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

Posts tagged ‘plan’

It’s December, start planning for next year

Do you know that story about that philosopher teacher that uses a jar and fills it up with golf balls, small pebbles and sand as an analogy for creating the life you want? You can read it here.

_hippologic_sandrapoppemaThe moral of the story is to plan your life and start with the most important things first: your health, family, children,  friends and passions (horse!). Those are the golf balls.

The pebbles represent other things in life such as your house or your job and the sand represents the small stuff. If you fill the jar and you want the best of life start putting in the golf balls first and the sand last. If you put the sand in first there is no room left for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same analogy can be used for training your horse. Most riders are focused on the sand and they don’t see the bigger picture of what they want to achieve in the relationship with their horse._prioritize-things-in-life_hippologic

If you start planning, start with the important things like the kind of relationship with your horse you want (if that is important to you) and your bigger goals. Then you can think of the smaller goals and the fun stuff you want to do.

Do you set goals or plan the future with your horse?

PS You can sign up for free until December 31st  2016 for the course Set your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them (with personal support on our private Facebook group). Canter to my website clickertraining.ca and fill in the pop-up.

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

BANNER _Achieve Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them

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Key to Success: make a shaping plan

In shaping the trainer splits the goal behaviour into easy achievable steps for the horse. Each step is rehearsed and reinforced until the animal fully understands what is expected. Then the criterion will be raised and the next step towards the end behaviour is trained. And so on, until you’ve trained the desired behaviour.

In this way you can train very complex behaviours and put them on cue.

Pros and cons of shaping
Shaping a behaviour can be very difficult if you don’t know how to split the behaviour into small enough steps for your horse to understand and be successful. Become a ‘splitter’ and practise dividing every behaviour into tiny steps. Everyone can learn it.

Timing
Shaping behaviour also requires good timing and a keen eye to see and bridge the subtle nuances of a behaviour. Each small change that brings the horse towards the end behaviour must be bridged and reinforced.

If the trainer doesn’t ‘guide’ his horse enough through that process, both can become confused or frustrated. They might even end up giving up.

The opposite of ‘splitting’ is lumping. If you’re a ‘lumper’, you make the steps too big or you raise your criterion too soon. Don’t be a lumper.

Making mistakes
Shaping isn’t easy or quick for inexperienced trainers. You have to be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. A shaping plan will help you.

Shaping isn’t easy for horses that are afraid to be punished if they try new behaviours or simply aren’t used to it. But once you overcome these hurdles it can be a very quick way to train your horse new things.

It is a process
Shaping teaches the horse to use his brain and will encourage him to experiment. In other words he will ‘learn to learn’ and try out new behaviours. He has to learn to search for the right behaviour that will be bridged and reinforced. Once horses have learned how they get reinforced, they will never forget and this really speeds up their learning process. So be patient.

Step-by-step
Shaping requires a lot of creativity of the trainer. Knowledge of the natural behaviour of horses also helps tremendously in splitting the desired behaviour into little steps and in predicting how the horse will react in training. Think out of the box in order to create ‘extra’ training steps. The more steps, the better.

Don’t forget to write the steps down your horse already masters, but are still an important part of the process. Maybe your horse already has looked at the target or approached it. Still write it down, so you can tick it off already. This gives your brain the feeling of a head start and you already feel successful immediately.

Training steps in training plan by Hippologic

Shaping plan for targeting

Be flexible
The trainer also needs to be very flexible. He needs to adjust his plan according to the horse. If the horse learns slower than expected, the trainer has to think of extra steps, changing rewards, adjust the circumstances, give the horse a break a little bit sooner and so on. Also if the horse learn quicker than expected, be prepared to skip steps in your shaping plan.

Shaping plan
The key to success in shaping is to make a plan before you start and write it down. Writing your steps down will help you:

  • to think in advance about every detail you have to be aware of
  • to get a clear picture in your head of clickable criteria
  • to give you a guideline if things go different then expected
  • to become aware of skipping steps while you are training
  • to go back to a previous step if your horse gets frustrated or confused
  • to know where to start next time you are training
  • evaluate your training more easily

Make notes in your shaping plan of the training circumstances that can be an influence on your training: are you training inside, outside, working with or without a barrier, time of day etc. Don’t forget to write down what your criteria are for going to the next step in your plan, for instance after 3 well performed actions.

_zw_touchtarget

Step 3: touching the target

Evaluation
After your training write down immediately all the things that went well and the things you have to keep in mind for next time. This will speed up the whole learning process for both you and your horse.

Experience
Making a shaping plan will also help for a next time you have to train the same behaviour with another animal. You will soon notice that different horses learn at different speeds and that a lot of circumstances can influence your training sessions. This will make you more alert next time and you can anticipate the variables that you encounter and set your horse and your training up for success.

The sky is the limit
Shaping has an endless scala of possibilities and therefor it is a very powerful technique. The only limits are the horses’ physical limitations and the trainers skills and creativity.

_collage_targetstick

Using a target to get your horse out of the pasture

Let me know if you need help making a shaping plan.
Sandra Poppema
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Imagine your horse in 2020. How to start today

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Setting goals makes my life at the barn interesting. It keeps me on track. My goals are my guideline, not a straight-jacket.

Volle bos manenWithout my training goals I would be lost. I write my goals down and then I think about the things I ‘need’ in order to accomplish them. Do I need special equipment? Do I have enough knowledge? Do I need to create a special environment: ‘traffic’ if I want my horse to get used to cars, motors, tractors and so on? Does this sound a little vague? Let me give you an example. When Kyra came into my life, she was a feral filly and almost one year old.

Today Kyra is 6 years old. She is bombproof (flag, tarps, balloons etc), we did a few trail rides and I taught her to jump- instead of stumble- over cavaletti. She can walk, trot, canter, leg yield,  shoulder in, haunches in, leg yield in hand, in hand, on long reins and under saddle.

She accepts toddlers and unknown and even inexperienced riders on her back. She also has a few tricks up her sleeve like pick up and fetch objects, shake ‘No’, laying down, back crunch, kiss, standing on a pedestal, groundtying, smiling in two different ways and  more.

How did I accomplish this?

I started to find out what my ultimate horse dream looked like and then I made a 10 year plan. So my plan says that when Kyra will be 11 years old she will be experienced in Classical Dressage, she will be an excellent demonstration/show horse/trail horse/lesson horse (on her way to become a School Master) and she will be fully bomb proof and know a lot of trick training tricks. She will be still very sensitive, willing to learn, healthy, happy and physically well prepared for her ‘job’.

Kyra became a reliable and toddler proof horse

Next step was to divide my 10 year plan into a 5 year plan, 1 year plan and 12 monthly goals. I divided every monthly goal into a lot of building blocks. In this way I see each step of our progress. The first monthly goal was ‘simply’ taming her. I didn’t know how long this would take or if I could do it at all. So I made my building blocks very small, like looking at me was already worth a reward.

Within about 3 weeks I could halter Kyra, touch her all over, lift her feet and clean them and lead her over the premises. I kept a training diary, that’s how I know how long it took. I think I wouldn’t accomplish all these without a my planning and preparation. Don’t forget to keep a training journal, see this post [click here].

Sandra Poppema

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