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Sandra Poppema, BSC
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This article has moved to my own website: https://clickertraining.ca/teach-your-horse-to-behave-on-grass-grass-training/
Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, BSc
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If you’re frustrated by your horse because he doesn’t do what you want, you might ask yourself questions like:
Or you catch yourself saying things like:
If you catch yourself in this mindset (and that takes practise!!) turn it around! What all above statements have in common are they are focusing your mind on the wrong things. They are all focussed on what you don’t want. Start focusing on what you do want!
How can you change this? Let’s take a look to those questions and change them, so that your mind will work for you, not against you. Have you noticed that your mind will fill in the answers?
What answer do you get if you ask yourself ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’
What happens if you would ask yourself instead: ‘What can I change to make my horse more successful?’ Does that feel different? How does it make you feel?
How about this one: ‘Why does he always have to be such a brad?’
Stop using the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ from now on. Change this one into: ‘What happened today that influenced his behaviour? What can I do differently? What does my horse need (to know, or have) in order to do X?’ Do you feel space to change here?
How come he listens to [fill inthe blank/your instructor] and not to me? Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what the other person does have (or do) that makes her successful. Then do the same thing, get the same knowledge or experience.
Homework: try this out and let me know what you’ve discovered. What are you telling yourself? Could you think of different questions? How did that make you feel?
A fixed mindset is when you believe that you (or your horse) can’t change. ‘People never change’. A growth mindset on the other hand is one that believes that you can change. ‘Practise makes perfect‘. Here are some suggestions to change the other statements:
If you have a fixed mindset you can still choose to change! If you choose not to, I can’t help you. No one can. Your life will be hard and often miserable. You’ll always be a victim because you can’t change your life and it’s ‘not your fault’. I don’t think people with fixed mindset will make it to here in this blog.
If you have a growth mindset: hooray! You will be able to change you mind and make your life easier and enjoy your horse more. If you need help with implementing this into your daily interaction with your horse, your training of in riding let me know. I’m here for you.
In order to test your mindset and experience this in practise I offer a free training. I picked a common problem, something even experienced horse people like myself encounter: a horse that wants to graze when you’re leading him or won’t stop if you let him have one bite. Sound familiar? Or you just want to join my free training to see what I’m like, how I coach and to learn new skills? Sign up here: Free Grass Training Transformation.
Join our group on Facebook where you can ask questions, interact with like-minded people and get support on your clicker journey. In the last quarter of 2019 I will do weekly LIVE videos in the Happy Herd. Don’t miss out!
Sign up here: Free Grass Training Transformation.
Here in Canada it is Winter again. Normally the climate is mild here in Vancouver, BC but this winter we’ve already had snow that’s lasted for almost two weeks.
We all know that frozen pastures limit our horses ability to exercise themselves and horses generally are more spooky and more forward in cold weather conditions. Riders with an outdoor arena can’t ride due to the frozen ground. How can you get the most out of this time of year? Here are some tips.
Choose to work on some smaller, but still important behaviours that will make your life easier and improve the relationship with your horse. Does every ride start with a bit of irritation because your horse lifts his head every time you want to halter/bridle him? Does he always walk a few steps while mounting?
How does that influence your relationship? Imagine how you would feel to have a horse that would put his head into his own halter or bridle, align perfectly next to your mounting block and stand still until you give the cue to walk on?
Simple behaviours you can work on in Winter that would improve your life at the barn can be:
If the weather isn’t allowing you to ride you can spend time with your horse , groom him and do a wonderful photo shoot. Maybe you can have eternalize some of your equestrian goals you worked on this year.
You can take your horse on a walk to hand graze your horse. This would be a perfect time to start teaching him how to quit grazing on a cue, since winter grass is less enticing than the juicy green Spring grass that will be back in a few months.
Start trick training and have a good time! Here is a good book that will get you started on a few easy tricks.
What does your favourite Winter training looks like?
Haven’t we all experienced that a horse pulled you towards some grass in order to grab a few bites? Isn’t that annoying? I think it is!
I didn’t want to be pushed around anymore by my horse every time there was some juicy patch of grass growing around. Grass is everywhere! I decided to look for a proper, force-free way to teach my horse more desired behaviour around grass.
I tried a few different approaches, before I found one that works well, gave me a solid result and is totally force-free. I would like to share it with you.
It took me a while to teach Kyra to behave ‘properly’ around grass. With ‘properly’ I mean: no more pulling me towards grass, wait until I give the ‘graze’ cue and ‘stop grazing and come along’ if I ask her to. I was tired of pulling Kyra off the grass.
I must say before you can start training this you need a bit of preparation and… lots of practice time. After all, what is more enticing than grass? Well, a click can be…
What really helps is already have a solid history of click & reinforce. Secondly a horse that walks with you properly and the key lessons ‘head lowering’, ‘patience’ and ‘targeting’ are required to make this challenge most likely to succeed.
Here is a summary of my shaping plan:
I started to reinforce lifting Kyra’s head while grazing. Why? Because this is the first step to move away from the grass. I began with leading her to grass and I would cue her to graze. Then I just waited (very, very patiently) until she lifted her head by herself. That is the moment I wanted to capture and reinforce.
I can’t stress how important it is to wait until the horse moves (his head) away himself. I tried other methods like pulling the head up/preventing the head from going down or asking Kyra to target while grazing in order to lift her head, but reinforcing her own head raise worked best.
Every time she would lift her head , I clicked and reinforced Kyra with a very high value treat. One that could compete with grass. After she ate the treat I immediately gave her the cue to ‘graze’. Here is when the key lesson ‘head lowering’ comes is really handy.
I also clicked and reinforced the ‘graze’ cue. But instead of offering a treat off of my hand, the reward was to graze as long as she wanted.
Every time she would lift her head again, I clicked, reinforced and would then give her the ‘graze’ cue.
After a certain amount of training sessions, which Kyra enjoyed very much (!), I noticed that she started to lift her head more often during grazing sessions. This is a perfect time to add a ‘lift head up’ cue. The key lesson targeting helped me a lot.
So my next clicker session looked like this:
In this way she is always reinforced for whatever I ask.
After several sessions I noticed that Kyra didn’t seem to mind lifting her head up anymore. She was eager to see what I had to offer her. The ‘diving into the grass’ behaviour was gone. She seemed so much more relaxed on grass.
I thought this would be the perfect time to raise a criterion. Now I wanted to lift her head and take one step forward before I gave the ‘graze’ cue again. I literally built this behaviour step-by-step.
The final step in this process was to teach her to wait for the ‘graze’ cue when we would walk on or approach grass.
Now I can ask Kyra to leave grass at any time. She is very willing to come with me. She never pulls me towards a patch of grass and I never have to pull her off of the grass. Win-win, for her and for me.
Kyra turned from a I-need-to-graze-now-and-store-fat-before-winter-comes-horse into a I-see-grass-so-what-horse. She knows she can trust me and is allowed to have her share… only when I say so.
Today I wanted to make a video for the FB Grass Training FB Group. Kyra didn’t want to graze, so I couldn’t show how to start walking on grass when all your horse wants to do is graze. Never thought I could be in that position: a horse that doesn’t want to graze because training is way more valuable.