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

Posts tagged ‘training plan’

Ever felt frustrated in riding/training? Do this!

Every rider, every horse owner and every trainer has experienced frustration at one point. I notice that some people are frustrated more than others. What to do about frustration? Take it out on your horse? Or try to prevent it (is that even possible)?

The people who I see struggling with frustration are the people who don’t have a clear plan when they are riding or training their horse. They don’t split their goal into tiny building blocks and work their way systematically through the process. They tend to move their goals (criteria) during training, so they have the feeling they never succeed. That would be the same as having ‘getting to the horizon’ as your goal: you will never succeed!

The 1 million dollar question

If you feel frustration stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself ‘why am I feeling this right now’? These are possible answers:

  • Are you asking too much of yourself?
  • Are you asking too much of your horse?
  • Are you comparing yourself with others (who might be at a whole different point in their journey with their horse)?
  • Are you making your steps too big (‘lumping‘), are you discouraging or confusing your horse?
  • Did you make (and write) a realistic plan before you started training/riding your horse?
  • Are you positively reinforcing yourself and your horse enough to keep going?
  • Do you give yourself and your horse enough time to process the training?
  • Who is telling you that you have to accomplish ‘this’ (whatever that is) right now?
  • Did you prepare your horse enough to this situation?

Prevent frustration

First of all: stop beating yourself up! It doesn’t help you and it only make things worse. Second: don’t beat up your horse. He can’t help it, he is just a horse. You don’t want to regret taking your frustration out on him.

If you feel frustration coming up, simply stop what you’re trying to accomplish and take a few moments to pause. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the questions above.

In order to prevent frustration make training goals and plan every step in the process. Make a good shaping plan and if you get stuck, pause and take another look at your shaping plan to see if you are lumping (skipping steps in the process to the goal behaviour). If you don’t know how to do this: ask help!_frustration_in_training_horse_hippologic

Frustration is not necessary!

Take baby steps in your training. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small! Don’t forget to write your goals and your achievements¬†down: we have a tendency to forget or play down our own achievements! ūüėČ Start a training journal today!

You’re not the only one

We have all experienced frustration from time to time. If I see frustrated riders it reminds me of me a long time ago. When I was using ‘traditional training’ (which meant: there is no plan to follow) I used to be frustrated all the time!

I must say I almost never frustrated with my horse anymore and if I feel frustration coming up I know to deal with it before damaging my relationship with Kyra.

Change your focus

Changing my focus was a big help in preventing frustration. Instead of saying ‘no’ to my horse (and myself) all the time, I learned to focused on the ‘yes’.

Instead of saying ‘why are you always walking away when I want to mount, stupid horse!’ I learned to focus on the few seconds she could (and would) stand still and encourage this behaviour. Because I now reinforced my horse with treats to stand still, of course Kyra became very motivated to display that behaviour more and more! Shifting my focus from the ‘walking away’ to the ‘four hooves on the ground’ was such an eye opener!

Calling your horse names, will not give you a good feeling, even if it gives you temporary satisfaction.

Yes, it is easy to blame your horse and call him ‘stupid’ but be honest: Does it really give you a good feeling that you have a ‘stupid’ horse?

Wouldn’t you feel better about yourself if you had a¬†‘handsome and smart’ horse? I think that a smart horse can only be smart if the owner gives the freedom and opportunity to show how smart he really is! Don’t call yourself or your horse names. It is not encouraging or supporting for you or your horse in any way. Start feeling compassion for yourself. Be gentle: you are on a journey, learning is a process.

Last but not least

Never compare yourself or your horse with anybody else. We might be comparing our ‘worst’ with their ‘best’. They might be in a whole different stage of their journey. If they can do something you can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything right. It is just not a fair comparison. Ever.

If you want to see it from a positive view: you now know that it (whatever ‘it’ is), is possible. And… maybe they can even help you reach the same goal or point you in the right direction!

Focus on what is most important in the world: your own journey.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for my¬†online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’¬†(EARLY BIRD OFFER $49 ends Jan 28th, 2017), please¬†visit my website

 

 

 

 

Unconventional Training Solutions

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.

Challenge

Sometimes it is a real challenge to come up with solutions for difficulties I encounter in¬†einsteinmy 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.

Training goal

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?

_langeteugel-hippologic2012I 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.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

The next step is to change reins and practise everything she now learned in the left lead canter to the right lead canter.

Step 7

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.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online my online course Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them click here for more info

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It’s December, start planning for next year

Do you know that story about that philosopher teacher that uses a jar and fills it up with golf balls, small pebbles and sand as an analogy for creating the life you want? You can read it here.

_hippologic_sandrapoppemaThe moral of the story is to plan your life and start with the most important things first: your health, family, children,  friends and passions (horse!). Those are the golf balls.

The pebbles represent other things in life such as your house or your job and the sand represents the small stuff. If you fill the jar and you want the best of life start putting in the golf balls first and the sand last. If you put the sand in first there is no room left for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same analogy can be used for training your horse. Most riders are focused on the sand and they don’t see the bigger picture of what they want to achieve in the relationship with their horse._prioritize-things-in-life_hippologic

If you start planning, start with the important things like the kind of relationship with your horse you want (if that is important to you) and your bigger goals. Then you can think of the smaller goals and the fun stuff you want to do.

Do you set goals or plan the future with your horse?

PS You can sign up for free until December 31st  2016 for the course Set your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them (with personal support on our private Facebook group). Canter to my website clickertraining.ca and fill in the pop-up.

Sandra Poppema

Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website

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Feel more successful in riding and training your horse

I am reading a very interesting book. It is called Before Happiness and is written by Shawn Achor. You can look it up if you want. In this book you can find ways to improve your succes rate. The thing I like most is that I have already been using a lot of these strategies in my lessons and in my own horse training and riding._safe hand feeding_hippologic.jpg

Success strategies

One of the success strategies is creating mini goals, so you can feel good about accomplishing steps towards a bigger goal. In positive reinforcement we call that a shaping plan or it can refer to your training plan. In the shaping plan you write down the stepping stones towards a goal behaviour. Your training plan contains your ultimate goal, ten year plan, five year plan or (just a ) one year plan.

A good shaping plan creates¬†clarity for the horse (the desired behaviour) and he can also feel successful after each click and reinforcer. It is like saying ‘yes’, ‘yes’ to your horse, so he knows he is on the right track.

Giving yourself a head start

One of the¬†brilliant strategies in the book is giving yourself a head start. I used to skip this part, because it felt¬†like ‘cheating’. Studies have proven that giving yourself a head start¬†doesn’t feel like cheating for your¬†brain. Instead it gives your brain the feeling that you are already half way there.

In horse training you can do the same thing. In a shaping or training plan you write down your goals and you divide them into smaller goals.

What I used to do is start writing down the first step I have to accomplish or teach my horse. I never thought of giving myself a head start by writing down a few steps that are necessary in the process but  that I already have accomplished.

Targeting

For me, a shaping plan to teach a green (non-clicker trained) horse would look like this:

Training steps in training plan by Hippologic

Now I would give myself a head start and write down:

Steps:

  • Safe hand-feeding (check!)
  • Trust in handler and not scared by¬†introduction of a new object¬†(check!)
  • Standing still behind a barrier and paying attention to handler¬†(check!)

This would be my head start. The fourth¬†step would be ‘looking at target’ et cetera.¬†In this way the trainer can already feel successful because s/he can tick off the first three mini goals.

Try it and I would love to hear how this works out for you.

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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Tip to re-train undesired behaviour in horses

In another post I explained the power of a variable reward schedule and how to use it into your advantage. A variable ratio schedule is the most powerful reward schedule because it takes the longest for a behaviour to become extinct. How can you use this information in re-training undesired behaviour?

‘Extinction’ of behaviour

Extinction means that the behaviour will never be displayed in a certain situation. There is¬†0% chance of a reward, so therefor the behaviour has become ‘useless’ in that situation.

This is what we want to accomplish when a horse displays undesired behaviour, like kicking the stall door. We want to ignore the behaviour in order to make clear that this will not get him anywhere.

Why does it¬†often¬†seem not to work¬†at all¬†(ignoring undesired behaviour)?. It is because of a natural occurrence in learning that is called ‘extinction burst’.

