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Posts tagged ‘stepping stones’

5 Benefits of using a Shaping Plan in Horse Training

In positive reinforcement training we need our horse to think about what we want and to make a conscious decision to do it.

We don’t push, pull, force or threaten our horse in the right direction and release the pressure, force or the threat when he does the desired behaviour. No, we have to create an environment in which he can use his brain.

In order to learn, your horse needs to be in thinking mode.

This self-imposed challenge to ask the horse to use his brain, demands proper preparation from the trainer:

  1. We need to think about we want in advance, in order to
  2. Set our horses up for Success.

How do you Set your Horse up for Success?

You only have a marker (to mark the behaviour), a reinforcer (to strengthen the behaviour) and your brain to make it happen.

Shaping plan_hippologicYou have to guide your horse with your clicks from where he is to where you want him to be, the desired behaviour. In order to do that successfully you need a plan. This is called a ‘shaping plan’. You need to shape the behaviour step by step.

Shaping Plan

A shaping plan is your written approach to train a specific behaviour.

It describes every little step (criterion) in the process to train the desired behaviour. This process is called ‘splitting’ behaviour.

When you split the behaviour in small enough steps, it is easy for your horse to understand what you want (and what he will be reinforced for).

It gives in detail an objective description of the desired behaviour, your goal behaviour. A good shaping plan also contains a description of the circumstances of the training: where you train, the date, the name of the horse, the trainer, what reinforcers will be used and how many good tries will lead to the next criterion.

With a good shaping plan you can guide your horse with clicks to the desired behaviour.

If you split the behaviour in small enough steps, you create enough stepping stones to go from A to B to C to D (Desired behaviour).

If you don’t have enough steps, you get stuck. That is called ‘lumping’ behaviour and your horse can’t make the jump from behaviour A to C. He gets stuck and doesn’t understand anymore where you want him to go.

If you go back to your shaping plan you can see that B is missing. It is easy to come up with an extra stepping stone if you already have a direction of where you want to go.

Purpose of a Shaping Plan

  1. You know what your criterion for a click is
  2. You know after how many successful tries you go to the next criterion
  3. You know what the next criterion is (for what behaviour you will click and reinforce)
  4. You know what reinforcers you are going to use and which ones you’ve used in the past
  5. You know when to give your horse a break.

Training without a shaping plan

What happens if you don’t make a shaping plan? You set yourself up for failure and frustration.shaping lumping hippologic

  • Without a plan of approach it is much harder to recognize if you are making progress.
  • Without a written plan you easily forget what your starting point was and you might not celebrate your successes enough
  • You will miss ‘click-worthy’ moments because you haven’t set parameters what is click worthy and what is not.
  • It is harder to raise your criteria
  • It is also harder to be flexible in your training and adjust as soon as frustration in you of your horse occurs. You don’t have an alternative ready and it is harder to go back to the step where your horse still was successful. As you get more experienced in writing shaping plans, you will notice that you become way more creative in finding solutions to challenges that occur in training.

5 Benefits of a Shaping Plan

  1. If you get stuck you get yourself unstuck way faster because it is easier to see where you need to add an extra step, need to change your reinforcer and/or go back to where your horse was still successful.
  2. The more you practise the more experience you get in splitting behaviour. You will ‘lump’ less and prevent frustration and other undesired emotions and feelings in training
  3. Once you’ve written a good shaping plan you can re-create your training successes with other horses. Even years later, just because you’ve written it down.
  4. It is easier to be flexible in training and come up with an alternative step if you get stuck because you’ve given your training approach already so much thought.
  5. A good plan will speed up your training.

One of the Key Lesson I teach is how to write and use a shaping plan. Shaping plans are your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement training.

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_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse they really, really want and teach them how to get results in training.  
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5 Reasons to make a planning for your horse

I like to think about the future and I like making plans for me and my horse! I like to think about what I would like to achieve with Kyra. What would it feel like if we accomplish it? Here are 5 good reasons to make a planning to help you make your equestrian dreams come true.

1- Writing your goals down necessitates you to reflect about them
Questions you can ask yourself are: What do I want to achieve? Is it realistic for me at this time? Is it realistic for the horse I have now? Are my old equestrian dreams still valid? What would be on your list of (ultimate) equestrian goals? Write it down!

2- Once you’ve made a list, you can work systematically on your goals
Take a goal from your list and divide it into as many training steps as you can think of. These are your building blocks.

Even when you have the feeling you are ‘not training’ one of the goals on your list, you are probably working on a valuable preparation for one of your goals. Your subconscious will take care of that once you have written them down.

3- If you have written down your long-term goals, it is much easier to divide them into achievable training steps
Dividing your big goal into a one year plan with 12 smaller monthly goals or even smaller weekly goals will motivate you. These tiny building blocks are easy to accomplish, so you can be proud of your horse and yourself. Set it up for success: make your goals reachable.

4- In rough times it is always uplifting to see your list of goals and what you have ticked off already
Keeping a training journal will make it easy to look back on your accomplishments. It will remind you of all the challenges you have already faced. Looking back on those goals now, often gives you the feeling they were easy to reach, but you know they were challenges at the time. Just like the challenge you are facing right now. If the challenges seems too big, make the training steps smaller.

5- Working with small goals will help you see the ‘big picture’
If you can see the big picture, working on smaller goals is and stays interesting. These will keep you going, because once you have made a plan it’s easy to see how all the behaviours you train are interrelated with different goals on your list.

For example: you have a yearling and one of your big goals is to participate in competitions. Prerequisites for this goal can be ‘trailer loading’ or despooking exercises. If you can see how training your yearling to go willingly into a trailer now, will support your goal to take him to a competition ground in the future, it can be very motivating to start training trailer loading today. The same goes for despooking. If you can start your yearling to get used to all kinds of objects, music, strange terrain and so on, it will be a great asset when you are ready to compete.

_10 year equestrian planning_hippologic

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

10 steps to your dream horse

airs_above_ground

I dream about ‘airs above the ground’

1 Think about your dream

What would your ultimate dream with your horse look like? What are you doing? Who is involved? Are you excited (eventing) or relaxed (trailriding)? Take your time to figure out what your ultimate dream really is.

2 Set goals

What do you need in order to achieve your goal (see #1). What skills do you and your horse need? Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. SMART goals Hippologic

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement (e.g. dressage)
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress (e.g. dressage test level 1 with X points)
  • Assignable – specify who will do it
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved

3 Learn more about reward-based horse training

Reward-based horse training makes the results (behaviours) very reliable. Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 -1620) already said: “You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear. There will be always be something that he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid.” In reward-based training the horse is allowed to ‘ask questions’ and make mistakes. He will simply learn quickly because he is rewarded by something pleasurable when he ‘gives the right answer’. That makes the horse looks actively for the right answers. In other words: he will be eager to work with you and do as you ask.

4 Divide your big goals into smaller goals.

Make a list of all the behaviours your horse needs to master. Make for each behaviour a list with as many steps as you can think of to describe all the building blocks of the behaviours you want to teach your horse. The smaller the steps, the easier it is to achieve them. Think about your criteria: when are you going to the next behaviour? And write down what rewards you will be using. Remember: it must rewarding for the horse. It is the receiver that determines the reward, not the trainer. You might be reinforced by money, I bet your horse doesn’t care about it.

[-> click here to learn more about dividing big goals into small building blocks <-]

 5 Set up for success

Make sure the right answers are made easy for your horse and the wrong answers a bit more difficult. If your horse outsmarts you, change the setting. Remember: it is your goal to reward your horse as much as possible!

6 Start training

Try it and prepare to fail. Try again. Every time you fail is it just another step closer to your goal. Learning is a process. Not only for your horse, but also for you as trainer! Enjoy your journey. Keep notes, see #8.

_reinforcingscratch2

This is rewarding

7 Reward the slightest try from your horse

Yes it is time to reward! Ask again and reward his successes. His successes are yours! Go to the next step after 3 times. Increase the difficulty slightly.

8 Write down your achievements

See this post to learn about 4 easy ways to keep a training journal! [-> Click here <-]

9 Adjust training where necessary

And don’t forget to give your horse a break or holiday. My horse performs the best after a break. It keeps fascinating me how well a break works. I wish I could give my horse only breaks and still perform.

10 ENJOY time spent with your horse.

Smile! Make pictures, poems, write a blog and enjoy even more! Enjoy not only training sessions, but also spent some ZEN time together!

Sandra Poppema KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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