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Posts tagged ‘horses’

Benefits of Key Lessons in Clicker Training (3/3)

When you start clicker training your horse you might want to start with something fun and exciting. I call my basic clicker exercises ‘Key Lessons’. HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement training) are not basic exercises, they are actual training tools. Important and versatile training tools.

In this series I will explain how you can use a basic exercise into a valuable training tool.

Key Lesson Hippologic

Key Lessons for Horses

HippoLogic’s 6 Key Lessons are:

  1. ‘Table Manners’ for horses (safe hand-feeding, waiting for food reward)
  2. ‘Patience’
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat Training
  5. Head Lowering
  6. Backing

From Exercise to Training tool to Success strategy

When you start teaching your horse the Key Lessons they are simply your goals in training, but once you master these exercises you can start using them as tools. They will help you train other, more complex behaviours.

Once you are using them as tools you will notice that they become your success strategy. That is what I teach in my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training. 

Key Lesson Head lowering

Head lowering is a very simple exercise to teach your horse to do, yet it is very helpful in so many situations. It can be useful in haltering and bridling tall horses, asking your horse to inspect a scary object on the ground or to help your horse to calm down.

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Head lowering can also be a valuable tool if you have to lead your horse under something like a horse agility obstacle or a doorway.

It is helpful teaching your horse your cue to give him permission ‘you may graze now’ (Key Lesson Targeting comes in handy to teach him to stop grazing) or to let him stretch his neck under saddle or while driving.

A calm horse has no problem lowering his head or keeping his head down. This head position is associated with behaviours like grazing and exploring. Both pleasurable experiences.

One of the first behaviours a horse displays when he is in distress or gets nervous is to put his head up so he can see, hear and smell what is going on. If your horse doesn’t want to bring his head down it can be an indication he is not relaxed. Asking your horse to lower his head can help him calm down. Especially when it is taught with positive reinforcement and the horse has to decide himself to lower his head!

Key Lesson Backing

Backing might be less versatile than all the other Key Lessons, but it isn’t less valuable. Backing certainly deserves its place in the list.

Backing can make all kinds of situations more safe. For instance if you have to lead your horse though a gate that opens inwards it is very handy if your horse knows to back up on a simple hand or voice cue. What about unloading your horse from a trailer? I’ve been in situations where a horse didn’t want to or couldn’t back up and it makes it very hard to unload a horse, I can tell you.

_ keylesson backing hippologic clickertrainingIf a horse mugs or bites backing helps create space immediately between you and the horse. Then you can make a plan how to address the undesired behaviour. Backing also can be helpful in behaviours like teaching your horse to align with the mounting block or ask him to lift his hoof if he is standing on your lead rope.

Last but not least backing can be used as an agility exercise to strengthen his muscles under saddle or in groundwork.

 

Read more

How you can turn basic exercises as ‘Table Manners’ for Horses and ‘Patience’ into tools is discussed in part I.  Read here part II where you can learn how to use Key Lessons Targeting and Mat training to train complex behaviours.

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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’ that will change your life.

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5 things I like about my horse

Yesterday when I was at the barn, there was still some daylight left. Although it was windy and a bit chilly I decided to work with Kyra outdoors so we could enjoy the last few sunbeams.

When I walked into the barn to get her, I changed my mind about the work and decided to let her loose and just observe her and enjoy the moment. She was actively seeking juicy patches of grass and it was a joy to see her displaying a lot of exploration behaviour. She went into the round pen where there is only sand. We usually only use it to make video’s in there, so it involves a lot of bridge signals and reinforcers. I guess it is the reward history she has in there, that made her want to enter the round pen.

While I was observing her I realized that I really like my horse. Why?

Kyra is curious

_HLhippologic_talking to the horseShe wants to explore new things and she seems to enjoy learning. I like it when she shows curiosity and I encourage it. When we walk in the isle she wants to sniff things and I let her. She will come with me, the sniffing only takes a few seconds.

Kyra is cooperative

_cooperative_horse_hippologicShe really likes to find out what it is I want from her. Of course using positive
reinforcement in training helps a lot. She is also very forgiving. Sometimes it happens that I cause frustration because I raise my criteria too early (lumping instead of splitting the behaviour). When I correct my mistake she is willing to please again. I really like this in horses.

Kyra communicates clearly

I work a lot at liberty and I don’t have sanctions for walking away. If she walks away from me or walks towards the exit of the arena, I interpret this as a sign that she is not interested anymore and I change plans.

In the pasture she is very clear about her boundaries towards the other horses.

Kyra is gentle

_HLhippologic_listening to your horse_clicker_trainingI am always very surprised how gentle and patient she is with people in general and with children in specific. She stands perfectly still when children groom her, even when they are a bit nervous or clumsy.

Kyra is beautiful

I like her soul, her character and her appearance. Since she is a grey her coat changes every time she sheds. She is like a jaw breaker: changing colours all the time. I like her big open eyes and her soft muzzle with the long whiskers that tickle in my face when she greets me.

Kyra_hippologic

What do you like about your horse?

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

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Slowfeeder nets

A slowfeeder net is a hay net with much smaller mazes/holes than regular hay nets. Whereas the regular hay nets have mazes varying between approximately 8 – 15 cm (3,1 – 5,9 inches), slowfeeder nets have mazes of 3,5 cm – 6 cm (1,2 inch – 2,4 inch).MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The goal of a slowfeeder net is to slowdown the intake of hay the horse eats so he spends more time eating and less time doing other behaviours (vices).

Why a slowfeeder net?
Horses are built to eat 16 hours a day. A big difference between a human and a horse is that we humans only excrete acid in the stomach while we are eating. The stomach of a horse produces acid weather he is eating or not.

The upper part of a horses stomach doesn’t have a protective layer against the acid. So if the horse is not eating and doesn’t produce a lot of saliva to neutralize the effects of the acid on the stomach wall, horses can get ulcers.

I can’t help thinking that it must also give them a miserable feeling when they have an empty stomach when Mother Nature want the relatively small stomach always filled with high fibre and low nutrient grasses.

Most domestic horses don’t have the possibility to spend approximately 16 hours a day grazing. If they do get to forage we often give them a flake or few flakes of hay which they finish very quickly. Slowfeeder nets mimic grazing._slowfeedernet_hippologic

Other advantages
It can save a lot of work. If you purchase a big net for your horse(s) that you can fill, you could skip meals. Depending of the size of the net and the amount of horses you have to feed, you could go from feeding hay 3 or 4 times a day to one meal of hay.

Hay doesn’t get spilled, blown away by the wind outside or spoiled by horses peeing and pooping in their hay anymore. This can save money in the long term.

It also saves work because you don’t have to spend time raking spoiled hay. It might even save disposal costs because the manure pile isn’t filling up with spoiled hay.

In general it extends eating time, prevents boredom and helps the horse mimic his natural behaviours.

As a bonus it saves you time and money you can then spend on your horse in a different way.

How to deal with the disadvantages 
Filling a net can be time consuming. Make sure you buy a net with a big opening that makes filling the net quick and easy. There are “hoops” available that keeps the opening open if you use the round shaped nets. For the square nets I found my own way of filling it quickly. See this video:

Slowfeeders can be very expensive to purchase. It can take a while before the hay saving costs cover the price of your net. In general you will be saving money by buying the more expensive ones instead of trying the cheap ones first. The cheap ones I tried broke quickly and were frustrating to use. I recommend doing some online research about size, shape, material and maze size.

If you choose a slowfeeder with holes that are too small for your horse it can create frustration or your horse might not eat the amount of hay he really needs.

To prevent frustration when introducing a slowfeeder net to your horse, it can be a good idea to give only half or less of its normal portion in the new net and provide the rest of its ration the way you always do. Most horses learn quickly how to eat out of a slowfeeder net.

Depending on the way your horse has to keep his neck and head while he is eating out of a net, it can cause an unnatural position which can cause health problems.

Be aware that you are introducing a new activity and be alert for any changes this causes in your horse.

Sandra Poppema

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