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3 Tips to Turn Your Training Journal into your most Effective Training Tool

The other day I was reading back in my training journal. I was in a bit of a rut and I realized how important my journal really is and what it brings me. I have accomplished more in horse training in the past 8 years, thanks to the use of my journal, than in the 25 years before that.

I used to have a ‘diary’ in which I wrote about my training, but it wasn’t helping me. My training journal became a very effective training tool when I changed how I was using it. Here is a little blurb based upon January 9th 2017,  ten months ago. It shows why I like using my journal. You will understand why I recommend it to all my clients.

 

Why writing down your goals is so important

The short term goal I wrote down in my journal in January this year was ‘cantering on the long reins over one long side of the arena‘.
_traininglogbook hippologic sandra poppema.JPGMy pitfall is -and maybe you do this too- is that I have a tendency to move the criteria of my goals all the time. The more progress I make, the more I ‘stretch’ my goal. I keep adding tiny details to it when I almost accomplished it.
The result is that I never feel ‘successful’ because I keep changing (adding to) my goal. Sounds familiar?
This doesn’t set me up for success, at all! I feel like a failure because I can never reach my goal. It is like the horizon: you can always see it, but never reach it.
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Pitfall #1 in horse training: people feel like a failure and give up.

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Success tip #1 Write. It. Down.

Is important to set your destination (not be the ‘horizon’) and divide it into smaller, achievable steps. It is important to describe it in detail. In other words: set clear criteria that you can measure. Suddenly it will be clear when you can check off your goal!
Write it down! That is so important! You won’t remember, you will add things to it if you don’t write it down. Believe me, I am doing this for 8 years and I never been so effective in my training!
I teach my clients this all the time and I see how much it helps them to look back at their goals from three weeks earlier. Then they see that they did make lots of progress and they start celebrating and patting themselves on the back and feel good! It’s awesome to see when that happens.
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Write down your goal and criteria for that goal before you start training!
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Quote from my training journal:
“When I practised long reins last Friday, Kyra cantered along one side of the arena! I didn’t realize how awesome this was. Instead I caught myself thinking: ‘This is not enough. She has to canter more collected.’ I also caught myself thinking: ‘She tried to get off the rail. I still haven’t reached my goal.
Then I stopped myself and thought: ‘This was not my short term goal: collected, and in a straight line and…, and… and…’
My goal was: Cantering along one long side of the track. Well, mission accomplished! We can do this now! Yeey us!
It was weird to realize that I reached my goal! Indeed, it was not yet a whole track in canter, but I did reach an important step towards that bigger goal!”

Success tip #2: Celebrate!

When I read back in my training journal I realized that cantering on the long reins on a straight line had been a struggle for us for over a year! So I decided I could use a little celebration to motivated me to keep going.

In order to celebrate I made a video and shared my success with my best friend, I dedicated a blog post on it and I shared it with my accountability partner. I got lots of praise and checked off my goal with a big green check mark in my journal! Wow, that felt good!

Time for the next step

My next (short term) goal is to work on ‘a collected canter along one side of the arena’ so I don’t have to run along. I will be satisfied with one stride, then two and so on, until be can do one long side of the arena. That is what I wrote in my training plan.
Another goal is to do this at the other long side of the arena (context shift), a separate goal is the other lead in canter and so on. Until everything comes together in a collected canter for minutes and including exercises as a circle.
Watch the video here:

Be specific!

Writing goals down before you start is so important. The more specific you are the better. I tell myself that the criteria I didn’t wrote down or added later don’t count as criterion to celebrate!

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Make it a habit to write your goals down first!
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By working on this one goal (‘catering on the long reins’) I provided many smaller, short term, goals for myself. That is what I like best about training: one thing leads to another.

