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

Posts tagged ‘frustration’

Tips to prevent Frustration in Riding or Training Your Horse

Every rider, every horse owner and every trainer has experienced frustration at one point. I notice that some people are frustrated more than others. What to do about frustration? Take it out on your horse? Or try to prevent it (is that even possible)?

The people who I see struggling with frustration are the people who don’t have a clear plan when they are riding or training their horse. They don’t split their goal into tiny building blocks and work their way systematically through the process. They tend to move their goals (criteria) during training, so they have the feeling they never succeed. That would be the same as having ‘getting to the horizon’ as your goal: you will never succeed!

The 1 million dollar question

If you feel frustration stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself ‘why am I feeling this right now’? These are possible answers:

  • Are you asking too much of yourself?
  • Are you asking too much of your horse?
  • Are you comparing yourself with others (who might be at a whole different point in their journey with their horse)?
  • Are you making your steps too big (‘lumping‘), are you discouraging or confusing your horse?
  • Did you make (and write) a realistic plan before you started training/riding your horse?
  • Are you positively reinforcing yourself and your horse enough to keep going?
  • Do you give yourself and your horse enough time to process the training?
  • Who is telling you that you have to accomplish ‘this’ (whatever that is) right now?
  • Did you prepare your horse enough to this situation?

Prevent frustration

First of all: stop beating yourself up! It doesn’t help you and it only make things worse. Second: don’t beat up your horse. He can’t help it, he is just a horse. You don’t want to regret taking your frustration out on him.

If you feel frustration coming up, simply stop what you’re trying to accomplish and take a few moments to pause. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the questions above.

In order to prevent frustration make training goals and plan every step in the process. Make a good shaping plan and if you get stuck, pause and take another look at your shaping plan to see if you are lumping (skipping steps in the process to the goal behaviour). If you don’t know how to do this: ask help!_frustration_in_training_horse_hippologic

Frustration is not necessary!

Take baby steps in your training. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small! Don’t forget to write your goals and your achievements¬†down: we have a tendency to forget or play down our own achievements! ūüėČ Start a training journal today!

You’re not the only one

We have all experienced frustration from time to time. If I see frustrated riders it reminds me of me a long time ago. When I was using ‘traditional training’ (which meant: there is no plan to follow) I used to be frustrated all the time!

I must say I almost never frustrated with my horse anymore and if I feel frustration coming up I know to deal with it before damaging my relationship with Kyra.

Change your focus

Changing my focus was a big help in preventing frustration. Instead of saying ‘no’ to my horse (and myself) all the time, I learned to focused on the ‘yes’.

Instead of saying ‘why are you always walking away when I want to mount, stupid horse!’ I learned to focus on the few seconds she could (and would) stand still and encourage this behaviour. Because I now reinforced my horse with treats to stand still, of course Kyra became very motivated to display that behaviour more and more! Shifting my focus from the ‘walking away’ to the ‘four hooves on the ground’ was such an eye opener!

Calling your horse names, will not give you a good feeling, even if it gives you temporary satisfaction.

Yes, it is easy to blame your horse and call him ‘stupid’ but be honest: Does it really give you a good feeling that you have a ‘stupid’ horse?

Wouldn’t you feel better about yourself if you had a¬†‘handsome and smart’ horse? I think that a smart horse can only be smart if the owner gives the freedom and opportunity to show how smart he really is! Don’t call yourself or your horse names. It is not encouraging or supporting for you or your horse in any way. Start feeling compassion for yourself. Be gentle: you are on a journey, learning is a process.

Last but not least

Never compare yourself or your horse with anybody else. We might be comparing our ‘worst’ with their ‘best’. They might be in a whole different stage of their journey. If they can do something you can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything right. It is just not a fair comparison. Ever.

If you want to see it from a positive view: you now know that it (whatever ‘it’ is), is possible. And… maybe they can even help you reach the same goal or point you in the right direction!

Focus on what is most important in the world: your own journey.

Sandra Poppema
I offer online personal clicker coaching, video coaching¬†and a 4 week¬†online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’,¬†please¬†visit my website¬†for more information.
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Riding after a stressful day: beneficial or not?

