Turn every training and every ride in the best possible experience for human and horse! Win-Win!

Posts tagged ‘horse’

‘When can I stop using food?’ in Clicker Training

This is a question equine clicker trainers get asked often and is a really fascinating question for me as positive reinforcement horse trainer.

I get that it’s a concern for people who are interested in clicker training and those who are exploring the pros and cons. It seems like a hassle, right?

Why is this such an intriguing question?

If you know the principles of training you’ll understand. Let me explain. Basically there are only two ways you can motivate a horse in training.

  1. Strengthen (reinforce) a behaviour by taking away an aversive. An aversive is something the horse wants to avoid or get away from.
  2. Strengthen (reinforce) a behaviour by giving an appetitive. An appetitive is something the horse wants to receive, something he likes.

So if someone ask me ‘When can I stop using food in training?’ it sounds like the person wants to know ‘When can I stop reinforcing behaviour?’ or ‘When can I stop offering appetitives in training?’

I have never heard someone ask a riding instructor ‘When can I stop using my whip?’ or an employer that wants to know when he can stop paying his newly hired employees.

reinforcement_hippologic

It is a legit question

However, I do understand where this question is coming from. It comes from a fear of never, ever doing something with your horse without having a treat in your pocket. I get that, but a reinforcer isn’t a bribe that you have to use every time and also have to keep increasing.

Here is what happens if you start using positive reinforcement:

  • Your horse will learn that he can influence the training by his own actions (the right behaviour leads to a click, which leads to an appetitive)
  • Your horse will gain the confidence to try out new behaviours because that increases his chances of getting what he likes (food). He is having fun discovering what leads to a treat and what doesn’t.
  • He will like the engagement with his person, because there is a ‘puzzle’ involved and there is no punishment for ‘wrong answers’. All answers are ‘Good’ or, worst case scenario, ‘Not Reinforced’.
  • In the beginning it will be about the food, yes, but if the trainer uses a marker (the click) to mark the desired behaviour in a consistent way, the horse will shift his attention from the reinforcer, the food, to the click (the marker) and therefor will be focused more on this behaviour instead of the food.
  • As soon as the marker signal (the click) becomes a reliable predictor of the appetitive, the click becomes as valuable as the food. Now the click has become secondary reinforcer. Something the horse has learned to value. First it meant nothing, now it means ‘an appetitive is coming’.

Reinforcement never stops

In positive reinforcement as well as in negative reinforcement training (traditional training and natural horsemanship methods) reinforcement never stops.

If the reinforcement stops the behaviour will go extinct (die out), unless it is ‘self _carrot_or_stick_hippologicrewarding behaviour’, behaviour that reinforces itself without external interference. 

All behaviour must be reinforced 
in order to stay in the horses 
'repertoire'.

Riders will never stop using leg aids (pressure-release) and if the horse fades out his response, he will get a reminder (the rider will use reinforcement) to ‘hurry up and respond quicker’ by the use of a stronger leg aid, the tap of the whip or the use of spurs.

Does a (well trained) horse need to be in pain every time you ride him? No, he will learn to anticipate on a light cue, that now is a reliable predictor of an aversive. It’s this principle that ‘keeps the horse in line’. The horse had learned how to avoid it.

What about positive reinforcement training? Do I have to keep using food forever?

Yes and No.

Please explain!

_cutting_carrot_hippologicYes, you will have to reinforce a learned (trained) behaviour once in a while after it is established. This will prevent extinction. This means you will have to remind your horse that there is ‘still a chance of getting something good’ (food) once in a while for good performance.

No, it doesn’t have to be food!

Once you get more experience as trainer you can use other reinforcers too that aren’t food. You can even reward behaviour with behaviour.

Yes, you will carry food almost every training, but it is not what you think. Once you have discovered how much fun it is (for you and your horse) to clicker train him and how easy you get new behaviours you can’t stop teaching him more and more.

Food is a powerful primary reinforcer and comes in handy when teaching new behaviours. That is why clicker trainers almost always carry food: they are busy training new behaviours!

No, you don’t have to reinforce well known behaviour every time with food.

HippoLogic mei '09

It can take a long time before positively reinforced behaviour goes extinct. Your horse will learn that you equal fun and he is willing to do so much more for you even when you don’t carry  food. Once your marker becomes valuable, you can replace food with other reinforcers, like scratches or other behaviours.

What about you?

What is your answer to the question ‘When can I stop using food in training?’ Please share it in the comments.