Extinction burst

Once the owner decides to ignore this undesired behaviour in order to let it become extinct (0% chance of a reward so therefor displaying the behaviour has no value for the horse anymore) the behaviour¬†will first show an ‘extinction burst’.

Extinction_Graph

Extinction, extinction burst and spontaneous recovery graph from study.com

During the extinction burst the horse will¬†show¬†an increased amount effort in the hope for a reward. If one decides to ‘reward’ (read: react) to this undesired behaviour in any way, even if it is with shouting at the horse in¬†an attempt to punish¬†this undesired behaviour, chances are that the horse regards¬†this as his¬†reward. After all, it is the receiver (horse) who determines if something is a reward.

How to handle it

If the horse kicks a door in order to get your attention and he gets what he wants, it is a reward. Every time an extinction burst is rewarded it takes longer for the behaviour to become extinct.

So if you expect the horse wants your attention, make sure he doesn’t get it. Every time he kicks his stall door walk out of sight or turn your back. In this way you make sure you don’t give him attention for kicking the door.

Extinct behaviour

If you want to let a behaviour go extinct the extinction burst is the most important moment not to reinforce.

This is also the ¬†moment most people are tempted to¬†react. The person interprets the increased undesired behaviour as ‘the horse hasn’t learnt anything’ and because the bad behaviour increased (instead of decreased) they feel the need to interfere in the¬†hope punishment will solve this.

Spontaneous recovery

A second, smaller extinction bursts can occur over time, which are¬†called spontaneous recovery of¬†behaviour. In the case of our horse kicking the barn door, he might show the behaviour ¬†again but less extreme. When the extinction burst(s) don’t get reinforced the behaviour will go extinct.

Undesired behaviour

In dealing with undesired behaviour we always want to know what caused the behaviour, so we can work on that too.

Sometimes it is really hard to determine what reinforces a certain undesired behaviour. If the behaviour¬†is ‘self rewarding’ just ignoring the¬†behaviour won’t work. The horse will get his reward regardless what you are doing. Then you have to figure out how you can reinforce the opposite behaviour more than the undesired behaviour or find a way to prevent it.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

This kind of self rewarding behaviour is hard to re-train

Rewarding the opposite behaviour

In the case of door kicking you can ignore the noise and start rewarding the horse for ‘four hooves on the ground’. In this way you communicate what it is you do want from the horse: standing still. Use the¬†reward he wants for the undesired behaviour: your attention or during feeding time the food.

This approach works really well, but it takes a lot of effort from the trainer. You must be paying attention when the horse is standing still and is quiet. That can be a bigger challenge than just ignoring the door kicking.

Make sure everybody is on the same page if you want to re-train behaviour like door kicking. Ask everyone to follow the simple rules: go to horses that stand still and look for attention, ignore the door kickers.

Remember this

Every time an extinction burst is rewarded, the behaviour becomes stronger. Something you want in training desired behaviours, not in re-training undesired behaviours.

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

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Setting your horse up for success: context shift

Horses learn in a certain context. Each change in the context of training your horse should be considered as a new criterion. Use this to set yourself and your horse up for success.

What¬†is a¬†‘context shift’?

If you want to teach your horse something new, like targeting, practise this in the beginning always in the same place, the same context. Maybe you start this exercise in the round pen or in his stall where you can train with protective contact (a barrier).

After a few session in which your horse made progress you might decide that you want to train without the barrier. Now¬†you’ve changed the context. Expect a change in performance and lower your¬†criteria in the beginning so you can give your horse confidence.¬†If you always trained indoors and you ask the same exercise outdoors, your context (indoor/outdoor) has changed.

_context_shift_horse_training_hippologic

Not only the horse experiences ‘context changes’

If your horse masters the exercise and you want to show it to your friend or film it: the context changes for you. Have you noticed that it is suddenly much harder to perform at the same level when some one is watching? 

Why horse and rider perform much better at home

The same thing happens (for rider and horse) if you train for a competition and you as team perform great at home. Once you are in the dressage ring in a new place, with white fences your horse never saw before and you know there is a two person judge watching you, the context in which you have practised has changed. A lot. No wonder is doesn’t go as smoothly as it always goes at home, with your own instructor who you trust.¬†Again, start lowering your criteria and set yourself up for success: consider¬†the first competitions in a strange environment as training. Boost your horse’s confidence by communicating what you want. Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to communicate what you want and see more of.

How to handle context shifts

You will soon notice that you only have to lower your criteria (and your expectations) just a little bit and for a little while. If you don’t do this, the chances of getting dissapointed and/or frustrated are much bigger. Also for your horse it is much easier to learn to generalize certain aspects of the surroundings that have nothing to do with the cue for the behaviour.

Conclusion

You can use the context in teaching new exercises to your advantage, then if you want to teach your horse to generalize certain things in the setting you can change the context of your training. In this way the horse learns to generalize and he will soon learn is important to pay attention to (your cues) and what is best to ignore in order to get a click and reward (for instance certain things in surrounding, that are not part of your cue).

Related articles

Set you horse up for success: Splitting behaviour

Setting your horse up for Success: Short sesssions

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How to … teach your horse anything

Whenever an idea forms about what I want to teach my horse Kyra I set it as a goal. I then start writing a training plan and make a shaping plan to achieve this goal.

Goal setting

My goal in this example is teaching Kyra to stand still, next to a mounting block, until I mounted and give the cue to walk.

Shaping plan

After I set my goal I make a shaping plan. I think about all the possible steps I have to teach Kyra to achieve my final behaviour: standing parallel to the mounting block so mounting is safe and easy for me. I have to teach her to stand still when I’m mounting, put my feet into the stirrups, taken the reins and I am ready to ask her¬†to walk.

I write all these steps down. I don’t even have to bring it to the barn. Just writing it down makes me focused.

A few of the building blocks of this goal are:

  • making her comfortable near the mounting block
  • halting
  • mat training
  • hip targetting (to be able to align her to the mounting block)
  • aligning with the ¬†mounting block without stress
  • waiting until I have mounted
  • and walking on¬†queue

_mountainblock_hippologic

Context learning

Horses learn in a certain context. I use this into my advantage when I am teaching Kyra something new. I practise as much as possible in the same circumstance (context).

If I have a portable mounting block I always put it in the same place in the arena to practise. I will only put it in another place if she has already mastered lining up in the first spot.

I lower my criteria a bit when I change something in the context she learned the behaviour. In this way I always set Kyra up for success and I always have a good feeling too!

Set it up for success

I always take into account my horses emotions when I teach her something new. I recently¬†saw¬†a video in which the trainer put the mounting block next to the track in order to mount. Unfortunately this was the place where her¬†horse was the most nervous (‘trapped in between the fence and the mounting block.) She made her training much more difficult than it needed to be.

For Kyra the most comfortable spot in¬†the arena was¬†in the middle where she has the most space and couldn’t¬†hurt herself.¬†Secondly I noticed that facing the door¬†was more comfortable for her than facing the opposite side of the arena. I guess she¬†likes to know where the exit is… After all it is an enclosed area and horses are flight animals.

Practising

Then I started to practise the steps in my shaping plan. I usually go up one criterion if Kyra masters it three times in a row.

Latent learning

After a few days of practise I give Kyra a break or I train something completely different. Often¬†something she has already mastered. After giving her a ‘weekend’ off she performs much better. This latent learning is very valuable to me. It saves time!

Rinse and repeat

After a short break I lower my criteria a bit and start with some repetition to give her the confidence that she knows what is expected. After that I can move on very quickly.

Context shift

After Kyra has mastered the basics of the new behaviour, I change one thing in the context. I put the mounting block somewhere else in the arena. Not too far away from where she was used to.

Generalize

After a few times of putting the mounting block in different spots in the arena, I noticed that Kyra generalized the mounting block. Time for a real change: a different kind of mounting block.

I started practising with benches in the park, fences, rocks etc. Now Kyra is used to all kinds of mounting blocks and she is very safe to mount.

This is the general ‘recipe’ I use in teaching my horse new behaviours. You don’t have to use positive reinforcement training to use this in your training.

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

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