What to do when your horse gets chubby (Fionn’s progress)

Fionn and Odin are getting a tad bit chubby! They have to get back to a healthy weight asap! I would like them to be like this. This photo was taken in May 2022. Fionn (right) looks a bit chubbier because he has a different build than Odin (left), who is more elegant.

I started to develop ways to teach horses to offer movement in 2016, when Kyra got laminitis and was a 9 out of 9 on the body score index.

Kyra even got rain puddles on her back when it rained. Yet, I told myself she was “OK”. After all, she was (fat and) healthy for the first 8 years of her life… So, I postponed doing something about it. Because I just didn’t know how!

I started exercising her, but I got discouraged… I stopped. I told myself ‘It isn’t that badShe’s a barok horse.”. I did what I could: slow feeders and less food at night…

Exercising enough with positive reinforcement was hard. It “didn’t work” and I didn’t kept going with it. In hind sight I expected too much, too soon (‘lumping’) and quit. I wish I had known then what I know now.

Little did I know that EMS shows itself between 9 and 12 years of age. She just turned 9 and one month later… Laminitis! I won’t let that happen again.

Fionn and Odin gained a bit of weight in August and I’m doing everything I learned, in order to reverse that. I’ll d get them back at a healthier weight, before it’s too late. I know now how to do this with clicker training. I don’t have to worry about damaging the bond I built with both of them in the past 10 months, since I got them.

Here’s what I learned training overweight horses back to health

  • Laminitis can be prevented! And healed.
  • Obesity in horses can be managed (even when horses suffer from diseases like EMS)
  • Most regular weightless advise damages other parts of the welfare of the horse (like putting them in solitary confinement and/or on a crash diet that the vet advised me for Kyra)
  • You can get them healthy and HAPPY while helping them to lose weight with exercising and management changes

Most important of all:
What you have to do when your horse gets sick (laminitis) is only temporarily! I spent 2-3 hours, 7 days a week during the first 6 – 8 weeks or so to get Kyra back to health!

It’s important to realize that, when you’re in a similar situation: This is not forever! And… when you prevent your horse from getting sick, you’ll save lots of time, effort, money and worry!

You have to put in a huge amount of time, effort and money to nurse your horse back to health once he gets sick.

Once I got Kyra to a healthy weight and laminitis free I could change back to my regular amount of spending time with her. It was devastating to see her suffer! The amount of worry and sleepless nights (apart from the financial burden of a sick horse 😉 ) is huge!

Mini’s and laminitis

This time I will do anything to prevent this from happening. Especially because I know miniature horses/ponies are prone to EMS and laminitis.

I’ll keep you posted with some of my training. I’m so happy that I know exactly what to do now and I don’t have to look the other way, until the vet would confront me with some bad news. I won’t let that happen again!

Videos of Movement Training with Positive Reinforcement

From the blog R+ Movement Training for Overweight Horses
Here’s how to start. This doesn’t look like anything of the goal behaviour! After all, this is not negative reinforcement! Watch the second video of training day 4 to get the idea what it will look like eventually when we built duration.

Fionn at training day 4: the target is been faded out and my body language is getting smaller and smaller already.

More reading

Tips for Treats

Move Your Horse with a Click

Do you really need to stop giving treats in training when your horse needs to lose weight?

Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

If you liked this read, please share or share your comment below!

R+ Movement Training for Overweight Horses

Teach your horse in 3 simple steps forward movement at liberty. Use positive reinforcement (R+), so that moving becomes appetitive! Stop struggling and running along when you exercise your horse at liberty! Let your horse do the movement! Show him that it pays off. Teach him to love it, so he’ll offer active walks, trots and canters.

Step 1

Teach your horse to move around a cone!

Advantages are plenty:

  • No need to build a Reverse Round Pen
  • No lengthy set up and clean up time
  • No running along with your horse (after all, he’s the one that needs the exercise, right? ;-))
  • No target stick that becomes a crutch and difficult to fade out

How to do it

Reinforce the slightest try. In this video you’ll see, that the start won’t look anything like the goal behaviour at all! Be patience! This is not negative reinforcement where you can almost see the end goal behaviour immediately!

Step 2

Teach your horse to Leave the Cone Alone. Not only teaching him to ignore the cone, but also to leave the cone. And be good with this!
When you taught him that, you can teach him to go to the next cone, and the next.

How to do it

Reinforce the slightest try. Don’t be afraid to click and treat plenty. Especially in the beginning! Until your horse gets the idea.

You’re building Confidence with your clicks! And you give your horse Clarity with your clicks! Both very important to build a bond with your horse in the process. Win-win.

Step 3

Add cones: two cones, three and then four.

Once you have 4 cones you can shape your square into a rectangle. I call it the (HippoLogic) Reverse Rectangle. I took the Reverse Round Pen idea just one step further. This makes it easier for the horse, and … no clean up time!

Advantages of working your horse in a Rectangular shape:

  • Creating straight lines to move along, are much easier for your horse than to keep moving in circles (which is very hard and unnatural)
  • When it’s easier for your (overweight) horse, it’s probably way less aversive as when the exercise (going around in circles) is hard
  • The short sides gives you plenty of opportunity to reach your horse to feed him
  • Corners will help make your horse use his inner hind leg and balance him
  • Corners will help teach your horse to use his body well
  • Alternating a corner with a straight line will allow your horse to relax after a bend. This makes exercising easier and more appetitive than working on a circle or small square.
Train Your Horse to OFFER movement with R+

Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

5 Reasons to make a Dream Board for Your Horse Today

Many horse women tell me “I can’t trail ride, because my horse is herd bound and therefor it’s not safe to take him out.” Or they tell me they don’t know how to help their herd bound horse overcome his separation anxiety. It breaks my heart to hear when people have totally accomplishable dreams and yet they can’t make them happen. Here’s how a dream board can help you!

Make Your Dreams Happen

The only way to make your dreams come true is to have a clear vision of what you want. This sounds like an open stall door, and it is.

I always say: “If you want to go somewhere (accomplish something) you need to know where you want to go. ‘Anywhere’ is not a place on the map.”

Reason #1: A Dream Board will help your brain focus!

When you make a Vision Board you create your personal road map for your equestrian dreams!

By making a Dream Board you make the decision: this is what I want! The moment you do that, all kind of amazing things happen in your brain!

With making a decision about what you want, you put this in your unconscious mind. Now that part of the brain will go searching for ways to get it! It’s really cool!

When I was in high school I fell head over heels in love with a boy in my class. He had an oldtimer car, a white Lada. Whenever I was biking though the city I wished I ran into him.

I thought it was a special car, since I never saw one before… Every time I saw a white Lada, my heart made a little jump: Is that him?!

Amazingly, suddenly the whole city was full of tiny old, rusty white Lada’s! They were all white! (That’s because my brain was’t looking for yellow, green or silver ones).

