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Setting your equestrian goals for 2017, start now!

It is already November, almost December. This time of year I like to reflect. This way I can see what my accomplishments were in 2016 (and feel good about myself), figure out what my pitfalls were (if I had any) and use this information to improve my training approach in 2017. Do you want to join me? Sign up for my newsletter to stay updated about my online courses.

The next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’ starts March 3rd, 2017

Reflecting on 2016

When I read in my training logbook of 2016 I smile. I see so many small improvements we made, but all together it is a big improvement. Here are just a few of the achievements I found, reading back. The list is really too long to summarize here.

Husbandry skills

  • We worked on the ‘Carpet of Motivation‘ (I taught Kyra to ignore grass and also to stop grazing on a light cue and even leave a juicy patch of grass when I ask her to come along)
  • We worked on her behaviour during hoof trims. We practised to keep her legs longer up in the air without losing balance, don’t pulls the leg back, lift legs before the farrier starts using R-techniques like squeezing chestnuts or tendens. This seems like an on going training goal, but this year I really see a lot of improvement.
  • Haltering skills. I retrained another horse and taught him to put his head in the halter. This was such a nice little touch that I came up with the idea to teach Kyra too to ‘halter herself’. Now I hold the halter in front of her and she puts her head in there herself.
  • Improved positioning at the mounting block. Now we can do this even at liberty (thanks to the hip target), watch the video here.

Trick training

  • Hug (from this book Horse Trick Training)_tricktraining_horse_hug_hippologic.jpg
  • Simple bow
  • Score‘: Kyra picks up take an object on cue and puts it in a bucket
  • Hip target: move towards the target with her hip. She can do the hip target left and right. If I would have known that this exercise would be so easy to teach I would have started this years earlier. I thought it would be very complicated so I procrastinated starting. It comes in handy in all kinds of situations.
  • Confirm and polish Spanish walk at liberty, under saddle and on the long reins. It turned out to be very simple to transfer this exercise once she understood it.

Riding

  • Practised riding with other horses/riders in arena. Kyra acts scared and defensive towards other horses if they come too close. She has improved, but with a new horse it starts all over.
  • Improved cantering: transition trot-canter and we worked on duration of the canter successfully.

Long reining

  • Made a start with cantering on the long reins

At liberty:

  • Jumping at liberty
  • Jumping at liberty over a double jump

This is just a small selection of things we worked on. I really like to read back in my journals because it makes me realize how easy we forget the good things and all the improvements.

Goals in 2017

My goals for next year will be simply building upon the achievements from this year. I will start on lateral gaits in canter and improve the lateral gaits in trot under saddle and on the long reins. I also want to add some new tricks like catching a cloth, levade and kneeling on one knee.

My 2017 To do-list

I will also write down some fun things I want to do that aren’t real training goals but things  I like to do with my horse such as trail rides, a photo shoot, participating in _cooperative_horse_hippologica horse agility competition and practice riding a pas-de-deux. Riding a pas-de-deux is on my goal list since Kyra’s behaviour under saddle and being close to other horses could stand improving.

Do you want to join me?

Are you inspired yet? I know I am!

December will be HippoLogic’s Goal Setting Month. I am thinking hashtag #decembergoalsetting. Do you need some help to set some goals and stick with them?

Sign up for my free course at http://clickertraining.ca (Please check your email/spam folder to find the confirmation link.)

If you want to get inspired or become an inspiration to other equestrians join my Facebook group Happy Herd and keep in touch! Clicker trainers welcome!

Happy goal setting!

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website or send me an email with your question to info@clickertraining.ca

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How to use a training logbook for your horse

A training diary can be a valuable tool in achieving your training goals if you know how. A logbook is not ‘just a diary’ where you describe what you did that day. In order to get the most out of your training diary keep these tips in mind.

Purpose of journaling
The reason to keep a logbook is to keep track of your achievements and learn from it. Therefor you need to write down your goal(s) and your progress. If you don’t write these down, it is hard to remember them correctly. You can get the feeling of ‘never achieving’ because your mind will adjust your goals and your achievements like a horizon. You will never arrive… As soon as you write some of your goals down, your subconcious will start looking for ways to get there. Keeping a logbook can help you keep motivated.

Learn from experience
If you want to learn as much as possible from your experience you have to be honest and write down the things that you can learn from.

Keep it positive
Practice writing everything down in a positive way, so it is nice to read back. Instead of writing down ‘I was impatient and lost my temper’ phrase it like this ‘I became frustrated because my steps were too big. My horse didn’t understand what I wanted and I became impatient.’

In this way you will find a solution to handle the situation in the future: you ‘lumped’ your criteria. Next time you can decide to stop your training and take a moment to figure out how to ‘split’ the criteria in smaller steps or adjust the context of training so your horse will understand quicker what you want. In this way you set yourself and your horse up for success.

Read here to read 4 easy ways to start a  training journal (opens in a new window).

Training_logbook_journal_diary_hippologic2016

Lessons learned
It is also a valuable to write down all the things that went right. This makes you aware of the lessons you’ve are already learned. It also makes you aware of your strengths as a trainer. After updating your logbook for a while you will see a pattern: the points of learning have turned into things that went right. This is very motivating.

Keep it balanced
Make sure the points for improvement are not outbalancing the things that went right. We all have the tendency to focus too much on things that went ‘wrong’, but that won’t help you form a realistic picture of you as a trainer. There are always a lot of thing you have already mastered. They are important, too.

If you write down three things to change in your next training, also write down three things you are content about. This may feel uneasy to you in the beginning, but positive reinforcement is all about focusing on the things that go (in the) right (direction), in order to get more of it.

You can also split it between the things your horse did well and the things you, as trainer, did well. Example: ‘my horse was interested in my training for half an hour’, ‘my horse made progress in exercise X’, ‘I have set my horse up to succeed by keeping my criteria clear’, ‘I kept my training sessions short and sweet by counting the treats in my pocket before I started’.

Goals achieved
Celebrate achieving your goals: make a picture or video to remember, share it with friends, your coach or your accountability partner. Enjoy your achievements big and small!

Timeline
A training diary also helps you to keep track of your timeline and practice hours. Did it take as long as you expected? You can write how long your training sessions are. Maybe you are used to thinking in ‘weeks or months’ to achieve something, I think it is more useful and realistic to think in the amount of training sessions or training days.

Example: Instead of ‘It took me 3 months to teach my horse to lift his legs for the farrier’ a logbook can help you see ‘it took 12 weeks: each week we practiced 4 days. Each day consisted out of 5 training sessions of 6 minutes max.’ Now you know you only practiced 28 days (not three months/ 90 days) and each day you practiced a maximum of 30 minutes a day. The training took 14 hours in total to achieve your goal. That sounds different than ‘three months’, right?

A training diary is all about making yourself conscious. Keep it motivating and phrase things in a positive way so it will be pleasant to read back.

 

Tell me about your training logbook!

Here is the clicker training logbook I use and give away for FREE:
Free Clicker Training Logbook – Word version: free_training-logbook-made-by-hippologic-2016-word
Free Clicker Training Logbook – Pdf file: free_training-logbook-made-by-hippologic-2016

Sandra Poppema
For tailored advise, please visit my website

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Power of a Bridge Signal in Horse Training

Recently I have received the same question from several people. Why do you need a clicker when you could just use your voice as a bridging signal? What are the advantages of a clicker?

Why a bridging signal is needed
If you want to reinforce certain behaviour one has to reward the horse at the moment the behaviour is still going on or within a few seconds the behaviour has stopped in order for the animal to associate the behaviour with the reward he is receiving. It is almost impossible to give the horse his reward during the behaviour, which is why positive reinforcement trainers use a bridge signal.

_hondenclicker

Bridge 
A bridge or bridging signal is a specific signal for the horse that connects the moment the reward is given to the behaviour he was doing. Most clicker trainers use a special device named a clicker as bridge. The clicker makes a click sound.

When the horse has learned that a click is always followed by a reward, the horse starts to pay really good attention to the behaviour he was displaying at the time of the click. He is smart and he wants to train you to give him more clicks. This makes the bridge signal a powerful tool in horse training: it is a simple but clear way of communicating what you want.

Animals like it when they have the feeling they can control the environment (you and the reinforcer).

Advantage of a clicker
_secret_horsetraining_hippologicA clicker always makes the same sound and therefor it ‘travels’ the same path in the brain. The horse understands quickly what the sounds means. A click is not influenced by emotions of the human voice. It doesn’t matter who presses the clicker, it still sounds the same. So other people can ride and train your horse without confusing the horse about the bridge signal. The click of a clicker can be delivered instantly. Timing is everything. The more accurate your bridge is, the easier the horse learns what you want to reward him for.

Other bridges
As long as the bridge signal  is a specific sound it can be used. I taught my horse to respond to different bridges. I use the high pitched and long stretched word “Good” as bridge and Kyra also knows that my tongue click is a bridge.

Advantages of other bridges
The main advantages of a verbal bridge and a tongue click are obvious. The first is that you always have it with you. No matter where you go you can always use your bridging signal.

The second is being able to keep your hands free. Using a clicker always requires a hand to click with. In some situations being able to use both hands can have be a huge advantage.

Disadvantages of a vocal bridge
A vocal bridge always has a little delay, because before you can speak you have to inhale fist. Your voice also can differ according to circumstances: a cold may effect your voice, but also your emotions. When I am excited or annoyed the pitch can change, for us it means the same thing because we know the meaning of the letter of a word. A horse knows the meaning of the sounds of a word. Because your voice sounds only “generally” the same every time, it makes a different, wider pathway in the brain. This sound means: a reward is coming. And this one too. And this one means the same thing. The horse needs to decide every time he hears your voice: was this a bridge or not? Therefor it can take a little longer for the horse to become “clicker savvy” with a voice bridge.

When I introduced the word ‘Good’ I still lived in The Netherlands. They generally don’t speak English to horses, so it was a safe word to use. It was a unique sound. I was the only one who used it and my horse was never trained by someone else. The difficultly with the word “Good” in Canada is that other people use it as praise (reward) instead as bridge signal. That means it might not always be followed by a reward. This can confuse the horse.

Another reason to teach your horse the click of a clicker as the bridge: other people can train or ride your horse and communicate clearly. The click sounds the same every time.

Related post: Introduce your horse to the click

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website or send me an email with your question to info@clickertraining.ca

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My favourite motto is… Make haste slowly…

Is the translation of a Latin saying. A saying with a long history starting with the Romans. Festina lente, maybe you’ve heard of it.

To me this has proven a very valuable oxymoron  and it is one of my favourite personal mantras in horse training. If you take the time it takes, than it takes less time.

So many times I wanted a result right away, but couldn’t get it. These are perfect moments to remind myself: make haste slowly. To take the time to step back and rethink my strategy. Reminding myself to make haste slowly has helped me in so many ways.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Prevent frustration

If you consider your training goals first and make a plan before you start training your horse, it helps prevent pitfalls that lead to frustration. Don’t only focus on the goal, the result but also take into consideration the way that leads to your goal.

Don’t forget: you are part of a team

In horse training/riding it is not only about your results. You have to take your equine partner into consideration.

When I just started Kyra under the saddle I wanted to canter. My (classical) dressage trainer said: ‘Just wait, she will offer canter when she’s ready’. But… I wanted it ‘now’. ‘Kyra was already 6 weeks under saddle,’ was my argument. ‘If professional trainers could teach a horse to walk, trot and canter within 6 weeks after starting a horse under saddle, why couldn’t I do it?’

I took my trainers advise and didn’t push it. One day Kyra indeed offered canter under saddle. Since I use a bridge signal and rewards, I could clearly communicate to Kyra that this was what I wanted. I gave her a jackpot (a really, really reinforcing reward). From that day on ‘canter’ was part of our repertoire. I was glad I waited until Kyra was ready and I was glad I listened to the advise of my wise trainer. But it was hard…. I wanted quick results so badly.

Now I know from my own experience that Festina lente is one of the best mantras one can have when educating a horse. Learning can’t be rushed. I think Kyra’s canter wouldn’t have been so balanced if I had rushed her. I probably would have damaged our relationship by asking her something to do which she couldn’t do at the time. Something that’s very clear in hindsight.

I think ‘set yourself and your horse up for success’ goes hand in hand with Festina lente. What are your favourite mantras in horse training?

Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult!

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‘Clickertraining werkt niet bij mijn paard’

Mijn eerste reactie als iemand me vertelt ‘Clickertraining werkt niet bij mijn paard’ is ‘Waarom niet? Slaapt hij?’. Dat is natuurlijk een grapje. (Click here for the English version of this text.)

Er zijn eigenlijk maar twee manieren om paarden iets te leren. Bij de ene manier versterkt men het gedrag door iets vervelends (een ‘aversive) weg te nemen als het paard het juiste doet (deze methode heet negative reinforcement, -R) en bij de andere manier wordt iets prettigs (eenappetitive‘) aan het paard gegeven om het gedrag te versterken (dit heet positive reinforcement, +R).

Wat is de achterliggende betekenis van de bewering ‘Clickertraining werkt niet bij mijn paard’? Betekent het dat:

  • De trainer het concept van +R niet (helemaal) snapt en het daarom ook niet goed toepast?
  • Het paard niet op het brugsignaal, de clicker, reageert?
  • Het paard niet geïnteresseerd is in de beloningen die de trainer biedt?
  • Het paard niet op de trainer let en daarom ook niet op zijn aanwijzingen en/of clicker reageert?
  • Clickertraining alleen maar soms werkt?
  • Het paard soms zelfs slechter presteert als de trainer clickertraining gebruikt.

__Clicker_training_werkt_niet_hippologic

#1 Trainer snapt het concept niet
Er kan nogal wat ‘mis’ gaan als de trainer zich niet bewust is van zijn invloed op het paard, of als hij niet snapt wat hij aan het doen is en daardoor een ander resultaat verwacht dan hij krijgt. De basisbegrippen die een clickertrainer moet kennen zijn: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcementbrugsignaaltimingshaping behaviourveilig voedselbeloningen aanbieden, cues, reinforcer (= versterkers) en de leer theorie.

#2 Het paard reageert niet op de clicker
Kan het paard het brugsignaal (de click, tongklik of je speciale woord) horen? Kent jouw paard de betekenis van je brugsignaal? Gemiddeld duurt het 30 tot 50 herhalingen voordat een paard heeft geleerd dat het brugsignaal (click + beloning, click + beloning, click + beloning enz.) de aankondiging is van iets prettigs.

Klinkt je brugsignaal altijd hetzelfde? Een clicker maakt slechts één soort geluid en daardoor ‘reist’ het altijd over hetzelfde pad in de hersenen. Met andere woorden: het paard weet, dat als hij dat geluid hoort, altijd een beloning volgt.

Als men een speciaal woord gebruikt, kan het langer duren voordat dit als ‘brugsignaal’ in de paardenhersenen gegrift staat. De stem wordt beïnvloed door vele factoren: emoties, een verkoudheid, het volume, toonhoogte.

