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How to take positive reinforcement and use it in riding? I will share practical tips in other blogs, but let’s focus on preparation. How can you make yourself successful?

Key Lesson for Riders #5: Emotions in Riding

This is a biggy! I see so many riders get frustrated in the saddle. I also see many frustrated horses! The the most common reasons riders get frustrated are: lack of a plan, no shaping plan (written steps that need to be accomplished in order to get to your goal) and lack of a proper training journal, that can be used as valuable tool in training.

I often see frustration in horses because there is a lack of clarity (riders give contradictory aids), they get punished (receiver determines if something feels like punishment) and don’t understand why or they are fearful and the rider thinks they are ‘just acting’.

In my program dealing with Emotions in Horse and Humans is one of the Key Lessons, your Key to Success in Horse Training and Riding.

Here are 3 tips that you can use to help you deal with emotions in riding.

Tip #1 to deal with Emotions in Riding successfully

Accept that emotions will always be there. Positive ones and negative ones. Even positive emotions like joy can influence your riding aids. The magic is that you can decide how you will react to your feelings and to the feelings of your horse.

Do you get angry if your horse spooks or do you deal with the fact and go look to solve the cause of the fear and deal with that or do you simply accept that your horse can spook?

Frustration in horse and rider is more common than you think

If you feel anger or frustration coming up, a few simple breaths can help you get back into thinking mode. That can be enough to prevent yourself from taking your frustration out on the horse.

If you realize that you will be relieved from your frustration when you hit your horse, only to switch over to guilt you haven’t won anything, right? Once you realize why you’re getting frustrated you can solve the cause or accept that you’re frustrated for a few seconds and wait until the emotion disappears.

Tip #2 to deal with Emotions in Riding successfully

Context shifts can also cause negative emotions like frustration in riding. Understanding what a context shift is, how it can effect your behaviour or that from your horse will help you adjust your expectations according to the circumstances.

(Source: Pixabay stock photo)

Imagine you’re riding and suddenly you notice someone you look up to, is watching you. This is a small context shift (riding without and riding with an audience). If you raise your expectations towards your horse while you’re being nervous won’t set you up for success. Knowing this can prevent a lot of disappointment, shame and other negative emotions.

You’ll set yourself up for success if you don’t raise your expectations or criteria but do the opposite: lower them slightly so you’ll be successful. If someone is watching you, don’t try out new exercises to show off. Wiser would be to choose an exercise that you know you and your horse can do and do this one really, really good!

Tip #3 to deal with Emotions in Riding successfully

In my decades as riding instructor I saw many frustrated riders. I’ve experienced so much frustration myself when I was younger. Here is how I learn to deal with it. Most of the frustration was solved when I started riding according a training plan and had shaping plans.

If you don’t know what you’re training you don’t know if you’re hitting your goal. When riding suddenly goes wonderful and you’re in a flow you naturally want more of that. Be honest, how often did that happen? What did you do?

Most likely you wanted more and asked more and then got disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Then you’ll end up feeling frustrated and maybe even a bit angry. I didn’t know that -when this happened to me- I was actually ‘lumping’ my training. And instead of being grateful and stop there for a moment to enjoy it, I wanted (demanded) more! That didn’t work at all!

When I made an actual plan and got in flow I could see how I created that moment myself by working towards that moment together with my horse. That’s when I started to see this were moments to celebrate and enjoy. Then stop and take a moment to achor that moment and think how we created that result together. That’s when I started to duplicate those moments more often! This is where your training journal actually turns into a training tool.

Read more:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Questions? Book a free discovery session with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training from the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your online session in my calendar.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

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Sometimes people think positive reinforcement doesn’t fit into a system because this training method is horse-centered.

They figure since every horse and every situation is different, it’s impossible to create a system. You know what? It’s true that every horse, every training and every trainer is different.

If you focus on what every training, every horse and every trainer needs and what they all have in common, you have the fundamentals to create a system. That’s what I’ve been looking for the past decade and that’s how I discovered the Key Lessons in positive reinforcement horse training. They derive from those fundamental pillars I will explain here.

Benefit #1 Clarity

With a system comes clarity and with clarity you know where you are in your training and where you want to go.

Benefit #2 Goals

Now you have clarity it’s easy to set goals and get results in your training.