Success tip #3: Keep track

Another important thing is that helps me succeed in my training is to keep track of my accomplishments in my journal. I do this by making videos and pictures of our accomplished goals. I tend to forget what our starting point was, which is very human. My videos and photo albums with our accomplished goals are very tangible and keep track of our journey: Kyra, from feral filly to success story.
Training journalThe feeling of accomplishment is MUCH bigger and more satisfying when you see where you really came from (your starting point) than when you only look at your latest achievement, which is always only a small part of the total of your bigger accomplishments.
When I am frustrated that things aren’t going as fast as I wish I have to remind myself that Kyra was a real wild horse and the first horse I started under saddle with positive reinforcement. I have to remind myself that I emigrated halfway the process and that this influenced our flow.
When I am frustrated the best thing is to take a look at my training logbooks, videos and photos of all our accomplished goals in order to feel better. When I do this I become always are very eager to go to the barn immediately and work on our next (tiny) goal.
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It's always the tiny goal that leads you to your biggest achievements!
- Sandra Poppema

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Read more about using a training journal successfully:

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologicSandra 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.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin
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How to Keep Track of Your Training (the easy way!)

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a dog trainers blog about using a calendar to keep track of your training days. It sounded really easy to implement and it would help you stay motivated to train your pet. It takes only 5 minutes each day.

All clicker trainers know that only 5 minutes of training a day can already have a huge impact on your horses behaviour after only a few weeks. I thought, let’s try it! (more…)

Husbandry skills: Hoof Care (part II)

In this series I will keep you posted about the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A. is scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicks out when she feels something touching her hind legs.

In my last blog I wrote how I started her training. She is now used to the clicker. She knows that a click is an announcer of good things coming her way: appetitives (in this case treats). She understands my end of session signal that tells her that there are no more treats to be earned. (more…)

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.

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?

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, B.Sc.
_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer online horse training courses to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that is FUN for both you and your horse.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.

 

Fun Friday: Easy Tricks & Tips for Fun

Get out of your normal routine and do something new and exciting with your horse this weekend. Here are some tips and tricks you can do.

One day tricks

If your horse is already clicker savvy and knows basic behaviours like leading, standing still, targeting, follow a target, mat training and backing it is very easy to teach one of these simple tricks.

Clicker trained horses are very eager to learn new things because in their experience there is a lot of good things (clicks and treats) involved. It is fun for your horse! Want to start clicker training? Start here.

_horse_hug_hippologic_click_with_your_horseHorse hug

Basic behaviours: standing still while handler stands next to shoulder and targeting.

Teach your horse to follow the target that you keep behind your back, click and reinforce for every inch his head moves in the right direction behind your head. Last step is to fade out the target. More detailed instructions can be found in this book Horse Trick Training

 

_mat_training_hippologicStanding on a pedestal

Most horses like to be a bit taller and think this is a fun exercise once they have learned it. Mat training is a good basic skill to start with.

Set your horse up for success and click and reinforce for every small step like approaching the pedestal, then investigating it and touching it with a hoof, et cetera. Raise your criteria slowly.

Before you know it your horse wants to stand on the pedestal. Therefor it is equally important to teach him to backup and dismount it. Don’t forget to reinforce that, too.

General tips

  • Keep the sessions short (5 minutes) and repeat over the weekend.
  • Give your horse a short break in between the sessions.
  • Make pictures or a video on Sunday to record your success. Please share your pictures with me on Facebook.

More fun things to do

  • Explore your surroundings and take your horse for a hand walk or hand grazing session. Read here how you can teach your horse to leave the grass voluntarily.
  • Ask a friend to go with you. Do a photo session with your horse during the sunset.
  • Hide a treat under a cone and teach your horse to find it.

_cone_hippologic

Have fun with your horse! If you have fun tips & tricks to share, please write them in the comment section. I am looking forward to hearing about your fun time with your horse.

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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Change to Positive Reinforcement

It was 1999 when I heard about clicker training for horses. I knew dolphins were trained with a whistle and fish to reward them, but that was about everything I knew.  I decided to try it out with my 21 year old pony Sholto. I learned about learning theory during my study Animal Management, but no one could tell me how to start with Sholto. So I just started…

How I started clicker training

I can’t really remember what my thoughts were at the time, but I do remember I started with some really difficult trick training exercises: touching a skippy ball, Spanish walk and _classical bow_buiging_hippologica Classical bow. The skippy ball became a ‘target’ and it was really hard to change ‘touching’ the ball into pushing the ball. That didn’t take my pleasure away, though. The Classical bow was a coincidence and I was lucky to ‘capture’ that behaviour. I can’t recall how we got to a Spanish walk.

