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

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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!

Happy Horse Training!

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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 1

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

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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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What goes on in Grass Training for Horses?

The blog you’re looking for lives now on my own website: https://clickertraining.ca/faqs-grass-training/

Don’t forget to subscribe to the new location! I will be adding blogs about equine clicker training weekly!

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, BSC

Get my free Clicker Training course on my website!

Advantages of an ‘End of Training’-signal in Clicker Training

Most horses get super excited when they get introduced to positive reinforcement (clicker) training. They literally won’t stop. They are always ‘on‘ and in training mode. This can be very exhausting for the owner (and for the horse too).

Green horses

When horses are new to clicker training they get appetitives for things they do (the desired behaviour). Therefor it’s understandable that they will try go get a treat by offering the desired behaviour. They are training you.

If you don’t give them what they want and expect, it can cause confusion in your horse and even frustration. He doesn’t understand that just a minute ago he lift his leg and he got a click and treat and now he lifts his leg and gets ignored or maybe even shouted at! ‘What’s going on?’ the horse wonders.

You horse doesn’t understand that training for Spanish walk is wanted and desired in the arena, but when you walk in front of him at the grooming place it’s undesired. What? It’s the same behaviour!? Why doesn’t he get the same response?

What’s clear to us, might not be clear for our animals. Try to see it from his perspective.

Clarity

Here are some things that give clarity:

  • Use a clear End-of-Session-signal. This indicates: ‘No more clicks can be earned from now on.’ Stick to it! Be consistent!
  • Using a unique end of session signal for a break or indicate the end of the training session gives the horse the security that he won’t miss out and he can relax.
  • You can use an end of session signal in between training sessions too, so your horse can mentally take a break and relax a few minutes.
  • Some horses even need a start-session-signal at first. Some horses think that if you’re in sight, a training session is starting. This can be confusing for your horse. A start session-signal can be calling your horse’s name or simply say: ‘Pay attention.’

Safety

Clarity also increases safety. If your horse exactly knows when a lesson is in session, he will learn quickly that offering behaviours is a desired action and they will be reinforced.

He also learns that offering his latest trick or behaviour after your end of session-signal will never leads to clicks.

‘High risk’ behaviours

If your horse knows this, and they learn quickly when behaviour will be reinforced (in a session) and when it won’t (outside training hours), you can safely train more ‘high risk’ behaviours.

A ‘high risk’ behaviour is a behaviour that can be dangerous if it’s performed unexpectedly. If you train Spanish walk and your horse will offer that front leg up in the air when you’re standing in front of him to lead him, chances are that you’ll be hit by his flying leg.

Same goes for training lying down: you don’t want that behaviour offered spontaneously when you’re riding! Right?


If horses know the end-of-training signal, they know his vending machine is closed, no matter how many quarters (behaviours) are thrown into it. It’s empty. It won’t work. They will safe these behaviours for training sessions.

Of course it’s best to put behaviours on cue as soon as possible, for clarity and safety reasons. However, tn the learning process there will always be a short period when a trained behaviour is not yet confirmed and on cue. An end-of-session signal will help keep you and your horse safe.

Here is how much clarity it gives

In this video you see I end our training by giving Kyra an end of session signal. Putting my empty hands up and say ‘All gone!‘ indicates ‘You’re free to do what you want to do. You won’t miss out on clicks and treats.’ I knew she wanted to roll so badly but she wasn’t doing it because a training session was going on.


Bring a horse to the pasture safely

Here is another example that will help increase safety.

In the past I’ve had bad experiences with traditionally trained horses that run off immediately when released in the field. Sometimes you don’t even get a chance to take off the halter safely. Other horses even kick and bolt in order to get their freedom. Very dangerous!

To prevent such behaviours I give a treat after I release horses in the pasture. In the beginning they get a treat before taking the halter off and after taking it off. Later in training I give a treat only after I take the halter off and get out of the pasture. Instead of running off they will linger in the hope for a treat. Then I fade out the treat.

In this video Kyra didn’t want to leave me, so I gave my end-of-training-signal. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t missing out on reinforcers (food or attention).

It’s clear how powerful that end-of-training signal is. My horse that almost nevers runs in the pasture.

Any thoughts or questions about using or introducing an end-of-session-signal? #justask

Happy Horse training!

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse they’ve always dreamt of and get the results in training they really, really want.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s emails (they are free, full of goodies and joining comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online courses and our Membership Mentoring Program, the Clicker Training Academy, that will change your life.

Make a hoof wrapping in 5 easy steps

When Kyra stepped into a rusty nail her foot got infected. My barn manager taught me how she wraps hoofs that need to stay dry and clean.
The hoof putty was used to pull the infection and the vet gave me poultice pads to cover the wound when the infection broke through. So that’s instead of the putty.

Step 1: removing the nail

Step 2: Prepare

I gathered everything I needed to soak the hoof, dry it and wrap it before I started. These every day items are good to have in an equine first aid kit:

  • Warm water
  • Epsom salt
  • Rubber bucket to soak
  • Paper towels to dry
  • Iodine to disinfect
  • Hoof packing + rubber glove to keep hands clean
  • Poultice pad
  • Paper from a paper feed bag
  • Small diaper
  • Vet wrap (1/2 roll)
  • Duct tape (the outdoor is very heavy duty. Not in the picture)

Step 3: Soaking

In order to clean the entry wound as good as possible I soaked her foot in Epsom salt and dried it and put iodine on it. It wasn’t enough and got infected. Lesson learned.

Step 4: Preparing the packing

The packing needs to be kneaded and warmed up to form to the hoof. I used a plastic glove for that.The paper helps keep it in it’s place.

Alternative step 4

A few days later I used a poultice pad to put on the skin where the infection had broken through. These pads are nice an d thick and covered with a plastic layer on the outside.

