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

Posts tagged ‘fun with horses’

Fun Friday: Teach your horse to Pick Up items

One of the most fun tricks I ever taught Kyra is to pick up items. It is very versatile too because once your horse can pick up stuff, you can teach them to hand it over.

Kyra can now pick up and hand over a flower, her food bowl, my clicker, a dog toy, a whip and anything else she can grab with her teeth._trick_training_play_fetch_hippologic

How to start

I started with something really easy to pick up for Kyra: a piece of cloth. In the beginning Kyra didn’t know what to do with it, so I knotted a carrot in it. That stimulated her interest.

I clicked and reinforced for small steps like touching and sniffing the cloth, then examining it with her lips and after a while she tried to grab it with her teeth. Yeey: jackpot! This took a lot of sessions to be honest.

Putting a cue on the behaviour

Once she knew this new trick she wanted to grab everything off of the floor. That is the reason I started with an item that was easy to distinguish: the cloth. I didn’t want her to grab my brushes or other day-to-day items.

Once she learned what to do with the cloth I added a cue to it, the verbal command ‘pick up’ with me pointing to the object I want her to pick up. After Kyra learned the cue I started teaching her to pick up other items. I bought a dog rope toy that is safe and easy to grab.

Shaping the behaviour

Later on I practised with her empty food bowl, my gloves in winter, her halter, the lead rope and so on. It turned out that it is a very versatile exercise. Then I raised my criteria and I threw the item a step away. Now I only clicked and reinforced after picking up the item that was one step away.

The next criterion was to move towards me one step with the item in her mouth. Then I taught her to hold the item until I could grab it. In this way she learned to put it in my hand instead of dropping it in front of me.

Play fetch with your horse

Now Kyra can fetch an item that I have thrown several meters away and bring it back to me. One day I asked her to pick up her toy while sitting on her back. She did it!  I use a treeless saddle, so I have to use a mounting block to get in the saddle.Wow, now I don’t have to dismount anymore whenever I drop something from the saddle. Bonus!

This week I stumbled upon a lovely video of a horse that picked up three rubber rings and put them on a cone. I don’t have rubber rings, but I asked Kyra to put her toy in a bucket. That was fun too.

Here are the videos of Kyra’s tricks.

Video 1: Kyra playing fetch from the saddle

 

Video 2: Kyra giving me flowers (that would be a nice trick to perform one day)

Video 3: Kyra putting her toy in a bucket

 

Video 4: Kyra handing over her food bowl after eating

 

If you like the videos go to YouTube and subscribe to my channel. I will upload more clicker training videos.

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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Fun Friday: Easy Tricks & Tips for Fun

Get out of your normal routine and do something new and exciting with your horse this weekend. Here are some tips and tricks you can do.

One day tricks

If your horse is already clicker savvy and knows basic behaviours like leading, standing still, targeting, follow a target, mat training and backing it is very easy to teach one of these simple tricks.

Clicker trained horses are very eager to learn new things because in their experience there is a lot of good things (clicks and treats) involved. It is fun for your horse! Want to start clicker training? Start here.

_horse_hug_hippologic_click_with_your_horseHorse hug

Basic behaviours: standing still while handler stands next to shoulder and targeting.

Teach your horse to follow the target that you keep behind your back, click and reinforce for every inch his head moves in the right direction behind your head. Last step is to fade out the target. More detailed instructions can be found in this book Horse Trick Training

 

_mat_training_hippologicStanding on a pedestal

Most horses like to be a bit taller and think this is a fun exercise once they have learned it. Mat training is a good basic skill to start with.

Set your horse up for success and click and reinforce for every small step like approaching the pedestal, then investigating it and touching it with a hoof, et cetera. Raise your criteria slowly.

Before you know it your horse wants to stand on the pedestal. Therefor it is equally important to teach him to backup and dismount it. Don’t forget to reinforce that, too.

General tips

  • Keep the sessions short (5 minutes) and repeat over the weekend.
  • Give your horse a short break in between the sessions.
  • Make pictures or a video on Sunday to record your success. Please share your pictures with me on Facebook.

More fun things to do

  • Explore your surroundings and take your horse for a hand walk or hand grazing session. Read here how you can teach your horse to leave the grass voluntarily.
  • Ask a friend to go with you. Do a photo session with your horse during the sunset.
  • Hide a treat under a cone and teach your horse to find it.

_cone_hippologic

Have fun with your horse! If you have fun tips & tricks to share, please write them in the comment section. I am looking forward to hearing about your fun time with your horse.

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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How to… make the arena more appealing

In my previous post What if your horse doesn’t like arena work I already mentioned that the first step is to find out the reason why.

If you can exclude physical reasons like pain from the saddle, medical reasons like hoof cracks or maybe an unskillful (or rude) rider and so on, you can look for solutions to make your horse more happy in the arena.

