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

Posts tagged ‘horseback riding’

How to drop the crop

We all like to hold on to our beliefs and our familiair training aids. I know I do, even when I already know I never will use it. Here are some ways to drop your crop.

‘Safety’

Holding on to your riding crop (carrot stick, training stick or lunge whip) gives us a feeling of safety and empowerment. We need our crop, just in case…

But what if you don’t have a crop anymore. What would happen? Would you die? Yes, it can feel that way, but you (probably) won’t. (more…)

Tips to prevent Frustration in Riding or Training Your Horse

Every rider, every horse owner and every trainer has experienced frustration at one point. I notice that some people are frustrated more than others. What to do about frustration? Take it out on your horse? Or try to prevent it (is that even possible)?

The people who I see struggling with frustration are the people who don’t have a clear plan when they are riding or training their horse. They don’t split their goal into tiny building blocks and work their way systematically through the process. They tend to move their goals (criteria) during training, so they have the feeling they never succeed. That would be the same as having ‘getting to the horizon’ as your goal: you will never succeed!

The 1 million dollar question

If you feel frustration stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself ‘why am I feeling this right now’? These are possible answers:

  • Are you asking too much of yourself?
  • Are you asking too much of your horse?
  • Are you comparing yourself with others (who might be at a whole different point in their journey with their horse)?
  • Are you making your steps too big (‘lumping‘), are you discouraging or confusing your horse?
  • Did you make (and write) a realistic plan before you started training/riding your horse?
  • Are you positively reinforcing yourself and your horse enough to keep going?
  • Do you give yourself and your horse enough time to process the training?
  • Who is telling you that you have to accomplish ‘this’ (whatever that is) right now?
  • Did you prepare your horse enough to this situation?

Prevent frustration

First of all: stop beating yourself up! It doesn’t help you and it only make things worse. Second: don’t beat up your horse. He can’t help it, he is just a horse. You don’t want to regret taking your frustration out on him.

If you feel frustration coming up, simply stop what you’re trying to accomplish and take a few moments to pause. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the questions above.

In order to prevent frustration make training goals and plan every step in the process. Make a good shaping plan and if you get stuck, pause and take another look at your shaping plan to see if you are lumping (skipping steps in the process to the goal behaviour). If you don’t know how to do this: ask help!_frustration_in_training_horse_hippologic

Frustration is not necessary!

Take baby steps in your training. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small! Don’t forget to write your goals and your achievements¬†down: we have a tendency to forget or play down our own achievements! ūüėČ Start a training journal today!

You’re not the only one

We have all experienced frustration from time to time. If I see frustrated riders it reminds me of me a long time ago. When I was using ‘traditional training’ (which meant: there is no plan to follow) I used to be frustrated all the time!

I must say I almost never frustrated with my horse anymore and if I feel frustration coming up I know to deal with it before damaging my relationship with Kyra.

Change your focus

Changing my focus was a big help in preventing frustration. Instead of saying ‘no’ to my horse (and myself) all the time, I learned to focused on the ‘yes’.

Instead of saying ‘why are you always walking away when I want to mount, stupid horse!’ I learned to focus on the few seconds she could (and would) stand still and encourage this behaviour. Because I now reinforced my horse with treats to stand still, of course Kyra became very motivated to display that behaviour more and more! Shifting my focus from the ‘walking away’ to the ‘four hooves on the ground’ was such an eye opener!

Calling your horse names, will not give you a good feeling, even if it gives you temporary satisfaction.

Yes, it is easy to blame your horse and call him ‘stupid’ but be honest: Does it really give you a good feeling that you have a ‘stupid’ horse?

Wouldn’t you feel better about yourself if you had a¬†‘handsome and smart’ horse? I think that a smart horse can only be smart if the owner gives the freedom and opportunity to show how smart he really is! Don’t call yourself or your horse names. It is not encouraging or supporting for you or your horse in any way. Start feeling compassion for yourself. Be gentle: you are on a journey, learning is a process.

Last but not least

Never compare yourself or your horse with anybody else. We might be comparing our ‘worst’ with their ‘best’. They might be in a whole different stage of their journey. If they can do something you can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything right. It is just not a fair comparison. Ever.

If you want to see it from a positive view: you now know that it (whatever ‘it’ is), is possible. And… maybe they can even help you reach the same goal or point you in the right direction!

Focus on what is most important in the world: your own journey.

Sandra Poppema
I offer online personal clicker coaching, video coaching¬†and a 4 week¬†online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’,¬†please¬†visit my website¬†for more information.
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoy life

Horse riding birds, I call them with a smile. I love the way they seem so confident on a horse back. They never have to be worried to fall, that’s for sure.

I made this picture for the photo challenge ‘On top’.

_hippologic_bird on horse

Sometimes I see them pluck the loose hairs for their nests.

This one seemed so proud to be up there! He was singing out loud.

I just love to take the time to see what is going on in the field.

Have a nice day! Don’t forget to enjoy life.

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

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It starts with a helmet and a whip

The first two items parents have to buy for their kids who start horseback riding is 1) a helmet and 2) a whip. Why?

Helmet
I can see why parents want to buy a helmet for their kids. Falling off of a horse or pony can be dangerous. After all, horseback riding is a high risk sport. Parents want the best for their kids. They want their kids to be as safe as possible and want to protect them the best way they can. That is why they send their kids to an instructor or riding school, who can teach them about safety and riding. The second item they buy their kids is usually a whip and after a while some proper riding boots to replace the muck boots.

dreams_girl_riding_empoweredequestrians

Photo is used with permission from Empowered Equines

Whip
Why the whip*)? Isn’t it strange that you would give your kid a whip to do … what? Inflict pain to an already potential dangerous animal? Weird, if you think about it. But parents don’t think about it, they don’t know, so they just buy whatever they are told to buy. By the riding school or their kids. Which is perfectly understandable.

The kids have no experience either, all they know is that¬†everybody¬†starts with a whip right away. They want to be like everybody else. So we can’t blame them. They are just starting their wonderful adventure: connecting and riding a wonderful gentle and graceful animal, a horse or a pony.

*) or training stick in groundwork

The horse
Isn’t it strange that parents who don’t hit their kids, seems to be OK with their kids hitting an animal with a whip. An animal that is not allowed to defend himself. Picture a horse that fights back after a child had to whip it on advice of the instructor.

fedupfred_extension_arm

Cartoon is used with permission of Fed Up Fred

If you ever experienced how painful a tap with a whip or encounter with the string on a training stick is, it is unbelievable that grown-ups are OK teaching their kids to inflict that much pain on an animal.

Language
Of course it is a taboo to speak about the serious pain one inflicts by using a whip. It is always the horses fault, he ‘deserves’ it, because he ‘didn’t¬†listen’ or ‘he knows better’.

If we¬†do¬†have questions about the whip, the instructor tells us ‘it is an extension of our leg’. Or our arm, if we do groundwork. What they¬†mean¬†is: ‘If you can’t kick a horse hard enough to go forward you have to punish it and use your painful whip. That will make him go. You get immediate results’.

Of course you can’t sell it to the kids while their parents are watching, so they say: “The horse has to know that he has to listen” or “He has to know who’s boss” or “Don’t let him win”.

_Bond_between_child and horse_hippologic

Results
People do want immediate results. That’s why trainers /riders¬†stick to hitting a flight animal: it works (mostly) instantly. Immediate results give people often a feeling of control and power. Immediate results also give the impression of being an expert.

You might have to give that up if you change your ways to positive reinforcement to teach the horse what is expected of him. No immediate results, but a better¬†relationship instead. One based on trust and rewards, a relationship in which it is OK¬†to make mistakes and in which the learner is encouraged to grow. Wouldn’t that be valuable lessons for novice riders?

It is the other way around
Ask yourself: who is the one who’s learning? It is the child, right? I assume that the horses in riding schools are already taught what riding aids are and how to respond properly.

So why aren’t¬†children being taught friendly ways to make the horse move? Very often¬†the horse can’t or won’t move because the rider hasn’t learned how to move¬†with¬†the horse and the horse is getting mixed signals from its unbalanced rider. I have also seen unbalanced riders that are afraid to go faster and the horse picks up on that.

The instructor is a powerful person and tells the unbalanced, frightened rider to use the whip. So the rider does, because he is more afraid for the instructor or doing something wrong. After all, what would happen to the rider if (s)he doesn’t¬†listen ….. Horses are punished with a kick or a whip. What kind of message does that send to the kid?

Not that I was thinking of that consciously, I just felt fear for my instructor as she shouted at me to use the whip. At the same time I felt very sorry for the horse, so I often slapped my boot. That scared the horse and made it move faster. The sad thing was that I made the instructor proud, because she thought I was hitting the horse hard enough to make it move.

I was torn. I liked riding and being around horses so much, I didn’t want to give it up. So I stayed and kept on riding. I often asked myself why girls in books could ride their (rescue) horses always in a friendly way…

Carrying (and using) a whip is often played down with the phrase: The whip is just an extension of the arm.

Fear
I was very afraid of most of my riding instructors. I was there to learn how to ride. I didn’t know that they would teach me negative reinforcement methods and punishment¬†‘to make the horse listen’. In my memory there was always more attention for the horse ‘being wrong/stubborn/lazy’ than for my mistakes (my unbalanced seat) or my lack of communication tools and knowledge.

I thought horses liked to be ridden… I honestly thought that riding aids ought to be invisible and as small as possible. (I still believe that.) I thought I would learn to ride with my mind, like telepathically or at most very subtle aids.

After seven years at the riding school I quit my riding lessons. I realized that I would never get to that point of using lighter aids or learn to develop a meaningful bond with a horse. On the contrary: if you where ‘good enough’ you were rewarded by riding the more ‘advanced’ horses. The horses who needed to be ridden with spurs. Literally you had¬†to earn your spurs¬†at this riding school.

Let me tell you, by the time I was 15 years old I realized that spurs¬†were not meant as “more subtle”¬†aids. I already noticed that they made it easier for the rider to kick the horse forward. Not what I had in mind when I started my lessons.

fedupfred_kick_horse

Cartoon is used with permission of Fed Up Fred

Sad
It is just so sad and unnecessary that many young boys and girls learn to ride this way. That they are told to ‘dominate’ the horse instead of ways to show them how they could¬†cooperate¬†with the horse. That they are not told how they can motivate the horse with rewards and that they are not shown how they really can build a wonderful relationship and even a friendship with a horse.

Hippologic_horseriding_positivereinforcement

Dream
I think children need that bond with animals, especially teenage girls. My dream is of a future in which all children and adults are taught how they can¬†respect the horses’ point of view, their needs and how to motivate them in friendly ways.

It is my dream that people learn to ride on well trained horses that don’t need to be kicked or whipped to move. It is my dream that people learn to ride without fear and it is my dream to have horses that enjoy teaching people how to ride. I know there are already people who teach this. All I want to say is: keep up the good work!

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Related posts:

Attitudes to let go off… when Clicker Training Horses

Natural Horsemanship vs Clicker Training

Keeping an Open Mind is a Challenge

Recipe for a Magical Bond

5 Tips to improve your riding immediately

#1 Keep on B breathebreathing
As instructor I often see that riders improve instantly if they start breathing again. If a rider is concentrating or ‘doing her best’ they hold their breath. What impact does that have on their body?

If you hold your breath you get tense in a lot of places. If you flex your muscles too much, you cannot move with your horse anymore. In other words you are making it so hard on your horse to move freely that it then becomes harder for you to follow your horses movement.

Experiment
If have a yoga ball or an office chair you can do this little experiment. Sit on the ball or chair and move forward and backward while holding your upper body still. What is easier? To breathe in while you are moving the ball/chair forward or backward? Why do you think that is? What happens when you hold your breath? Do you feel tension?

On the horse
While riding something similar happens when you hold your breath. Make it a habit that every time you ride along the letter B, you think: “B means breathe”.

#2 Check if there is tension you can let go
Can you wiggle your toes in your boots while riding? Is your tongue relaxed? No, check your breathing againrelax. See if you can relax as much as possible without becoming Jello. My own instructor often said: “Be like a twig: straight but flexible so you can still move and follow the horses movements”. Another tip she gave me was to imagine you “ride with your skeleton, not with your muscles”. Imagine you stack your vertebra, shoulders, neck and head in a balanced pile so you don’t have to use your muscles to keep straight.

#3 Keep your head up
Apparently your head weighs about 5 kilograms. If you tilt your head forward, to look at your horse, your balance is already disturbed. Imagine a stick with a rotating plate on it. How does the plate stay on the stick? Because the plate is balanced on the stick. If the stick was not in the middle of the plate it would fall. Your head is luckily attached to your spine and therefor it will not fall off. But your muscles have to work hard to prevent you from falling off of your horse. That causes… tension. See #2.

#4 Make a habit of checking your posture
It is hard when you ride by yourself to check on yourself. Especially when you don’t have mirrors in your (outdoorC check) arena.

Here are a few tips. Make simple reminders for yourself. For example, C stands for “Checking my posture”. Every time you pass along the letter C, you check if you can wiggle your toes in your boots and if your tongue is relaxed.¬† Check also if your head is straight above your vertebra.

Every time you ride along the letter B you remember to Breathe.¬† Ask yourself: “Am I holding my breath?”

#5 Smile!Smile 
Smiling makes you relaxed. Have you ever smiled when you were tense? That is not a real smile. Try it now. Breathe, relax and try a friendly, loving smile and feel how it relaxes your body. So don’t forget to smile while you are riding.

Sandra Poppema
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