When you’re wishy-washy about your clicker goals, it can become a real struggle to accomplish your dream behaviours. Here’s how you can get more clarity so you can start working towards what you really want with your horse.
“I want to learn Everything There is to Know about Clicker Training!”
Many horse owners ask me for help, join my Facebook group or read my blog, because they want to “learn everything“! That’s great, but when I ask: Pick one goal, it’s hard. That’s when the ‘everything’ can turn into a struggle and actually start holding you back instead of propel you forwards. You think you can do anything when you know everything, but when this holds you back you accomplish the oppositie. Here’s how you can prevent falling into this pitfall..
Instead of taking on goal after goal, they procrastinate and don’t make any progress at all. This can be discouraging, because they know Clicker Training is the way to the heart and soul of their horse. Is that you?
This struggle is like an iceberg: the symptom is not knowing where to start. The problem however is not because they have an information overload, like I wrote in this blog. The symptom seems similar, only the rest of the iceberg (the part that is hidden under the surface) is different.
Being Wishy-washy about Your Goals
Lots of horse people contact me because they need support with clicker training their horse. One of the struggles they have is being wishy-washy about their goals. That’s usually not the problem they contact me for. This is a struggle that’s often under the surface.
They find it hard to stay focussed on the outcome they want and to keep focussing on their goal. Therefor they feel stuck. Then they shift their focus to the next behaviour. And the next, without ever actually accomplishing what they really want. In our conversation they mention multiple goals and keep adding onto their list. They pick behaviours they see other people train, because they look great, easy and simple to train! 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!
‘Shiny’ behaviour syndrome
I call this the ‘Shiny Behaviour Syndrome’ (instead of shiny object syndrome) because horse people distract themselves from what they really want. We’ve all suffered from this at one point.
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 positive reinforcement trainer among a barn full of aversive based trainers! Especially when you’re relatively new to clicker training, you can feel insecure if you’re doing the right thing or doing it right.
Sometimes it feels like you’re doing worse, now you’ve introduced positive reinforcement to your horse. He seems to focus on the treats and the quality of the behavior lessened… This can be disheartening. This can also be a reason to focus on the next behaviour.
What Do You Really Want to Accomplish with Your Horse?
Start with what you really want! The obvious, the reason you bought a horse in the first place. Do you remember? Maybe you wanted to:
- Ride (trail rides, dressage, jumping, competitions, a bit of everything)
- Develop a deep friendship with your horse
- Connect with your horse and train with friendly (non-coercive and force-free) methods
- Taking care of a horse
- Just ‘having a horse’ and enjoy him/her
Why Did You Get Your Horse?
Ask yourself why you got this horse? What’s important for you about having a horse, what’s most important in riding and keeping a horse healthy and happy?
Often these goals and desires are closely related to your (equestrian) core values. When your ‘wants’ (dreams) are not aligned with your values, they become a struggle and it’s impossible to accomplish them.
For instance, I’ve always wanted to become an Olympic dressage rider. I never understood why this wasn’t happening and it was only until my mentor took me on a tour to find my values.
Finding Your Values
I was ‘in between horses’ at that moment and was searching for the perfect horse. My mentor asked me what I wanted, and I was vague. I wanted to ride… What kind of riding did I desire? Dressage. And I also wanted to trail ride. And yes, now we’re speaking about it, It must also be a great lesson horse because I was a riding instructor at the time.
We talked about my dreams. The one of being an Olympic dressage rider and why that never happened. I came up with a lot of reasons: my parents weren’t horse people, I didn’t have the money, never had really good instruction and so on. I was looking for reason outside of me. My mentor shifted that and she helped me discover the whole competition with animals wasn’t in alignment with my values of the way horses were treated.
Bam! In one moment I realized that I was procrastinating and finding excuses not to compete in dressage because it was against my values. I felt in my heart that this wasn’t the way for me!
Getting a mentor was the best investment in my future.~Sandra Poppema, HippoLogic
Let Go of Goals that are Not Aligned with Your Values
What this insight brought me, was that I could finally let go of my childhood dream of becoming a champion in dressage and take out of that dream the parts that did align with my values. Those parts were: moving in harmony with my horse, riding a strong, agile, very happy horse that listens to the lightest cues (invisible to the audience). A horse that is in good health and has stamina and an uplifting energy. Showing the horse-human bond in all its glory!
When I could keep the parts that were attracting me to my dressage dream and let go of all the other things (riding horses behind the vertical, riding a horse that is among horses that are over threshold, coercing them into specific exercises at the precise right time and so on), I could formulate a new dream. One that was perfectly aligned with my values! Within a week I found an opportunity that was perfect for me!
Getting to the Root of Your Struggle
Ask yourself what is the most important to you in:
- Having a horse
- Keeping and taking care of horses
These will bring out your values. Then go back to your dreams and goals and ask yourself where they do and don’t align with your values.
For me getting reinforced (getting points from a jury, so that you could move onto the next level) for riding in a way that’s not healthy for horses (riding behind the vertical) wasn’t fun. Therefore I really never could come up with the motivation to make everything happen that I needed to do this. It was such a relief when I discovered the reason why I was feeling to swim upstream and never reach my goal.
What are Your Equestrian Values?
Take the time to figure out what your equestrian values are and what your dreams and goals are. Then see if they are aligned. If not: what parts are aligned and would make you so happy to accomplish? What parts do you need to let go of, because they don’t align with your values.
The hardest part is not that your values have changed, but your insights. Now you know more about horses, training and what your horse likes (appetitives) and doesn’t like (aversives). Once you know what most dressage horses are not in harmony with their riders, don’t enjoy being ridden like that and are often in pain, you cannot un-see it. Once you recognize the pain in their faces and mouths, the beauty is gone… Then you have to look for the beauty in pain-free horse faces, horses that are really moving with joy and in harmony (luckily it’s possible and many riders can do this!!).
Brush off the dust of your childhood dreams and realizing them with your values. Then go for them! They will bring you the joy in your heart, the harmony and friendship with your horse you’re looking for, When you need a bit of help with this, you know where to find me! I’m here to help all horse women who want to connect with their horse and make their dreams come true.
Need help? Here’s how I can help you
Need help clicker training 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.
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