. The moment of taking away the aversive is the way to communicate to the horse what behaviour the animal was reinforced for. Traditional training and natural horsemanship are based on negative reinforcement.

The difference between R+ and R-

It is not the food or the use of a marker in positive reinforcement that is the biggest difference. It is the way the horse responds in training that is the real difference.

In negative reinforcement it's the trainer that raises the criteria, 
in positive reinforcement it's the animal that raises the criteria.

 

In other words, in R- the horse will not offer behaviours spontaneously (because there is no reward involved for the animal).

The ‘release of pressure’ is not a reward: the horse will not offer ‘more behaviour’ in the hope of a more severe aversive ‘in order to earn a bigger sense of relieve’.

In R- the horse learns to avoid or prevent the aversive all together by anticipating his owners behaviour, but he will not actively seek ways to improve the behaviour since there is nothing in it for him if he does.

If the trainer wants to create more of a desired behaviour or better quality behaviour he uses an aversive to communicate that he wants something different now (raising criteria).

horse_eye_hippologic_clickertraining.jpg

In R+ the horse keeps actively looking for ways to earn the appetitive reinforcer by offering more of the desired behaviour. The horse learns he can influence the appearance of an appetitive by anticipating the behaviour. He will actively look for ways to earn the reinforcer and therefor will raise the criteria on his own by offering more of the desired behaviour.

The horse as individual

For me this way of approaching the difference between R- and R+ was a real eye-opener!

I suddenly realized that not everyone is looking for a horse that learns to think and comes up with solutions on his own!

Personally I think this is a tremendous asset in training animals. It can sometimes be a challenge to channel this motivation, but if you know how you can achieve spectacular results! It not only helps speed up training but it also benefits the relationship with the horse: he wants to train with you because there is something in it for him!

I also realize that this is exactly the same reason it can be such scary thought: a huge animal that thinks he is entitled to his own ideas (he is!). What if this is turned against the trainer? Then what? What if the horse decides not to cooperate… does that mean he doesn’t like you or your training? What if the horse ‘decides to let you down’?

What if… this is not the case at all? What if the horse mostly doesn’t cooperate because he simply doesn’t understand the question? Or he won’t do it because he is afraid? What if he is allowed (and encouraged) to communicate his concerns or fears? Would that benefit the relationship? I think it does!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe beauty of herd animals is that they are hard-wired to cooperate: the drive to work together in order to keep safe and survive is so strong they can’t ignore it. That’s the same reason we could domesticate them in the first place.

I think it is amazing to see how much horses put up with in order to cooperate. That’s the very same reason you can train them so well with negative reinforcement: their will to stay safe and survive is so strong.

Food for thought

Anyway this fact was food for thought for me. What about you? Are you afraid or delighted to let your horse raise the criteria and have a say in his training?

Remember: 
Negative reinforcement for the horse, is positive reinforcement 
for the trainer (the trainer gets what he wants: desired behaviour).

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologicSandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training.
I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both horse and human.
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Husbandry skills: hoof care (part IV)

In this series I will keep you posted on the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A was scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicked out whenever she felt something touching them.

I promised to keep you updated on our clicker training sessions. We had another session since my last post. Progress might seem slow, but I know from over a decade of clicker training horses that slow is the way to go. (more…)

Preparing your Horse for the Farrier with Clicker Training

Being a farrier  is a high risk profession. It is not only a physically demanding job, but also the clients can be very opinionated. Or worse become defensive and kick, bite or rear. With clients I mean horses, of course. How can you help your farrier be safe working with your horse?  How can you prepare your horse for a farrier treatment? My answer is of course: with positive reinforcement.Kyra one month after arrival

Positive reinforcement for the professional

The first thing reinforcing the farrier to come back is that he gets paid! I like to offer a cup of tea and some cookies too, if he is really good with my horse. But the best way to reinforce your farrier to come back and do a good job is to have your horse well trained and prepared.

(more…)

What’s your horse’s best behaviour?

Today I posted this question on my Facebook page and the answers were pretty diverse and also surprising. When I thought about this question myself I thought back to when I got Kyra.

Kyra’s story

Kyra was 11 months old and was separated from her mom and her whole family herd three weeks earlier. Kyra was born in a nature reserve. (more…)

Be creative in horse training. Here is how

In horse training we often have to be creative if we encounter resistance, fear, frustration or if something else is just so much more reinforcing than you. You have to be even  more creative, if you want to come up with a force free and horse friendly training solution. Here are some tips that can help you become creative.

