Posts tagged ‘Set your Equestrian Goals AND Achieve them’
In December 2016 I started to offer an online course about Equestrian Goal setting. It’s one of my fun projects and my students really liked it.
What is your goal?
I enjoy helping other enthusiastic equestrians with splitting their goals into achievable steps. It has been so rewarding for me to see people achieve their own goals with a bit of help. I’ve been a riding instructor for decades and it always surprised me that experienced riders assumed I would set their goals. Their homework was: ‘Think about what you want to do with your horse” so I can help you achieve it.
I can help clients become a better dressage rider, but if they really want to be a jumper and I don’t know about it, they will never become be a good jumper if we don’t focus on some jumping techniques in the lessons.
One client wanted to ride competitions, but her stallion hadn’t left her property for years. We trailer loaded him and drove to a nearby competition ground to practice. It was the day before the competition, so no one was there. It was a very good experience. We kept going to competitions until he was more settled being in an unfamiliar surrounding with unfamiliar horses. At home we worked on riding techniques. The day she was ready for a dressage competition, her stallion was ready, too.
Another client lived near a forest and she bought a horse for trail riding. She didn’t have an arena at home and trail riding was her dream. Her horse was really herd bound and on top of that he was terrified to walk pass the mailbox at the beginning of her drive way. She couldn’t get him of the premises without being afraid to land in the ditch next to her mailbox. After a few clicker training lessons and some groundwork we went out for rides together: she on her beloved horse and I rode her bike. Mission accomplished.
Other examples of goals my student have are teaching their horse to stand for the farrier, align their horse to the mounting block/standing still while mounting, Spanish walk, cantering under saddle and trailer loading.
Some goals are simple (just one behaviour) and others are much more complex (a chain of behaviours), but they all give you that satisfied feeling when you accomplish them. I always encourage people to celebrate their successes: big and small. In hindsight the small steps are big ones!
Are your struggling with goals you want to achieve with your horse?
Do you have the feeling you haven’t made much progress or you could have achieved more if you only had some help? This is the course for you!
- Discover what your equestrian goals really are
- Learn techniques to set achievable goals
- Learn how to brake down a big goal into training sessions order to make it achievable and realistic
- Learn how to stay motivated and on track, even if you ‘fail’ or if ‘life happens’
- Learn to track your achievements
- Celebrate your successes with like-minded people!
Once you master the tools and techniques I hand you in this course, you can benefit the rest of your life from it.
What students said about the course
“I had a really empowering online coaching from Sandra, helping me put my problems in perspective. Now Iliana and I are really focusing on not grabbing for food wherever she goes, and with baby steps we are getting there. Lots of other things to train too, but one thing at a time I think. Thank you, Sandra, you are in inspiration!” Patricia, Spain
“Through her online course on goal setting, Sandra has given me excellent help in how to set achievable goals for my horse training. I’m now better able to see what I need to work on and enjoying achieving my goals. Thank you Sandra!” Ananja, The Netherlands
“I have enjoyed all of it. The course has really helped me think about what I actually want to do with my horse. You do a good job of helping focus on a goal. Loved the advice and support.”
“I have gained a lot so far. I’ve always had a bit of butterfly mind and tend to jump from one exercise to another too fast and not getting anywhere! Sandra have taught me to focus and take things in small steps. And its so helpful to read everyone else’s progress as well” (student is referring to the Facebook support group for this online course)
“What I like is that they (the exercises) are very doable as you have to answer to one thing at a time. I appreciate the way you give support a lot. You are critical in a good way, not letting me feel like everything I do is already perfect but also giving advice in a good way and helping to keep sharp.
I also got a little more insight into why I find it hard to succeed with training plans and what I could do to help myself with this.”
“I think this course is an excellent idea 🙂 You are always very supportive Sandra and make this feel like a safe place (the Facebook support group) to ask questions. Funny, but I’ve met a lot of R+ trainers who a very encouraging and positive with their horses but extremely critical of their human trainers. Sandra you walk and talk R+ in all areas – with horses and people 🙂 “
Here is why and how I started to set goals for myself:
Clicker training is brain training. I simply have to break out of the box of conventional ideas to come up with solutions that are ethical (pain free and force free) and horse friendly (easy to understand and rewarding for the horse). This is not always a simple task with these self-imposed regulations.
