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

Posts tagged ‘HippoLogic’

What’s your horse’s best behaviour?

Today I posted this question on my Facebook page and the answers were pretty diverse and also surprising. When I thought about this question myself I thought back to when I got Kyra.

Kyra’s story

Kyra was 11 months old and was separated from her mom and her whole family herd three weeks earlier. Kyra was born in a nature reserve. (more…)

Click with your Horse

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by horses. Every year on my birthday and every Christmas I asked for a pony. I dreamt about riding and training horses at liberty. Of course in these fantasies the horse and I were one.

We could communicate in a way that the horse would do everything voluntarily and with ease. I never needed to use force, or use training aids like a bit, a whip or spurs. I dreamt about being friends with my horse and that he would trust me in every situation. That we really could rely on each other…

When I was older I chose to study animal management. A study in which animal-human relationships and animal welfare were key subjects.  After my bachelor degree I became a certified riding instructor. I trained horses, but I still had the feeling there should be something else out there, something better…

The traditional and classical ways of training and riding horses were too focused on getting results. There seemed no place to spent time and effort on the relationship between the horse and the rider. Something I was still longing for. I wanted to train and ride my horse, but wanted to have a solid foundation of trust and friendship first. No one seemed to teach this…

Move away from pain or move towards pleasure

When I started studying learning theory, I learned that there are basically two ways to train behaviour. We all have this in common. We either want to move away from/avoid discomfort or pain or we want to move towards pleasure.  This was when it hit me:  I was still using discomfort to train my horse. Even though I was told I was playing a ‘game’ with my horse, he was still learning by moving away from discomfort (which was called ‘yielding to pressure’ to make it sound more humane).

Apparently you can also do the opposite in order to teach behavior and use ‘pleasure’ to teach your horse new skills. Horses are like humans: we share the same emotions. Like us, horses also like to move towards pleasure.___clickertraining_hippologic

Change the foundation of your relationship

What really amazed me when I started changing my ways is that the relationship with my pony also totally changed. I used to think that I had a good bond with my pony because I trained him from the day he was born. We spent 18 years together. After changing my training approach and using positive reinforcement, I noticed that my pony was also changing. He became eager to work with me, he started whinnying as soon as he saw me coming and he even started to canter to me in the pasture. Something he normally didn’t do. He didn’t walk away, but I always had to come over and get him. In a short period of time we became really good friends and developed a partnership based on trust, which is an excellent basis for all training.

Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t easy to throw out all the equipment that I used to force a horse into doing things. It was a process. A long process with lots of ups and downs.

_carrot_or_stick_hippologicAre you ready to change your ways?

If you are ready to make the change to a more ethical approach of horse training and improve your bond with your horse and have more fun together, let me know by sending me an email.

I offer personal coaching in which I help you train your own horse. I believe that you know your horse best. I think there is more value in you training your own horse than sending your horse to a stranger to get trained. I want you to gain the knowledge and the experience so you become the best friend you can be for your horse.

I wish for every equestrian to have a click with his or her horse.  Visit my website http://clickertraining.ca if you want to learn more about me or my training method.

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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‘Clicker training doesn’t work’

The first thought that comes to my mind when a person tells me ‘Clicker training doesn’t work for my horse’ is ‘Why not? Is he sleeping?’ Just kidding. (Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van dit artikel).

Listen to this blog on YouTube:

Horses can be trained either by using an aversive to reinforce behaviour (negative reinforcement, -R) or using an appetitive to reinforce behaviour (positive reinforcement,+R).

What does the statement ‘Clicker training doesn’t work for my horse’ mean, when someone says that? Does it mean that:

  • The trainer doesn’t understand the concept of +R and therefor is not applying it properly?
  • The horse doesn’t respond to the marker, the clicker?
  • The horse is not interested in the reward the trainer offers?
  • The horse is not paying attention to the trainer and therefor doesn’t respond to the cues and/or clicker?
  • It only seems to works part of the time (with some behaviours)
  • The horse (sometimes) performs ‘worse’ during clicker training

What_if_Clicker_training_does_NOT_WORK_hippologic

#1 Trainer doesn’t understand the concept
A lot can go ‘wrong’ if the trainer isn’t conscious of what he is doing or doesn’t understand what he is doing and expects a different result. The basic terms to understand are: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcementmarker or bridge signaltimingshaping behaviourproper hand-feeding, cues, reinforcer and learning theory.