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons below. Or post a comment, I read them all!  Thanks a lot!

 HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover what else I have to offer.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin
Advertisements

Important values in the horse-human relationship: Trust

Personally I think trust is one of the most important values in a horse-human relationship. Without a foundation of trust you don’t have much to built a good relationship on.

It’s easier to love someone you trust, than someone you don’t. That ‘someone’ can be a human as well as an animal. If you trust someone, you can relax in his or her company and rely upon him/her to help keep you safe and not to hurt you.

We can’t learn when we are in fear and our flight-fight response is triggered. The same goes for horses.We learn best when we feel at ease and are relaxed. In other words; when we stay in learning mode.

Trust is not something you can buy (with treats), force (with pressure) or gain quickly. You have to build trust, over time, with your actions. Not with words.

we_trust_actions_hippologicYou want all your actions (handling, training, riding) to contribute to building trust, not to take away trust.

In Dutch we have a saying: ‘Trust comes by foot but leaves on a horse’ which means that trust is built slowly but can be destroyed quickly.

Take this question with you every time you spent time with your horse: Are my actions contributing to building trust or not? If you don’t know the answer, place yourself in his shoes. Observe your horse’s body language, mimic it and see what emotions get triggered. Are you relaxed or tense? Can you still breathe? Do you feel safe or not?

How do you build trust in your relationship and how do you measure it?

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.

 

 

What is so exciting about the boring ‘basics’ in horse training?

When I started horse riding I started like all novice riders. My instructor taught me The Basics. I learned how to adjust the stirrup leathers and get in the saddle, to sit straight and what I had to do to transition from a halt to a walk and how to turn. Later on I learned how to do a raising trot and how to canter without falling off.

The ‘Basics’ in the past

I remember one of the standard phrases in the riding school was that the ‘basics are the most important things in riding’.

The ‘basics’ in my riding school contained: halt, walk, trot, canter, riding a circle, change reins over the diagonal and 30 cm high jumps. After 5 years of riding lessons I started wondering if I could learn something else than those ‘bloody boring basics’?

I felt really stuck at the level I was at. Lateral gaits were considered ‘advanced’ and they only taught those things if you paid extra and became member of their pony club. My parents refused to pay extra for the already very expensive riding lessons and I don’t blame them.

I developed a little resentment towards ‘basics’ because of that: basics were boring because I couldn’t do anything with them.

The ‘Basics’ now

We fast forward twenty years, to the nineties when I started clicker training my pony Sholto. The Internet wasn’t  well developed and I couldn’t find anything about horse training on The Net at that time.

There was nobody who taught me a broad, solid foundation that I could use to base my horse training on. I just learned to clicker train Sholto with lots of trial and error.

With every step forward, I probably took two (or more steps) back and it was due to my determination that I stuck with that method. There was something about clicker training…

I saw how it changed Sholto’s attitude in training. He looked forward to interacting with me and I could see he was doing his best to figure out what it was I wanted. It challenged me to listen to him and follow his lead too: to change my criteria if he got bored or frustrated. I discovered how important my timing was and I learned to think more about the setup of my training so it was easy to figure out what I expected from Sholto. It was a really difficult journey, but very rewarding.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I also studied Natural Horsemanship at the same time and I really loved the methodology that was used. It was taught in a clear and straight forward way: step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on. It was the opposite of the struggle I had with clicker training.

This Natural Horsemanship method was so well developed it even described in detail what went wrong if you encountered a problem. ‘Go back to the basics and practise A, B or C in order to solve X, Y or Z’.

For me the strength of that method was not only based on teaching the basics, but also on the fact that I could see where the basics could bring us. When I encountered a problem with Sholto it showed me where the hole in my training was. That made it really easy to fix it.

Eye-opener

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis was when I realized that the ‘Basics’ that I resented so much were in fact golden nuggets in training! Without golden nuggets I can never make a beautiful necklace. If I don’t use my nuggets the nuggets stay what they are: small nuggets. Nice to have and to look at, but they can become so much more! Only if you melt them and use them together they can become something else, something new, something unique and valuable. That is what the ‘Basics’ mean to me today:

a broad foundation of exercises on which you can build a solid 
relationship with your horse. A relationship you both benefit from and
in which you trust each other and both have lots of fun.
If you master the [positive reinforcement] basics , you can not only 
teach your horse anything you want, you have build a solid friendship too.

 

Over the years I have developed my own basics, HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training). If you master those exercises you can teach your horse anything you want! The Key Lessons together form a broad solid foundation.