They are decent size and I could cut them in 3 for Kyra’s hooves. So easy! I never had seen them before (no need).

Step 5: Wrap the hoof

I learned to apply 3 layers and if you do it right (and are lucky) it stays on for 24 hours. Kyra was outside in the paddock. Some days it stayed on, some days it didn’t. The duct tape is not sturdy enough. I used Kyra’s softride boots (meant for front hoof when she had laminitis) and a few days I later bought another poultice boot to cover it up.

  • Wrap the packing with a small size diaper
  • Use vet wrap to keep the diaper in its place
  • A layer of duct tape to reinforce and keep moist out

Space shoe is ready!

Now Kyra’s space shoe is ready. Only a few more pieces of Duct tape to cover up the vet wrap.

I learned so much this week. I was grateful Kyra already is really good with soaking, holding her foot up and wrapping. Preparation for emergencies is smart! You never know when you need it. I taught Kyra to keep her foot in the bucket with clicker training. I also gave lots of reinforcers to keep her foot up.

Next day….

Next blog

I hope this was useful. Please leave a comment!

In my next blog I will talk about how you can administer larger amounts of oral medication (like antibiotics) without spilling it. I learned a nice technique to do that this week. So many learnings for me this week.

What have you learned out of emergencies at the barn? I bet you have a tip that for other horse lovers.

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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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5 Useful Techniques to prepare your horse to Vet Visits

We hope this never happens, but it does. Horses get into accidents, fights, and other trouble. If you’ve been long enough around horses you know that crazy stuff happens. No matter how careful you are… Equine first aid is a necessity for all horse owners.

Rusty nail

Kyra stepped into a 2 inch (5 cm) rusty nail on Saturday. She was lame and I discovered the nail when I rinsed the mud off hr leg and foot with cold water. It wasn’t in her foot all the way, but a good 1,5 – 2 cm. Not straight upwards luckily.

Hoof wrapping

When the nail was out (I just pulled it out) immediate relief from Kyra. Then I got a quick lesson in hoof wrapping from my barn manager. One of the perks at boarding out and have experienced horse people around.

Vet care training for horses

I have had “vet care training” since day 1 in my training program. Kyra came wounded to me. So she could already be hosed off, put her foot in a bucket with water and lift her legs.

You don’t want to start training these kind of things in an emergency!

Vet visit

When the vet came Kyra behaved so nicely. When she pushed on the wound Iused the open bar/closed bar technique and Kyra really appreciated it! She didn’t fight although it was very clear she was in much pain! She didn’t kick and let the vet do her work. Wow, that’s such a great feeling! Safety for everyone involved and the best treatment (because the horse lets the vet).

Be prepared!

Prepare your horse before you need it! Trailer loading, rinsing off legs (up until 10 minutes), injections, training for calm behaviour and standing still for longer periods of time (up until 10 minutes) are very helpful!

Useful techniques in vet care training

Techniques you can use for vet care training:

  1. A tiny bit of moulding/molding can help teaching your horse to stand in a bucket (rubber pan). It can be hard to free shape it so that they step into the pan themselves, especially with their hind legs.
  2. Duration. In vet care procedures ‘duration’ is so important. In our minds 10 seconds seem very short, but we also know when we are in the dentist chair without freezing and the drill drills 10 seconds, it’s suddenly ver, very long. Since horses don’t know when we stop with unpleasant procedures it’s even more difficult for them. They really have to trust you!
  3. Start button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so the horse can indicate: ‘I am ready.You can do what you need to do now.‘ Eg teach them to touch a target.
  4. Stop button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so they can indicate ‘Stop the procedure.’ You can teach them to touch a different target than you use for the start button behaviour.
  5. Open bar/closed bar. This is a great technique if the horse is not clicker trained or not prepared well enough. It also helps in quickly building duration. You ‘open the bar’ as soon as the behaviour starts. For instance putting the hoof into the bucket of water, holding up their hoofs for dressing or farrier work. When the horse pulls back, you let go of the foot (if possible!) and stop feeding: you ‘close the bar‘. You ‘open the bar‘ again and start feeding as soon as the horse offers the desired behaviour. The reinforcers must be high enough value to make it worthwhile. If you’re building duration a food reinforcer that they have to chew on long(er) is a good choice. Eating also distracts from the procedure and if they stop chewing with food in their mouth it can be an indication of increased stress or worry.

Make a good hoof wrap out of duct tape

In the next blog I will show you how I make a ‘space shoe’ out of duct tape and other items to keep her foot clean and dry in the mud. I took lots of photos and made videos of our training. Here is one of Kyra’s space boot the next day. It kept well in the mud.

Keep updated by clicking ‘follow this blog’ in the side menu.

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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.

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‘Rules’ vs ‘Principles’ in Horse Training (this might be eye-opening!)

When people learn to interact with horses it usually starts with riding lessons or they learn from a seasoned horse person. You’ll learn the ropes, which usually means the ‘rules’ of how things are done. Then one day, you discover that the rule doesn’t apply anymore… Why is that?

Why Rules Not Always Apply

Over the years you already might have learned some rules don’t work for you or the horses you work with. Why is that?

Why rules in horse training not always work

Because when you’re focused on the rule, you miss the principle behind the rule. That’s why it’s not working. Learn the Principle and you discover the Gold!

It’s like Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day (rule), if you teach him how to fish (principle) he’ll never be hungry.

What’s the Principle behind the Rule?

That’s what I’ve been working on the past 3 decades and that’s why I can lead others to success in horse training. I don’t work with rules, I teach clients principles. They are way more worth, because it sets them up for life!

Examples of Rules that Not Always Work

These are rules that apply to some or maybe even most horses, not to all horses!