Sometimes it is a real challenge to come up with solutions for difficulties I encounter in my own training with Kyra. If I work for a client it’s really easy, because I am the outsider. To come up with creative training solutions for my own situation is much more challenging. That is why I like to have a mentor too.
If my mentor is not available, I have to focus on what I want and how I want this instead of ‘how I know I can solve this’. Because ‘I know how to solve this’ with coercion, negative reinforcement, punishment and other methods I am not willing to use anymore.
Kyra is up for a new step in her training on the long reins. I want her to canter on the long reins. That means she has to learn to collect herself, otherwise I can’t keep up with her.
I started her on a circle in canter because she was too fast. On a circle I didn’t have to run. I created a problem by staying on the circle too long. She didn’t want to follow the rail on the long side of the arena, because she thought she had to stay in a circle.
Couldn’t you just use the outside rein?
I didn’t want to pull on the outside rein. Her head moves up and down a lot in canter so the reins are already moving and causing too much ‘noise’ to be subtle with the rein aids. I don’t want to pull (force) her with the reins since I think the reins should stay a subtle aid.
Pulling on the outside reins causes her body to bend the wrong way (outside ‘Stellung’) which is a hard problem to solve later.
Why didn’t you use the whip to prevent her coming off the track?
I don’t use a whip. This would only work if she is used to yielding for the whip and/or is afraid of the whip. Using a tool that is developed to cause pain, discomfort or help motivate (in a negative reinforcement way) a horse move is not what I want. I think it can be too enticing to use it for what it is made for in a moment of frustration.
I don’t want to teach Kyra what she is NOT supposed to do (she is ‘not supposed to come off track’), I want her to teach what I want her to do: stay on the track. It is a different way of thinking. Focusing on what you want to teach instead of what you want to prevent.
How did you solve it if you don’t use rein aids or a whip?
Thank you for asking! I had to figure out a way to communicate to Kyra what it is I was looking for: staying on the track in canter.
First I laid some poles next to the track parallel to the wall on the long side of the arena. She just stepped over them to make her circle. So I split the goal into smaller steps: I practised cantering at liberty and under saddle along the poles. That made it easier for her to understand that she was suppose to follow the track. It wasn’t fool proof and she was still confused on the long rein.
Then I used some cones which she knows how to target. I made it really easy and asked her to touch the cone then canter a few strides to the next cone and asked her to touch that other cone. She understood quickly and so I made the distance between the cones bigger. The poles were still parallel to the track but she didn’t want to jump over them now that she was focused on the cones.
Now we made really quick progress: she started to canter on the long side of the track. In 3 training sessions of 5-10 minutes I could take some of the poles away and start cantering on the other side of the arena on the long side.
The next step was to fade out the cones and the two poles at the beginning and end of the long sides of the tracks. The cones were not important anymore because now I could click and reinforce for cantering on the track.
Now I started to canter on the other side of the arena as well and it was no problem for her to understand to stay on the track.
The next step is to change reins and practise everything she now learned in the left lead canter to the right lead canter.
Now we are working on speed in canter. She is still a bit too fast and she has to learn to collect more so I can walk along her side instead of jogging. We already worked on this in session 4 and 5.
In this way I taught Kyra to stay on track and canter more slowly in only 7 sessions of 5-10 minutes. No frustration (only a bit of a brainteaser for me), no force, pain or threatening. I really like to come up with training solutions like this so I don’t have to damage the bond of trust I have been building so carefully.
What are some of the force free and R+ solutions you came up with in your training?
Please share this post if it was helpful. It might help other equestrians to think out of the box.
Are you interested in online my online course Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them click here for more info
If you scroll to the topics on my blog you might have noticed that I am writing a lot about planning and journaling. The reason is, that it helps me a lot in training my horse efficiently and therefor I reach my goals. Which I like! Often I reach them even sooner than I expect and that works very motivating.
I wish that every passionate horse enthusiast can achieve their equestrian dreams. It’s such an awesome feeling to tick of a goal off your list and reread your journal or look at your photo’s.
When I just got Kyra, I made a detailed plan to tame her. My long term goals were: I wanted a horse that I could ride in demos, a horse that would be comfortable with music, could do trick training and could show people expert exercises of the classical dressage.
Kyra was really wild and really scared about anything and everything was new when I got her. She was born in a nature reserve and she was just several weeks before she was separated from her mom and her herd. It must have been a very stressful time in her life: losing the two things she relied on for her survival.
Kyra was 10 months old and nothing she saw around her was familiar: tractors, people, running children, peacocks, dogs, cows and calves, a stall, radio and so on. Everything scared her, she was stressed about everything. It was sad to see her so frightened all the time. I wondered if she could be tamed at all. I never saw a horse in so much distress. I could feed her from my hand but it had to be through the bars of her stall and only if I didn’t make eye contact. As soon as I opened the door, that behaviour was gone!
I started thinking about a training plan. If I wanted to halter her I had to be able to approach her. If I wanted to approach her, I would like her to face me instead of trying to run from me and trying to climb the walls in her stall or threatening to kick me. I thought about safety, too. She was in a stall but I didn’t want her to get out before I could approach and halter her. I also didn’t want to get kicked, since I was pregnant at the time.
My list helped me to make a training plan. The plan kept me on track and helped me set a logical order to do things.
Taming a wild filly was my biggest challenge until then. I had started horses under saddle before. I had known my first pony since the day he was born and I had taught him all kinds of husbandry skills, groundwork and had started him under saddle. That was different because we grew up together. Kyra was born in a nature reserve in The Netherlands.
This was a new challenge and it felt like a big adventure in which the assignment was ‘tame a wild filly’. That is why I decided to keep a training diary. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could recall how long it took me and what difficulties I would encounter? I thought it might take me a year or so. I started this adventure very open minded and I took it day by day.
Every day I wrote my results down in my training journal. I made pictures of my achieved goals. Writing about my experiences kept me going. It was so motivating to read about what we achieved in such a short time. I got hooked on journaling. It only took me three weeks to tame Kyra, read here what she was able to after 23 training sessions.
I never stopped making plans for Kyra and I never stopped keeping some kind of logbook. Sometimes I write detailed reports about our training, sometimes I just make a video or a photo of our achieved goal.
I found an accountability partner and we made detailed plans for our green horses to prepare our horses on the ground for their future under saddle. We started making future plans which contained our ultimate equestrian dreams and distilled our 10 year plan, our 5 year plan, our year plan and 12 month goals from it. Every month we got together and showed each other our achievements, talked about the problems we encountered and helped each other with a listening ear and sometimes with advice.
I started a Facebook group Happy Herd. Join us if you need an accountability partner.
My blog is called Making Equestrian Dreams come true. Fast forward 6 years. I now live in Canada. I brought Kyra with me. She is under saddle now (prepared her with +R only), participated in Horse Agility competitions, an online clicker training competition and I made a few trail rides in the Canadian wilderness. I have plans to ride her without tack more frequently (watch the video on my YouTube channel).
I have made a lot of my dreams come true.
What are your dreams? How do you accomplish them?
Sign up for my online 4 week course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals and Achieve them‘ and I will teach you how to set your goals, make a planning, how to stay motivated and celebrate your successes!
If you are serious about making your equestrian dreams come true in the future start planning it today. Make it easy for yourself and start really easy if you are not yet in the habit of writing your equestrian goals down.
It can be scary to make a training plan for a whole year or multiple year. If that is the case, you can start simple and try planning just one week for your horse. Here are some ideas on how you can start.
Evaluate at the end of the week: was is nice to have some kind of schedule? Was it hard? What made it hard to stick with it? Did you like it? Did you feel like you were working on your long term goals?
Step 1 List goals
You can just start making a list of 5 things you would like to do in the future with your horse. You can also put things on your list that you are already doing, but want to do more often. There is no particular order.
Step 2 Specify preparations
What steps do you need to take in order to reach these goals? In my case I have to go by trailer to the nearest forest, so trailer loading is very useful for multiple goals. Another preparation could be working on Kyra’s stamina under saddle.
In order to cross a shallow river for the first time I would like Kyra to go with an experienced trail horse. And I would like an experienced guide with me because I have no experience crossing rivers on my own. Another preparation is making Kyra water savvy of course. The same preparations would apply for swimming in a lake or the sea with Kyra. And so on.
These are just examples to give you an rough idea and hopefully give your some inspiration to make a training plan for one week.
Step 3 Evaluating week schedule
Think of your own week schedule and about what days and times you would go to the barn. Maybe there are days you have less time to train your horse. Do you go mornings, afternoons or evenings. In summer it can be hot so mornings and evenings are best for riding or intense training. Keep that in mind when making your schedule.
