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

Posts tagged ‘demotivated’

How to Turn ‘training’ into ‘fun time’ for your horse

I see a lot of people who are struggling with riding or training their horse. For example, they would love to ride a certain discipline, let’s say dressage, but their horse ‘doesn’t like it’. Would you like to change that if you could? If the answer is yes, keep on reading, if your answer is no, I am curious why not.

Motivation

Is it really your horses’ motivation that is standing in your way or is it maybe your own (lack of) motivation that is holding you back? How does one change motivation?

1_treatOver the years many riders told me that their horse doesn’t like to work in the arena or doesn’t like to do dressage. If I asked for more information it was often the rider who actually didn’t like to work in the arena or do ‘dressage’ as opposed to the horse. The times it was the horse, there was an existing negative association with the arena.

Rewards

If you think your horse doesn’t like to work in the arena ask yourself if you are ‘paying a decent salary’ to do the job. What is in it for your horse?

Is his only reward after walking with a stretched neck on a long rein a few pats on the neck at the end of your ride? How do you motivate your horse? Or do you motivate him with pressure-release? What is his reward? If his reward is not having to work anymore it is not good motivation to get started.

Reinforcers

Do you realize in order to turn a reward into a reinforcer you have to deliver the reward during the desired behaviour or within seconds after the behaviour ended. If the reward comes too late, the horse doesn’t associate the behaviour with the reward and your desired behaviour will not get stronger. That is why a bucket of grain after riding doesn’t improve your horses motivation to go to the arena or perform better in trot next time you ride. It only reinforces him to go back to his stall (where the good thing is happening).

A bucket of food after riding is usually not associated with all the exercises the horse had to perform in the arena. It is simply too long after the desired behaviour and it is not paired with one behaviour. It is more likely that he sees it as a reward for putting him back in his stall or taking the saddle off or doing whatever you where doing in the three seconds before you allow him eating his food.

Associate the reward to the right behaviour

_Ifahorselovestheirjob_hippologicIn order to motivate your horse in the arena, you have to make sure the reward is coupled to the behaviour you want to see more of. The same goes for the rider: pointing out their successes (small or bigger) while they are performing, make them feel that they are achieving something in that moment. After the ride they have the feeling they accomplished something and that they are getting closer to their riding goals.

For a horse it works similar. He wants to know what he does well in that moment. If you  use positive reinforcement you have a powerful communication and motivation tool in hands.

Working in the arena

The secret of enjoying the arena work more is learning what your horse likes and pairing it with the things you like. As soon as horses learn that ‘working’ in the arena equals being paid in a currency of their choice, their association with riding, arena work or dressage will turn around. Turn training into a positive experience with positive reinforcement.

Have more fun in the arena next time!

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website or send me an email with your question to info@clickertraining.ca

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Key lessons for Trainers

Earlier this year I wrote about the key lessons (your keys to success) for horses. Not only the horse needs to be set up for success, but also the trainer. These three key lessons are for trainers. They will help you reach your goals quicker and enjoy the journey more: a training plan, a shaping plan and a training diary.

Training plan
If you know what it is you want to achieve, it is easy to distill a step-by-step plan from your goal. The difficulty is to determine: what are your goals and how important are they?

Goals
Ask yourself: is my goal really my own goal or is it more or less influenced by others? It is harder to achieve a goal if you lack intrinsic motivation . You can’t always influence the extrinsic motivators so if they disappear what’s left?

If your motivation is to get compliments or approval from your fellow equestrians and nobody notices it, it can be a real disappointment. It will be much harder keep going. Or maybe you are working on something your instructor wants you to do and you don’t see the value in this particular exercise.

If you’ve been teaching your horse something because you like it and you enjoy the process of teaching it, you will feel the satisfaction of your accomplished goal much longer. Therefor you will be looking forward to working on your next goal.

_dream_goals_ HippoLogic

Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
So, think about your equestrian goals. Ask yourself if it is really you that wants to achieve it, or is it someone else’s goal? Think about what it feels like when you’ve accomplished your goal. Do you want it because you like it, or do you want it to get approval of an outsider or maybe you think you are supposed to do it.