Benefit #3 Action

When you have clarity  and goals in your training you know what your action must look like! Instead of taking different approaches at the same time, now you know exactly what step comes first. This is setting yourself (and your horse!) up for success!

Benefit #4 Meaning

With clarity and a goal comes meaning, especially if you base your goals on you values. What values are important to you in training? Horse first? Results first? Fun first? Welfare? Clear communication? What values are in your top 5 for horse training?

#5 Momentum

When you have action and clarity you get momentum in you training. We all know how awesome that feeling is!

There are two more benefits! You don’t think these 5 are enough?

Join me in this free webinar to hear more about HippoLogic’s training system. Click here to get an email with the link to our online classroom.

Free discovery session with Sandra

Want to hear more about HippoLogic’s training system in person? Book your FREE Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this 60 min conversation we’ll explore:

– Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse
– Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
– What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next steps and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

To get started, simply book your free session here.

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! Sign up for my newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website. Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

Join me in this free webinar to hear more about HippoLogic’s training system. Click here to get the link to our Zoom meeting.

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I am playing with this idea for a long time and I finally found the courage to take action!

Currently I am doing market research to see what equine clicker trainers really want from their online horse community.

My dream is to create a supporting learning environment where horse owners can learn everything they want to know, develop their skills and get feedback on their videos, have a place where they will be encouraged to try out new approaches and be cheered on if they reach their goals. (I am already looking forward to cheer these action takers on and support them on a daily basis, create video courses and more.) But…

do they want that?

What do you want?

What would you like to see in a membership?

Can you please help me? I came up with 12 short questions about what you would like to receive in a membership. It will only take a few minutes.

I’ll appreciate your feedback. Click here to go to the questionnaire.

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have a question about clicker training your horse, you are stuck and want a tip to move on? Book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

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How to take positive reinforcement and use it in riding? I will share practical tips in other blogs, but let’s focus on preparation. How can you make yourself successful?

Key Lesson for Riders #4: Training Journal

The only way to know if you are making progress in riding with positive reinforcement is to keep track. A training journal is the best tool to do this. Science has proven that if you write things down you can remember it better. You can also reflect better by yourself if you put things in writing.

Do you want a training journal that helps you improve your riding skills? Don’t use it as a diary, use it as the powerful training tool it can be. In a diary you write down what you’ve done and how you felt about it. My training diaries from 20 years ago are all similar and I read things like: ‘I rode, it was fun but the canter sucked. I did 3 tracks and every time my pony fell to trot all by himself.’ Maybe I added my opinion about my pony that day, but this is not constructive and didn’t help me improve and develop my skills.

Only when I got my horse Kyra (she was born in a nature reserve and totally feral when I got her) I started to change how I used my training journal. That’s how I know it took me 3 weeks to tame and train her. With that I mean: Kyra changed from trying to run away from me and climb the opposite stall wall when I opened the door to a horse that actively sought out my presence, wanted to be haltered (and cooperated by keeping her head low), allowed me to touch her all over, including her legs and belly. I could lift her legs and cleaned her hoofd. And… I made a start to lead her over the premises. If I didn’t kept that journal I would have forgotten!

Tip #1 for a Training Journal that works

Keep it positive so you will read it back. If you write down how horrible rider you were today, it’s no fun to read back and you won’t learn from it!

I have experimented the last 10 years with keeping journals and what made it easy and most useful. I advise my students to put at least 3 things that went well in it. It can be just 3 bullet points. This will make you feel good and motivated. I also ask my students to reflect and write down 1 (only 1!) point that they want to improve.
Did you notice I didn’t write ‘one thing that went wrong’? No I want one learning point, so next time you know what to pay attention to. This will help you learn faster!

If you had ‘failures’, call them learning points if the word ‘failure’ makes you feel bad. ‘failing’ is the way we learn. After being a success coach for 8 years I don’t feel bad anymore when I hear the word ‘failure’ because it gets me all excited: Yeey, there is something to learn! I LOVE learning! This is how most of us feel about failures. So until then, start changing your language into positive language.