What floats his boat?

It is obvious: positive reinforcement (+R) of course. This way of training will make your horse more eager to work for you. With +R you will trigger your horses brain. He has to find out what made him earn that bridge signal (paired with a lovely reward). He will be challenged to think. Horses like that. Really they do!

Variation

If your horse gets bored in the arena because everything you do is very predictable, try something new. If you always ride him, try some at liberty work, long reining or horse agility. Variety is the spice of life.

Use more positive reinforcement to create a better association with the arena or ‘work’ he has to do. Change your Rate of Reinforcement, your treats or your exercises. Raise your criteria (slowly). Trick training is a lot of fun.

Challenge your horse and do something crazy together like ‘101 things to do with a cardboard box’. You can bridge & reward him for every new exercise he comes up with: touch the box with his nose, left hoof, right hoof, kick it forward, play fetch with it, shake it and so on. Don’t bridge a second time for the same idea.

Give him a ball (small or huge) to play with, or to wake his curiosity. Make sure he is not afraid of it.

Relax time

Don’t forget: there is a time to work and a time to play. Do nice relaxing activities in the arena.

I like to let Kyra roll before we ride in the indoor arena on a rainy day (she loves rolling in hog fuel when she has a wet coat) or after our ride.

If your horse likes to be groomed, groom him more often in the arena. Spend time scratching his favourite spots. Watch a video about TTouch or horse massage and try if your horse likes that. 

Feed him in the arena. If you have an outdoor arena where patches of grass grow, let him find them. So he can display his exploration behaviour.
_positive associations with arena_hippologic
Don’t forget: it can take some time before a negative association changes into a positive one. Make haste slowly.

 

What do you do to create variation or make the arena more appealing to your horse? Share it in the comments!

Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a free intake consult!

 

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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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Fun exercises to start clicker training

Having fun is important because it keeps you and your horse motivated. If you start positive reinforcement training/clicker training you can be overwhelmed by ‘everything you have to do differently’. Not only do thing in a different way, but often also exactly the opposite way.

If you come from a traditional background training and riding horses or you come from a natural horsemanship background, you can have the feeling that you’ve been doing it ‘wrong’ all along. That’s not true and it is also not a motivating thought.

People who change their approach because they are looking for a more ethical way of training or the method they use to train horses doesn’t feel good anymore, are often attracted by positive reinforcement (R+) methods. In R+ it’s common to give the animal a voice in training. Giving the animal power over what is happening to him builds trust.

Start easy, stay motivated
Set yourself up for success. A good way of starting positive reinforcement training with your horse is to start with easy, seemingly purposeless and completely new exercises to your horse that give a feeling of accomplishment when you reach it.

Start easy and choose something fun so you will stay motivated. Be gentle with yourself: you are learning a new skill. Give you and your horse time to learn and discover.

Choose an exercise that looks impressive but is simple to teach your horse and simple for your horse to learn. Don’t start with complex behaviours before you have enough basics under your belt.

Consider it ‘fun’ time
If the new exercises seem purposeless there is no stress if you decide not to follow up with training and there is no pressing timeline in your mind (like a farrier appointment that’s coming up for a scared or green horse).

Choose something completely new. In this way the horse doesn’t have an existing association with the new things he and you are going to learn. You start with a clean slate.

_hippologic_tricktraining_vrijheidsdressuur

Trick training
If you want to practise your mechanical skills in clicker training and you are looking for suitable exercises to start with, think about starting trick training. There are several easy tricks you can teach your horse and practise your clicker skills, your timing and safe hand-feeding skills.

For a safe and fun way to start take a look at my Key Lessons (your Key to Success).

Easy and fun tricks to start with are:

  • standing on a mat, a tarp or a pedestal with 2 front feet
  • smiling (= flehmen)
  • simple bow (front leg one step forward and head down)
  • targeting (touching an object)
  • shaking ‘No’
  • push a ball with his nose
  • back crunch

What exercises or tricks would you recommend to horse enthusiasts that just started clicker training?

Sandra Poppema
For tailored advise, please visit my website

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Book review: Horse Trick Training

 

Today’s book review is about an eBook I found online about trick training.

Note: I don’t get paid for my opinion nor for providing links to places to purchase the books I review. This review is purely meant to provide information.

This book review will follow a specific order:

  • Title of the book
  • Author
  • For who the book is meant
  • Number of pages
  • Price
  • Publisher
  • Content
  • My personal opinion of the book
  • Recommend this book?
  • Where to buy this book

HorseTrickTraining

Title of the eBook
Horse Trick Training, How To Get Started
100% Horse Friendly Training

Author
Jain Brand

For who this book is meant
This eBook is written for  horse lovers who have never taught their horse tricks, or those who may have tried to teach their horse some simple tricks, and would like an easy step-by-step trick training program.