Occupy your conscious

Occupy your conscious so your unconscious can come up with a solution. Do something completely different. Go draw a horse or colour a colouring sheet. I made one for you, see the download at the bottom of the page.

Listen to yourself

Talk your training problems over with a good friend. When you hear yourself talk you can put things in perspective and come up with a solution._________colouringsheet_horse_hippologic_art

If that doesn’t work, your friend might have a solution for you or you can ask yourself: ‘What advise would I give if it wasn’t me, but a friend with this problem with her horse?’

Have fun

If you are not looking to solve a particular training problem, just download my colouring sheet and relax. Have some fun.

I would really appreciate if you upload your colouring sheet and show it to me. You can send me an email info@clickertraining.ca or put a link in the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing your creativity!

DOWNLOAD your colouring sheet here

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next  online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website

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Unconventional Training Solutions

Clicker training is brain training. I simply have to break out of the box of conventional ideas to come up with solutions that are ethical (pain free and force free) and horse friendly (easy to understand and rewarding for the horse). This is not always a simple task with these self-imposed regulations.

Challenge

Sometimes it is a real challenge to come up with solutions for difficulties I encounter in einsteinmy own training with Kyra. If I work for a client it’s really easy, because I am the outsider. To come up with creative training solutions for my own situation is much more challenging. That is why I like to have a mentor too.

If my mentor is not available, I have to focus on what I want and how I want this instead of ‘how I know I can solve this’. Because ‘I know how to solve this’ with coercion, negative reinforcement, punishment and other methods I am not willing to use anymore.

Training goal

Kyra is up for a new step in her training on the long reins. I want her to canter on the long reins. That means she has to learn to collect herself, otherwise I can’t keep up with her.

I started her on a circle in canter because she was too fast. On a circle I didn’t have to run. I created a problem by staying on the circle too long. She didn’t want to follow the rail on the long side of the arena, because she thought she had to stay in a circle.

Couldn’t you just use the outside rein?

_langeteugel-hippologic2012I didn’t want to pull on the outside rein. Her head moves up and down a lot in canter so the reins are already moving and causing too much ‘noise’ to be subtle with the rein aids. I don’t want to pull (force) her with the reins since I think the reins should stay a subtle aid.

Pulling on the outside reins causes her body to bend the wrong way (outside ‘Stellung’) which is a hard problem to solve later.

Why didn’t you use the whip to prevent her coming off the track?

I don’t use a whip. This would only work if she is used to yielding for the whip and/or is afraid of the whip. Using a tool that is developed to cause pain, discomfort or help motivate (in a negative reinforcement way) a horse move is not what I want. I think it can be too enticing to use it for what it is made for in a moment of frustration.
I don’t want to teach Kyra what she is NOT supposed to do (she is ‘not supposed to come off track’), I want her to teach what I want her to do: stay on the track. It is a different way of thinking. Focusing on what you want to teach instead of what you want to prevent.

How did you solve it if you don’t use rein aids or a whip?

Thank you for asking! I had to figure out a way to communicate to Kyra what it is I was looking for: staying on the track in canter.

Step 1

First I laid some poles next to the track parallel to the wall on the long side of the arena. She just stepped over them to make her circle. So I split the goal into smaller steps: I practised cantering at liberty and under saddle along the poles. That made it easier for her to understand that she was suppose to follow the track. It wasn’t fool proof and she was still confused on the long rein.

Step 2

Then I used some cones which she knows how to target. I made it really easy and asked her to touch the cone then canter a few strides to the next cone and asked her to touch that other cone. She understood quickly and so I made the distance between the cones bigger. The poles were still parallel to the track but she didn’t want to jump over them now that she was focused on the cones.

Step 3

Now we made really quick progress: she started to canter on the long side of the track. In 3 training sessions of 5-10 minutes I could take some of the poles away and start cantering on the other side of the arena on the long side.

Step 4

The next step was to fade out the cones and the two poles at the beginning and end of the long sides of the tracks. The cones were not important anymore because now I could click and reinforce for cantering on the track.

Step 5

Now I started to canter on the other side of the arena as well and it was no problem for her to understand to stay on the track.

