Force Free Horse Training: Is it possible?

Can you teach your horse everything he needs to know without using pressure in an aversive way, pain or threats? Can we really get rid of our spurs, tight nose bands, crops, training sticks, whips, martingales and other ‘aids’.

Yes, you can!

_give an appetitive HippoLogicYou can teach a horse something with adding an appetitive (something the horse likes to
receive) or an aversive (something the horse wants to avoid or escape from). If you know what motivates a horse in a positive way, you can use that in all training situations.

Time

Horses are flight animals and it is really easy to motivate then with fear. We all know hippologichorses that already start moving as soon as the rider or trainer reaches for a whip. That is motivation by fear. Because it triggers the instinctive flight response it is a very quick way to make the horse respond.

If you want to motivate and teach the horse to move with an appetitive, it can take longer before you get results. You have to figure out a strategy that works for that horse, put it on cue and then built on the duration of the behaviour. That can take time, even when you have more than one strategy you can try. I think there is a way to motivate every behaviour in a positive way (by adding an appetitive).

Positive reinforcement for human and horse

I am convinced that positive reinforcement is a much nicer way of training. It is not only the trainer that gets motivated positively (with the behaviour he wants of the horse), there is also something in it for the horse. Beside a reward the horse also gets a say in the matter.

Knowledge

Since positive reinforcement training is still a relatively ‘new’ science in the equestrian world not everyone has experienced the advantages. Sometimes negative reinforcement (natural horsemanship and traditional methods) seems quicker at first glance.

_trailer_training_hippologic.jpg

For instance when a horse on a competition ground refuses to go back into the trailer. In general the horse is already over their threshold (read: extremely stressed) and is out of learning mode. Introducing positive reinforcement at that time takes more effort than when a horse is relaxed and in learning mode. The short cut (forcing the horse into the trailer) seems faster. In reality the horse loses their trust in people. In fact the whole process of teaching a horse to like trailers and trailer rides will take much longer. Only people sometimes don’t see the whole picture. They think positive reinforcement will take longer because their wants (horse in trailer) are not met instantaneously.

As long as you have enough time (I am not talking about emergency situations) and imagination I think you can teach a horse everything with positive reinforcement. What do you think?

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

 

The clicker, for me a symbol of …

WP has a Photo Challenge with the theme ‘symbol‘.

For me the clicker became an important symbol. It represents force-free horse training, friendship, fun and a life time of learning. Let me explain.

_clicker_hippologic_symbol 

 

Force-free training

The clicker represents positive reinforcement: training behaviour by adding an appetitive to the horse in order to reinforce behaviour. There is no force or coercion in positive reinforcement training.

Friendship

When I started to use positive reinforcement I had to learn about what my horse likes and dislikes.

Positive reinforcement is a way to give my horse a choice in training and therefor it gives her a voice. For me friendship is not only listening to my horse but also acting on the information she is giving me. Friendship means that I sometimes have to change my approach if my horse doesn’t like it, can’t (physically) do it or won’t do what I ask for whatever reason. For me, the clicker symbolizes this.

Fun

Learning new skills, exploring new ways has always been fun to me. The clicker represents also the fun the horse displays when he figures out what the training question is. The eagerness my horse shows in working with me: always coming to the gate in the pasture as soon as she sees me and the soft loving nicker to greet me.

Life long learning

Switching from traditional and natural horsemanship methods to positive reinforcement forced me to develop new skills so I could communicate clearly what I want from my horse.

I had to learn to listen better to my horse and I had to develop my observational skills in order to pinpoint (click) the desired behaviour. I had to figure out what motivates my horse in order to reinforce the behaviour I am teaching her. I studied the learning theory and learning curve of animals intensively. Something I probably wouldn’t have done tothis degree if force was still my go-to method in training and riding horses.

The road to positive reinforcement has been (and still is) an exciting journey for me. I am still fascinated every day by how learning actually  works in horses and how we humans can influence it. It is a life long journey with fabulous views!

What represents a clicker for you?

Sandra Poppema

For tailored advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult!

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