Kyra, a wild horse born in a nature reserve

Put your brain to work! Pick a goal, but be specific! Don’t look for “Lada’s”, look for a tiny, old, white rusty Lada with a specific motor sound!

Pick your ‘destination’ and be specific! Give your brain a treasure map: That’s what I want! Your subconscious brain will help you find it!

When I made my Dream Board when I was a little girl, I wanted to ‘tame a wild horse’. Impossible right? I lived in The Netherlands, a very tiny country with lots of cities and people.

Yet, when I got an offer to get a horse that was born in a nature reserve, and was actually wild, I jumped on the opportunity!

I never tamed a wild horse! But, because I recognized this was one of my wildest dreams, I decided to say Yes!

It still was very scary to take on this responsibility, to be honest! I did it and that’s how I got Kyra! She was super herd bound and positive reinforcement training turned out to be my solution. Kyra became a confident horse that I could take out on trails. Safely! Without a bit!

Reason #2 A Dream Board is a Visual Tool (and your brain loves pictures!)

Have you ever noticed that your brain works in pictures? Yes, the voice in your head is a sound and uses language, but really your brain loves pictures.

When you think of your horse, you see him in front of you. You know how his manes feel, his warm neck when you stroke him. You can remember the smell of his warm breath on your face. How he lifts up his head in the pasture when he hears your voice…

Did you ‘see’ your horse when you read this? That’s your brain making images!

When you collect images, they’ll become powerful reminders!

Making a bucket list and writing it down works, too! By writing in detail what you want, your brain will create the image for you.

But finding a picture that symbolizes what you want, is even more powerful! A pictures says more than a thousand words!

When you want to trail ride but your horse is currently very herd bound, you might envision what could happen. Maybe you’re afraid he’ll rear, buck and run back…

But when you put pictures on your Dream Board that represents safe, fun, calm and controlled trail riding, it looks like this:

You get more of what you focus on.

You decide: fun and happy trail rides? Or scary ones? Most people focus on (have an image of) the scary things that could happen and things they want to avoid…. Focus on what you want! Your Dream Board will help you do that!

Reason #3 Making a Dream Board is fun!

Making a Dream Board for your horse is FUN! You can let your imagination run free! With the internet you can easily find images (no more magazine clippings!) that suits your dreams perfectly!

See what others have on their dream board in our Academy! How they are making their dreams come true and how they do it. Get inspired and expand your mind of what’s possible for you and your horse!

Reason #4 Create a powerful Reminder of Why you have a horse

Once you have your dream board ready, and you’ll place it where you can see it on a regular basis, you have a powerful reminder why you got a horse in the first place! To enjoy! To have fun with, to enjoy nature or to love and be loved.

Reason #5 It makes your life Easier!

Once you have a Dream Board or Vision Board for your Equestrian Dreams, it will make it your life easier. When you exactly know what you’re looking for you can easily recognize and find:

  • The right boarding facility (adjacent to trails or the beach, where you can enjoy being in nature with your horse)
  • Your dream horse. When you really want to ride, you won’t end up buying a rescue that you can’t ride. But when you want to develop a deep relationship with your horse, that same rescue horse might be the perfect choice for you.
  • A mentor or coach that can help you accomplish what you want. If you want to train your horse yourself, you’ll find someone that can coach you to do it. If you’re really specific and want to train your horse with clicker training find someone that can help you do that!

Start Today

Now you have 5 very good reasons for making a Dream Board for you and your horse, why not start today? I would love to see your dream board! If you’re on Facebook please tag me!

Do you want to do this in a group? Join our workshop. The last Saturday of September we’ll start the Clicker Training Academy year off with making a Vision Board for our Horses for the coming year! Because I know how powerful having your own Dream Board is, and how much it will help to make your dreams come true, it’s a invaluable tool for your clicker training.

If you would like to join our workshop Dream Board for Your Horse, book a call with me. Here’s my calendar.

Join Our Supportive Clicker Tribe!

I hope this blog gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

Do you really need to stop giving treats in training when your horse needs to lose weight?

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet tell you to STOP FEEDING TREATS!? You know your horse needs to lose weight and get back in shape, but How to do this without treats?

Why stopping giving Treats is a good idea

It seems like a solution to stop offering your horse treats when he’s overweight, right? If you’re giving your horse lots of dense-calorie treats without asking him to burn them off, it’s probably a good idea to stop giving those.

Take a good look at what you consider a treat: Is it calorie rich? Is it nutrition value low? Or is this just the common human approach of “treats”?
We -people- usually mean candy or other low nutrition value/high calorie foods. Right?

If you’re using real treats like peppermints (although how much calories would all the peppermints in one training contain?) are they really having that much impact on your horse’s obesity?

Or can you influence his weight with changing his management? Usually decreasing hay or grass intake and minimizing dinner grain portions have a much bigger (pun intended!) impact on your horse’s weight!

If your horse turned into a Mugging Monster, you can turn that around quickly!

Why stopping giving Treats is a bad idea

When we train horses (R- or R+) we still need to reinforce the desired behaviour from time to time. If we don’t, and the behaviour is not intrinsically reinforcing, the behaviour gets extinct.

Traditional trainers need to use their whips, sticks or ropes once in a while (depending on how much of a threat the aversive still is) to keep their horses in line. ‘The horse needs a little reminder,’ is what they say.

Same goes for positively reinforced behaviours: we also do have to remind our horses (with a treat!) what we want from them (movement).

We need to do that to keep motivation high! Whether that’s in R- or in R+. Or we’ll lose it.

When we clicker trained our horses to exercise and offer movement (walk, trot, canter, jumping, gallop), we still have to offer a treat with enough value, once in a while to keep their motivation high. That’s why it’s a bad idea to stop giving treats to (overweight) horses in training.

If you’re a clicker trainer and you suddenly stop giving treats as reinforcement, you’ll disappoint your horse. He’s expecting food rewards. When he doesn’t get them he can get demotivated! That’s another big reason why stopping with treats is a bad idea.

You can experiment with other reinforcers: things your horse will value. When you get more behaviour (movement) you’ve successfully reinforced your horse to move. When you get less behaviour or sluggish movements or a slower response time to your cues, you know you weren’t actually reinforcing the behaviour and you need to find a better appetitive!


Read my blog about How to Move Your Horse with A Click

Healthy Treats for Horses

Most of my clients find it a challenge to find healthy treats for their overweight horse. Part of it is our own mindset. We usually value “healthy treats” way less, than unhealthy snacks! That’s human thinking! We need to shift our minds!

Start thinking how a horse thinks and how he sees the world. Horses eat about 16 hours a day. That’s their nature! Therefore they will always be hungry (to a certain extent). They love low calorie/high fibre foods! That’s another huge difference between us and a horse!