Failure → opportunity to learn, learning point
‘X went wrong’ → I learned Y (canter sucked → I learned to pay attention to transitions/my balance/and so on)
My horse sucked at X → I got feedback/information about X from my horse
My horse refused to do X → My horse was [reason/cause eg scared] to do X today

Tip #2 for a Training Journal that works

Connect‘ it to your Key Lesson for Riders: Shaping Plan. Make sure you work on the things you planned to do and give yourself feedback in your training journal about the one thing you wanted and worked on. After your training you might notice that you have to adjust your shaping plan.

If you trained under saddle what you had in mind, you are going in the right direction to accomplish your dreams (step 1 Key Lesson for Riders: Training Plan).

Of course it can happen that you decide not to go with your next step in your Training and Shaping plan. That happens: it’s too stormy and it might not be safe to ride. Write that down too and the reason you decided to change plans. You might discover a pattern after a while…

All this gives you valuable information about how you train and also how often you train. If you stick to the plan, and if you won’t you can figure out how you can change your plans. Maybe they are a bit too advanced or the opposite: not challenging enough.
Some people tell me they don’t like to do all that stuff, that’s too much effort. Those are the people who keep at the same level year after year and don’t improve their riding skills. Some even buy a different horse. This won’t solve the cause: if you’re not evolving, you won’t improve. Yes, it is work! How much are you really willing to improve? With a little bit of help it’s not hard. I provide my students with templates that are quick and easy to use. Make this a habit.

Tip #3 for a Training Journal that works

Celebrate your successes; big and small! I love to celebrate my milestones with a picture or a short video of the behaviour I accomplished. These might not be impressive to other people, but they are important to you. So make sure you share them only with your tribe: the people that enjoy your successes and know how important it is for YOU.

I have videos of Kyra of the first few rides I ever did. For an outsider they are as interesting as watching pain dry. Why? Nothing spectacular is happening for them. For me it is: This is Kyra who is my first horse that I started under saddle with R+. How exciting is that? I rode her the fourth time all by myself, with no assistance. This was also a crown to my preparation work: hours and hours of practising the HippoLogic Key Lessons, all work-in-hand, long reins, teaching her verbal cues and making her feel comfortable with me and everything around her (she was after all a wild horse).

I also made photo books of every year with our milestones. I love to go through them, because they make me realize how much we’ve accomplished.

Questions?

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training from the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar. They usually take 60 minutes because I really want to get to know you and your horse.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses, even in the saddle?

Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

If you are ready to get the results in riding and training you really, really want, the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is perfect for you.

You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

Next blog: Emotions in riding. How they influence your results. What emotions do you want to redirect (and how to do it). Not only the rider’s emotions are important, also the horse’s emotions need to be addressed.

Tack free riding was one of my childhood dreams!

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‘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.

Break up your clicker training so every step leads you closer to success

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!

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training from the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses, even in the saddle? This is the ultimate foundation for doing so!

Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

If you are ready to get the results in riding and training you really, really want, the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is perfect for you.

You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

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‘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. So, 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 goal.

Key Lessons for Riders #2: Training Plan

You have to start with the ‘end in mind’: set a clear goal. The more clear your goal is, the easier it is to accomplish. When you have a clear goal you can divide it into smaller steps. Something that is very hard to do with a vague goal. Then it’s also easier to cross off each smaller step. That also feels really good: if you can cross off a sub goal. It keeps you motivated! So those are 3 valuable tips already: set a clear goal, divide it into smaller steps, cross off each step when accomplished.

Write your goal down in your Training Plan. Here are some more tips that will help you write your Training Plan.

Tip 1 For a Training Plan that actually works

Take a good clear look at your values! What values do you have and do they fit your goal? Maybe they don’t fit in your goal? It not, than you have to revise your goal.

Here can you find list of values, take a look and what values do you feel fit your way of horse training and horse riding? Some of my values that are important in my riding and training are are love, integrity, animal welfare, intrinsic value of the horse, honesty, skills and trust(worthy).

When I took my personal values into account suddenly it became clear: my goal to be an competition dressage rider wasn’t compatible with my values. Animal welfare is very high on my list. In the 80’s and 90’s pulling the horse behind the vertical was very much rewarded by judges. Riding with a double bit and spurs didn’t fit either: Less is More, right? I wondered what I loved about the riding dressage competitions and if I could take that and honour my values? I loved: riding for an audience, inspire people what you can accomplish with good riding and training and how beautiful it is to see a rider and her horse in total harmony. It took a few sessions with my mentor to figure it out.

