It seems complicated to use positive reinforcement during riding. Most common struggle points are: ‘It’s hard to hold a clicker and the reins in my hands’, ‘Clicker training is useful on the ground, but I don’t know how to use it from the saddle‘ and ‘If you use clicker training in riding you have to stop all the time to give a treat‘. How to address these issues?
Keep it simple!
Positive reinforcement is positive reinforcement, whether you apply it from the ground, standing next to your horse, or when you sit in the saddle. Therefor you have to apply the same rules to set you and your horse up for success: (more…)
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.
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…)
This article is a sequel on the Positive Reinforcement (+R) for Horses during riding lessons (The 5 Essentials for Good Riding lessons (4-a from 5)). +R doesn’t have to be used solely to improve the performance of the horse.
+R for riders
I would love to see more positive reinforcement in riding lessons applied to the rider. Why? I don’t recall seeing a rider ever improve after he or she was shouted at by an instructor. Yes, they sit straight or with their shoulders back right away, but this causes a lot of tension. Due to the tension in their body they loose their ‘feel’ immediately and it destroys their independent seat instantly.
Not only do horses have to be in a learning mode in order to learn a new skill, it also goes for the rider. If the rider is bombarded with too many instructions at the same time or instructions that seems contradictory he or she can become frustrated.
Splitting behaviour as instructor
In my education as Centered Riding instructor I learned to split the riders tasks into tiny steps. We started to ride on a yoga ball and did all kinds of exercises to improve our feel on the ground before getting into the saddle. Something nobody had taught me in my education to become an ORUN instructor ( official Dutch certification for riding instructors).
Make the rider feel successful
For instance, when I had to teach riders the riding trot by one or two steps of trotting at a time. And I had to make them successful, too. I was taught to instruct them to transition to the walk before or just when they were about to lose their balance. It also gave me the opportunity to tell them about their improvements and listen to their feedback about the experience. Then I gave them time to practise on their own. Only after they mastered this tiny step would I raise my criterion for the rising trot.
With this method of teaching I have seen riders improve their seat within an hour of riding. Even when they have had lessons for over ten years! I also noticed that their confidence in themselves grew and a lot of riders got rid of their fear of falling of.
I remember when I had to learn to trot myself. That was more like: trot until you find your balance. Which- of course- never happened while I was uncomfortably bumping up and down on a fast trotting riding school pony… Trotting scared me so I was even more afraid to learn to canter.
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Read more in this series The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons
Part I: Independent seat
Part II: Schoolmasters
Part III: Facts about horse behaviour
Part IV-a: Positive reinforcement (horses)
Part V: Attention for the horses emotions