1. Horses will work for carrots.

My horse Kyra was born in a nature reserve and foals learn to eat what moms and other herd members eat. In nature horses don’t feed on carrots because they don’t grow in their habitat! Kyra literally had to learn to eat carrots, apples and man-made treats. Foals who are born at a barn have already learned that what people feed you is edible.

So what would be a principle behind this rule? The principle is that the receiver determines the reward (read: appetitive).

Some horses like to work for carrots, others prefer grain, grass pellets or something else. As trainer you have to figure out what motivates your horse.

You know that not all horses can’t be lured out of the pasture with a carrot. The carrot is simply not appetitive enough in those cases. More principles could be at work why the horse won’t come and how to determine that, is a whole other topic.

Still people are asking on the Internet: ‘What treats are best for in clicker training?’ The answer is… it depends on the horse and the situation. Appetitives can change in value.

If clicker training doesn’t work, it’s because people don’t apply the Key principles of Learning and Motivation, they try to apply ‘rules’ ~ HippoLogic

The rule people hear is:

2. “Pressure-release will make the horse do what I want”.

Look at people that have trouble loading their horse into a trailer. They apply pressure, they apply release and still the horse is outside the trailer.

In training it’s about the timing (learning happens when the aversive stimulus is released) and also about the strength and direction of the aversive (if the trailer is more aversive than the applied pressure, the horse won’t go in) or if an appetitive stimulus outside the trailer is stronger than the applied pressure the horse won’t go in. It’s about how the learner experience the aversive stimulus.

When I started to figure out the principles at work behind every rule in horse training things changed quickly. My clients got better results and problems were solved quicker and with less struggle.

3. Heels down, hands low, back straight, chin up!

This is what I was taught in riding lessons for many, many years. It didn’t make me a good rider at all. These are rules, the principle behind it (that they never taught me in the riding school), is to sit in balance.

When I took Centered Riding lessons I learned how to sit in balance. I learned that balance starts at the position of my pelvis: tipping it slightly forward it created a hollow back, legs that went backwards, heels went up and hands that were moving very much in order to keep my balance.

When I had my pelvis slightly tipped backwards, I rode with a curved back, my legs were in chair seat (before my point of gravity) and my chin was down.

Only if I kept my pelvis in ‘neutral’ (this is where your balance starts!) I was able to keep my legs in the right position, my back straight and could move with my horse instead of being before or behind my horse’s movement.

Only when I keep my pelvis in ‘neutral’ I can move with my horse. I am balanced, my hands can become soft because I move them in the rhythm of the movement of my horse’s head instead of my own body. My legs become still (in relation to the horse flank movements) because I don’t need to squeeze them in order to keep my balance. I became confident because I felt safe! That’s when I became a good rider.

Now you can see why these rules started: heads up, back straight and so on. They want to solve the symptoms of an unbalanced rider. Unfortunately they don’t work (how many times have you heard them!?) because they don’t solve the problem (balance). The principle of riding does: where does balance in a rider start? Right, in the pelvis! And that’s why it’s called ‘centered’ riding.

Want to Learn More About the Key Principles of Positive Reinforcement?

I you want to know more about the Principles (HippoLogic’s Key Lessons), join me for a free webinar in which I explain the 4 Main Reasons People get Stuck in Clicker Training (and solutions).
Spoiler alert: I will talk about principles!

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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.

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Use Target Training for Horses two times more effectively

Find the blog you’re looking for, here: https://clickertraining.ca/how-to-use-target-training-for-horses-2-times-more-effectively/

Make sure you subscribe and follow the new blog location!

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.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I make training a win-win.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

 

Practical Guide for Riding with Clicker Training

In previous posts I wrote about how you can prepare yourself for riding with the clicker. I talked about the Key lessons for Trainers: Learning Theory, making a Training Plan before you start, how to set a goal, how you can track your accomplishments, how to prepare to deal with emotions (equine and human!) in riding and last but not least: how to get accountability so that you can get out of your pitfalls quickly.

Where to you keep your treats while riding?

Depending on the horse and what your reinforcers are, you can choose different solutions for obstacle number 1.

  1. In a money belt or fanny pack around your waist. I do not like it, because it gets in my way and I can’t hold my hands in the proper position, but some people do prefer this solution. I don’t like it in case I fall off and land on the treats, that can be painful.
  2. Keeping treats in your pocket. I like this one. In Summer I ride with a thin body warmer, just for the sake of having pockets.
  3. In a ziplock bag on the saddle. This is a really good solution if you need many reinforcers. Trotting and cantering can be annoying your horse if the bag is tapping on the shoulder every step of the way. You can use a thin leather strap with buckle and a ziplock bag, ideal for wet treats like apples or soaked beet pulp.
  4. In a pocket that is attached to your the saddle cloth.
  5. Saddle bag.

What you choose depends on what you like. It all has pros and cons.

I personally don’t like a bag or many belt full of (hard) treats around my waist. It also doesn’t feel comfortable trotting or cantering.

Same disadvantage has a loose bag on the saddle. The plastic ziplock bag is perfect for walking exercises or a quiet trot, for more wild rides not so much.

If your horse is young or you go on a 2 hour trail ride you might want to have more room than when you are riding in the arena where you can refill.

Where do you carry your treats while riding?

Join the Clicker Training Academy!

  • 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 for personal advice and support in training your horse with positive reinforcement.
The first 25 founding members get an additional 90-minute coaching session with me for free (value $150 CAD).

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.



Enjoy the Power of a Clicker Community

In 2017 I started an online Accountability Partner group for people who joined my online courses and needed help to implement the knowledge.

Implementing knowledge is the secret to success

Gaining knowledge is not the hardest part, in fact it’s the easiest. Buy a book and you bought knowledge. Now, how many unready horse book do you have? I have many (I also have read many. I read one book a week).

Have I implemented all the knowledge?

No, because I got stuck and had no way to get unstuck

(Now I have!)

