When I was a little girl learned quickly that I couldn’t boss around certain horses. I also learned that I liked it much better when I didn’t have to.
A few decades ago I learned about positive reinforcement (+R) training and now, 17 years later I can truly say +R has become more of a lifestyle than just a training method for me.
One of the best reviews I received from a student is: “You are always very supportive Sandra and make this feel like a safe place (the Facebook support group) to ask questions. Funny, but I’ve met a lot of R+ trainers who a very encouraging and positive with their horses but extremely critical of their human trainers. Sandra you walk and talk R+ in all areas – with horses and people.”
Here 8 of the most valuable lessons and my biggest ‘clicks’ (eye openers) positive reinforcement horse training taught me:
- The receiver determines the reinforcer, not the trainer, not teacher nor the parent. Once I learned to think from my horses’ point of view and what his motivation is, it became clear on why he did or didn’t want to do it. Same goes for humans.
- Envisioning my goals before I start, makes it easy to keep on track and go back on track once I get sidetracked. Not only my equestrian goals, but all my goals!
- Writing down my goals made it easier to find the right teachers. Studies prove that writing your goals down will make you see more opportunities because it puts your unconscious to work.
- Writing down my goals helped me into dividing them into achievable (baby) steps. Whenever I feel stuck, whether that is in life or in horse training I ask myself if I am ‘lumping’ (making the steps too big) and I usually do. Once I make my steps smaller I can be successful again. This one was a biggy!
- Different reinforcers have different values and values can change depending on the circumstances. It makes sense that once the receiver can predict when and what the reinforcer is, he can determine if he does or doesn’t want to do the behaviour.
- I learned to think out of the box, because I didn’t have ready-made solutions for a lot of challenges I ran into. It is an amazing helpful life skill! I love it!
- I changed my focus to what goes well and improves, rather than the things that doesn’t yet go the way I envisioned. I turned from a Negative Nancy into a Positive Polly
- When I started to focus on my method of training, instead of only focusing on the results of my training, three interesting things happened: 1) there was now something valuable in it for the horse which made it a huge win-win, 2) the results came much quicker, easier and were way more reliable and 3) the overall relationship with my horse improved tremendously! Wow! Win-win-win!
What are the most valuable life lessons you learned in training? Please share yours in the comments.
Sandra 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.
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