#2 The horse does not respond to the clicker
Can your horse hear the marker (the click)? Does he knows what your marker/bridge signal means? It usually takes 30 – 50 repetitions (marker+reinforcer, marker+reinforcer etc.) before the animal has learned that the marker is an announcement of an appetitive.

Does your marker sounds the same every time? A clicker always makes the same sound, therefor it ‘travels’ the same pathways in the brain. If you use a special word, it can take longer for your horse to generalize the marker sound, so it can take a little longer for your horse to respond and repeat the behaviour you’ve marked. If you use different markers make sure your horse has been introduced properly to each of them.

The marker is not (yet) paired associated with an appetitive or the trainer has not yet figured out what the horse considers a reward, see #3.

#3 Horse is not interested in rewards
The key is that the reward must be reinforcing the behaviour. ‘The receiver determines the reward’. If the behaviour is not getting stronger, the reward did not reinforce the behaviour so it wasn’t a real reward.

Pay attention to your horses needs and wants. A reward can also vary in value: a tuft of hay can be reinforcing in winter, but not in Spring when you keep your horse in a field full of juicy grass. It is the trainers responsibility to find out what the horse wants to work for at that moment.

#4 The horse is not paying attention
Why not? Is there something more urgent going on for the horse than the trainers cues? Can the distraction be removed or the horse taken somewhere else to train? Does the horse think he’s in danger? It doesn’t matter if the trainer doesn’t see the danger, for the horse it is real. Is the horse in ‘learning mode‘? Is he relaxed and engaged enough to learn?

Does the horse responds to the marker, see #2? Are the cues clear and fully understood by the horse? Does the trainer keeps the horse involved or is he distracted himself? Is the horse frustrated or maybe has mentally shut down for one reason or the other? Are the rewards reinforcing? Is the proper behaviour reinforced? It is all about timing: you get what you reinforce.

_clickertraining_hippologic_reinforce

#5 It only seems to works part of the time
The horse is not interested in the ‘rewards’ you are offering that day, see #3. He might be distracted, see #4.  The cue is not yet established in a different context. The horse doesn’t respond well because the training steps are too big, the criterion has been raised to quickly (also known as ‘lumping’). Or your rewarding schedule is too predictable, see #6.

#6 The horse performs ‘worse’ during clicker training
The rewards have lost their value or the reinforcement schedule is too predictable for the horse and therefor the behaviour becomes extinct. In other words: the click doesn’t motivate the horse anymore.

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg for the many reasons that positive reinforcement aka clicker training doesn’t work for you(r horse). Can you name another reason? Please share!

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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Photo challenge: Time

In response to WP photo challenge with the theme ‘Time‘.

How to forget time: Go to the barn and spent time with my horse. ZEN.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic

Sandra Poppema
For tailored advise, please visit my website

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Bridges, powerful tools in horse training

Recently I have received the same question from several people. Why do you need a clicker when you could just use your voice as a bridging signal? What are the advantages of a clicker?

Why a bridging signal is needed
If you want to reinforce certain behaviour one has to reward the horse at the moment the behaviour is still going on or within a few seconds the behaviour has stopped in order for the animal to associate the behaviour with the reward he is receiving. It is almost impossible to give the horse his reward during the behaviour, which is why positive reinforcement trainers use a bridge signal.

_hondenclicker

Bridge 
A bridge or bridging signal is a specific signal for the horse that connects the moment the reward is given to the behaviour he was doing. Most clicker trainers use a special device named a clicker as bridge. The clicker makes a click sound.

When the horse has learned that a click is always followed by a reward, the horse starts to pay really good attention to the behaviour he was displaying at the time of the click. He is smart and he wants to train you to give him more clicks. Animals like it when they have the feeling they can control the environment (you and his rewards).