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. Or post your comment, I read them all!

Or simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

 

How to Achieve Your Equestrian Goals

In December 2016 I started to offer an online course about Equestrian Goal setting. It’s one of my fun projects and my students really liked it.

What is your goal?

I enjoy helping other enthusiastic equestrians with splitting their goals into achievable steps. It has been so rewarding for me to see people achieve their own goals with a bit of help. I’ve been a riding instructor for decades and it always surprised me that experienced riders assumed I would set their goals. Their homework was: ‘Think about what you want to do with your horse” so I can help you achieve it.

I can help clients become a better dressage rider, but if they really want to be a jumper and I don’t know about it, they will never become be a good jumper if we don’t focus on some jumping techniques in the lessons.

Competitions

One client wanted to ride competitions, but her stallion hadn’t left her property for years. We trailer loaded him and drove to a nearby competition ground to practice. It was the day before the competition, so no one was there. It was a very good experience. We kept going to competitions until he was more settled being in an unfamiliar surrounding with unfamiliar horses. At home we worked on riding techniques. The day she was ready for a dressage competition, her stallion was ready, too.

Trail riding

Another client lived near a forest and she bought a horse for trail riding. She didn’t have an arena at home and trail riding_cooperative_horse_hippologic was her dream. Her horse was really herd bound and on top of that he was terrified to walk pass the mailbox at the beginning of her drive way. She couldn’t get him of the premises without being afraid to land in the ditch next to her mailbox. After a few clicker training lessons and some groundwork we went out for rides together: she on her beloved horse and I rode her bike. Mission accomplished.

Other examples of goals my student have are teaching their horse to stand for the farrier, align their horse to the mounting block/standing still while mounting, Spanish walk, cantering under saddle and trailer loading.

Some goals are simple (just one behaviour) and others are much more complex (a chain of behaviours), but they all give you that satisfied feeling when you accomplish them. I always encourage people to celebrate their successes: big and small. In hindsight the small steps are big ones!

Read more about goal setting:
It’s December, start planning for next year
How to plan your week in 5 easy steps

Are your struggling with goals you want to achieve with your horse?

Do you have the feeling you haven’t made much progress or you could have achieved more if you only had some help? This is the course for you!_Set your Equestrian Goals

Benefits:

  • Discover what your equestrian goals really are
  • Learn techniques to set achievable goals
  • Learn how to brake down a big goal into training sessions order to make it  achievable and realistic
  • Learn how to stay motivated and on track, even if you ‘fail’ or if ‘life happens’
  • Learn to track your achievements
  • Celebrate your successes with like-minded people!

Once you master the tools and techniques I hand you in this course, you can benefit the rest of your life from it.

What students said about the course

“I had a really empowering online coaching from Sandra, helping me put my problems in perspective. Now Iliana and I are really focusing on not grabbing for food wherever she goes, and with baby steps we are getting there. Lots of other things to train too, but one thing at a time I think. Thank you, Sandra, you are in inspiration!” Patricia, Spain

“Through her online course on goal setting, Sandra has given me excellent help in how to set achievable goals for my horse training. I’m now better able to see what I need to work on and enjoying achieving my goals. Thank you Sandra!” Ananja, The Netherlands

I have enjoyed all of it. The course has really helped me think about what I actually want to do with my horse. You do a good job of helping focus on a goal. Loved the advice and support.”

I have gained a lot so far. I’ve always had a bit of butterfly mind and tend to jump from one exercise to another too fast and not getting anywhere! Sandra have taught me to focus and take things in small steps. And its so helpful to read everyone else’s progress as well” (student is referring to the Facebook support group for this online course)

What I like is that they (the exercises) are very doable as you have to answer to one thing at a time. I appreciate the way you give support a lot. You are critical in a good way, not letting me feel like everything I do is already perfect but also giving advice in a good way and helping to keep sharp.
I also got a little more insight into why I find it hard to succeed with training plans and what I could do to help myself with this.”

“I think this course is an excellent idea 🙂 You are always very supportive Sandra and make this feel like a safe place (the Facebook support group) to ask questions. Funny, but I’ve met a lot of R+ trainers who a very encouraging and positive with their horses but extremely critical of their human trainers. Sandra you walk and talk R+ in all areas – with horses and people 🙂 “

Here is why and how I started to set goals for myself:

More blogs about setting goals:
Key to success: make plans
5 Reasons to make a planning for your horse

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. I’ also would love to read your comments, I read them all!

