Hurdles of clicker training instructors

I did a little research and asked positive reinforcement trainers ‘What is your biggest struggle or concern?’ Why are not more people into clicker training their horses? Here are some answers I got.

Why horse people don’t use R+ according to clicker trainers

  • “I find the biggest hurdle is the food. It is so ingrained in people not to hand feed.”
  • “Newbies to marker training can create cookie monsters who bite. It’s sad, but true. Every time that happens and the person tells their story anyone who hears it has a negative impression about the possibility of using something as crazy as clicker training with their horse. And they believe that it creates biters and muggers, because in reality, it can when improperly practised. So as we share the wonder and magic of this method, we also have a responsibility to make sure we keep this in mind.”
  • “I think the problem is people are not patient enough. They don’t want to listen they are physical with horses. They want it quick.” 
  • “We all love horses and find humans irritating, it takes a special person to be a good coach to both.”

Let’s make some changes!

How can positive reinforcement trainers and coaches overcome these hurdles? I know these are quotes, but I choose these ones because they are very common. We’ve all heard these or very similar ones, right? Here is what we can do to

  • Focus on the solution (results in R+ training!), not on the problem (people focusing on the carrots). If horse people think “It’s all about treats” in clicker training I think it’s result-3236285_640because we (‘we’ = R+ trainers, instructor or not) present it like that (almost) all the time! Let’s start promoting clicker training as a training method that gets RESULTSThat’s what other methods do: they don’t emphasize the how (coercion, aversives, sometimes even pain inflicting methods).
  • Yes, novice trainers and new horse owners can create ‘cookie monsters‘. It happens and let’s not deny this fact. This is not a specific clicker training problem: it happens in all training where inexperienced people start training horses. How many horses got horrified by whips or training sticks? How many horses are head shy or don’t let them catch themselves in the pasture? (I still get giggly when I hear the word ‘catch’ because it is so much the opposite of what I do, but it is what some people have to do). Let’s focus on the amazing long-lasting results (intermediate and expert) clicker trainers accomplish!
  • I think it’s a myth that clicker training takes longer than training a horse with coercion. It only takes longer if we want to accomplish 2 goals in one go: training the horse and teaching the owner new ways of training that are almost opposite of what they have learned in the past. Let’s point out how fast horses learn new behaviours and skills! (No other training method I know of emphasizes how difficult it is or can be for the person to learn this method X, Y, Z. So let’s just quit doing that.)
  • I love horses and humans . That’s why I got into coaching: I not only want the skills in the horse but also in the horse person. So the next horse can benefit from it too, and the next one. I hope more people will learn and start teaching learning theory and will emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement (R+) training over traditional and natural horsemanship training (and other methods based on R-). Let’s make the world a better place and start with ourselves: Be the change you want to see in the world! You never know who you inspire!

Questions? Get a free discovery call with Sandra_zitpaard_vragen_Hippologic

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Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

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Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses?

If you are ready to get the results in training you really, really want this is the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is for you. Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

Join HippoLogic’s online training program for clicker trainers the Ultimate Horse Training Formula. In this course you will learn to train horses with positive reinforcement. You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.

 

Solutions for Dealing with so called ‘Problem Horses’

Often when there is a problem in the horse-human relationship people are looking for answers that help them. They want a solution, for their problem.

In most cases it is the horse that has a problem, with the way he is housed, fed, handled, tacked or trained. It’s the horse trying to tell you he has a problem. I see most people are looking for human centered solutions which often focuses on symptom management, not a cure. I like to solve problems with the horse in mind, because that leads to reliable and long term solutions. I don’t cut corners and hand out bandages, my aim is to cure the problem. Let’s find out how.

Human Centered Solutions

In Human Centered Solutions the human gets what she wants:

  1. If the horse is putting his head in the air the solution is often a martingale.

  • If the horse is ”lazy’ (I don’t believe that label is applicable to animals) the rider gets a whip or spurs.
  • If the horse doesn’t want to walk into a trailer, he is forced into it either by putting a lunge line behind his butt or he has to ‘learn what the sweet spot is’ and is chased around and around until the horse ‘chooses’ the right thing and that is entering the trailer.
  • If the horse eats or chews wood, the solution is to put a bad tasting substance (sometimes even sambal) on the wood or I also have seen that a horse in his own stable was surrounded by hot wire in order to prevent nibbling on the wood.
  • If a horse injures another horse, he gets ‘solitary confinement’ as punishment or as ‘solution’.
  • Unfortunately I can make this list very, very long. I think we can all think of at least 20 examples, right?