What I see and what I experience is putting the knowledge into practise, getting it implemented in my daily routine or training.

After a clinic I go home, very inspired and full enthusiasm. After a few weeks I can’t remember everything I learned. If I didn’t practise right away the knowledge was gone faster. Have you experienced this, too?

Together is better

What I found helpful was getting accountability to practise and implement the new knowledge. That’s how I started my online Accountability Partner Program in 2017.

I want you to know about our awesome online community and share with you what we’re doing.

We’re a great small tribe, with lots of personal support! The focus is on supporting horse people implementing force-free horse training and become autonomous horse trainers for their own horse, so that they can stop worrying about finding an instructor that supports R+.

In August we’re moving to a new platform! I can’t wait to tell you all about it! And that’s why I celebrate this with an online launch party (webinar).

Celebrate with us

We will be celebrating the launch of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy with a free 2-hour LIVE webinar. 

What can you expect? 

  • Introducing our amazing community and our new platform
  • a masterclass clicker training 
  • Q&A to ask anything you want regarding clicker training your horse
  • Bonus for attendees (read on!)

 Join us! Register here so that I can send you a personal invite sooner to the date.

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

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 your FREE 5 Step Clicker Training Plan on HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse
Key to Success in Horse Training
Your Key to Success

Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

What would you like to see in a horse community?

I am playing with this idea for a long time and I finally found the courage to take action!

Currently I am doing market research to see what equine clicker trainers really want from their online horse community.

My dream is to create a supporting learning environment where horse owners can learn everything they want to know, develop their skills and get feedback on their videos, have a place where they will be encouraged to try out new approaches and be cheered on if they reach their goals. (I am already looking forward to cheer these action takers on and support them on a daily basis, create video courses and more.) But…

do they want that?

What do you want?

What would you like to see in a membership?

Can you please help me? I came up with 12 short questions about what you would like to receive in a membership. It will only take a few minutes.

I’ll appreciate your feedback. Click here to go to the questionnaire.

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have a question about clicker training your horse, you are stuck and want a tip to move on? Book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.
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reinforcer_hippologic_clickertraining

 

Secret to Your Success in Horse Training is …

… having an Accountability Partner

Do you have an equestrian dream that you never seem to accomplish? Something every now and then you think about, maybe even try to do it and after a while you realize you’ve stopped again? You might not even know why?woman-403610.jpg

You can achieve your equestrian dreams in these 5 simple steps. There is one thing that most people don’t realize. I want to share it with you, so you too can start making your dreams come true. The one step that most people don’t take seriously enough…

Secret of Your Success

Pitfall of accomplishing equestrian dreams for most people is that nobody keeps encouraging you if you drop the ball. Here is the step that most people skip:

The Accountability Partner

An accountability partner is part of your Success Team. He or she will help you keep you accountable and will encourage you on a weekly bases to keep working on what it is you want to achieve.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASometimes your riding instructor is a part of your Success Team, but only if he or she knows what your dream is. You have to share your dream so your accountability partner can help you keep on track.

Here is the thing: other goals in life have a ‘build in’ accountability. That is why it is easy to accomplish your goals in almost all other fields than your hobby.

  • Your manager at work and your social environment make sure you show up for work every day (and keep the quality of your work high)
  • Your children will make sure you get out of bed every morning to take care of them and raise them
  • Even your horse will make sure that he is taken care of. I bet you have prioritized his care highly on your list, above the things you want to do with him, right?

How about you and your dreams?

horses-325219_1920If it comes to accomplishing your equestrian dreams, no one is pushing you every day to take a small step towards your goal.

No one is even asking you about your progress every week. Even if they did (maybe in the beginning, because you bought a new horse), it surely fades away quickly and you’re on your own again. That is why it is so difficult to make your equestrian dreams come true. Who is telling you what your next step must be?

There always seems to get something ‘more important’ in the way (doing barn chores instead of clicker training your horse for 5 or 10 minutes), helping your friend or supporting your children or doing some work at home instead of spending time with your horse.

Before you know it, you haven’t been working on accomplishing your equestrian goals for a month… Then you might even get the feeling that your dream is stupid or that you simply ‘never can accomplish it’. Or you start forgetting all about it because it is too painful. Does that sound like you? Here is how you can reverse it.

What is YOUR dream?

_beach_hippologic_goalDo you remember what you wanted when you got your horse? What did you wanted more than anything out of that relationship? Even if you forgot about your dream or someone talked you out of it, I can help you retrieve that dream.

Now you found some one that will support you. I love to see horse lovers accomplish their dreams so much I turned it into my livelihood to help horse people like you! I have helped countless equestrians in the past 2 decades find their joy back being with their horse.

take action_stop wasting timeShare your equestrian dreams in the comments: what it?

Come into action and take the 1st step today

I want to invite you to get on Zoom with me. Book your free 30 minute discovery session today to find out which of the 5 steps to accomplish your dreams you need help with. Once you booked your time slot online, I will contact you. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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 your FREE 5 Step Clicker Training Plan on HippoLogic’s website.

PS Did you know HippoLogic has a membership (accountability) program to support you?

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“There is nothing wrong with Negative Reinforcement applied properly”

Said someone once to me. I didn’t say anything, but my body screamed: ‘Yes, there is….

Although I couldn’t explain in words why I felt that way, now I do. Since it was hard to catch it in words, it is a long explanation, so please get seated.

When I talk about horse training, I like to use the scientific definitions in order to keep the language as clear as possible and to avoid emotional and subjective projection. Let’s start with some definitions because this statement (“There is nothing wrong with R- applied properly”) is one that causes a lot of commotion among horse people. Continue reading

Why are NH and traditional horse training methods still popular? This is why

You would think that if one knows better, they will do better. Right? I think it is a bit more complicated than that. Here is why.