Advantage of a clicker
A clicker always makes the same sound and therefor it ‘travels’ the same path in the brain. The horse understands quickly what the sounds means. A click is not influenced by emotions of the human voice. It doesn’t matter who presses the clicker, it still sounds the same. So other people can ride and train your horse without confusing the horse about the bridge signal. The click of a clicker can be delivered instantly. Timing is everything. The more accurate your bridge is, the easier the horse learns what you want to reward him for.

_clickers

Other bridges
As long as the bridge signal  is a specific sound it can be used. I taught my horse to respond to different bridges. I use the high pitched and long stretched word “Good” as bridge and Kyra also knows that my tongue click is a bridge.

Advantages of other bridges
The main advantages of a verbal bridge and a tongue click are obvious. The first is that you always have it with you. No matter where you go you can always use your bridging signal.

The second is being able to keep your hands free. Using a clicker always requires a hand to click with. In some situations being able to use both hands can have be a huge advantage.

Disadvantages of a vocal bridge
A vocal bridge always has a little delay, because before you can speak you have to inhale fist. Your voice also can differ according to circumstances: a cold may effect your voice, but also your emotions. When I am excited or annoyed the pitch can change, for us it means the same thing because we know the meaning of the letter of a word. A horse knows the meaning of the sounds of a word. Because your voice sounds only “generally” the same every time, it makes a different, wider pathway in the brain. This sound means: a reward is coming. And this one too. And this one means the same thing. The horse needs to decide every time he hears your voice: was this a bridge or not? Therefor it can take a little longer for the horse to become “clicker savvy” with a voice bridge.

When I introduced the word “Good” I still lived in The Netherlands. They generally don’t speak English to horses, so it was a safe word to use. It was a unique sound. I was the only one who used it and my horse was never trained by someone else. The difficultly with the word “Good” in Canada is that other people use it as praise (reward) instead as bridge signal. That means it might not always be followed by a reward. This can confuse the horse.

Another reason to teach your horse the click of a clicker as the bridge: other people can train or ride your horse and communicate clearly. The click sounds the same every time.

Related post: Introduce your horse to the click

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

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About the author

This blog is written by Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASandra studied Animal Management in The Netherlands, Europe. She graduated in 1999.

Animal Management
The key focus of this Bachelor program is the management of human-animal relationships and animal welfare. Ethics, animal welfare, behaviour and human-animal relationships were key topics of this curriculum, along with biology and management. She continues to study these topics with a focus on the communication between horses and humans.

Instruction
Giving riding and groundwork lessons and training animals were always Sandra’s biggest passions. After completing her degree she worked as an editor at a publishing house which was specialized in animal books. Sandra has co-written and authored three animal books. She has published several articles about in magazines.

During this time she also continued her education as a teacher and became a certified riding instructor with the Royal Dutch Equestrian Sports Bond. At this point she stopped her full-time job as editor and became a full-time riding instructor and gave private riding lessons and horse training sessions in the Netherlands.

Centered Riding
Sandra discovered Centered Riding in 2010 and in 2011 she became a level 1 Centered Riding instructor. She followed riding lessons with her own instructor who taught her the benefits of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques. Sandra uses NLP in her lessons to communicate effectively with her pupils and really knows how to find someone’s goals, divide them into achievable building blocks and motivate both people and horses to achieve them.

Building a lifelong bond with your horse
She loves to help horse enthusiasts improve their relationship with their horse in the saddle and on the ground. She prefers teaching private lessons because she feels riding is also ‘teaching the horse’ at the same time. In private lessons she has more time to explain not only the bio-mechanics of the rider, but also to explain the point of view of the horse and how he learns best (learning theory).

Canada
Sandra emigrated in 2012 with her husband, baby, two cats and her horse Kyra to Canada. Kyra was born in a nature reserve in The Netherlands and was feral when Sandra got her. She tamed Kyra with clicker training and started this blog. Initially this blog was to share her training methods and the process of taming her 11 month old filly and has grown into a repository of knowledge.

Now Sandra lives in Burnaby, BC, Vancouver and Kyra is boarded in a nearby stable in Delta. She is still passionate about sharing her knowledge about horse training and riding.

Websites:
HippoLogic
Clicker Training
Happy Herd

Horse Quotes

Sometimes I come at the barn and Kyra laughs:

_youagian_hippologic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe I must not take it personal…..

Sandra Poppema

 

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