Ideas to keep training with treats (the smart way)

  • Training a horse with treats, means we can use (normal, healthy) foods to motivate them in training!
  • Take the amount of food (calories) you use in training, out of their daily ration. That way using treats in training won’t contribute to weight gain
  • If you’re horse doesn’t get dinner grain/pellets/ use, alternatives. Here is a list of over 30 options for treats in training.
  • Add interesting options to the low calorie/high fibre foods in training, like cinnamon added to soaked beetpulp, r adding a few sunflower seeds in the low calorie food rewards etc
  • Balance the calorie denseness of the treats with the amount of movement (calorie burning) you ask your horse to do.
  • The more you train (and the better your horse understands what he needs to do), the less food you need! So when you train your overweight horse to move and you need a lot of food reinforcers, knowing that this won’t be lasting forever helps!
  • Once movement/exercising gets intrinsically reinforced (‘runners high’), the less external reinforcement (treats) your horse needs!

Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach
https://mailchi.mp/a0a07dd3228d/rplus-training-for-overweight-horses

What would you like to accomplish with your horse in 12 months?

What is ONE thing you would love to accomplish with your horse (using R+) within the next 12 months?

That’s one of the questions I asked my Facebook community and I’m looking forward to the answers everyone gives.

The answer is of course, very individual. When I ask this question, most people don’t have an answer right away.

I think this is a good question to ponder about and let it sink in: What would make your heart sing, if you could do X with your horse?

Benefits of writing your goals down

When people have a goal write it down AND share it, they immediately increased the likelihood of accomplishing it!

Please share yours below!

In the Clicker Training Academy we have monthly interactive workshops on Zoom. In September we’re going to create a ONE YEAR Personal Clicker Training Plan for each member! It’s about:

✅ Becoming aware of your wishes for your horse

✅ Creating your personal guideline for your clicker training

✅ Working diligently towards your Personal goals with clicker training.

✅ Living the life you want, accomplishing what you wish to do with your horse

Send me a n email (hippologic@clickertraining.ca) if you want to hear more about the workshop or the Academy.

What will you accomplish with clicker training?

It will be so much fun to look back in 12 months from now and see how MUCH you’ve accomplished, just because you created a focus!

I would love to tag you in one year in this very same post to ask you: “How much of your goals have you accomplished?” ❤

Join Our Supportive Clicker Tribe!

I hope this blog gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

How to become a better Clicker Trainer and Friend for your Horse

using positive reinforcement makes you a clicker trainer

In my community I focus not only on teaching horse people to train behaviours with positive reinforcement, I specialized in transforming horse owners into clicker trainers. Most horse people don’t consider themselves ‘clicker trainers’, but I believe you are if you change the behaviour of your horse with positive reinforcement!

What do I mean by that? I focus not only on how to clicker train your horse, I help you develop the trainer skills you must develop, in order to become the best clicker trainer you can be.

Clicker Skills vs Trainer Skills

Clicker skills are the tools, the techniques, the method and your system in order to train your horse..

Trainer skills are the skills that the Trainer must develop in order to learn to think in a positive reinforcement way.

Developing Trainer's Skills will increase your success rate in clicker training your horse

Do you ask yourself:

“How can I solve this with R+? “

“How can I make this (this thing *I* want) a Win-Win, so I get what I want from my horse and my horse gets what he wants so we both feel good about it and it enhances our relationship?”

“How can I prevent falling back on R- (or P+/-)?”

“How can I improve so that I get better results or teach my horse faster and without frustration?”

I’ve thought very long about what it takes to become a really good positive reinforcement trainer and The 6 Key Lessons for Trainers are the skills that helped me and all my clients the most. I call them Key Lessons for Trainers, because they are your Key to Success in Clicker Training. You can train faster, get better, more reliable and predictable(!) results and the better you’re at the key Lessons for Trainers, the less you fall back on traditional training. The less you fall back on R- (because now you have R+ solutions and ways to train), the less guilt and the better your friendship with your horse will be.

The better your positive reinforcement Training Skills, the better your results you’ll get and the better the friendship with your horse will be.

Key Lesson #1

Principles of Learning & Motivation. This not only includes knowledge of the Learning Quadrant (R+, R-, P+ and P-), as you’d expect. There is more, like:

Learning Quadrant: R+, R-, P+, P-
  • HOW does a horse learn? How does learning takes place?
  • How does your horse learns best? What increases learning (a certain level of calmness, curiosity, rewards, experience (let them do the thinking) and so on)
  • What inhibits learning and how can you avoid it (too much fear, frustration, flight/fight response, boredom, lack of interest, fear of learning et cetera)
  • What motivates my horse in a positive way (appetitives)

And(this is the part most people skip):

  • How do I -as trainer and human- learn best? Do I like learning from video, practising, reading, conversations and discussions with peers. Do I like step-by-step instruction during my training sessions or do I want to have the theory and then practise on my own and have someone to give me feedback for improving and someone I can turn to to get support if I struggle.
  • How can I keep myself motivated? Lots of clients approached me because they lost motivation do keep figuring out things on their own and reinventing the wheel. Success is a great motivator: you’re training your horse and BAM! He has learned the behaviour you wanted! Great! Now, how to keep this in his repertoire (see above, how does learning take place and how to keep your horse motivated to perform the behaviour you just trained)?
  • How do I keep momentum in my horse’s learning curve? Most reasons that people get stuck in clicker training are easily solved, if they would know how. Find a brain to pick so you won’t have to put your horse and yourself to unnecessary frustration or boredom in training.

Another part of Learning is to take into account the natural behaviour of your goal species, your learner! Horses have different natural behaviour, lifestyle and learning styles than for instance dogs, who are predators. Once you know how to tailor your training to your learners natural behaviour, you can prevent so much struggle!

Unfortunately, most horse people believe in the myths they’ve fed us over the years (“Don’t let your horse win!” “Show him who’s boss” “Make him do it”). That you (still) believe them is not your fault, you assumed that the more experienced horse person/instructor was right… Unfortunately they were dead wrong, if they taught you to use force and coercion to get what you want from your horse.

Trailer loading: a struggle for most owners

Taking into account what you’re asking from an animal (horse) that is developed over thousands of years on plains, is a grazer and browser and uses flight and flight and numbers (herd animal) to survive to go into a tiny, wobbly space, where escape is not possible and also often without fellow herd members… No peripheral vision possible in a box with tiny windows!.

Yes I’m talking about trailer loading. It’s very unnatural and goes into a lot of their natural behaviour.

And most people don’t even think about that, when their horse refuses to go in… They label their horse as stubborn, dumb, stupid or worse.

I think it’s amazing that we can überhaupt train a horse to travel in a trailer, given his natural behaviour.

If more people would understand the Principles of Learning & Motivation in a way the LEARNER benefits, too, the world would be a happier place. Wouldn’t you agree?

How do I implement the Principles of Learning & Motivation?