Step 6

The next step is to change reins and practise everything she now learned in the left lead canter to the right lead canter.

Step 7

Now we are working on speed in canter. She is still a bit too fast and she has to learn to collect more so I can walk along her side instead of jogging. We already worked on this in session 4 and 5.

In this way I taught Kyra to stay on track and canter more slowly in only 7 sessions of 5-10 minutes. No frustration (only a bit of a brainteaser for me), no force, pain or threatening. I really like to come up with training solutions like this so I don’t have to damage the bond of trust I have been building so carefully.

What are some of the force free and R+ solutions you came up with in your training?

Please share this post if it was helpful. It might help other equestrians to think out of the box.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online my online course Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them click here for more info

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How to use a training logbook for your horse

A training diary can be a valuable tool in achieving your training goals if you know how. A logbook is not ‘just a diary’ where you describe what you did that day. In order to get the most out of your training diary keep these tips in mind.

Purpose of journaling
The reason to keep a logbook is to keep track of your achievements and learn from it. Therefor you need to write down your goal(s) and your progress. If you don’t write these down, it is hard to remember them correctly. You can get the feeling of ‘never achieving’ because your mind will adjust your goals and your achievements like a horizon. You will never arrive… As soon as you write some of your goals down, your subconcious will start looking for ways to get there. Keeping a logbook can help you keep motivated.

Learn from experience
If you want to learn as much as possible from your experience you have to be honest and write down the things that you can learn from.

Keep it positive
Practice writing everything down in a positive way, so it is nice to read back. Instead of writing down ‘I was impatient and lost my temper’ phrase it like this ‘I became frustrated because my steps were too big. My horse didn’t understand what I wanted and I became impatient.’

In this way you will find a solution to handle the situation in the future: you ‘lumped’ your criteria. Next time you can decide to stop your training and take a moment to figure out how to ‘split’ the criteria in smaller steps or adjust the context of training so your horse will understand quicker what you want. In this way you set yourself and your horse up for success.

Read here to read 4 easy ways to start a  training journal (opens in a new window).

Training_logbook_journal_diary_hippologic2016

Lessons learned
It is also a valuable to write down all the things that went right. This makes you aware of the lessons you’ve are already learned. It also makes you aware of your strengths as a trainer. After updating your logbook for a while you will see a pattern: the points of learning have turned into things that went right. This is very motivating.

Keep it balanced
Make sure the points for improvement are not outbalancing the things that went right. We all have the tendency to focus too much on things that went ‘wrong’, but that won’t help you form a realistic picture of you as a trainer. There are always a lot of thing you have already mastered. They are important, too.

If you write down three things to change in your next training, also write down three things you are content about. This may feel uneasy to you in the beginning, but positive reinforcement is all about focusing on the things that go (in the) right (direction), in order to get more of it.

You can also split it between the things your horse did well and the things you, as trainer, did well. Example: ‘my horse was interested in my training for half an hour’, ‘my horse made progress in exercise X’, ‘I have set my horse up to succeed by keeping my criteria clear’, ‘I kept my training sessions short and sweet by counting the treats in my pocket before I started’.

Goals achieved
Celebrate achieving your goals: make a picture or video to remember, share it with friends, your coach or your accountability partner. Enjoy your achievements big and small!

Timeline
A training diary also helps you to keep track of your timeline and practice hours. Did it take as long as you expected? You can write how long your training sessions are. Maybe you are used to thinking in ‘weeks or months’ to achieve something, I think it is more useful and realistic to think in the amount of training sessions or training days.

Example: Instead of ‘It took me 3 months to teach my horse to lift his legs for the farrier’ a logbook can help you see ‘it took 12 weeks: each week we practiced 4 days. Each day consisted out of 5 training sessions of 6 minutes max.’ Now you know you only practiced 28 days (not three months/ 90 days) and each day you practiced a maximum of 30 minutes a day. The training took 14 hours in total to achieve your goal. That sounds different than ‘three months’, right?

A training diary is all about making yourself conscious. Keep it motivating and phrase things in a positive way so it will be pleasant to read back.

 

Tell me about your training logbook!

Here is the clicker training logbook I use and give away for FREE:
Free Clicker Training Logbook – Word version: free_training-logbook-made-by-hippologic-2016-word
Free Clicker Training Logbook – Pdf file: free_training-logbook-made-by-hippologic-2016

Sandra Poppema
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