On the days I am taking my 4 year old son to the barn, I don’t plan to ride Kyra. Usually I stick to groundwork exercises on those days in order to avoid stress and frustration.
My week evaluation looks like this in the summer:
– Monday I take my son to the barn: groundwork to practise a new skill/do a short repetition of one behaviour/ do something that involves my son (let him ride)
– Tuesday I have 1- 2 hours so I could plan a trail ride or ride in the arena
– Wednesday: same as Tuesday
– Thursday: same as Monday so I stick to a little groundwork, working in hand/long reins or hand grazing
– Friday, Saturday, Sunday: I have 2 or more hours so I could plan a trail ride or ride in the arena
In winter when days are short, trail riding is only possible during daylight hours, so I can only plan them in weekends. Now I can take another look at my goals and start planing my week.
Step 4 Planning
Now I know what I want to accomplish and how much time I can spent, it is so much easier to make a schedule for the week.
If I have to or want to adjust my schedule that is ok. Since I have written down my goals in step 1, I will find something to practise that will support my goals in one way or another. If someone has left a few small jumps in the arena I can practice jumping or do some flat work because I can see how that would be helpful in my future trail rides. It can help build muscle and stamina too.
It is also possible that I would choose not to practice jumping because there are more urgent goals to work on and I know that the forest or park I am going to ride in on Sunday doesn’t have any jumps on the trail.
Step 5 Writing it down
Last step is to write it down. Take your plan to the barn and hang it in your locker or another place where you can see it.
It helps me to have a copy of my plan at home in a visible spot, so I won’t forget what I have planned. The best thing of making a plan is crossing off the things I scheduled! It makes it easier to journal about it too.
Good luck planning your week schedule and let me know how it went.
Enjoy your horse!
Read more: Key to Success: Make a Plan
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
What is a training plan? Is it really necessary to write it down? Isn’t that time consuming? These are the things people ask when I talk about training plans and shaping plans.
How a training plan can help you (purpose)
You don’t have to make a training plan, but it will help you become a better clicker trainer faster. Why? Because it forces you to think about your training goal, your approach and all the steps you need to take to get to your goal.
If you are at the barn and you don’t know what to do, a plan can help you move in the right direction.
Difference between a training plan and a shaping plan
Your training plan contains all the behaviours you want to teach your horse, in your shaping plan you write down the step-by-step approach of each behaviour.
First thing you have to think about and write down is your goal. What it is it and how would you recognize it when you achieve it? That is a hard question to begin with. That is one of the reasons people would like to skip this step. If you avoid it, it doesn’t exists, right? Wrong!
How can you achieve your goal if you don’t know what it is you’re looking for? How can you enjoy a satisfied feeling of accomplishing something if your goal is so vague you can’t even write it down? I know it is hard, but when you practise it this will become easier and easier over time.
It’s OK to start ‘big’ and write down a vague goal, the next steps will help you through the process of making it more clear.
Once you have determined a goal it is easy to divide it into little training steps, the building blocks of your end behaviour. This is how you shape a behaviour.
Ask questions like: what does my horse need to do in order to achieve the goal? What skills must I train first? And think about the training tools that can help in this process.
Try to visualize and write down how many times your horse must do a certain behaviour before you raise the criterion. It doesn’t have to be accurate right away, but thinking about it helps when you are at the barn training your horse.
If you have set the criterion ‘Horse touches target when it’s near the ground’ you can raise it after he has done it three times. Then you hold the target in another place where the horse has to reach for it: maybe more to the left and then more to the right.
It is also very important to write down which reward and how much of that reward you will be using. Some rewards will wear down their value over time in some horses. Some horses are more motivated if they get a variation of rewards.
Experiment and write down what you’ve learned about your horse. It is fun and very educational to read it back one day.
Personalize your plan
Another very important part of your training plan is to put in specific information about the target animal and things for the trainer to remember. If you read your training plan before you start training it can help you remind you of certain things like: I have to click first and take the reward out my pocket (instead of taking the treat before I click). Or remember that this horse has separation anxiety and training him works best if there are other horses in sight.
Write down your results in order to start the next training at the point where you stopped or so you can take one step back to refresh the horses memory and raise the first criterion after one time instead of three times to improve and get to the next steps.
Starting a training journal can be very simple and it doesn’t have to take much time. Sometimes a few simple keywords or just circling the training step where you have stopped is enough to help you remember.
Have a creative clicker training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
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