What always distracts you? What can’t you resist not looking at? What is your ‘Ooh, Shiny!’?
Mine is ‘horse’. It doesn’t matter if they are in a pasture next to the highway or printed on a bag in a shop somewhere. I always have to look if I see anything horse-shaped from the corner of my eye. I see horses everywhere, every day. Even when I am on holiday, no matter what country I am in.
This is a banner in the Burnaby Village Museum where they have a restored 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel. It is really fun to ride the carousel horses!
What is your Ooh, Shiny!
Please share yours in the comments.
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
In this series I will keep you posted on the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A was scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicked out whenever she felt something touching them.
I promised to keep you updated on our clicker training sessions. We had another session since my last post. Progress might seem slow, but I know from over a decade of clicker training horses that slow is the way to go.
Due to circumstances I had to improvise last time and it went well. This time I started training in her stall, without protective contact (a barrier). I started the lesson with a repetition of where we stopped successfully last time we trained. With her left front leg. I stroked her shoulder and clicked her for standing with 4 hooves on the ground.
The next step was stroking with my hand along her leg and clicking for lifting her leg. A did so well! She remembered exactly what she had to do. She would hold her leg up (by herself, without leaning on me) for a second. I made sure I clicked very soon, so it wouldn’t turn into a jambette this time.
Her other front leg went well too. I decided to try her hind legs. She is used to me stroking her hind legs while working with protected contact. But today, without the fence between us she was startled and she kicked straight out. Not to hurt me, if she wanted she could have! She is so fast. This was clearly too much for her. I was ‘lumping’ instead of splitting.
Back to splitting the behaviour again. I used my pool noodle on a stick again and clicked and reinforced heavily for ‘standing still’. I stroked her bum, hind legs and then her fetlock. Each time she stood still I clicked and reinforced. I made sure I kept her below threshold, so that I didn’t trigger the urge to move away or kick out. I studied her face for signs of tension: wrinkles around her eyes and nostrils, eyes opening further or her head going up a few millimetres. None of that.
One step further
The next step was to repeat the same sequence of touching, but using my hand instead of the pool noodle. Hand on bum: OK. Click and reinforce. Hand on hind leg: OK. Click and reinforce. Then a click and reinforce for something very easy and relaxing for her: touching her withers. Then back to her hind leg and stroking a bit lower, her gaskin and I could even touch A’s hock while she stayed relaxed!
This was a wonderful moment! These are the moments you feel successful and you want to do ‘one more thing’. That is usually my cue (the thought of that I can take it one step further) to stop. She was so relaxed and confident, it was really tempting to do a bit more that day, but I didn’t!
The reason is that when I started touching her hind legs this session she was afraid. A few minutes and a few clicks and reinforcers later she was OK. I didn’t want to ruin that for her!
It was already a successful training: lifting both of her front legs without a jambette and touching her left hind leg with my hand while she was confident and relaxed enough to stand still. Especially the staying relaxed part is really-really important!
This weeks WordPress Photo Challenge is called Mirror and is all about reflections.
Expressions and quotes
The horse is your mirror, It will never flatter you, It reflects your temperament, It also reflects your mood swings. To be angry with your horse, Is to be angry with yourself.
If you are fearful, a horse will back off. If you are calm and confident, it will come forward. For those who are often flattered or feared, the horse can be a welcome mirror of the best in human nature. ~ Clare Balding
The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will. ~ Buck Brannaman
I call horses ‘divine mirrors’ – they reflect back the emotions you put in. If you put in love and respect and kindness and curiosity, the horse will return that. ~ Allan Hamilton
Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are. ~ English proverb
The real name of this WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is ‘Curve‘. When I think of horses and curves I think of all baroque horse breeds.
Wikipedia tells us what baroque horses are:
“The term baroque horse describes a group of horse breeds, usually descended from and retaining the distinctive characteristics of a particular type of horse that rose to prominence in Europe during the Baroque era, after significant development throughout the Middle Ages.
It describes the type of agile but strong-bodied descendants of horses in the Middle Ages such as the destrier. Specific ancestors of this type include the Neapolitan horse, and the Iberian horse of Barb ancestry known in the Middle Ages as the Spanish Jennet.