I know a lot of people who don’t ride their horse for various reasons. They all feel more or less pressured all the time to defend their choice to outsiders. I know some of them will ride because ‘it is expected’. As you can understand this kind of motive will not give pleasure. Riding can become a real struggle.

Letting go 
Sometimes you have to let go of goals. That can be painful. Keep in mind that is is OK to change your mind and your goals. It is easier if you understand why you want to let go of your goal(s).

If you don’t like to ride your horse because you’ve discovered that you have a fear of riding (a real taboo for equestrians) you can choose to work on your fear with a trustworthy instructor who respects your boundaries. Or, you can choose to let go of your riding goals. If you know what motivates your choices it is also much easier to ‘own your story’.

Sometimes you discover that your goals or motivation have changed and that it’s time to redefine your goals. It is much easier to work on a goal that you really want, than a goal that has been expired.

Keep track of accomplishments
One way to keep yourself motivated is to keep track of your achievements by keeping a training journal.

Most people have a tendency to compare themselves to others, which is almost never a fair comparison. I’ve heard someone once saying: “You always compare the best of others, to the worst of yourself.” Yes, sometimes this is true. Better compare yourself with… yourself. The only fair way to do this is to keep track of your own journey and to realize often how far you’ve already come.

It is your journey and as long as you are making progress you are doing a good job! Keep that in mind.

Next time I will write more about shaping plans.

Links to other key lessons

Thank you for reading. Let me know how what you think is a valuable basic in clicker training and why.

Sandra Poppema
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How to change ‘bad behaviour’ in horses quickly

There is one very effective way to change all horses that are stubborn, dominant, don’t listen, know what to do, but refuse to obey, know their job but don’t do it, are a wuss or are playing us.

Circle of influence

One solution
What? One solution for so many bad behaviours? Yes!

It is simple too. Change your attitude about the horse.

How would that work? Well, if you label your horse as ‘dominant’ or ‘stubborn’ it sounds like it isn’t your fault, but it also sounds like you can’t influence it. But you can. You can influence his behaviour! It’s called ‘training’.

You can only change things that are in your circle of influence. You can start changing your thoughts. If you change your thoughts in a way that can help you help the horse, suddenly there is no ‘stubborn’ horse anymore. If you can see that he is not stubborn, you can ask yourself questions like:

Why did he do that?
Was he afraid?
What is his motivation? Is he getting away form something or does he want to go somewhere?
What emotions did the horse displayed?
How can I prepare my horse better next time?

You have to take responsibility, which can be scary. The flip side is in this way you empower yourself! You are looking for things you can influence. Isn’t that great? In this way you train the horse, if he is successful, the trainer was too. Unfortunately it is not really accepted to brag about your success as horse trainer, but don’t let that ruin your pride.

One of the things that I like in reward-based training, is that you have to take the horses’ perspective into account. His emotions, his behaviour and his motivation are very important. It is never the horses’ fault anymore and you never have dominant or stubborn horses.

circle of influence

Sandra Poppema
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5 Tips to Expand your Horse’s Horizon

We have all encountered times when we think “Now what?” at the barn. Maybe you have already reached all your equestrian goals, maybe your horse became sick and needed rest, maybe you got injured, maybe you just bought a young horse, or a senior horse… We all need inspiration if we don’t know what to teach our horse next.

#1 Horse Agility (HA)
In HA you have to navigate your horse through an obstacle course while focusing on clear communication and positive horsemanship. Horse and handler are both on foot. Horse Agility can help build a very close relationship with your horse and it keeps your horse’s mind working constructively. Skills developed in HA are very useful in daily routines as well as in new and possibly scary situations. You can even enter online competitions these days where you send in a video.