Natural horsemanship (NH) and traditional horse training are based on negative reinforcement. Negatieve reinforcement is strengthening behaviour by taking away an aversive (= something unpleasant). Pressure-release is an example of negative reinforcement. The pressure (aversive) is taken away to increase or strengthen a behaviour.

__hippologic_beautiful_thing_about_learningClicker training is based on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is strengthening behaviour by adding an appetitive (=something the horse wants). After the marker signal (the click) the horse receives a treat.

Learning through negative reinforcement (R-)

If you sit on a pin what makes you stand up? The pain? Or the release of pain? Would you sit down on a pin next time if you see one lying on a chair? Or would you have learned to avoid it and check your chair before you sit down? This is how an aversive works: you learn to avoid or escape.

Learning through positive reinforcement (R+)

_moneyIf you find money on the street, you will be checking the streets or wherever you found the money the first time more often for money, until it wears out.

Positive reinforcement is strengthening behaviour by adding an appetitive, something pleasurable. In animal training we make use of a bridge signal, to ‘bridge’ the time gap between the desired behaviour and the appetitive. This is also called a marker signal, to ‘mark’ (click) the desired behaviour.

Downsides of using positive reinforcement

The difficulty with the use of positive reinforcement in training is that you have to let go of all traditional ways you’ve learned to train horses in the past. If the horse doesn’t perform the desired behaviour, more pressure is applied or even coercion until the horse does what he has to do.

When a trainer uses positive reinforcement, he has to stop and think when a horse doesn’t perform the desired behaviour. He can’t simply ‘click louder’ or ‘give a bigger reward’ before the desired behaviour has happened. R+ is not bribing. Bribing doesn’t give long lasting results.

A trainer has to investigate why the horse doesn’t do the exercise he was cued for: Is it physical? Can the horse perform the exercise? Is it a psychological reason? Is he fearful, does he have a negative association, is another behaviour more reinforcing, is he performing self reinforcing behaviour and so on.

Investigate the motivation of the horse

In other words; a positive reinforcement trainer is always investigating the horse’s motivation. Is it internal (eg hunger) or external (something outside the horse). He wants to understand the reason the horse isn’t cooperating, so he can solve it.

This takes takes skills: you have to have knowledge of the natural behaviour of the horse, his natural needs (how his body works) and recognize his physiological state (interpret body language). On top of that you have to have patience and know how you can motivate a horse with appetitives (things a horse wants to have and is prepared to work for).

Skills

Training a horse with positive reinforcement takes more skills than training a horse with negative reinforcement. If a horse doesn’t respond with the desired behaviour, the first reaction of the trainer is to apply more pressure, make the signal aversive in order to motivate the horse to move.

If you have been told over and over again to apply ‘more leg’ or ‘a light tap of the whip’ you have not learned to think about the reason the horse is not motivated. You just do as you’re told and that is what you keep doing.

Only if you run into real problems with the horse you are ‘forced’ to think about another solution.

Why are people are still using negative reinforcement?

1. The most obvious reason is that riders in general still are not taught about positive reinforcement. The horse world is still very set and traditional.

2. Another reason is that negative reinforcement used on the horse, is positive reinforcement for the handler/trainer.

Let me explain. Every time a rider applies an aversive leg aid (one that is trained traditionally with pressure-release until the horse reacts in the desired way) and the horse responds with the desired behaviour, the rider is reinforced positively.

negative reinforcement horse is positive reinforcement rider

Photo: Nelda Bogado

The word ‘desired’ behaviour already tells you. It is the outcome the trainer/rider/handler wants. So every time a trainer applies pressure-release and the horse responds positively it is the trainer that feels rewarded and reinforced by the outcome of his action.

It is only when the trainer has to apply so much pressure that it becomes uncomfortable for him/herself that people start to question negative reinforcement. That is the moment training is not positively reinforced by what the horse does, that is the moment people start to search for ‘other ways’.

Hopefully they find positive reinforcement and discover that developing a relationship with a horse and training him can go hand in hand. Training can be a win-win situation!

Positive reinforcement for the horse is also positive reinforcement for the trainer: the trainer gets the desired behaviour from the horse and (s)he gets to feed the horse. Feeding an animal from our hand is something we all love to do!

_Rplus is Rplus_hippologic

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

Shape the community

If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

HippoLogic.jpg
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!
Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

How to become a Top Horse Blogger

When I started blogging I never would have thought that one day I would get an award for my blog. Here is my story.

How I started blogging

I started this blog in 2009 when I got Kyra, my feral 11 month old filly. Fresh out of the _15062009hoofdwild- well a nature reserve to be precise- and grown up without human interference.

When my friend gave her to me (that is a story for another time) I had no idea if I could tame a wild horse or, if I could, how long it would take me. I was willing to give it a year and see what would happen. It was the perfect opportunity to start documenting this adventure for maybe a future book or something.

Online training logbook

So I started this blog as an online training journal and it was called ‘From feral filly to Success Story’. I wrote in Dutch and only a handful of my horse loving friends read it. I made a summary every month of our achievements. Read the summary of our first month of our training diary that I left on my blog.

After a few months my interest in blogging about taming and training a wild horse faded because there was no reinforcement. In other words: I had no readers.

I kept using my training journal (that was very reinforcing). I kept track of our progress and made a list of our achievements every month._traininglogbook hippologic sandra poppema

Blogging break

After a year of blogging I stopped and almost entirely forgot I had a blog. A few years later I emigrated to Canada. I became a stay-at-home mom. I felt often very lonely without my social network, so I became very active on the Internet answering questions about positive reinforcement (clicker) horse training.

After a while I noticed I was repeating myself all the time. Everyone seemed to ask how they could use clicker training more effectively and everyone seems to have the same basic problems. I wondered how could I help horse lovers more efficiently?