What I learned using R+

When I started clicker training I had no idea what impact it would have on my future and my whole training approach. The most remarkable changes (in hindsight) are:

  • I learned to ‘listen to my horse‘ by studying his body language
  • I learned a lot about learning theory.
  • I love to approach behaviour now as a matter of motivation: is the horse moving away from something or moving towards something? Is something else (than the ___clickertraining_hippologictraining/trainer) more enticing? By looking at the motivation of the horse, I can now skip the whole ‘leadership’ and ‘dominance’ discussion in training.
  • I learned to think out of the box and became more creative in training. I now have so many different ways to elicit behaviour and put it on cue.
  • Shaping. I learned the power of shaping, a wonderful tool in training.
  • Timing.
  • The power of using a marker to mark (a step towards) the desired behaviour.
  • Planning and the power of keeping a journal.

I truly believe that I wouldn’t have grown so much as a horse trainer if it wasn’t for positive reinforcement. One of the best changes is that I learned to focus on what goes well instead of what went wrong! A change that bears fruit in all facets of my life!

How about you?

What are your most remarkable changes since you started using positive reinforcement for your horse? How did clicker training influenced you as trainer, horse lover or in your personal life?

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Key lessons for Trainers

Earlier this year I wrote about the key lessons (your keys to success) for horses. Not only the horse needs to be set up for success, but also the trainer. These three key lessons are for trainers. They will help you reach your goals quicker and enjoy the journey more: a training plan, a shaping plan and a training diary.

Training plan
If you know what it is you want to achieve, it is easy to distill a step-by-step plan from your goal. The difficulty is to determine: what are your goals and how important are they?

Goals
Ask yourself: is my goal really my own goal or is it more or less influenced by others? It is harder to achieve a goal if you lack intrinsic motivation . You can’t always influence the extrinsic motivators so if they disappear what’s left?

If your motivation is to get compliments or approval from your fellow equestrians and nobody notices it, it can be a real disappointment. It will be much harder keep going. Or maybe you are working on something your instructor wants you to do and you don’t see the value in this particular exercise.

If you’ve been teaching your horse something because you like it and you enjoy the process of teaching it, you will feel the satisfaction of your accomplished goal much longer. Therefor you will be looking forward to working on your next goal.

_dream_goals_ HippoLogic

Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
So, think about your equestrian goals. Ask yourself if it is really you that wants to achieve it, or is it someone else’s goal? Think about what it feels like when you’ve accomplished your goal. Do you want it because you like it, or do you want it to get approval of an outsider or maybe you think you are supposed to do it.

I know a lot of people who don’t ride their horse for various reasons. They all feel more or less pressured all the time to defend their choice to outsiders. I know some of them will ride because ‘it is expected’. As you can understand this kind of motive will not give pleasure. Riding can become a real struggle.

Letting go 
Sometimes you have to let go of goals. That can be painful. Keep in mind that is is OK to change your mind and your goals. It is easier if you understand why you want to let go of your goal(s).

If you don’t like to ride your horse because you’ve discovered that you have a fear of riding (a real taboo for equestrians) you can choose to work on your fear with a trustworthy instructor who respects your boundaries. Or, you can choose to let go of your riding goals. If you know what motivates your choices it is also much easier to ‘own your story’.

Sometimes you discover that your goals or motivation have changed and that it’s time to redefine your goals. It is much easier to work on a goal that you really want, than a goal that has been expired.

Keep track of accomplishments
One way to keep yourself motivated is to keep track of your achievements by keeping a training journal.

Most people have a tendency to compare themselves to others, which is almost never a fair comparison. I’ve heard someone once saying: “You always compare the best of others, to the worst of yourself.” Yes, sometimes this is true. Better compare yourself with… yourself. The only fair way to do this is to keep track of your own journey and to realize often how far you’ve already come.

It is your journey and as long as you are making progress you are doing a good job! Keep that in mind.

Next time I will write more about shaping plans.

Links to other key lessons

Thank you for reading. Let me know how what you think is a valuable basic in clicker training and why.

Sandra Poppema
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