Practise, practise, practise. Also: making mistakes, and learning from them and trying new approaches (thinking from what your horse would like, what he *can* do (what is species specific and easy for him). Another Key Lesson for Trainers is to Track Your Training and Evaluate it! More about that in another blog. 😉 That will help you actually implement Key #1 Principles of Learning & Motivation.

Most difficult thing if you’re changing from P and R- to more R+ in training, is to train yourself to ask yourself questions so you become aware of what you’re doing and what’s happening.

3 Most Important questions in Training:

  • Is my horse making an Away-From decision? If so, you’re using an aversive or there could be an aversive in the environment (horse is scared of the trailer, a dog barks and makes your horse fearful)
  • Is my horse making a Moving- Towards decision? He doesn’t want to go into the trailer because he rather eats grass (appetitive) or wants to stay with his friends (herd) and that’s the reason he doesn’t trailer load today.
  • What motivates my horse to do what he’s doing? (Not only an important question if he doesn’t do what you want, but also a very important question if he does do it! So *you* learn what he wants and can use that next time. If he rather wants to graze the grass next to the trailer instead of going into the trailer, how can you use that information to get what you want? How can you use grass to get him into the trailer? Can you think of ways?
Enhance the bond with your horse through positive reinforcement and building trust and a clear two way communication

Get support on your learning journey

I hope this article gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters
https://mailchi.mp/5d676526ba5a/clicker-training-academy

Milestones in Clicker Training with Rita the Unapproachable Mule

After a bit of plateauing in our clicker training last week I felt I needed a different approach. Usually there is always something to get excited about, and when I don’t get that it’s time to change my approach.

It can be quite challenging to think Out of The Box and come up with a totally different approach, if what you’re doing doesn’t bring you success anymore.

Plateauing could be a sign your learner might not be learning anymore (in the environment you provide),needs more repetitions or that -in Rita’s case- it’s too difficult or too stressful.

Because of that Rita wasn’t in ‘thinking mode’ anymore and no real learning was taking place. She might ‘learn’ I’m trouble, and that’s not my aim!

Repetition can be really beneficial but when you notice you’re getting the same result (instead of ‘better’ or ‘more’ or ‘longer‘), the repetitions have the opposite effect: learning stops. It also can get boring and predicable. As was the case with Rita. Learning stopped (I can see that in hindsight, but at the time it was difficult to accept that thought). She still wanted to go to the food bowls and (sometimes almost resultantly) ate her food rewards.

Food puzzles

When I asked a good friend, who is also an excellent positive reinforcement trainer for advice, she told me how food puzzles helped her. She and her fellow clicker trainsters were training pigs, but they where highly stressed and didn’t want to interact with humans. Just like Rita. That made it difficult to train them.

She told me food puzzles helped the pigs learn, get used to their attendance and their voices. It took two months. After that, they could easily clicker train other behaviours and made great progress.

I must admit I was a bit disappointed when she told me about the two months of food puzzles…. I’ve been training Rita for 2 months and although I made great progress so far, two months of (what almost seemed to me as “non-training”) sounded like ages…

A cheerful thought

On the other hand; LEARNING takes place! That thought really cheered me up again! And, when you can entice a mule (or other animal) to learn with appetitives (something they LIKE and want to have), you greatly enrich their lives and enhance their welfare.

Now, I could see how a simple food puzzle could reduce stress. Letting Rita discover the puzzle IS the reward, and no trainer (human) involved! And solving the puzzle leads to a food appetitive. Double bonus! I decided to try this! See video at the bottom of this blog.

My next Challenge: What makes a suitable puzzle for Rita

I decided to make the food ‘puzzles’ so easy, that it would be just enough challenge, without stressing her out. I wanted to ask my friend about her food puzzles, but then realized that food puzzles for pigs would be very different than food puzzles for a traumatize mule. Simply because they have different natural and species specific behaviours.

The food puzzle must be solvable by just using their natural foraging behaviour. Burying food would work as a nice puzzle for a pig, whos natural behaviour is to dig, but for a grazer/browser like mule, it would probably be too challenging…

I decided to keep my puzzles easy and low stress. I made different puzzles using items that she had seen before: food bowls, a target, a part of a bottle, a cone. Let me know in the comments if you’re curious about my food puzzles.

Milestone 1: Less Stress

The benefits of my puzzles are diverse:

  • No bridges involved, that stressed her out
  • No human that needs to approach her, to offer food rewards
  • No anticipation stress
  • PLUS: Learning was stimulated and immediately rewarded with appetitives
  • PLUS: Trainer keeps a large distance and isn’t involved in the process (other than set up)

How this will greatly benefit our further training

Now Rita is getting used to the food puzzles, and my attendance and my voice, learning takes place again. I keep talking to her while she’s exploring the food puzzles. The idea is that she’ll make a positive association with me, now I lowered her stress levels due to the changes I made.

Too much stress will inhibit learning. I noticed lots of calming signals and stress relief signals before I used my food puzzles. These behaviours have decreases significantly!

Biggest takeaway

My biggest takeaway from this experience is to Trust the Learning Process (one of my favourite quotes that my clients hear all the time). Thinking out of the box to benefit your learner (How can I make this more fun for RIta and less stressful for her) brings the trainer what she wants, too. Even when it doesn’t seem that way at first glance. Relationship before Results and the Results will follow!

That’s where a second pair of eyes or brain comes in so handy! Having someone to ask for advice was invaluable! It helped me get ‘unstuck’ in my training and make a turnaround in my dead end street I was in. It saved me lots of time and Rita lots of stress! Thank you!

Relationship before Results

At first, I had to let go of the idea of me getting Results. The results I was focused on were Key Lesson Targeting (since we made a good start with that) and approaching her (her personal bubble shrank from about 15 meters in the first weeks to about 3-4 meters)

The benefits of Key Lesson for Trainers #1: Principles of Learning and Motivation. When you understand what inhibits and what stimulates learning, you can change your approach accordingly. When learning takes place, you get (the learner offer!) different behaviours, which unlocks new approaches and ideas for training!

Other Milestones my ‘Relationship before Results-approach‘ brought me

The next blog I will elaborate on the other mile stones that the food puzzles brought us! I can’t wait!

What is your experience with plateauing in training?

Share your story how a different approach lead to better results in your clicker training. What happened that forced you to think out of the box and how did it help you? I would love to hear about your Out of The Box solutions that helped your horse learn better.
Did you need to put the Relationship first in order to get (better) Results?

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogicre you inspired and interested in personal coaching in a group or do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, upportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Apply today!

10 Benefits from doing HippoLogic Grass Training with your Horse (What…? Grass training?!)

What is grass training?

Teaching your horse with positive reinforcement to ignore grass in training, leading and riding. In Grass Training you teach your horse to leave grass with a Stop Grazing-cue, and a Grazing-cue. It’s easier than you think, as long as you’ll use the right approach and don’t use R- or P. grass training hippologic clickertraining bite

Benefits Grass Training

  1. Yummiest training ever for your horse! He will immediately pay attention to you when he understands there is a Start Grazing -cue. This will be the quickest learning of a cue.
  2. By giving your horse something she wants, you immediately have her positive attention!
  3. No more unsolicited grazing on trails! You can ride, lunge and train at liberty on grass without losing your horses attention! grass training Hippologic clicker training horses
  4. If you do fun stuff, your horse will trust you, looking out for your next visit. It’s a great foundation for friendship between you and your horse
  5. It will give you incredible results. You’ll notice how annoying and frustrating it was, once you’ve solve it.
  6. Your horse won’t snack on grass during at liberty work, leading or riding!
  7. Your horse will become easy to get of out of the pasture. Simply call his name.
  8. You both stop being frustrated while grass is available during riding or training
  9. It will improve your communication
  10. It will enhance to bond with your horse
Buy HippoLogic’s DIY Grass Training and get some fun and useful training time done.
Grass Training (online course)

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

Join our group on Facebook where you can ask questions, interact with like-minded people and get support on your clicker journey.
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Get a free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.
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Join the Clicker Training Academy if you want personal support

What is the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy? It’s an online mentoring program for enthusiastic clicker trainsters, where you can learn to train every behaviour you have in mind with R+. We have a small, all-inclusive community in which students can thrive and develop.
  • Professional, personal positive reinforcement advice on your training videos
  • Super affordable
  • Student levels are novice to very advanced clicker trainers
Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

How to talk to traditional horse people about R+ solutions for your horse

In this blog you’ll find tips and solutions to improve your communication with negative reinforcement horse people.

My 100 Clicker Question Quest #100clickerquestionquest

I’ m fascinated about the impact clicker training has on the life of the horse that’s been trained…

Have you ever asked yourself how the quality of life has been impacted when your giving your horse choices in training?

Have you noticed a positive ripple effect on your horse’s life since you’ve been clicker training him? I have seen this many times and in the most unexpected ways.

These questions were on my mind today. I was wondering: How can I get better answers? Is it to ask better questions? What questions are good questions? Then I started to wonder: What are other clicker trainers asking themselves?

100 Clicker Questions

Can I think of 100 questions about clicker training that are not How To-training questions?
I did. Then I thought, how about asking if I will ask YOU for clicker questions concerning the bond with your horse?

Have you ever asked yourself how it would impact your clicker training if you were able to ask different questions?

This is how I came up with my “100 Clicker Questions Quest”.

Purpose

No real purpose, other than to come up with 100 Clicker Questions regarding horse-human relationships. Maybe it will help people think about positive reinforcement of lead to answers…I don’t know, let’s find out. Mayeb it will be fun, maybe it will be just another task…

I’ve come up with over 100 questions today (123 to be precise) and I noticed that the more questions I came up with, the better they became. That’s why I won’t share them just yet with you.

What clicker question is on YOUR mind?

What’s a question that has been on your mind since you started clicker training? Do you have a philosophical or ethical question?

What is one thing you’ve always wondered about equine clicker training or horse-human relationships?

Do you have a personal question about clicker training for me (other than a “How to train X,Y,Z..”)? Do you wonder about befriending your horse? Of a horse you don’t know yet?

Please share and join me on this fun quest

Would you like to share your question with me (use the comments!). I would love to hear from you.


I’m thinking of using these questions in my blog. I’ve put this out there, live in my Happy Herd Facebook group. If you’re curious about what questions your fellow clicker trainers have, hope over and find my Facebook LIVE post (hashtag #1000clickerquestionquest).

If you want me to acknowledge you and your question then please put between brackets how you would like to be referred to. For example [initials+ country], [first name only], [first name, country], [full name, city/country] etc.


I’m looking forward to your question! Sometimes the best questions don’t even have an answer… but they’ll make you think! I wonder what’s on your mind?

Sandra

Founder of HippoLogic and the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Move Your Horse with a Click

How often are you adjusting your training in order to make it easier for your horse? If you want to avoid frustration for your horse, I bet this is on your mind all the time! But…

You can make it easy the wrong way and the right way.

Read on to discover if you’ve fallen into the pitfall of doing it ‘for your horse’.

Biggest mistake

The biggest mistake you can make in positive reinforcement training is that you reinforce “not offering behaviour”.  People do this often by ‘doing the behaviour for the horse’ in the hope the horse gets (copies) it.

Let me explain… This is a common pitfall I see many, many clicker trainers fall into. We often do this unconsciously because we still think like a traditional trainer. That’s what makes clicker training sometimes seems to give slower results. Or that it takes longer to teach a horse something new.

Fallacies in Horse Training

In traditional training (R-) you almost always ‘get’ the goal behaviour instantaneously: you give pressure and when your horse yields, you release.

Clicker training needs adjustment in the way of Thinking about training

You wiggle your training stick closer and closer and more forcefully, until your horse moves forward. Voila! You immediately get your end goal results: walk, trot or even canter within minutes.

It’s a fallacy to think we can use the same approach without force. We’ll show the horse what he needs to do and then click for it. If you’re one of those people, you’re not the only one. Go on YouTube and search for ‘reverse round pen’ and find dozens of clicker trainers that move as much or more(!) than their horses, when exercising their horses.

How to get movement with R+

The biggest difference is that in R+ (clicker training, positive reinforcement training) you only can reinforce the DESIRED behaviour when (or immediately after) it’s happening.

Therefor we need to get the behaviour first, so that we can offer the horse an appetitive to strengthen the behaviour. Something he wants to have and is willing to work for.

It’s a thinking mistake that when we tell the learner the right answer (trot), he’ll learn quicker. What you want to do is to help the horse figure out what you want and reinforce his decision to trot.

Teach your horse to move

Next time you teach your horse to walk, trot or canter or you’re watching someone teaching a horse to exercise with clicker training, pay close attention. Often, we want to make training easier by doing it for them, instead of teaching them to offer walk, trot and canter.

When a horse doesn’t start walking, trotting or cantering right away, people often try to ‘help’ their horse by showing them what they want. They move, their horse moves and click! They click the horse for walk, trot or canter, right?

Place yourself into your horse’s shoes

 I can’t tell you how often I see people make the mistake to click for ‘following’ (a target or the trainer), instead of clicking for offering walk, trot or canter. That’s exactly what you’re teaching the horse if you do this: you’re teaching him to follow the target or trainer. And this becomes the cue!

It’s the opposite of what you want. It’s very similar to what people do in traditional training: teaching the horse to stay passive and re-act only of the trainer is doing something. To me “training” is teaching, not simply “reacting”. It will take a bit more effort in the beginning of the training, but it will pay off tenfold later on when your horse starts to enjoy his exercises!