Doordat een gesproken brugsignaal altijd een klein beetje anders klinkt, duurt het langer voor een paard het voldoende generaliseert. Hij moet altijd eerst ‘beslissen’ of dit wel of niet het brugsignaal was. Het kan daardoor ook iets langer duren voor het paard goed reageert op het brugsignaal en het aangeduide gedrag gaat herhalen.

Als men verschillende soorten brugsignalen gebruikt, moet men zich ervan verzekeren dat ze allemaal apart zijn aangeleerd.

Het kan ook zijn dat het paard het brugsignaal nog niet associeert met de beloning die erop volgt, zie #3.

#3 Het paard is niet geïnteresseerd in beloningen
Het ‘geheim’ dat in de beloningen schuilt, is dat het het gewenste gedrag moet versterken. ‘De ontvanger bepaalt de beloning’ wordt vaak gezegd in clickertraining. Dat houdt in dat als het paard het gewenste gedrag niet opnieuw wil uitvoeren nadat hij ervoor beloont was, de beloning dus niet belonend werkte.

Het is aan de trainer om te ontdekken wat het paard wil en wat zijn behoeften zijn. Een beloning kan ook veranderen in waarde. Een plukje lekker ruikend hooi kan in de winter een lekkere beloning zijn, maar niet in de lente als hij in een weiland vol sappig voorjaarsgras loopt. Het is de verantwoordelijkheid van de trainer om uit te vinden wat werkt voor dat paard op dat moment.

#4 Het paard let niet op de trainer
Waarom niet? Is er iets urgenter dan de aanwijzingen van de trainer? Kan de afleiding worden weggehaald of kan het paard beter elders getraind worden die dag? Denkt het paard dat hij in gevaar is? Het doet er niet toe of de persoon het gevaar niet ziet of denkt dat het paard zich ‘aanstelt’. Voor het paard is het echt!

Is het paard in de leermodus? Is hij ontspannen genoeg en voldoende geïnteresseerd om iets nieuws te leren?

Reageert het paard goed op het brugsignaal, zie #2? Zijn de cues duidelijk en begrijpt het paard ze? Houdt de trainer het paard betrokken of is hij zelf afgeleid? Is het paard gefrustreerd of heeft hij zich mentaal afgesloten om een of andere reden? Werken de beloningen gedragsversterkend? Wordt het juiste gedrag gemarkeerd door het brugsignaal? Het draait allemaal om timing: ‘You get what you reinforce’.

_clickertraining_hippologic_reinforce

#5 Clickertraining lijkt slechts in sommige gevallen te werken
Het kan zijn dat het paard niet in de beloning geïnteresseerd is die dag, zie bij #3. Hij kan afgeleid zijn, zie bij #4. Het kan zijn dat de cue nog niet voldoende is bevestigd in een andere trainingsomgeving. Paarden leren in een bepaalde context en als daarin iets veranderd moet het paard opnieuw leren de cue van de trainer daaruit destilleren.

Het paard reageert niet zo goed omdat de trainer zijn criteria te snel omhoog gooit. Als de trainingsstappen te groot zijn of er teveel criteria tegelijk veranderen, snapt het paard het niet meer. Dit wordt ook wel ‘lumping’ genoemd in het Engels. Voorkom ‘lumping’ door een goed shaping plan te maken. Het beloningsschema is te voorspelbaar, zie bij #6.

#6 Het paard presteert slechter door clickertraining
De beloningen hebben hun waarde verloren waardoor het paard geen interesse meer heeft. Het kan ook zijn dat het beloningsschema te voorspelbaar is geworden waardoor het gedrag juist ‘uitdooft’ (niet meer vertoond wordt). Met andere woorden: de click motiveert het paard niet meer.

Uiteraard is dit slechts het topje van de ijsberg van mogelijke oorzaken waarom ‘clickertraining / positive reinforcement niet werkt’ voor jou(w paard).

Welke oorzaken kun jij nog noemen?

Sandra Poppema
Bezoek mijn website voor persoonlijk advies of hulp bij clickertraining

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