Reviving my blog

I could use my blog! Then I could refer to a certain blog post that contained an extended answer to their problem! I wouldn’t have to write the same answers over and over. That’s how I started blogging about clicker training horses in December 2014.

Overcoming my blogging struggles

When I picked up on blogging in 2014 I pushed myself to write in English. It’s not my first language and at first it was quite a struggle. In the beginning it felt that I had to use Google translate every other sentence to look up a word. When I saw the word I remembered it again. Writing was a very slow process.

I learned a lot about writing,  getting my blog out there and delivering content on a regular basis.

That’s what I did: I blogged and blogged and kept blogging, even though in the beginning I only had a handful of readers. I felt writers block, uninspired and fearful at times, but I kept going. Even though it’s rare that someone gives my blog a ‘like’ (the little star at the bottom) or comments on it. Did you know it is very reinforcing for a blogger to get a comment? Maybe next time you read a wonderful blog, leave a comment or click the little star.

Slowly my blog grew and I got my first subscriber, and another one. I blogged twice a week and that is a big commitment. Setting deadlines helped to keep me going.

Achievement

I also love the achievements WP gives: they let you know when your ‘stats are booming’, when you’ve published one hundreds blogs and so on. Last week WordPress gave me an achievement: I started this blog 8 years ago! Wow! I had no idea! Thanks WP, that is so nice of you to let me know.

WordPress Achievement

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com! You registered on WordPress.com 8 years ago. Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

How HippoLogic became a Top 75 Horse Training Blog

Then I got another surprise! In January 2018 my HippoLogic Facebook business page was tagged in a Facebook post of Feedspot. Curious what that was all about, I found out my blog had been awarded with a Top 75 Horse Training Blog. Wow! I didn’t know I was nominated, so this was a huge surprise!

HippoLogic is Awarded Top 75 Horse Training Blog

HippoLogic is Awarded Top 75 Horse Training Blog

[Quote from Feedspot:] “CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Horse Training Blogs list!

This is the most comprehensive list of best Horse Training blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this!

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

So this is how my blog became a Top 75 Horse Training Blog. Writing one blog at the time! And I kept going for 4 years, I will keep going to serve you.

I am curious about the stories behind the other bloggers in this Top 75.

Please check out the 74 other horse training blogs! There might be some blogs out there that you want to know about: Feedspot Top 75 Horse Training Blogs

Share YOUR story

Do you have an amazing story to tell about something you never dreamt of achieving? Please share your success story in the comments, I would love to read yours! If you don’t want to share and you like my story just click the little star so I know you’ve popped by and enjoyed my time with me.

HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect you with your inner wisdom (you know what’s right) and teach you the principles of learning and motivation, so you become confident and knowledgeable to train your horse in a safe, effective and FUN way. Win-win.
All HippoLogic’s programs are focused on building your confidence and provide you with  a step-by-step formula to train horses with 100% positive reinforcement.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and you receive a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

10 Tips to Train Your Horse Faster

When I started ‘training’ my free lease pony I had no idea what my plan was. Well, that is not entirely true… I thought I had a plan.

When he was born my plan was: “To start him under saddle when he was 4 years old”. That’s it. I was 12 years old. I had no idea how to do it, but I thought I knew. After all, I had read all the books in the library about horse training.

Here are 10 tips that I wished I knew back then to set myself up for success, to give myself confidence and motivate me in times of frustration. It would have made my life and that one of the pony (!) so much better.

OK, here we go.

Tip #10 Set a goal

Training_logbook_journal_diary_hippologic2016Set a goal and make a plan (see tip #8). Simply start writing in your training journal what you want to teach your horse. Eg ‘standing still at the mounting block’. Writing it down is very important.

Tip #9

Focus on what you want, instead on what you don’t want. I hear lots of riders say things like: ‘My horse can’t stand still’.

What do you visualize when you read this? You probably see a horse that walks away or doesn’t stand still. Focus on what you want to happen and phrase it that way: ‘I want my horse to stay with 4 hooves on the ground while I mount’. Now visualize it. Is this what you want?

Tip #8

Be specific. The more specific you are the better your chances of success. You know what to look for, so you also know when you are successful.

In the example above I can be more specific: ‘I want to teach my horse to align with the mounting block and stay with 4 hooves on the ground while I mount. My horse is calm and relaxed when I sit in the saddle and he waits patiently for my cue to walk on.’ What do you see when you visualize this?

If you are specific you will know exactly what your training criteria (and you have your training plan) are: 4 hooves on the ground, aligning to the mounting block, standing relaxed while being mounted, wait for a cue to walk on.

Tip #7

Find yourself an accountability partner. Someone supportive of your goals and who is not afraid to ask how you’re doing with your goals. If you want a really good accountability partner look for someone who knows more than you do about the subject and can help you specify your goals and help write down your training plan. Find someone who doesn’t judge.

Tip #6

Next step is to plan your training sessions. A plan without action is nothing but a wish._A dream without a plan is just a wish_Hippologic_equestrian goal setting.jpg You have to know when you want to work on it. Weekly lessons or a monthly meeting with your partner are a great way to make yourself accountable.

Use your calendar to plan what you will work on each day. For example training your horse to align along the mounting block on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. By the end of the month you know how much time you spent on training a specific behaviour.

Tip #5

Keep your training sessions for new behaviours short and sweet. If you train a new behaviour you only have to work on it for a few minutes. I train max 5 minutes per session when I train a new behaviour. Then I give a break or I ask behaviours that are already understood very well and are easy to perform for my horse, before I go back to train another 5 minutes on the new behaviour.

timing is everything_hippologic

Tip #4

Know when to stop. Stop when it’s (still) going well. This is very difficult, but I now know when the best time to stop is. I learned to recognize that little voice in my head that whispered ‘One more time’, ‘This was fun! Let’s do it again. (And again. And again)’ or

‘Let’s see if my horse really understands it or if it was a coincidence that he did it’. This is a good time to stop or focus on something else.