What do you do after a stressful day: are you going to ride or not? Enjoy my video.

 

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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Pitfalls of Positive Reinforcement

Clicker training or positive reinforcement is¬†based on a simple concept: adding something the learner wants (an ‘appetitive’) in order to strengthen a behaviour. What can possibly go wrong with a simpel concept of noticing (a tiny step towards) the desired behaviour – mark the behaviour (‘click’) and ¬†reinforce (strengthen) it by¬†giving the¬†learner¬†something pleasurable?

Theory versus Practice

Like every training method there is the theory which assumes the trainer, the target animal (learner) and the environment are¬†perfect and then there is reality…_clicker_hippologic_symbol

History of the Horse

Not all horses are blank slates. It is very rare to come across a horse that hasn’t been handled by humans¬† before he’s trained by an experienced positive reinforcement trainer.

In other words, almost every horse already has a history with humans and he has already made lots of associations with situations, humans, things et cetera. Both good and bad.

Solution

If the horse has negative associations with certain cues, tack or situations the trainer has to counter condition (make them ‘neutral’ or ‘positive’) them first.

Frustration

In positive reinforcement an appetitive is added to strengthen a behaviour. When the horse doesn’t understand what he has to do in order to¬†earn¬†the treat or if the horse is too excited by the high value treat, he can become frustrated.Emotions_in_training_hippologic2015

If¬†the trainer is not noticing little signs of¬†frustration in the horse and doesn’t respond adequately the learned behaviour can regress or the horses¬†loses interest in the¬†exercise. If the frustration builds up the horse can even become¬†aggressive.

Solutions

Make sure your horse understands when¬†he can and when he can’t¬†expect food rewards. Implement a ‘start session’-signal and an ‘end of session’-signal.

Lumping criteria (making your steps too big) or raising criteria too quickly can cause frustration. Split the goal behaviour into enough steps that you can reward.

If the treats are too distracting and causing frustration, use low(er) value treats and make sure the horse is not hungry during training. Provide a full hay net during training.

Over-aroused

Some horses are very excited once they discover that (high value) treats or other very desirable rewards can be earned in training. Due to their excitement they can get aroused or even over-aroused. If not properly addressed the physical signs (like dropping the penis or erection) can be reinforced (unconsciously) in training.

Solutions

Prevention works best but in order to prevent this you have to have a keen eye for body language and behaviour. (Over)arousal can be caused by frustration, see above.

In order to counter condition and/or prevent reinforcing physical signs of arousal, start marking and reinforcing before the arousal happens. In other words: split the behaviour, increase the rate of reinforcement and counter condition the behaviour.

__hippologic_beautiful_thing_about_learningPreventing pitfalls

Like in any other training method there are many mistakes a trainer can make. I think that is inherent to learning a skill.

Find an experienced teacher to guide you around the pitfalls. There are enough things to learn without falling into them.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website

 

 

Setting your horse up for success: splitting behaviour

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in horse training is that they don’t set their horse (or themselves) up for success. Once you know some basics about horse training, setting it up for succes becomes easier. A common mistake is not visualizing what the goal is and planning how to communicate it to your horse.

_splitting-and-lumping-HippoLogic

Splitting behaviour

If you have a goal in mind to teach your horse, the first step to set yourself up for success is making a shaping plan. In your shaping plan you describe your goal, your starting point and how you are going to divide the goal into baby steps in order to built this new behaviour.

Split your goal behaviour into enough baby steps and train every step separately until it is mastered before you raise a criterion. In this way you train (shape) your goal behaviour in a systematic way. Each baby step is in fact a building block of the desired behaviour. So far the theory.

Splitting behaviour is not easy and this is a continues aspect to work on. Even me, after more than 16 years of experience with positive reinforcement training, I catch myself lumping behaviour. Why? Because every horse, every behaviour and every situation  is different.

You can’t possibly know beforehand what your horse is capable off, physically¬†or¬†mentally. You only know that until you reach a ¬†boundary. Also¬†the training circumstances have a great influence on the learning capability of humans and horses. Teaching your horse something new in stormy weather is probably not setting yourself up for success.