Finally I came to the conclusion that riding in a show- or demo team would fit: no judges or rules what to do and when to do it (even if the horse isn’t ready in that moment, or feeling pressured to perform at cost of the horse). If you write your own choreography and something happens you can go with the flow of your horse and still give a wonderful show.

Yes, that would make perfect sense! Suddenly I had my motivation back for riding. Then something amazing happened: I saw a small ad in somewhere. A showteam with Andalusian stallions was looking for team members! That’s how I became a member of Showteam Alegría. I was part of Alegría for years and we did many performances. Unfortunately Kyra and I moved to Canada before Kyra was under saddle, so I never actually rode but it was such a great experience and so much fun.

Tip 2 For a Training Plan that actually works

Once you’ve determined a clear goal which fit your values the next step is to divide it into smaller steps. What does your horse need in order to get to your goal?

‘Riding in a show/demo team’ is a clear goal, because the choreography was designed by ourselves and fitted all individual horses. The next step was to ask myself what Kyra needed to master?

If I give shows she needs to become a good traveller (trailer loading), she needs to be calm and confident around music, lots of people, applause, dogs, strollers and a million other things (despooking/mind set) and she needs to master her exercises for the performance (trick training, long reining -> “ground work”). In order to perform, the horse also needs to be OK with grooming, being washed, braided and so on (husbandry skills). So my pillars in my training plan became: Husbandry skills, Mindset, Groundwork and Riding. That’s what I teach my students to do, too.

This helped me very much to make a visual. Here is an example of a training plan for dressage test level 4. I would train all exercises of the test first in from the ground (long reins, work-in-hand or at liberty) before training them under saddle.

You can make this as detailed as you need, depending on what your horse needs. A lot of this is also applicable if you want your horse to become a reliable trail horse.

Tip 3 For a Training Plan that actually works

Now you have a detailed Training Plan you can seek out the perfect instructor/mentor for the knowledge and skills you need to learn or improve. If you are not familiar with despooking your horse using positive reinforcement only or don’t know how to teach your horse lateral gaits, find some one who does. You can contact me, for instance.

Together with your values it will be much easier to find a mentor/coach that can help you achieve your goals. This safes time and money! How many clinics have you

attended that you thought would be helpful and awesome only to be a disappointed and go home disillusioned because ‘in harmony’ or ‘positive horsemanship’ was not what you had in mind when you booked yourself a seat.

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s way easier to find. Even if you feels you’re looking for an unicorn.

I hope this gave you some ideas.

PS I am currently working on an online workshop to help equestrians with making their own personalized Training Plan. Contact me if you’re interested in this interactive workshop. I would love to know if there is enough interest to make this happen.

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training in the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses, even in the saddle?

Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

If you are ready to get the results in riding and training you really, really want, the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is perfect for you.

You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

 

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‘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.

This can be very challenging because, once we are in the saddle, we have to deal with so many unconscious rules, habits, norms and thoughts about riding that interferes with successful clicker training.

This makes it extra hard to use positive reinforcement successfully under saddle. We are not aware of the many traditions we actually have and how much of those are in straight contradiction with positive reinforcement training.

Become conscious of your training expectations

When you started to teach your horse Key Lesson Table Manners or Key Lesson Targeting, your first session was maybe 10-15 treats (clicks) long. That’s less than 5 minutes! Then you stopped and gave your horse a break, right? You know can achieve so much in 5 minutes or less.

Once you mounted you maybe expect yourself to be in the saddle for 50 minutes or even for an hour. The length of a normal riding lesson. Now you have let go of that idea, if you want to become successful implementing R+ under saddle when you start. On the ground you didn’t start with an hour of clicker training (hopefully), so why do this under saddle?

Your training sessions, now your riding sessions, need to be fun, sweet and short for your horse. You need to stop training a particular exercise when your horse gave his best. That can be achieved in a few clicks already.

Therefor you need a back up plan: What will you do, if your horse accomplished your criterion? I will address that in the next blog (Key Lesson for Riders #2 Training Plan).

Key Lesson for Riders #1: Learning Theory

You have to study the principles of learning and motivation in order to get the best out of your riding. In my online home-study program I explain these principles and how you successfully implement them in your training and riding. Knowing them is one thing, using them in your daily training is another. They are called Key Lessons because they are the Key to your Success!