If you keep going, the behaviour will decrease and you can get frustrated. That is not the best time to stop practising, but you have to.

Tip #3

Manage frustration and other negative feelings. If you went on and on until the behaviour gets worse and/or you and your horse get frustrated: please stop. It is better to stop when you feel a little frustrated than keep going. That will never make it better. Forgive yourself, make a note in your training logbook and thank yourself for becoming aware. Awareness is the first step in improving.

Tip #2

Celebrate! Share your success with your accountability partner. Celebrate it with yourself and do something you will remember for this special moment. Take a picture or video of the new trained behaviour or share your story on your social media. Hooray! Be proud! Be happy!

Tip #1

_positive_reinforcement_clicker_training_hippologicUse a bridge signal in combination with something the horse wants. Positive reinforcement is the one thing that made all my training so much easier, quicker and more fun too! A bridge signal (or marker) is such a great communication tool. It provides clarity for yourself and for your horse and makes everything you want to train so much easier and with less frustration.

I wish I would have learned all this in the riding school I learned to ride, or from all the (five) books the library owned when I was a girl!

It would have saved me hours and hours of frustration and prevented me from many dangerous situations. I would be much more confident and saved me a lot of frustration. Me and my pony would have had more fun and a better relationship earlier on.

If you think you can help someone with these tips, please share them with the buttons below and help improve horse-human relationships! Thank you.

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

Shape the community

If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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 your FREE 5 Step Clicker Training Plan on HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

The safest way to bring a dangerous horse to the pasture

When I was young and learned to ride in the local riding school, we sometimes were allowed to bring the ponies to the pasture. This came with a simple warning: ‘Always turn your horse to the gate before you take the halter off, so they don’t kick you.’

I still use that advice and teach it to others but there is more to learn about safety. Some horses run off, kick or bolt when released. How to handle those horses?

Horses that run off, kick and bolt

Some horses like to run off immediately and kick or bolt in the process. If you stand ‘in his way’, there is a chance that you get hurt. I’ve seen people deal with this problem by taking the halter off and shooing them away with it! I think the idea is to get them as quickly as possible out of their personal space.

I don’t think shooing away a horse that already has a tendency for bolting and running away will make a horse behave more safely.

On the contrary, it will add to his stress and he might anticipate the next time by shooing you away from his personal space. That is the last thing you want him to do, right?

Solution

There is a simple way to prevent horses from running off when you take the halter or lead rope off. You have to teach them that:

  • They won’t get chased or shooed away by you, and there is no need for them to run off or defend themselves
  • It’s safe and fun to stay a little longer with you
  • They can leave in a calm way, there is no need to rush

Incompatible behaviour

When a horse displays undesired behaviour, in this case dangerous behaviour, the simple solution is to teach them incompatible behaviour and reinforce that behaviour more.

An incompatible behaviour is a behaviour that simply cannot be displayed while doing another behaviour.

Step 1: What is the undesired behaviour?

  • Running off immediately with the chance of you getting hurt in the process
  • Turning around quickly and bolting when leaving
  • Keeping their head up and/or walking backwards so you can’t take the halter or lead rope off safely

Step 2: What is the cause?

Knowing what causes these behaviours is a huge step towards preventing them.

It can be learned behaviour: the horse has learned that the person will shoo him away and he anticipates by trying to get away before that happens. This creates a dangerous vicious circle that is hard to break when you don’t realize what drives the behaviour.

It can be a lack of education. I always teach my horses to turn around every time we go through a gate. One day I was leading a young stallion pony out of the arena. I didn’t realize that he had not yet learned to turn after walking through a gate. I wasn’t prepared that he simply walked straight out the gate, directly towards the barn.  I expected him to turn around or at least wait for me, but he didn’t, because no one had taught him that. I tripped and was dragged on my belly in the mud for several meters. When he finally stopped to see what made walking so hard, I could get up quickly and reinforce him for stopping. It was not the smartest idea to hold on, and I was lucky he didn’t panic.

It can be fear: the horse is afraid of the other horses or one horse in particular that approaches him. If he feels trapped because he is still on a lead rope that can cause him to panic and flee.

It can be impatience: maybe the horse is super excited to go to the pasture to have a good run. He simply can’t wait to stretch his legs.

Step 3: Work on the cause

If the horse hasn’t learned to stay with you until you cue him to wonder off, you can teach him to wait. If he hasn’t learned to turn around, teach him that this will be reinforced and that it’s worthwhile for him. Simply offer him a treat before you take the halter off and one after. He will learn to wait for his treat before he leaves. Better even is to use a bridge signal (a click) before you give the treat to mark the desired behaviour.

If he is fearful for the other horses, you have to find a way to distract or prevent the other horses from coming too close and crowd you.

If your horse is super excited you have to keep him calm and keep his excitement low so he won’t run off and take you with him in the process. You can train this easily with positive reinforcement training.

Step 4: Teach an incompatible behaviour 

In order to prevent undesirable and dangerous behaviours you can work on an incompatible behaviour and reinforce that more. Punishment the way we apply it, is usually not very effective. Teaching and reinforcing an incompatible behaviour is and will give you quick results, too!

What is an ‘incompatible behaviour’? A behaviour that cannot be displayed at the same time as the undesired behaviour. It takes a bit of thinking out of the box to master this skill, but it will bring you so much clarity once you can!

Incompatible behaviours: a horse can’t run off or kick when he is standing still (focus on reinforcing ‘4 hooves on the ground’), a horse can’t lift his head if he keeps his head low, a horse can’t bite with his mouth closed or when his head is turned away from you. He can’t be excited and calm at the same time! Teach him to be calm and focused on you.