Lumping behaviour

The most common mistake is that the steps trainers¬†make are too big for the horse. This is called lumping. The horse doesn’t understand what is expected from him. When you lump, you simply have raised (too many) criteria, too soon.

How to recognize lumping

It is quit easy to recognize if you know what to look for. You know it is time to adjust your criteria or tweak the setting of your training if your horse shows signs of:

  • fear
  • frustration
  • disinterest
  • distraction
  • anger
  • shutting down

Your horse can get disinterested in you and your training because he thinks he will never ¬†earn a treat and simply gives up. Or he can get frustrated: ‘Why don’t I get that treat now, when I did¬†this just a minute ago I got it.’

Trainer

This also goes for the trainer. If you feel frustrated, anxious, despair, anger or other undesired emotions, just stop for a moment. Take a break and take  few deep breaths. Get yourself into thinking mode again. Then figure out a way to split the training into more steps and start over.

Lowering your criteria¬†is not the same as ‘failing’, on the contrary: lowering your criteria in order to follow your horses (or your own) learning curve¬†is setting your horse up for success. A side effect is that you will succeed quicker, too

Mastering splitting

I don’t think it is realistic to expect we’ll never lump behaviour anymore. It is part of the learning experience: split behaviour enough until you notice a bump in the road. This is when you know you’re lumping. Then you split the ‘lump’ and go on until you encounter the next bump. That is ‘learning’ and it is fun.

Every time you notice that you’re lumping it is a sign that you have experience. Why? Otherwise you wouldn’t notice it and might try to solve the problem with a bit more tack, a whip or other ways to make the horse do what you desire. That is what most people do, I see this happening in the most experienced clinicians too.

Here is a video in which you can see what splitting and lumping can look like:

[Readers who get my blog via their email won’t see the video embedded. Sorry about this. If you want to see it, follow this link¬†to my blog¬†https://hippologic.wordpress.com]

Science of learning

I am grateful I have learned a bit about horse behaviour/body language, learning theory, learning processes¬†and¬†how to motivate a learner (human and¬†horse). I don’t need to force my goals onto my horse anymore now that I have these tool of knowledge and experience.

If my training is not getting me the results I wanted or expected I take a break and regroup. Sometimes my break lasts for a few day or even a week. It doesn’t matter. My horse doesn’t win, if I stop training just because I don’t know what to do at that moment. I am always aiming for a win-win.

Force is never the (right) answer in my opinion. I treasure the bond with my horse too much for that.

Related articles

Setting your horse up for success: Context shift

Setting your horse up for Succes: Short sessions

Sandra Poppema

For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website. I offer online video consults.

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Key Lesson: Table Manners for Horses [safe hand-feeding]

One of the key lessons I like to promote as a really good foundation to start with or to keep working on,¬†is safe¬†behaviour around food, ‘table manners for horses’ so to say.

Why is this one of the key lessons?
If you are working with horses¬†you always want to be as safe as possible. You certainly don’t want to create problems, which can easily happen if you train¬†with food as a reinforcer and don’t have clear rules around when your horse can expect food and when not to expect it. And how he can earn it (wait for the cue and answer the question right). The key to success in using food as reinforcer is to teach your horse safe hand-feeding.

Some ground rules
People who, in the horses’ eyes, reward¬†randomly with¬†food will have horses that are always expecting the unexpected: a random treat.

First of all the horse has to know he has to do something in order to get a reward and he has to know what it is he did, that made him earn the food. He has to learn to pay attention to your marker (the click). No click, no (food) reward.

What to do if your horse is mugging you?¬†Using a marker¬†makes it easier for your horse to understand that¬†‘mugging’ is never reinforced. There is no click, so no food will come his way.

Mugging is annoying for the handler and can trigger frustration in the horse. Especially if he sometimes gets rewarded for this behaviour (with attention, a pet or even food), sometimes he gets punished for it and other times ignored.