    Short cuts

    Human Centered Solutions are shortcuts that make the struggle longer. They may seem to give a solution because they deal with the symptom(s), but they don’t change or solve the root of the problem. In the long run they might even worsen the problem for the horse.

    I like to look at the cause of a ‘problem’ and resolve that. My philosophy is for every problem is a solution. It takes a bit more, and sometimes a lot more to choose this way. In the end it is better and it saves time, pain, frustration for both horse and handler.

    HippoLogic’s Horse Centered Solutions

    HippoLogic works only with Horse Centered Solutions. Solutions that work on the root of the problem, not the symptom.

    Head tossing

    In cases where the horse throws his head in the air, let’s find out why:

    Is he in pain?

    • Does the rider have harsh hands? Teach the rider how to balance and take the reins away until he has an independent seat.
    • Does the rider bump in the saddle or is unbalanced? See above
    • Are the horses teeth causing pain (hooks on his molars)? Let a vet or equine dentist take a look at his teeth.
    • Does the saddle fit? Call an independent saddle fitter (not a sales person).
    • Is the horse physically OK? Ask the vet to check him out.

    Is he anxious?

    • Does the horse try to flee? Give your horse confidence with training.

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  • Does the horse try to bolt or rear? Why? Find out if he is in pain, if he does get enough exercise, gets too much grain and so on. Change what he missed into what he needs.
  • Is it learned behaviour?

    • Does the horse get reinforced by throwing his head up in the air? Change the training and reinforce him more for the opposite behaviour.

    Lazy horse

    If a horse is labeled ‘lazy’ I want to find out why. What does he do to get labeled as ‘lazy’? Does he not walk, trot, canter fast enough or doesn’t he react (fast enough) to the riders cues?

    Does the horse know?

    • Does the horse know what is expected from him? That he is supposed to go faster or react faster? Does your horse know what the leg aid means? Teach the behaviour first, then put a cue on it. Reinforce the desired behaviour with something the horse wants!

    Why is the horse not motivated to go faster or react quicker?

    • Is the horse tired? Does he gets his REM sleep (the only get REM sleep when they lay down to sleep) or is he sleep deprived? Take a look at his housing and check if he is laying down at least once every 24 hours.
    • Is the horse tired because he spent his energy on something else? Is he nervous, does he have to guard the herd, is it a stallion and is it breeding season?
    • Is the horse in good shape? Does he have the stamina that is asked? Is he overweight? Is he physically able to move better or faster? Let the vet check him out and ask a equine nutritionist (not a sales person!) for advice.
    • Is the horse not motivated enough? I like to use positive reinforcement to motivate a horse and a marker to mark the desired behaviour (increased speed or faster reactions to the handler cues). That is a bit of a puzzle, but once you figured it out you have solved the problem for the rest of the horses live (if he lives another 25 years that is worth your time investment)!

    If a horse kicks, bites, lashes out, rears or displays aggressive behaviour, take a look at what might cause it, before trying to fight fire with fire.

    Find professional help and ask lots of questions to find out the professional is horse centered (Why is the horse doing this? In what situation does this happen? What triggers the behaviour? What has been done?) or looking for human centered solutions (making the horse ‘shut up’, teaching him ‘a lesson’, teach him ‘how to behave’)

    I can go on and on. This is only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities you can try.

    Trailer loading, wood chewing and dangerous horses 

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    In these cases too, I focus on the cause of the problem: is there fear, pain, misunderstanding, physical needs or welfare issues that are at play?

    It takes time, effort and knowledge to understand what the problem really is. Sometimes it takes even more time, effort and trial and error to figure out a sustainable solution. But if you do, it is worth it, because you know it is a horse centered solution! Therefor you encountered the real problem and you are now understanding your horse. Who doesn’t want that? What is a better base for a relationship?

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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.
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