Summary

Teach you horse to stay with you until you give him the cue that he can leave now. I do this by simply creating the expectation that there is something in it for the horse. I use high value reinforcers: super yummy treats or if a horse loves scratches and attention more, I will use those.

I start by reinforcing incompatible behaviours and work on the cause of the dangerous behaviours. I reinforce turning around after entering the pasture, standing still, keeping head low and after I take the halter off. Then I get out of the pasture before I give a clear signal that the horse can’t expect any more treats, my ‘end-of-training-signal’.

Then I fade out the treats slowly. I never totally quit forever with the treats because I want to keep us safe. A treat can also be just a bit of grass that you plucked just outside the fence, where the grass always is greener….

Related posts:

How to bring your horse to the pasture safely

How to get your horse out of the pasture effortlessly

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

Shape the community

If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

HippoLogic.jpg
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!
Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

Key to Success in Horse Training
Your Key to Success
  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.
  • At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

    Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    Difference between Negative (R-) and Positive Reinforcement (R+)

    Let’s start with explaining what positive and negative reinforcement is. Then I will share what was a real eye-opener for me about the difference between positive reinforcement (R+) and negative reinforcement (R-). It is not so much the obvious difference (the carrot or the stick-difference), it’s way cooler!

    Definitions

    Reinforcement (R): strengthening (a behaviour)

    + (plus): adding

    – (minus): removing

    Appetitive: something the animal really wants to have and values

    Aversive: something the animal really wants to avoid or escape from

    Positive reinforcement: use of an appetitive in order to make a behaviour stronger (reinforce the behaviour).

    Negative reinforcement (R-): taking away an aversive in order to make a behaviour stronger (reinforce the behaviour).

    reinforcement_hippologic

    Positive reinforcement_positive_reinforcement_clicker_training_hippologic

    In R+ trainers use mostly food rewards because food is of high value to the horse. In R+ the use of a marker signal (often a sound, eg a click) is used to communicate to the animal what behaviour the horse was reinforced for, not the moment of offering the appetitive. Clicker training is an example of positive reinforcement training.

    Negative reinforcement

    Traditional riding aids are based on R-

    In R- trainers use mostly pressure to communicate. The moment of taking away the aversive is the way to communicate to the horse what behaviour the animal was reinforced for. Traditional training and natural horsemanship are based on negative reinforcement.

    The difference between R+ and R-

    It is not the food or the use of a marker in positive reinforcement that is the biggest difference. It is the way the horse responds in training that is the real difference.

    In negative reinforcement it's the trainer that raises the criteria, 
    in positive reinforcement it's the animal that raises the criteria.

    In other words, in R- the horse will not offer behaviours spontaneously (because there is no reward involved for the animal).

    The ‘release of pressure’ is not a reward: the horse will not offer ‘more behaviour’ in the hope of a more severe aversive ‘in order to earn a bigger sense of relieve’.

    In R- the horse learns to avoid or prevent the aversive all together by anticipating his owners behaviour, but he will not actively seek ways to improve the behaviour since there is nothing in it for him if he does.

    If the trainer wants to create more of a desired behaviour or better quality behaviour he uses an aversive to communicate that he wants something different now (raising criteria).

    horse_eye_hippologic_clickertraining.jpg

    In R+ the horse keeps actively looking for ways to earn the appetitive reinforcer by offering more of the desired behaviour. The horse learns he can influence the appearance of an appetitive by anticipating the behaviour. He will actively look for ways to earn the reinforcer and therefor will raise the criteria on his own by offering more of the desired behaviour.

    The horse as individual

    For me this way of approaching the difference between R- and R+ was a real eye-opener!

    I suddenly realized that not everyone is looking for a horse that learns to think and comes up with solutions on his own!

    Personally I think this is a tremendous asset in training animals. It can sometimes be a challenge to channel this motivation, but if you know how you can achieve spectacular results! It not only helps speed up training but it also benefits the relationship with the horse: he wants to train with you because there is something in it for him!

    I also realize that this is exactly the same reason it can be such scary thought: a huge animal that thinks he is entitled to his own ideas (he is!). What if this is turned against the trainer? Then what? What if the horse decides not to cooperate… does that mean he doesn’t like you or your training? What if the horse ‘decides to let you down’?

    What if… this is not the case at all? What if the horse mostly doesn’t cooperate because he simply doesn’t understand the question? Or he won’t do it because he is afraid? What if he is allowed (and encouraged) to communicate his concerns or fears? Would that benefit the relationship? I think it does!

    KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe beauty of herd animals is that they are hard-wired to cooperate: the drive to work together in order to keep safe and survive is so strong they can’t ignore it. That’s the same reason we could domesticate them in the first place.

    I think it is amazing to see how much horses put up with in order to cooperate. That’s the very same reason you can train them so well with negative reinforcement: their will to stay safe and survive is so strong.

    Food for thought

    Anyway this fact was food for thought for me. What about you? Are you afraid or delighted to let your horse raise the criteria and have a say in his training?

    Remember: 
    Negative reinforcement for the horse, is positive reinforcement 
    for the trainer (the trainer gets what he wants: desired behaviour).
    
    

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    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!
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    Tips for Clicker Training from the Saddle

    It seems complicated to use positive reinforcement during riding. Most common struggle points are: ‘It’s hard to hold a clicker and the reins in my hands’, ‘Clicker training is useful on the ground, but I don’t know how to use it from the saddle‘ and ‘If you use clicker training in riding you have to stop all the time to give a treat‘. How to address these issues?

    1_treat

    Keep it simple!

    Positive reinforcement is positive reinforcement, whether you apply it from the ground, standing next to your horse, or when you sit in the saddle. Therefor you have to apply the same rules to set you and your horse up for success: Continue reading