Who is successful? You or your horse

If you think you don’t do this, or haven’t done this, watch your training videos. It might surprise you what you’ll discover, now you know what to look for.

It can be very obvious or it can be most subtle: You might be the one moving first, just before you click. So you can be successful! Think about that: who do you really want to be successful? You or your horse? Most people don’t realize that they are setting themselves up for a pitfall that is hard to climb out of.

If you want to teach your horse to move by himself (building distance) or for longer (duration) you’ll run into trouble if you’ve clicked too many times for ‘follow the trainer/target’. The pitfall is that we’ve done the behaviour for them (we or our target stick moved), so they haven’t learned to take initiative when it comes to moving. Now your horse simply thinks that he needs to do what you do, because that’s been clicked and reinforced. How to reverse it?

Solution

In other words; we haven’t taught our horse to ‘make the decision’ or to ‘take action’ to move forward. Instead, we’ve fallen into the pitfall to ‘let us trainers/our target sticks do the moving and our horses do the following’.

If that happens you’ve taught your horse to stay passive during exercise training. This mistake can slow down your future training tremendously.

Recovering from this pitfall

We can fall into this pitfall in training almost every behaviour: we push our horse gently over so that we can take his leg up (and click) instead of teaching our horse to lift his own leg. We’re touching their legs with a target, instead of setting our horses up so that they will touch the target (and lift their leg in the process!).

Instead of teaching the horse to move on his own, we (or our target) moved and we reinforced our horses to ‘follow’ , instead of offering trot. Sounds familiar? (Go here if you want to learn to teach your horse to offer movement)

When you know better, you can do better

Instead of training your horse to follow you, you can start teaching your horse to walk, trot and canter without you running in front of him with a target. Then you’re teaching what you actually want him to learn. That will be a skill that your horse will enjoy the rest of his life.

Offering the right baby step!

Instead of making the behaviour easier by ‘doing it for your horse’, you have to think about a solution to make it easier for your horse ‘to make the decision’ so he will offer the behaviour (walk, trot, canter). You can use a target or mats to help you. Just don’t let these training tools turn into crutches you can’t do without. These are just tools for training. Your cue needs to become your most important communication tool.

Overcoming fear of punishment

Keep in mind that this (making decisions and taking imitative in movement) often has been punished in the past if your horse has been traditionally trained. They are not supposed to make decisions on their own or start walking. Therefor we need to encourage our horses for the slightest try to ensure them that this is what we actually want in our setup.

Teach your horse to think

When you reinforce taking initiative and making decisions over and over, clicker training will go faster than ever. You’ll get better results and you get the engagement of your horse that makes working together so pleasurable and fun. Win-win.

Need help or have a question how you can teach your horse to listen to your cues? Come and join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

In the Academy I teach you the Principles of Clicker Training so that you can become an autonomous clicker trainer, enhance the friendship with your horse and do the things you really want to do with your horse.

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy 

If you want access to many DIY online clicker training courses, free Clicker Challenges and get weekly personal feedback on your training videos join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Send in your application today (click the link) so you can enroll the next time the doors open. Only once a month I open the doors, and only for 2 days! Don’t miss the opportunity to join a select group of R+ enthusiasts!

Exercising Your Horse With R+

Interested in learning more? A few times a year I offer courses and teach equine clicker trainers to exercise their horses with positive reinforcement. Most courses are online with personal coaching and feedback in a group, so everyone gets the best results possible. Contact me and we’ll have a chat.

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

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Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

Using Protective Contact in Clicker Training your Horse

If you’re not using protective contact in clicker training your horse, you’re missing out on great opportunities to improve your clicker training skills and to enhance the bond with your horse.

Read my latest blog about it: https://clickertraining.ca/benefit-from-working-with-protective-contact/

Happy Horse training!

Sandra

My blog is moving! Don’t miss out on new articles about Equine Clicker Training

Hello my dear blog readers and loyal followers and visitors,

I am in the process of moving my blog to my own website http://clickertraining.ca.

All new articles will be published there and one by one I will take blogs away from here and put a link to where they moved. In the meantime you can still read here a few hundred articles.  I’ve written over 300 blogs and I will be moving them manually so that can take a while. You may have seen this picture already:

I hope you will keep reading, sharing and following my blog on the new location: my very own website http://clickertraining.ca!

Please have a look around and have a virtual coffee. 🙂

It’s still a bit of a mess. I am in the process of a makeover.

Not being a very technical person this is a bit of a struggle so bear with me!

It’s a learning process and it WILL be beautiful once it’s finished. I am sure of it.

(If you have tips about improving my website email me at hippologic@gmail.com. All help is appreciated!)

One thing to figure out is to make it possible to get new blogs into your WP reader.

For now I will email all new articles to my email list. You can join here and get my free clicker training course, too!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

WIN a Trick Training Course (100% R+)

In order to celebrate my blog is moving to my own website http://clickertraining.ca I offer a giveaway. You can win a free Trick Training course Lying Down! Value $99!

Click the picture to find the giveaway!! And… welcome to my website!

Happy Horse training and good luck! I hope You win!!

Sandra

Grass Training Step 2

Find the Grass Training Step 2 blog here: https://clickertraining.ca/grass-training-step-2/

Start with Grass Training Step 1: https://clickertraining.ca/grass-training-step-1/

Grass Training Step 1

The blog you're looking for has moved_hippologic header

Read this blog on HippoLogic’s website. Click this link (and subscribe to the new blog): https://clickertraining.ca/grass-training-step-1/

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Click HERE to buy  the HippoLogic Grass Training course grass training Hippologic clicker training horse Banner blog Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Weekly online Clicker Classes and Clicker Coaching

Have you ever wished you could have weekly clicker coaching the way you can have a weekly riding lesson? I have…The more I think about it, the more enthusiastic I get!

This is what I am thinking. And I would love to hear your thoughts!

Weekly Live Clicker Coaching Sessions

Online, over Zoom. It can be a group session or there can be one person in the hot seat. Whatever people want! Another idea I have is this:

Weekly Live Classes 

About a topic of students can choose. This will be online too so it doesn’t matter where you’re located.

For example a lesson about riding with the clicker or a specific question about that. Replays will be available, so no one will miss out on a lesson!

I would love to hear what I can help you with. What would you like?

Why I think this is a great idea

When I am in Facebook groups or on fora I always see the same questions popping up. That’s why I started this blog, to help horse people that want to learn about clicker training for horses. By the way moving my blog to my website soon. More about that later.

I’ve written 343 blogs and I am thinking that it’s would be even more fun to help people in online live lessons to implement training solutions. Since most of us are home now this would be a great way to keep in touch with like-minded people.

I know from experience that knowing the theory and executing it in real life can be a challenge. So that’s what I want to include: support implementing. I am already doing this in our private Clicker Training Academy Facebook group. 

As riding instructor I saw my students every week or every other week. They improved their skills in an ongoing flow and they had amazing breakthroughs! Sometimes it was a ‘small thing’ like discovering the feeling when the inner hind leg stepped forward so they could improve the influence of their seat. Other times it was a huge milestone: going for a trail ride for the first times on their own horse, by themselves!

Being coached on a weekly bases, leads to accomplishing milestones in training.

It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small all these breakthroughs helped people move on when they plateaued in training! It’s so valuable to have an extra pair of eyes and experienced support on a weekly base available, wouldn’t you agree?

This is why I think this would be great:

➡️Learning in a group setting can expand your horizon quickly because you get so many new ideas from fellow students
➡️ Group classes are way lower price tickets than private coaching sessions. You will be surprised about the affordability: less than weekly riding lessons!
➡️Having a supportive community inspires and helps people come up with amazing new ideas.
➡️It can feel safe to learn in a group class because you can listen in without being in the spotlight. You don’t have to be on camera.

How you to sign up

I already founded the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. In the Academy I offer monthly training themes and Clicker Challenges. Now I am thinking to add weekly coaching session or classes. These classes will be offered in the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

I am looking for a few more founding members. Founding members help shape the Clicker Training Academy. What kind of support would you like to have?

Would you like to become one of the founding members of the HippoLogic Clicker Academy (HCTA)? If so send me an email at hippologic@gmail.com and put in the topic line ‘I am interested!’ and I will send you more information.

✅ As founding member you will be grandfathered in at a special price that will never go up for you as long as you stay member!

✅ You can help form the HCTA! The Academy is still small you get a lot of personal attention and you can help decide about the weekly topics!

If you want to become a founding member, you will always have a special place in the Academy because it will be formed to how you want it to be! 

So if you want to become a founding member and think weekly live classes or coaching is a great idea you want to be a part of, send me an email (hippologic@gmail.com) message and I’ll send you more information! 

Happy Horse training!
Sandra

PS I am looking forward to welcome the founding members and get started! One of the topics I am thinking about to offer in the weekly classes is my “grass training” (teach your horse to ignore grass while leading). If you have an idea, I love to hear it! Send that email! hippologic@gmail.com

No #1 Tip for Equestrians in Shedding Season

In one of the Facebook groups I am in, I posted a video of all the hair Kyra is shedding and I asked: ‘What is your number 1 tip in shedding season?’

Get a vacuum

Lots of people replied with ‘shop vac’. For who don’t know what that is, it’s a heavy duty wet/dry vacuum. They are fairly inexpensive (cheaper than an equine grooming vac and also bigger). You can buy a curry (brush) to attach, so you can groom and vacuum the hair off of your horse at the same time.

I bought a curry for dogs since that was the only one I could find online. It’s a bit small with 3 inch diameter but it works great!

First I thought it was a bit snobbish to vacuum my horse, yes I admit. I thought this is only for people who want to be done quickly.

I can tell from experience: I’m spending more time with Kyra. She loves the shop vac! Since I don’t have to spent time raking and cleaning up after a grooming session that’s time I now can spent connecting with Kyra. With the shop vac I spent more time grooming instead of less, because it’s fun! It’s so rewarding to get all that hair off of her.

Shop vac are awesome in grooming your horse! Cheap and they work well wet and dry. They handle lots of sand and hair!

Training Plan to Introduce a Vacuum To Your Horse

I only needed three 5 min at liberty sessions to be sure Kyra would be good with the shopvac. This was my shaping plan in 3 steps.

I always try to incorporate 5 senses when introducing a new potentially scary object: vision (observe the scary object), then investigate the object with smell and touch (nose, teeth). They might want to taste it (licking) too. It’s all part of investigating. The sense hearing comes into play with unknown objects that make sound, like a vacuum.


1. Introducing “The Thing”

I let Kyra inspect and investigate it. Approaching, sniffing and engaging (as long as it doesn’t damage the shop vac) is all clicked and reinforced with medium to high value treats. Kyra is at liberty in the out door arena so she can determine the distance between her and the vacuum and determine her own pace of investigating and satisfying curiosity.

Then I walked around with the shop vac and I click and reinforce ‘standing still’. She’s at liberty and can move away if she wants. I make sure she stays under threshold and pay attention to her body language. I do this because later on I need to move the shop vac near her hindquarters, front and sides.

2. The sound

Repeat step 1 but now the shop vac is ON and makes noise.I click and treat generously so the sound only will be associated with good things happening.

3. The ‘Feel’ (suction)

Now the last part is to introduce Kyra to the ‘feel’ (suction) of the vac! Make sure the horse doesn’t get bad experiences. For me it was a bit scary when Kyra wanted to sniff the hose/curry. I prevented her nose to be stuck or sucked onto the tube/brush with my hand.

Beware of Static Electricity!

People also gave me a heads up about static electricity and using lots of Static Guard (a spray you can find in the laundry department of your supermarket to eliminate static). Kyra is already great with spray cans so that was not part of this shaping plan.

Click the FB icoon to watch Kyra’s video on Facebook.

Result

It only took a few sessions for Kyra to realize how the vac helps her to get rid of the loose hair.

She really enjoys the vacuuming and I use it as reward for behaving and cooperating while after changing the dressings on her infected hoof (see this blog).

In 30 minutes I get 10 times as much hair off of her than with currying manually! So it works GREAT!

Questions about how to train this yourself? Contact me (hippologic@gmail.com) I offer online horse training support.

If you have trouble introducing and using a vacuum with your horse you’re probably ‘lumping‘. I can help you make a proper shaping plan.

7 Reasons of why this is my no #1 Tip for Shedding Horses

  1. My Horse loves it!
  2. I don’t end up with dust behind my hard contacts (that really hurts my eyes)
  3. I spent more time grooming than cleaning
  4. No more raking after grooming
  5. No more hairs flying around ending up in your mouth
  6. About 97% LESS horse hair on your own cloth (just an estimate) that gets in your car and home
  7. My horse loves it. Oh, yes I said that already…

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Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Establishing, Enhancing and Excelling Horse-Human Relationships with Positive Reinforcement

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Do you want a well behaved horse on and around grass? Check out my Grass Training clicker course and enhance the bond with your horse.

Grass Training (online course)

 

Things to Consider Using Treats in (Clicker) Training Horses

There is much to consider when you’re serious about positive reinforcement training and want to use treats. This is not the occasional sugar cube I am talking about.

Let’s see what’s important in clicker training your horse and choosing the right appetitive or food reward.

Value of the reinforcer can change over time

Value of reinforcers can change so I keep that in mind too. Kyra loves to work hard for hay cubes in Winter, but in Summer not so much.

In Spring and Summer I often use dandelion leaves or simply freshly plucked grass. Kyra has EMS so she won’t be full time in a pasture anymore. That’s why a handful of juicy grass will always be high value for her.