You want to reinforce the opposite behaviour of mugging, to make your training safer: moving his head (read: mouth) away from you, your pocket with food or your fanny pack with goodies.

Table manners around dinner time
If you want your horse to behave around feeding time, you have to communicate clearly what behaviour you expect from him: standing with four feet on the floor while the food cart is coming, back up when the stall door is opened or when the hay is delivered and so on. Use a marker signal to pinpoint the wanted behaviours. Read more here.

Polite behaviour
With polite behaviour I mean safe behaviour. The horse must wait politely until the food is delivered to his lips, after the marker. He shouldn’t¬†move towards the treat, he has to learn that the treat will come to him. The horse must (learn to)¬†take the treat carefully off of my hand and only use his lips and no teeth.

When I click and when I deliver the food, I pay close attention to the horses state of mind. Those two moments are the most reinforcing moments, and I do want to reinforce safe behaviour, so I pay attention to the horses state of mind.

_keylessonsafehandfeeding1

Trainer
The trainer must present the food in a safe way to the horse and he must prove to the horse that he is trustworthy. People who are  easily scared by a horse that moves towards them and the treat in their hand and proceed to drop the food need to work on their food presenting skills. You want the horse to trust you on where the food is presented (to their mouth) and that it will arrive. Be consistent and reliable in the way you present food.

The trainer must always check¬†that he has a reinforcer at hand before he uses his¬†marker signal. It doesn’t have to be food, but if you’re working with food, make sure you have something left in your pocket to give.

_keylessonsafehandfeeding3

The value of the reward, the size and the chewiness can all influence wanted behaviours around food. If the size of the treat is too small, it can easily fall on the floor and get lost, if it is too big it can be hard to eat quickly. Is the reward a very desired treat, with a high value for the horse it can increase frustration if it is not delivered quickly enough. If the horse has to chew very long it can distract him from the training.

There are many aspects to take into consideration when you reinforce your horse with food. Please don’t let this long list scare you away from working with food rewards.

Links to other key lessons

Thank you for reading. Let me know how what your favourite key lesson is and why.

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Are you interested in working with me or do you want to sign up for the next ¬†online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them‘, please¬†visit my website. I am here to help you.

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Reach your goals quicker

Have you ever had the feeling that you weren’t accomplishing your goals, or weren’t improving as quickly as you would have hoped? I have.

When I was starting riding lessons, my mom thought that it would be like driving a car. That it would take about twenty to thirty lessons to tackle riding. She wished! That wasn’t the case at all. I was eight years old and I didn’t care how many lessons it would take, I was riding. My main goal was “to be around horses” and riding meant “sitting on a horse”. At the age of eight I just “wished” that one day I became that rider. The talented dressage rider, that is.

After 7 years weekly riding lessons at the riding school I quit. I was disillusioned. I still “wasn’t a good rider” even though I didn’t really know what being a “good rider” precisely meant. But I didn’t realize what was going on, I just thought the riding school wasn’t that good.

I became frustrated because I didn’t have a clear goal. I could get a horse to walk, trot, canter, halt, make a turn and get over a small jump. I had vague goals about leg yielding in trot and canter pirouettes but I never thought to communicate it to my instructor or parents.

Now I know that when I become frustrated I have to take a good long look at my goals. Are they S.M.A.R.T.?SMART goals Hippologic

I ask myself question like:

  • Did I make a training plan and write down all the steps to get to my goal?
  • Were my steps small enough to succeed?
  • Did I need help in the process and didn’t ask?
  • Did I record my successes?

Sometimes there is no reason to be frustrated. All it takes is some time to look back and see where I came from and realize that I already came a long way. I would just forget to celebrate my success along the way.

Sometimes I let myself be distracted from my goals and would asking myself “why are you not making progress?” while in fact I wasn’t even working on them. Why?, I ask myself. Sometimes the answer is just because I didn’t know where to start or I didn’t know if I could succeed.

Think about your next goal, write it down and make it happen. Then keep a record in order to celebrate your success.

Read more about creating TRAINING GOALS [<-click this]

Read more about starting a TRAINING JOURNAL [<- click this]

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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