Number of pages
51

Price
US $7

Publisher 
Horse Tricks 101

Content
Introduction
Is this eBook Right for You (and Your Horse)?
Why Teach Your Horse Tricks?
How to Ask Your Horse to Do Anything
Trust & Training
How Long Will it Take to Teach a Trick?
When to Train – a Simple Training Schedule
Best Places to Train Your Horse
Which Trick Should You Teach Your Horse First?
Useful Tricks
Safety Comes First
What NOT to Teach Your Horse
Equipment
Rewards
Trick Training Treat ~ Molasses Oat Treats
Assignment 1
5 Steps to Teach Any Trick
Assignment 2
Recap and a WARNING
Trick Foundations
Preparing for Your First Trick
Teaching Your First Simple Trick
Assignment 3
Your Second Trick
More Ideas
Summary
What Comes Next?
Questions?

My opinion of the book
As you can conclude from reading the contents, this eBook covers all the basics of getting started with trick training your horse. The title covers what it promises, and I really appreciate that in a book.

It is an ‘easy reader’, with hardly any scientific definitions or difficult equestrian jargon. I think every horse owner can understand it. Therefor I can recommend it also to horse lovers who don’t have English as their native language.

The knowledge about how to teach your horse new behaviours is scientifically based and that makes it a valuable reference as well. It is really good hands on information.

Horse Trick Training, How To Get Started covers all the basics and it is also a book that I could recommend to a bit more experienced trick trainers. I mean people who have taught their horses a few tricks and have encountered minor difficulties or are just looking for some inspiration for new tricks (see content).

The tricks in this book are safe to begin with and easy to teach. It is an excellent start to get some experience in horse (trick) training.

Horse Trick Training, How To Get Started comes with easy to follow step-by-step instructions. It also contains several links to Jain’s videos and printable trick planners. The videos are helpful and educational.

Conclusion: I think it is a great book for people who want to start teaching their horse (new) tricks. The time and effort that Jain has put into getting this eBook together with all the handy printables and videos makes it a really good value for the price of $7 US.

Recommend this book?
Yes!

Where to buy this book
This eBook is only available online. Follow this link to buy the book.

 

Is there a specific horse book you would like me to review, let me know and I will look into it.

Sandra Poppema
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6 Tips to bond with your horse

In order to bond with your horse you don’t need magic, like this recipe. I believe that everyone who is dedicated tho their horse can develop a heart-to-heart connection with their horse. You don’t have to have a lot of talent.Trust

#1 Spent time with your horse
The more time you spend, the better you will know each other. It is not a prerequisite, but it sure does help. With spending time I am not only referring to riding. Think of other ways to spend time with your horse: hand walking, hand grazing, grooming, horse agility/groundwork and playing. The more time you spent in all kinds of situations, the better you will learn to know each other. You will learn about your horses’fears, what he likes and dislikes, if he is energetic, what attracts his attentions, how bold he is etc.

#2 Observe your horse
Learn as much as you can about body language and behaviour. Take some time to just sit and watch your horse in the pasture, in his stable or paddock. What does he do when he doesn’t know you are there? How does he interacts with other horses?

#3 Make horses and their behaviour a point of study
Horses and humans do have the same emotions, but not necessarily the same needs. Where we humans sometimes can have the urge to spend some time alone, for a prey animal that lives in herds is is not a safe thing to choose: to separate themselves from the herd. What do horses need in order to be happy or have their safety needs full filled? Do they like to graze in the sun, in the rain, the wind, snow. What bothers them? Are there specific insects that irritate him, how do you know? Does he have friends in the herd? How would you recognize that?

_hippologic_listening to your horse_clicker_training

#4 Don’t let your ego get in the way while training your horse
If a horse is not reacting the way you want him to it might not be because he wants to deliberately counteract your goal. The horse is not trying to “win”. A horse is a reactive and responsive prey animal that sometimes just reacts according his instincts or his expectations. Or he reacts a certain way because he simply thinks that is what you meant. Make yourself familiar with the learning theory. Be consistent and reward often. Never blame the horse if things are not going like you expected them to be. The horse isn’t thinking about that!

#5 Be fun to be around
Make sure it is rewarding for your horse to spent time with you. Try to be more reinforcing than the herd you take him from if you are doing things together. If he is in a stall most of the day, where there is not much to eat, where they are restricted from interaction or exercise you know what to do, see #3.

#6 Be yourself
Be honest with yourself and respect your own limits. If you try to act braver than you actually feel, chances are that you are doing things or taking risks you otherwise would not take. Making mistakes is part of life, but I suggest reducing the risk.

Don’t train or ride a horse you are afraid of. Work on that fear first. If you are afraid to be close to a horse, work with a protective barrier until you think it is safe. If you don’t want to trot, canter or jump with a specific horse, ride him in walk or just sit on him standing until you do feel safe enough to try it.

Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult!

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