If you don’t know what to say simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

Happy Horse training!
_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I connect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

Winter barn hacks

Here are some barn hacks that will make your life easier at the barn in winter. This winter is one of the coldest in Vancouver, BC, Canada since decades. We had a lot of snow too. Not the nicest weather to work in if you work at a barn. (more…)

Another useful tool in horse training

Of course we all know how valuable a training journal is, I wrote several blogs about the subject. There is another powerful tool that gives you insight into your own training method.

Cue list

Have you ever made a ‘cue list’ of all the commands you use for your horse? It can be very insightful to see.

The first time I made one I discovered I had two different voice commands for trot. My walk-trot transition had the voice cue ‘Trot!’, while I used ‘Whoa-trot’ or ‘Whoa’for the canter-trot transition. So ‘trot’ had already two different commands.

I know exactly how this happened, it was initiated by my pony. I started with using a ‘slow down’ sound before I cued for trot from canter. He started to anticipate on that sound and I anticipated over time to drop the ‘trot’ cue altogether in the down transitions.

How many cues do you use?

Another insight I got from this exercise was that I was amazed that my pony knew over 30 cues in total. My current horse Kyra knows even more than 30.

_cue-list_hippologicIf you make a list (or use the download I made for you) don’t forget to write down where you are positioned in relation to your horse. Are you standing next to the left shoulder  or right in front of your horse when you give the cue, do you use your hands, are you standing up? Your body language supports your voice commands.

Benefits

If you think of your cues you can also see what voice commands sound similar or where your body cues might be the same. It is also helpful in coming up with new voice cues.

If you are running out of voice cues, start using cues in a different language. French, Japanese or Dutch.

Use multiple languages if you’re running out of ideas

When I got Kyra I started all her trick training cues in English. All the common cues were Dutch. I figured since we live in The Netherlands I wanted her to know the common cues like stand, walk, trot. I didn’t want to use Dutch words for her trick training so I used another language. My voice cues play an important role in Kyra’s training. I used to ride with horse and carriage and in driving the voice commands play a crucial role in communication.

Now we live in Canada and the standard voice cues are in Dutch, while the trick training cues are all in English. At liberty I use French voice commands.

How many cues have you taught your horse?

Download your FREE cue list (Riding-Groundwork_Trick Training).

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next  online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them‘, please visit my website

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

 

Time saving barn hacks

All equestrians know that having a horse and working at a barn is hard work. Feeding, watering and turn ins/outs are time consuming. To save some time I made a list of time saving barn hacks I used myself.

Barnhack_hippologicBrush on a string

For buckets in paddocks and pastures keep a brush on a string attached to the bucket. Without the string it wanders off… For stalls a dishwasher brush works perfect.

Keep a skimmer handy

For big water buckets that are not emptied daily, keep a skimmer at hand to take hay and leaves off of the water surface. Works much faster than using your hands and in winter you keep your hand dry and warm.

Use a leave blower to sweep the isles

Needless to say that you can only use a leave blower when there are no horses inside. It causes a lot of dust to fly around. Wear a dust mask and earplugs.

Teach all the horses how you want them to behave

This is a time investment but well worth it. Teach them all that they have to keep their heads low while haltering, put their noses into the halters themselves and walk with you without pushing or pulling.

Teach them some food etiquette

Rule about safe and desired behaviour around food is not innate. It is taught.Feeding horses_hippologic

When I worked at a barn in the weekends it only took me 3 weekends to teach the horses that hay and grain where only provided to horses who kept 4 feet on the ground and stepped back & looked away so I could throw in the flakes of hay in their stalls (which saved time and increased my safety). I hate the noise 15 horses can produce when they are kicking their doors simultaneously.

Master the hay nets

If you need to fill hay nets I hope you use square slow-feeder nets. They are a bit more expensive but you can fill them up in a few seconds.

If you have to fill old fashioned hay nets use a plastic roll-up sled to keep the opening of the net open. They are a $3 -$10 dollar investment and save a lot of man hours.

Key ring knife

When I was a barn help I bought a small key ring knife to open up bales. You can also cut through baling twine with another piece of baling twine and use it like a saw. Or attach a pair of scissors to the wheelbarrow you use for feeding.

Do you have useful barn hack? Please share it with us! We would love to hear about them.

Thank you.

Sandra Poppema
If you want to teach your horse to behave around food or feeding time, visit my website and book an online consult.

Read more:

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: