Empowering Equestrians to Train their own horse with 100% Force Free & Horse Friendly methods

Posts tagged ‘tips’

Time saving barn hacks

All equestrians know that having a horse and working at a barn is hard work. Feeding, watering and turn ins/outs are time consuming. To save some time I made a list of time saving barn hacks I used myself.

Barnhack_hippologicBrush on a string

For buckets in paddocks and pastures keep a brush on a string attached to the bucket. Without the string it wanders off… For stalls a dishwasher brush works perfect.

Keep a skimmer handy

For big water buckets that are not emptied daily, keep a skimmer at hand to take hay and leaves off of the water surface. Works much faster than using your hands and in winter you keep your hand dry and warm.

Use a leave blower to sweep the isles

Needless to say that you can only use a leave blower when there are no horses inside. It causes a lot of dust to fly around. Wear a dust mask and earplugs.

Teach all the horses how you want them to behave

This is a time investment but well worth it. Teach them all that they have to keep their heads low while haltering, put their noses into the halters themselves and walk with you without pushing or pulling.

Teach them some food etiquette

Rule about safe and desired behaviour around food is not innate. It is taught.Feeding horses_hippologic

When I worked at a barn in the weekends it only took me 3 weekends to teach the horses that hay and grain where only provided to horses who kept 4 feet on the ground and stepped back & looked away so I could throw in the flakes of hay in their stalls (which saved time and increased my safety). I hate the noise 15 horses can produce when they are kicking their doors simultaneously.

Master the hay nets

If you need to fill hay nets I hope you use square slow-feeder nets. They are a bit more expensive but you can fill them up in a few seconds.

If you have to fill old fashioned hay nets use a plastic roll-up sled to keep the opening of the net open. They are a $3 -$10 dollar investment and save a lot of man hours.

Key ring knife

When I was a barn help I bought a small key ring knife to open up bales. You can also cut through baling twine with another piece of baling twine and use it like a saw. Or attach a pair of scissors to the wheelbarrow you use for feeding.

Do you have useful barn hack? Please share it with us! We would love to hear about them.

Thank you.

Sandra Poppema
If you want to teach your horse to behave around food or feeding time, visit my website and book an online consult.

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Interpretation of behaviour

Today I visited a beautiful barn with some horses and a goat. I was invited into the stall where the goat lived. The handler had warned me that the goat sometimes headbutts.

It was a friendly goat and she came up to me to greet and was well mannered. She stood in front of me, sniffed me and waited. I thought it was very polite, especially for a goat. They are, after all famous for their love of food and I was carrying pellets in my pocket. Then she kind of put her head gently in my hand. I thought that was so sweet…

I am used to cats and horses, and I am not familiar with goats. Because she put her head in my hands I automatically assumed that she wanted to be scratched behind her ears. Of course I did what she asked. Let me rephrase that: of course I did what I thought she meant.

The goat re-positioned her head, so a few seconds later I was scratching in between her long, pointy horns. As soon as I touched those horns I remember thinking: “Oops, Goats don’t like to be touched on their horns”. Humans are slow and animals are fast, so before I knew it I had accepted the goats invitation to play. Goat play involves a lot of rearing and headbutts. So she ‘attacked’ me. Ouch!

Although she hurt my wrist, she didn’t use too much force. So I think it was just play. She only used a bit more force than I can handle or more than I like. I don’t like headbutts at all!

I realized quickly that I had misread her invite to play for an invite to scratch her ears. I didn’t know what to do or how I could get her stop so I basically jumped out of her stall and quickly closed the door. She headbutted the door quite hard and I was glad the door was between us now. I think she was disappointed that I had left the game so soon. After her headbutting the door I turned around, because I didn’t want to encourage her behaviour in any way by giving her attention. I just didn’t know what to do.

 

It did make me realize how easy it is to misread an animals’ behaviour if you have no experience with the species or have no knowledge about the natural behaviour of the animal. I thought about novice horse owners and how hard it must be to be around a large animal that you know nothing about and what you know is probably outdated. Sounds scary!

Back to the goat and her headbutting. I suggested we give the goat a playmate or  a punching bag to play with. If she had a playmate or thing to play with she wouldn’t have to use humans as playmates. I hope it will work and will let you know if it works.

Have you ever misinterpreted the behaviour of an animal and gotten into trouble? Share your story in the comments. Thanks!

