‘How do you implement clicker training under saddle?’, is a question many equestrians ask themselves. The answer is simple: the same way you implemented it from the ground! Sounds logical. How do we start best?
First you have to learn the principles of Learning and Motivation, see this part 1 of this series.
Step 2 is to set a riding goal.
Now you have set a goal, it’s time to stake step 3; you have to split it into tiny baby steps. This is called a shaping plan. How are you going to shape the behaviour into your goal behaviour?
After I share the 6 basics (Key Lessons for Riders) with you, I will start a blog about how to implement all of this in practise.
Key Lesson for Riders #3: Shaping Plan
Now you’ve a clear vision of what you want to accomplish under saddle you can start breaking it down in super small increments. Those will become your stepping stones to your goal.
Tip #1 for a Shaping plan that works
Each baby step must be small enough to be understood by your horse, keep your horse engaged and big enough to be a bit of a challenge (just a bit, you don’t want to frustrate or discourage him).
Your shaping plan consist everything that is going to happen in your training:
- what you will use as reinforcement
- how often you will repeat a criterion before moving on to the next one
- details about where you are going to train the behaviour
- how the set up of your training area will be
- all criteria that are needed in order to reach your goal: duration, distance and quality.
This is a very important step! It’s also difficult therefor I give all my students a template that they can use to practise.
- what bridge signal you’ll use
- your cue (verbal, body langues, props)
- duration of your session
- if you are going to use jackpots and what for
- and every other detail that is or can be important
Making a shaping plan and splitting behaviour is one of the most important steps in positive reinforcement. If you think too lightly about this and are not going to sit down and think it over, discuss it with your mentor/coach/instructor/friend you will get stuck later in your training process!
So take the time it takes to do it right, it will save lots of time (and frustration!) later!
Lumping in our training (by not making a shaping plan) is a huge pitfall for all of us (including me)! We think we can skip this step or ‘do it in our head’. That’s not true. Making a good shaping plan is the best investment you can make in your training!
I recommend training all behaviour you want to see under saddle from the ground first. Include these steps in your shaping plan, too. Example: to teach rein aids with R+ from the ground, then from the saddle in all gaits and the steps in between.
Tip #2 for a Shaping plan that works
Thinking about how you are going to split the behaviour and envisioning all the steps is great. Another success tip is to write it down.
It’s proven that this will increase the likelihood of success. When you write down your goal and your steps it will become clear if and where you need to be a little more specific.
If you’ve written something down you will remember it better. So when you are actually training and your horse leaps, you still know what your next step is going to be! Or, if you’re lumping, you know what your previous steps were suppose to be. It will be way easier to go back where your horse was still successful.
Tip #3 for a Shaping plan that works
Keep your shaping plans together in a designated place. The more shaping plans you make, the better. I recommend to make one for every behaviour you train, whether it’s a simple or complex behaviour.
After a while you will forget how you exactly trained behaviour X, Y or Z. So if someone asks you: ‘How did you train that?’ you can actually look it up and tell them!
Or when you are going to train another horse the same behaviour, you already have your shaping plan ready. You might need to tweak it a bit according to the circumstances, but it will definitely help you re-create your successes!
When can I start riding?
This is the perfect moment to go to your horse and try out your shaping plan. In my next blog I will share with you what you need to know after you’ve been riding (training).
Enjoy your ride!
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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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