Learning Theory is based upon what science calls operant conditioning:

Here are 3 of the most important tips that will help you implement the learning theory under saddle.

Tip 1 Implementing the Learning Theory

In order to train your horse you have to know as much as possible about horse behaviour, their natural needs and it also helps to know about their physiology. This helps you to set your horse up for success.

Example: Study *) has proven that whither scratching help calm a horse under saddle. This works better than neck patting.

Tip 2 Implementing the Learning Theory

Know what is reinforcing to your horse. If you know about the natural behaviour it’s easier to guess what is reinforcing for them. We are generally reinforced by things as compliments, money or chocolate cake, horses are not.

They are grazers, herbivores, and since that is their normal diet choosing something they like to eat naturally will be a good primary reinforcer.

My horse Kyra was born in a nature reserve and when I got her, 3 weeks after she was captured, she didn’t eat apples, carrots or extruded dinner grains. So I had to find other reinforcers to train her. Since she was also terrified of humans approaching her, scratches as reinforcements where off the table, too. First I had to find out what she liked.

Tip 3 Implementing the Learning Theory

You have to know what your horse considers punishment.

If you think you reward your horse with neck patting, like you probably have learned from your riding lessons, think again: If you get more of the desired behaviour it was reinforcing, but if it didn’t it was neutral. If you get less of the behaviour it was punishing according to your horse.

Knowing the difference between reinforcers and punishment will greatly help you succeed in training.

Example: we all know mugging horse behaviour. Some horses kick their stall doors in order to… Yes, what do they want?

And what usually happens? They get what they want: attention or food.

We think we deliver a punishment by shouting at them, but if the behaviour is not decreasing there is something that is actually reinforcing the door kicking (attention or their breakfast). I have an excellent shaping plan to get rid of mugging behaviour and door kicking.

Let’s recap the basics of setting yourself up for riding with positive reinforcement:

  • Use the learning theory
  • Know what your horse finds reinforcing
  • Know what your horse considers punishing
  • Keep your sessions short and give breaks after accomplishing a criterion
  • Become aware of your expectations (‘riding needs to be an hour long’) and other customs or habits you have (‘the horse is only one treat allowed after the ride’) that will interfere with an optimal learning set up for your horse (short, sweet sessions that are easy enough to understand, yet challenging enough to keep your horse engaged).

I hope this blog gave you some valuable insights. If it did, please share this blog with your friends.

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training in the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses, even in the saddle?

Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

If you are ready to get the results in riding and training you really, really want, the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is perfect for you.

You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

Sources: Physiological and Behavioral Responses of Horses to Wither Scratching and Patting the Neck When Under Saddle Zoë W. Thorbergson,Sharon G. Nielsen,Rodney J. Beaulieu &Rebecca E. Doyle

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I did a little research and asked positive reinforcement trainers ‘What is your biggest struggle or concern?’ Why are not more people into clicker training their horses? Here are some answers I got.

Why horse people don’t use R+ according to clicker trainers
  • “I find the biggest hurdle is the food. It is so ingrained in people not to hand feed.”
  • “Newbies to marker training can create cookie monsters who bite. It’s sad, but true. Every time that happens and the person tells their story anyone who hears it has a negative impression about the possibility of using something as crazy as clicker training with their horse. And they believe that it creates biters and muggers, because in reality, it can when improperly practised. So as we share the wonder and magic of this method, we also have a responsibility to make sure we keep this in mind.”
  • “I think the problem is people are not patient enough. They don’t want to listen they are physical with horses. They want it quick.” 
  • “We all love horses and find humans irritating, it takes a special person to be a good coach to both.”
Let’s make some changes!

How can positive reinforcement trainers and coaches overcome these hurdles? I know these are quotes, but I choose these ones because they are very common. We’ve all heard these or very similar ones, right? Here is what we can do to

  • Focus on the solution (results in R+ training!), not on the problem (people focusing on the carrots). If horse people think “It’s all about treats” in clicker training I think it’s because we (‘we’ = R+ trainers, instructor or not) present it like that (almost) all the time! Let’s start promoting clicker training as a training method that gets RESULTS! That’s what other methods do: they don’t emphasize the how (coercion, aversives, sometimes even pain inflicting methods).
  • Yes, novice trainers and new horse owners can create ‘cookie monsters‘. It happens and let’s not deny this fact. This is not a specific clicker training problem: it happens in all training where inexperienced people start training horses. How many horses got horrified by whips or training sticks? How many horses are head shy or don’t let them catch themselves in the pasture? (I still get giggly when I hear the word ‘catch’ because it is so much the opposite of what I do, but it is what some people have to do). Let’s focus on the amazing long-lasting results (intermediate and expert) clicker trainers accomplish!
  • I think it’s a myth that clicker training takes longer than training a horse with coercion. It only takes longer if we want to accomplish 2 goals in one go: training the horse and teaching the owner new ways of training that are almost opposite of what they have learned in the past. Let’s point out how fast horses learn new behaviours and skills! (No other training method I know of emphasizes how difficult it is or can be for the person to learn this method X, Y, Z. So let’s just quit doing that.)
  • I love horses and humans . That’s why I got into coaching: I not only want the skills in the horse but also in the horse person. So the next horse can benefit from it too, and the next one. I hope more people will learn and start teaching learning theory and will emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement (R+) training over traditional and natural horsemanship training (and other methods based on R-). Let’s make the world a better place and start with ourselves: Be the change you want to see in the world! You never know who you inspire!
Questions? Get a free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training your horse or want to become a clicker instructor, book your free discovery call. Click.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses?

If you are ready to get the results in training you really, really want this is the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is for you. Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

Join HippoLogic’s online training program for clicker trainers the Ultimate Horse Training Formula. In this course you will learn to train horses with positive reinforcement. You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.
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Here are some more tips to save money, time and energy when you work at a horse barn or when you have your horses at home.

Haynet Hacks Use Clips

Use clips to hang the nets, not knots. Saves a lot of frustration and time a few times a day. Especially when you have more than 2 horses to take care of. It is only a few minutes, but the frustration of knots that you hardly can untie (with cold hands in Winter!) and the worry your horse gets entangled in a net are not worth it.

I prefer cotton nets above the nets that are made out of polyester or similar materials.

Easy Hoop Feeder

This is a clever and time saving favourite of mine! It is an expensive one (about $50 for just the Easy Hoop) and then another $50 or so for the slowfeeder nets, but totally worth it.

Easy Loading Hay Hoop in action - YouTube

Natural Grazing Posture

Depending on the circumstances you can even choose to offer your slowfeeder nets on the ground. Some things to consider are the surface. Perfect to do on gravel, hog fuel/ wood chips or in a field, not so smart for in the mud on on sand.

Take the knot out of the rope to hang the net and knot the net close. Then offer the net from the ground. This is only a time saving hack if you buy a big net that saves you offer one feeding.

Enrichment for horses a slowfeeder net on the ground - YouTube

House-Train Your Horse

This takes a time investment but it will safe you so many hard labour hours in the future.

Teach your horse to poop in a designated place in the stall, paddock, pasture and even in the arena. I share tips to clicker train a mule to become house trained in this video.

How to House Train a Mule and other Q's answered - YouTube

In another blog I share my training strategy how I house-trained Kyra in the arena.

You can even teach your horse to poop before you take him out of his stall/paddock/field so you never ever have to clean up the hallway, cross ties or poop scoop the arena. We all know we forget once in a while! We also know forgetting this a few times in a row can damage our relationship with the barn owner or other boarders (who do clean up).

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to know about me or have a question about house training your horse, book your free discovery call.

Online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses? Join the Ultimate Horse Training Formula program in which you learn the 12 Key Lesson to Success.

If you are ready to get the results in training you really, really want this is the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is for you. Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

Join HippoLogic’s online training program for clicker trainers the Ultimate Horse Training Formula. In this course you will learn to train horses with positive reinforcement. You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

PS Did you know HippoLogic has a  membership (accountability) program?

Ultimate Horse Training Formula

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Equestrians view the world differently than normal people. Here is how horse people know it’s Spring.

How else do we view the world differently? Share your view!

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses?

If you are ready to get the results in training you really, really want this is the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is for you. Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

Join HippoLogic’s online training program for clicker trainers the Ultimate Horse Training Formula. In this course you will learn to train horses with positive reinforcement. You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

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! Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training. Follow my blog on Bloglovin

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