UPDATE: this goat is adopted and lives now among a lot of other goats. 🙂

Sandra Poppema
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Bridges, powerful tools 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. Animals like it when they have the feeling they can control the environment (you and his rewards).

Advantage of a clicker
A 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.

_clickers

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
For tailored advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult today!

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5 Tips to Expand your Horse’s Horizon

We have all encountered times when we think “Now what?” at the barn. Maybe you have already reached all your equestrian goals, maybe your horse became sick and needed rest, maybe you got injured, maybe you just bought a young horse, or a senior horse… We all need inspiration if we don’t know what to teach our horse next.

#1 Horse Agility (HA)
In HA you have to navigate your horse through an obstacle course while focusing on clear communication and positive horsemanship. Horse and handler are both on foot. Horse Agility can help build a very close relationship with your horse and it keeps your horse’s mind working constructively. Skills developed in HA are very useful in daily routines as well as in new and possibly scary situations. You can even enter online competitions these days where you send in a video.

#2 Trick Training (TT)
TT is a great way to improve the relationship with your horse. You become aware of your horses intelligence and it is a fun way to spent time together. There are many simple tricks that are suitable for horses of all ages, like smiling or playing fetch. Some exercises are beneficial and can increase the horses strength and flexibility like the classical bow or the back crunch._classical bow_buiging_hippologic

#3 Training husbandry skills
If your horse already knows a lot of tricks, you can start improving your husbandry skills. Ever thought of teaching your _dewormingcanbe_horse how to be dewormed easily or preparing him for oral medication you might need to give him some day? Teach him to accept eye drops or ointment, practice hoof trimming, braiding, taking your horses temperature, teach him to stand in a bucket of water in case you need to soak his feet. The possibilities are endless and you never know when these skills come in handy.

#4 Trailer loading
Best way to train this is if there is no goal or time limit yet. Read here the 4 reasons to start practising trailer loading today. If you don’t own a trailer, this is worth renting a trailer for.

#5 Water training
There are so many situations in which water is involved. During the summer months you can have fun water proofing your horse. _soaking feet in water bucket_horse training_hippologicThink of soaking hooves in a bucket, hosing down your horse, crossing water (river, water splash, muddy puddles), water obstacles in HA, going for a swim with your horse, spraying your horse with a plant spray and so on.

I hope I have given you some ideas to expand your horizons. Have fun!

Sandra Poppema
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Easy way to clean Velcro or Hook and Loop

Velcro or Hoop & Loop are great inventions. It is used on many items like horse boots, blankets, bandages, breeches, bags, braces, gloves, safety vests and so on. The downside is that in the barn Velcro always get full of horse hair, hay and dirt. Everyone with horses knows that._velcro_cleaning_closeup_hippologic

Cleaning
I found a really easy way to clean Velcro. Before I wash anything with Velcro on it, I first clea__Velcro_hippologic_cleaningn the Velcro and close it before I put it into my machine. I don’t want all that hay and hair in there.

Metal cat brush
One day I bought this cheap brush for my cats at the Dollarshop. My cats hates it because it is really sharp with the metal ‘hairs’.

I started to brush my IKEA sheepskins with it before vacuuming. They got really nice and fluffy again, so I started to use that brush on my fake sheepskin saddle pad. That worked great too: it got all nice and soft and fluffy again.

Then I started the brush on cleaning the brush on my vacuum cleaner and one day I tried on Velcro. Wow!_velcro2_boot_hippologic

Fast, easy and cheap
This brush really does an amazing job on Velcro. I can really recommend it. I wonder why no tackshop is selling these brushes. It would be a real hit. With the metal cat brush I can clean Velcro in a matter of seconds as you can see in this video. I think I only paid $1 or maybe $2 , so it is a really good buy!

Happy Easter and Happy Spring cleaning!_velcro2a1_boot_hippologic

Enjoy the video I made about it. Please leave a comment, thank you!

Sandra Poppema

My 5 best investments for my horse

What is the best investment you did that improved your horse’s life? While I was pondering about this question multiple things came up. In a random order I’ll give you my 5 best investments below.

1) Knowledge
I’ve spent hours and hours reading about horse behaviour, their needs, health and training. boeken_hippologic_kennisWhen I was editor at a publishing house which specialized in animal books I traveled by train. For four years I read 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, on my way back home. Every single day. And at work I read about pets and horses too! I also invested time in watching YouTube videos, attending demo’s and clinics and taking and giving lessons. The best way to learn something is to teach it, is what they say.

