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

Posts tagged ‘connect with your horse’

How to drop the crop

We all like to hold on to our beliefs and our familiair training aids. I know I do, even when I already know I never will use it. Here are some ways to drop your crop.

‘Safety’

Holding on to your riding crop (carrot stick, training stick or lunge whip) gives us a feeling of safety and empowerment. We need our crop, just in case…

But what if you don’t have a crop anymore. What would happen? Would you die? Yes, it can feel that way, but you (probably) won’t. (more…)

Less is more

It sounds contradictory: how can less be more? In horse training it often is true. We try too hard. Three examples of less is more.

Don’t over ask
We expect too much of our horses. We don’t realize during training that a learning process consist out of many, many baby steps, which shapes a behaviour. Work on one criteria at a time. Only after the horse masters a set of different criteria is it time to combine them.

If we are ‘lumpers’ instead of ‘splitters’ we ask too much. Less is more: work on one criterion at a time. Get faster to the end behaviour, by skipping the frustration part which will set the horse back a few steps.

Example: if you want to teach a very mouthy horse to target, you can work a few sessions on just the criterion ‘keeping lips together’ or ‘relaxed muzzle’ and other sessions on ‘looking at target’, ‘moving nose towards target’ and ‘touching target’. After the horse masters these criteria separately can you combine them to ‘touching the target with a relaxed muzzle’.

Teach one criterion per session. In this way you can click and reward your horse more often and training will feel more successful and is more fun. For both of you! Less is more: teach less criteria at once.

Adjust criteria to circumstances
People don’t realize that horses do not easily generalize behaviour or cues as humans do. In other words, we don’t take into account that our horse is learning in a specific context. That’s why we don’t lower our criteria and expectations if we ask the same behaviour in another context. We are skipping steps in the learning process and don’t set our horses up for success.

Example: you have taught your horse to touch a target stick. You’ve always practised in the pasture. Now your friend is visiting and you want to show your horses’ progress.

Today it is rainy and instead of working in the pasture as usual, you decide to work in the barn. If you are asking your horse to touch the target, he might not perform as well as in the context where the behaviour was taught (pasture).

If you aren’t anticipating this context shift and you don’t lower your criteria momentarily, you might be disappointed about your horse’s performance. Less is more: lower criteria if context changes.

Keep cues as light as possible
People don’t realize that if they make their cues or riding aids ‘clearer’ (read: stronger or: bigger) if the horse doesn’t respond well, they are not the same anymore as the light cues the horse is used to.

Horse riding is not like tennis: if the ball isn’t going over the net, smack it harder. Figure out what the reason is the horse isn’t responding to your cue (read How to… listen to Horses). Adjust to the situation and work on the source of the problem rather than working on the symptoms (obeying your cues). If you’ve solved that, you can keep your cues and riding aids light.

Less is more: stay with light cues and the chance the horse responds correctly increases.

_Lessismore_hippologic

In what circumstances are you thinking: ‘Less is more’?

Sandra Poppema

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Best Basics: ZEN time with your horse

Now that the temperatures are much higher than in winter it becomes more enjoyable to spent some ZEN time with your horse. ZEN time is time spending together without having an agKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAenda. You can take a chair and sit down in his paddock or pasture and just see what happens.

Herd behaviour
I really like to observe Kyra in the pasture because I learn so much about her. I see how she interacts with other horses in the herd. I see who moves away when she approached, how their body language is helping them communicate and for which horse Kyra moves out of the way.

Grazing routines
I like to observe the way she eats: she grazes from left to right to left, then she takes one step grazes the next halve circle of grass. It is an interesting pattern.

When I hand graze Kyra I can see if she is hungry or not. If she is hungry she will not lift her head up for the first 15 minutes. She eats, eats, eats. If she is less interested in grass she will often lift up her head to look for the juiciest patches of herbs and grass and she takes more steps in between grazing.

If Kyra eats something distasteful, she will push it our of her mouth with her tongue or open her mouth real wide and let everything fall out. I can even see that she has have a favourite foot, because she puts it forward longer than the other one.

Just be together
Sometimes in ZEN time Kyra comes over and makse contact with me. The other day when I was sitting in the round pen and Kyra was just walking around, she came to me and sniffed my hair. I sighed and she did, too! Then I sighed again and she did another sigh. I wanted to test if it was a coincidence and took one more deep breath and exhaled loudly and she did too. We were really connecting, it was awesome. Then the magical moment was over and she walked away.

Hand grazing and walks
Sometimes ZEN time means I take Kyra out for a walk and I will let her graze wherever she wants and I let her decide what to do. You can learn so much by just observing your horse and seeing what he wants to tell you or seeing if he wants to connect.

Renske, Kyra's beschermengel

Renske was Kyra’s guardian angel when she was young

Other days I will watch Kyra without being seen so I am not interrupting her herd behaviour. If she sees me, she comes to the fence and will not interact the way she would without me.

Enjoy!
Being ZEN with your horse is a really nice way to relax and connect with your equine friend.

My tip for the weekend is: fill a nice picnic basket, bring a pen and paper to make notes or a camera and enjoy your horse in the sun for an hour or so, see what you can learn.

Sandra Poppema

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