They are characterized by powerful hindquarters, a muscular, arched neck, a straight or slightly convex profile, and usually a full, thick mane and tail. These horses are particularly well suited for the haute ecole discipline of classical dressage.“
Kyra is half Iberian horse and she is blessed with some beautiful curves. I like her curved neck and her round hindquarters and belly.
What kind of horses do you like? Please let me know in the comments. Are you a baroque horse lover too?
The photo challenge from April 1st was Landscape in my mind I was immediately searching for a landscape picture with horses… I remembered the vacation in the UK in Exmoor where we saw Exmoor ponies in the wild.
Their coat is a really good camouflaged in the ferns that are growing on the Moors. In the background you can see the farmers land. It is incredible beautiful. If you are ever in the South of England, do visit Exmoor National Park.
Exmoor pony in Exmoor National Park, England
Exmoor ponies have a special place in my heart because Kyra’s mom is an Exmoor. They have very gentle characters.
Did you ever had the chance to see horses in their natural habitat?
For me the clicker became an important symbol. It represents force-free horse training, friendship, fun and a life time of learning. Let me explain.
The clicker represents positive reinforcement: training behaviour by adding an appetitive to the horse in order to reinforce behaviour. There is no force or coercion in positive reinforcement training.
When I started to use positive reinforcement I had to learn about what my horse likes and dislikes.
Positive reinforcement is a way to give my horse a choice in training and therefor it gives her a voice. For me friendship is not only listening to my horse but also acting on the information she is giving me. Friendship means that I sometimes have to change my approach if my horse doesn’t like it, can’t (physically) do it or won’t do what I ask for whatever reason. For me, the clicker symbolizes this.
Learning new skills, exploring new ways has always been fun to me. The clicker represents also the fun the horse displays when he figures out what the training question is. The eagerness my horse shows in working with me: always coming to the gate in the pasture as soon as she sees me and the soft loving nicker to greet me.
Life long learning
Switching from traditional and natural horsemanship methods to positive reinforcement forced me to develop new skills so I could communicate clearly what I want from my horse.
I had to learn to listen better to my horse and I had to develop my observational skills in order to pinpoint (click) the desired behaviour. I had to figure out what motivates my horse in order to reinforce the behaviour I am teaching her. I studied the learning theory and learning curve of animals intensively. Something I probably wouldn’t have done tothis degree if force was still my go-to method in training and riding horses.
The road to positive reinforcement has been (and still is) an exciting journey for me. I am still fascinated every day by how learning actually works in horses and how we humans can influence it. It is a life long journey with fabulous views!
Last weeks theme of the WordPress challenge was ‘Optimistic’.
How do I express my optimism in a picture when it comes to horses?
This picture came to mind. It is taken on a moorland called Dartmoor in Devon, England.
This foal is a Dartmoor pony and his mom and the rest of the herd were patiently waiting and watching it from a distance. I wanted to connect with this free roaming horse. I was curious if I could win over his curiosity and come closer. He did!
Horses inspire me to stay optimistic and live in the momen. They are so gentle, so forgiving and so patient with us. They are a great inspiration to me!
In response to the weekly photo challenge ‘Trio‘ I selected two pictures I took in 2009.
Kyra, Ziggy and Mees eating hay
In December 2009 Kyra shared a paddock with another mare Mees and a gelding named Ziggy. They made a lovely trio.
Kyra was 1,5 years old, the other horses where 2,5 years old. They had their own happy mini-herd and we, the three owners, where very happy with this arrangement too. They where the only horses on the premises that where not locked in 23/7. It just reminds me of a really happy time in my life!
These pictures are taken in Hoogkerk, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Kyra, Ziggy, Mees (the tallest horse is in fact the smallest)
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”
As long as I am with my horse, I am in my Happy Place. It doesn’t have to be riding, also sitting and watching my horse in her herd makes me happy, doing chores at the barn make me happy, training my horse makes me happy. Just being with my horse…
It takes my mind off of everything. I am in total Zen Mode: in the moment. That is why horses are good for the soul. My soul. Thank you Kyra for being here.