2) Time
It takes time to learn new skills. I took me hours and hours of practice to master riding, taking care of horses, training them and teaching them new behaviours and so on. Time is a really good investment. One of my favourite sayings about time is: Take the time it takes, then it takes less time. So, invest time in yourself and in your horse. It pays back really well.

3) Boarding

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Mees, Ziggy & Kyra (left)

An expensive monthly investment is boarding your horse. I have really high standard for boarding facilities. It must have everything to make my horse happy: they must be living in a herd, have 24/7 access to roughage & water, shelter and room to exercise daily. And besides that, I have a few requirements myself: access to trails, indoor/outdoor, a washroom and I also value nice human company. The only thing that grows by sharing is happiness, right?

Most important of all: the facility must provide excellent care for my horse. Because that saves me a lot of worrying. Sleepless nights and worrying all day about the safety or health of my horse kills my happiness instantly.

4) Cavesson
I just love my cavesson. When I bought it I thought it was way too expeKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAnsive, but all my knowledgeable horse friends recommended a cavesson. I am very grateful I listened. And I am grateful for my friend Saskia who convinced me to buy one without a polstered chain in the nose band.

My Vienna cavesson, with a nice soft leather padded nose band, has proven to be a very versatile piece of equipment. I’ve used it almost every day for the past 5 years. It is still nice and beautiful after all those years and it is a very gentle piece of tack.

5) Clicker
The cheapest investment and one that is even more versatile than my Vienna cavesson, is my clicker. It is such a powerful tool to communicate to animals once you know how to use it. If you can think it, you can train it!

Let me know what your 5 best investments in your horse are.

Sandra Poppema
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5 Tips to improve your riding immediately

#1 Keep on B breathebreathing
As instructor I often see that riders improve instantly if they start breathing again. If a rider is concentrating or ‘doing her best’ they hold their breath. What impact does that have on their body?

If you hold your breath you get tense in a lot of places. If you flex your muscles too much, you cannot move with your horse anymore. In other words you are making it so hard on your horse to move freely that it then becomes harder for you to follow your horses movement.

Experiment
If have a yoga ball or an office chair you can do this little experiment. Sit on the ball or chair and move forward and backward while holding your upper body still. What is easier? To breathe in while you are moving the ball/chair forward or backward? Why do you think that is? What happens when you hold your breath? Do you feel tension?

On the horse
While riding something similar happens when you hold your breath. Make it a habit that every time you ride along the letter B, you think: “B means breathe”.

#2 Check if there is tension you can let go
Can you wiggle your toes in your boots while riding? Is your tongue relaxed? No, check your breathing againrelax. See if you can relax as much as possible without becoming Jello. My own instructor often said: “Be like a twig: straight but flexible so you can still move and follow the horses movements”. Another tip she gave me was to imagine you “ride with your skeleton, not with your muscles”. Imagine you stack your vertebra, shoulders, neck and head in a balanced pile so you don’t have to use your muscles to keep straight.

#3 Keep your head up
Apparently your head weighs about 5 kilograms. If you tilt your head forward, to look at your horse, your balance is already disturbed. Imagine a stick with a rotating plate on it. How does the plate stay on the stick? Because the plate is balanced on the stick. If the stick was not in the middle of the plate it would fall. Your head is luckily attached to your spine and therefor it will not fall off. But your muscles have to work hard to prevent you from falling off of your horse. That causes… tension. See #2.

#4 Make a habit of checking your posture
It is hard when you ride by yourself to check on yourself. Especially when you don’t have mirrors in your (outdoorC check) arena.

Here are a few tips. Make simple reminders for yourself. For example, C stands for “Checking my posture”. Every time you pass along the letter C, you check if you can wiggle your toes in your boots and if your tongue is relaxed.  Check also if your head is straight above your vertebra.

Every time you ride along the letter B you remember to Breathe.  Ask yourself: “Am I holding my breath?”

#5 Smile!Smile 
Smiling makes you relaxed. Have you ever smiled when you were tense? That is not a real smile. Try it now. Breathe, relax and try a friendly, loving smile and feel how it relaxes your body. So don’t forget to smile while you are riding.

Sandra Poppema
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