Low sugar grass pellets (simple to use and cheap to buy in bulk since it’s a ‘dinner grain’ type of feed) will do year round for Kyra.

Occasionally the value ‘wears off’ and I will mix in a few sunflower seeds or different kind of dinner pellets I get from other people, to make the reinforcer more interesting and less predictable.

Home made treats: cheap, easy and sugar free

I also bake my own treats (find the DIY home made horse treats recipe here) and it’s easy and cheap in comparison to store bought treats. You can choose the flavour, too. I usually make them with lots of cinnamon or tumeric (both anti inflammatory). All horses seem to like those flavours. People love the cinnamon ones and are fairly disappointed if I tell them no sugar is involved. 😉 The smell is soooo good!

Healthy vs Unhealthy

One thing to consider is the amount of reinforcers you use. If you would put all the treats you use in a day in a bucket, how much do you think that will be? The amount of all sessions added together.

If you use 10 reinforces per day and you choose apple pieces, that would be 2 apples or 1 if you make the pieces really small. If you use 15-20 per session and train 3 sessions a day that will add up.

So ‘healthy’ is one thing to consider. I used to feed handfuls of grass pellets in the beginning of Kyra’s training, when I was in the phase of taming her. She was born in the wild and untouched when I got her. She didn’t eat anything she didn’t know: no carrots/apples, commercial treats in the wild!. She only wanted to eat hay and grass pellets.

How much reinforcers do you use?

So I had to use lots! When I realized how much pellets I was actually using in just a 5 minute session, I was shocked. I calculated I used 1,5 to 2 scoops of pellets a day. Full scoops! I fed handfuls per click so it went really fast. Kyra was still very scared of me at the time and had hay available at all times, so I didn’t have much choice. She choose her hay from the net over hay from my hand in the first few days.

This was a lot, for a yearling, so I reduced the amount I fed after a few days by making the sessions shorter and the breaks between sessions longer so I wouldn’t overfeed her. She also had made great progress in accepting me nearby. Once I could feed smaller hands of pellets I could decrease the overall amount significantly.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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3 Reasons to use treats in training

Clicker training 101: Tips for Treats

Is your horse mugging you?

Horse, Stop Mugging Me!

The biggest fear of using treats in training and what hold most people off is the fear of The Mugging Horse. What can you do about mugging and how can you prevent it?

What is mugging

Mugging is when a horse demands a treat or attention by pushing you with his nose, trying to help himself to the treats in your pocket, kicking the stall door to get attention. Just to name a few symptoms.

What most people don’t understand is that they encourage their horse to mug and almost always reinforce it! All this happens even to people who really hate mugging horses. Why is that?

Principle behind mugging

Horses ‘mug’ because it leads to a reward! That’s it!

‘But I yell at my horse to stop if he kicks the door! I never allow this behaviour.’ Even if you run over to a horse that kicks their stall door (even to smack or shout at him), he gets what he wanted: your attention!

It’s not about what you think, it’s about what your horse thinks! If he -the learner- feels he is rewarded (you came over) he will do the smae behavioru again next time he wants you to come over.

I reinforced my horse to nicker to me if she wants me there. I like that and it’s not so destructive as kicking doors. It’s also available in the pasture, where there is no door to knock on.

Know your learner!

If you want your horse to stop mugging, put yourself in his place. Ask ‘What’s in it for the horse to behave like this? What am I giving (attention, treat, something else) that he wants from me (maybe even to lure you away from that horse)?

So what is his reinforcer? If they mug you for food, it’s the treat they get. Even if it’s denied 4 times before. That even made the mugging only stronger!!

Turn the tables

Use the reinforcer he wants for the behaviour you want! If your horse want attention, give him attention when he does something that is more desired and preferably also incompatible with the undesired behaviour (mugging).

Kicking doors

Give door kickers attention when they stand with 4 feet on the floor. That is incompatible with door kicking. It’s hard, because your horse is silent when he behaviour well! So that is something you have to train yourself to do! And everyone else in the barn.

What not to do (biggest pitfall of people):

Ignore the horse? No!! Not giving a treat when your horse mugs is called extinction. You’re trying to let the behaviour go extinct because it has no use, it doesn’t lead to what he wants. This will only work if you and all other people will never, ever give a treat

Since that is almost impossible, this won’t work. As soon as one person gives a treat when the horse asks for a treat, you have reinforced the mugging with your variable ratio reward schedule. In other words: you made the behaviour stronger!

Punish the horse? No! Punishment is to decrease a behaviour. I understand that people want to decrease the mugging behaviour but there are main 2 issues with punishment.

  1. The punishment needs to exceed the reinforcer by far in order to stop the undesired behaviour! The pain of the punishment must be stronger than the good feeling the pushished behaviour leads to. Eating (food) is a survival behaviour and therefor cannot be punished enough to let it go out of the behaviour repertoire. Same might be true for attention: heard animals need eat other and need to be seen by their group members. If you will smack a horse hard enough to never eat a carrot out of your hand, he will be very conflicted if he loves carrots. He will find other ways (trying to get carrots from other people).
  2. With punishment (which is scientifically speaking purely meant to de-crease a behaviour) you won’t give your learned any information what you want him to do. So that leads us to what the solution is:

Solution for mugging horses: how to stop mugging

The best way to approach mugging in horses, whether it’s for attention or food, is to teach them what to do. Teach them desired behaviour that is incompatible with the undesired behaviour! Then reinforce the new behaviour with that what the horse really wants! A carrot? Attention?

  • Desired and incompatible behaviour can be standing with 4 feet on the floor
  • Looking away from your pocket (they can’t push you or grab food out of your pocket if their muzzle is nowhere near your pocket)
  • Teaching your horse to keep a distance is incompatible with mugging
  • Teaching your horse to keep his lips closed and muzzle relaxed is incompatible with mugging
  • etc

Prevent mugging

If you start clicker training and reinforce behaviour with treats or food reinforcers be clear to your horse about your expectations. Reinforce ‘Table manners‘ right from the start. Click the link to find out more.

Fear of working with treats in training

solutions for treat crazy mugging horse with clicker training

Not starting to click with your horse is because of the fear of creating a ‘monster’ out of your horse that only will be focused on the food. That is true for maybe the first few sessions, but almost all horses learn within the first 10 minutes that it’s not about the food. It’s about the behaviour they have to perform (that leads to food).

They learn clicker training is about them, making a choice. If we are clear what we want them to choose (Table manners over mugging) they understand quickly and cooperate eagerly. After all, there is something in it for them, what they really want!

Clicker training done well turns your treat crazy horse into a well behaved, well mannered horse that is eager to work with you.

Learn more

I can talk for hours about this subject! There is so to learn. Go to my website if you have a treat crazy, mugging ‘monster’ that you want to turn into an eager friend that is polite and well mannered when treats are involved.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin