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

Posts tagged ‘peer pressure’

I wish I had … so I created …


What do you often wish when you’re at the barn? I wish I have a friend at the barn, someone I can ride with and share my successes and ruts with. I am so lucky to have someone like that at my barn.

Over the years I noticed that a lot of positive reinforcement trainers (clicker trainers) are often feeling a bit alienated. They can’t really talk about their (baby step) step successes or share their difficulties at the barn. We use weird tools like fanny packs, clickers, target sticks, mats, round pens where the trainer is in the pen and the horse runs free on the outside and so on. Let’s be honest: the majority of horse owners are not yet ready to try force-free, reward-based training and riding._collage_targetstick

We, clicker trainers, often feel a bit uncomfortable around the more traditional or natural horsemanship people as well. Why?

First of all: we are not born with a R+ key and even if we were, we have learned not to use it. We all have been where most people still are: forcing the horse in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes the goal is just as simple as “He has to listen” whatever that may be.

Second of all: people really want to hear your quick fixes, but lose interest real quick if they learn that clicker training involves changing your own attitude towards horses and training. Most clicker trainers give up on convincing others: it just doesn’t work if people are not willing to look at what they have to change in order to get a better relationship with their horse.

Most horse owners are not really interested in how they can make life easier for the horse, they want to know how they can get to their goal. Quickly. Too bad, because in my opinion it is much nicer to have the same goals as your horse. It feels much more harmonic if I know my horse is working willingly for or with me because there is something in it for her too.

Anyway, as clicker trainer it is often hard to find a like-minded accountability partner nearby, or just someone to reflect your training with. Someone to share your training problems and solutions with, someone who understands what it feels like when your horse just put one foot into the trailer that day, someone who can understand that this was a huge step and knows that you and your horse will get there. One day. Together.

With all this in mind I started a ‘Happy Herd’ in Burnaby, BC, Canada. A platform for_HippoLogic_thinkingOutOfTheBox_clickertraining positive reinforcement animal trainers with monthly meetings with a different theme each time.

I hope to create an environment where horse lovers can share their stories, their successes and their difficulties. A place where we can learn from each other, encourage each other (we all have frustrations, novice as well as experienced trainers) and where people can find an accountability partner to stimulate them to reach their equestrian goals with their horse. Where they can find like-minded people and maybe even make friends in real life. A place where you don’t have to defend or explain your training method over and over. No need to be a professional trainer or seasoned clicker trainer, if you are willing to learn and share, you are welcome! My goal is not to grow big, my goal is to grow strong and to have fun and feel supported. The Happy Herd is a good place to be if you are interested or using reward-based methods to train your animal. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always easier if there is someone to hold your hand?

I started my Happy Herd (where people and horses can be equally happy) group on Facebook. I am organizing our first meeting this month! I am so super excited!

I already had people in the UK and Australia asking me if they can start a Happy Herd in their country. Of course, I would be honoured! Yes, that would be awesome if there started a global movement of Happy Herds. That would make me HAPPY! This is a wonderful New Years resolution for 2016.

Take a look at our Happy Herd.

Sandra Poppema

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Peer pressure at the barn

One of the most underestimated challenges of positive reinforcement training can be… people in your environment.

It is a journey
The journey to switch from negative reinforcement (most traditional and natural horsemanship methods) to positive reinforcement training (clicker training, on target training) is instructive and beautiful.

It is not always a straight, fast or smooth road. It is often a winding, bumpy road with lots of ups and downs, but the views are astonishing. You will see many positive changes in your horse and your relationship.

On your journey you will learn how to think outside of the box, it will teach you to become more creative. It will teach you how to think in solutions instead of problems and it will alter the relationship with your horse in an extraordinarily beautiful way.

good relationship horse

Slowly you start using more and more rewards to reinforce your horse to do things for you. Then you might slowly stop using the tools that your horse experiences as aversive, like a whip, rope halter, training stick or spurs. So far so good, until… you encounter a hiccup.

Believe me when I tell you: this day will happen. Your horse doesn’t do what you ask him to do. You can’t figure out why or you can’t figure out a way to ask him differently so he will understand. You don’t have enough tools yet, so you don’t have an answer right away. That’s OK. It is OK to not know everything right away. What to do?

Back to default
It is perfectly normal to fall back to your old tools or habits of using pressure, force or even to inflict pain. Don’t blame yourself for it. Becoming aware is the first step in changing! Hooray!

If you are prepared for this day, and it will happen, you can just simply say to yourself. “Hey, you know what? I don’t know what to do. Let’s figure it out first. Let’s find help and try again another time.” Really, it is OK not to know what to do! And it is also OK to stop your training until you do know how to solve your training problem in a way that is acceptable for you and your horse”.

Remember what is most important
Choosing to make your horse your priority can be extremely hard to do. Especially when other people are watching you work. Imagine that the farrier has come to trim your horses’ feet. Your horse is afraid of the farrier or there is something else that causes your horse not to cooperate the way he normally does. It can be hard to listen to your horse and figure out the ‘why’. Your horse probably has a very good reason.

In most cases it is OK to say: “Sorry, my horse is not prepared enough yet. Let’s do this another time.” Do what you need to do in order to protect your relationship and the trust you have build with positive reinforcement. In Dutch we have a saying:
Trust arrives walking and departs riding. Which means that trust is hard to build and easy to loose.

Do you really want to risk your relationship with your horse so the farrier can do his/her job right now? It can be dangerous for everyone if the farrier is more a traditional person. Or would you rather choose to make sure the farrier and your horse are safe next time?

Sandra Poppema
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