#2 Trick Training (TT)
TT is a great way to improve the relationship with your horse. You become aware of your horses intelligence and it is a fun way to spent time together. There are many simple tricks that are suitable for horses of all ages, like smiling or playing fetch. Some exercises are beneficial and can increase the horses strength and flexibility like the classical bow or the back crunch._classical bow_buiging_hippologic

#3 Training husbandry skills
If your horse already knows a lot of tricks, you can start improving your husbandry skills. Ever thought of teaching your _dewormingcanbe_horse how to be dewormed easily or preparing him for oral medication you might need to give him some day? Teach him to accept eye drops or ointment, practice hoof trimming, braiding, taking your horses temperature, teach him to stand in a bucket of water in case you need to soak his feet. The possibilities are endless and you never know when these skills come in handy.

#4 Trailer loading
Best way to train this is if there is no goal or time limit yet. Read here the 4 reasons to start practising trailer loading today. If you don’t own a trailer, this is worth renting a trailer for.

#5 Water training
There are so many situations in which water is involved. During the summer months you can have fun water proofing your horse. _soaking feet in water bucket_horse training_hippologicThink of soaking hooves in a bucket, hosing down your horse, crossing water (river, water splash, muddy puddles), water obstacles in HA, going for a swim with your horse, spraying your horse with a plant spray and so on.

I hope I have given you some ideas to expand your horizons. Have fun!

Sandra Poppema
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How to … Keep-going

What is a keep-going signal (KGS), why do you need it and how can you teach it?

What is it?
A keep-going signal is used to tell your horse that he is doing the right thing and that he should keep doing it in order to earn a click and reward.

Purpose
A keep-going signal can be very useful in building duration of an behaviour. Not all horses ‘need’ a KGS. Sometimes withholding a click will work, too. Just experiment with it.

A KGS can also be used as encouragement and signal that the horse has to keep doing what he is doing.

A KGS can help prevent frustration. Some horses will get frustrated if they don’t get a click soon enough and will give up. If they hear a keep-going signal, they will know that the click will follow.

A keep-going signal also helps you get more behaviour per click. So basically you click & reward less often. Which can make the clicks even more desirable for the horse, since he doesn’t get them as often anymore.

Working on stamina in trotHow do you train it
Horses are smart and they quickly learn to anticipate cues. They will learn that after a keep-going signal, that has no meaning yet, the click & reward follows.

Choose a word that you would otherwise not use in either training or speaking to your horse. Choose a word that can be extended easily.

Introduce the keep-going signal in a behaviour that already has a duration of a few seconds, so you have time enough to introduce it. Slowly you extend the time between the keep-going signal and the click:

Cue behaviour + keep-going + click & reward (repeat several times)
Cue behaviour + keep-going + 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)

Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 2 seconds + click & reward (repeat several times)

And so on. Make sure your horse doesn’t get too frustrated by the removal of the click. Later on you can also extend the time before using the keep-going signal.

Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)

With a keep-going signal you can help prevent the horse from getting frustrated, since you can indicate what he has to do to earn his reward.

Related post: Reward-based training is…

Sandra Poppema
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Working with goals

Like many other horse owners and riders I also sometimes “don’t feel like going to the barn”, or the feeling “I don’t know what to do” (riding or training). Why is that? My horse is my passion!

Sometimes I get this feeling because it feels like I don’t have a goal in mind to work on. But in reality it is because I haven’t divided my goal into small enough steps. So my next step looks too big to accomplish and it demoralizes  me. On my way to the barn I often think of my goal and how my training approach will be this day. Sometimes I just don’t know and it comes while I am riding or training (groundwork). So in this case it is just a matter of start doing it and see what happens.

Or, I just don’t know how to accomplish the next step. Often that means: my steps are too big or I need some input or help with the next step. So I reconsider my steps and my goal and think about how to set it up for success. An accountability partner can be wonderful help. It doesn’t have to be my instructor. I have two training buddies to whom I can turn for help. Simply sharing my problem can be good enough to think of a solution, but also if my training buddy is asking me questions about my next step or about my approach is always very helpful.

Sometimes I am too stressed out for whatever reason. The best remedy for that, is actually going to the barn and enjoying my horse.

I like setting short time and longtime goals, but sometimes our best days are: to forget about achieving them and go without any expectations.

Another time I will write more about my goals and how goal oriented training motivates me.

Sandra Poppema
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