A while ago I did a survey about clicker training and one of the questions was: What’s holding you back from accomplishing your dream goals with your horse I was quite surprised with the two top answers: I don’t have time train and I don’t have money. I will write next time about the money problem and solutions.
Not enough time
Now I am wondering what people mean if they say “I don’t have time to train my horse”. For me training doesn’t have to cost a lot of time. If I have a clear goal and made a plan I can modify a horse’s behaviour with as little as a 5-minute training session. So maybe they don’t know that?
Or wouldn’t they have 5 to 15 minutes a few times a week to spent with their horse? I hope it’s the first and that they don’t realize that with clicker training you can really get results fast.
How much time does it cost to train a horse?
That depends of course on what you want to train, how experienced you are as trainer and the history (learning curve) of the horse. Every training starts with the first step and I find it very encouraging if I see the behaviour of the horse change within minutes.
‘Training cost (lots of) time’-myth
I think -if you come from a traditional background- like me, you’re probably ingrained with the idea that “training cost time”. Lots of time, and that it’s all “very complicated” and “very difficult”. You have to be a “very good and knowledgeable trainer” and that “cost years”. Don’t let those old ideas intimidate you.
Yes, it’s true that you have to spent time training in order to become better at it. The more you practise and the more you know about training, the better results you’ll get.
How much time would it save you to teach your horse to respond to his or her name? (PS don’t forget to subscribe to my channel!)
Horse training then, and now
What’s different now, in comparison to decades ago is that people spent time with their own horses. So they already know lots about them, just by observing them.
And of course we now have the Internet now and YouTube. Two very valuable resources if it comes to ethical horse training. In the old days (before the internet) you had to know someone who was willing to teach you or maybe you could find some knowledge in the few library books about horse training in the local public library.
Positive reinforcement horse training
With positive reinforcement you accomplish really quickly behaviour modifications. The better your horse understand the principle of clicker training, the quicker you’ll get results.
Your horse knows that 1) there is valuable something for him that he can get, by 2) adjusting his own behaviour. He knows that if he tries different things he will get lots of information (clicks and treats/ no clicks).
Get the horse on your team
With positive reinforcement you have the horse ‘on board’ of training. He’s not waiting for you to apply an aversive and then try to figure out how he can avoid and anticipate on it. He won’t offer behaviour with negative reinforcement (pressure/release, NH, traditional training), he will be waiting for you to do something.
I believe that if you apply R+ well, the horse remembers it better: there was something good it it for him! Of course he will remember! We all like to remember good times!
Flip your thinking
It cost time to develop your horse training skills. And yes, if you had to develop your negative reinforcement skills first and then develop positive reinforcement skills and had a lot of “un learning” to do, that could have taken some time. Now you’ve done that and you understand the principles of positive reinforcement, you can practise.
Training sessions can be as short as 3 – 5 minutes! If things went well you can do another 5-minutes session and then leave your horse until next time. I found that giving your horse a break can even enhance your training results. That’s called ‘latent learning’. In latent learning the brain keeps making neural connections, outside training. The knowledge sinks in. If you end your short training session on a really good note and you give your horse a break until next day or even two days later you get really good results. Have you ever tried that? I make deliberate use of latent learning. It speeds up training.
Count training minutes, not ‘days’ or ‘weeks’
Here is how you can flip your thinking. Instead of thinking that it ‘costed 3 weeks’ to train haltering, only calculate your actual training time. If it took you three weeks to train a horse to put his head in the halter himself you weren’t actually training 504 hours, right? Seven days a week (7×24) times 3 weeks = 504.
If you only count the actual training time, in minutes(!) you’ll get a more optimistic number.
Actual training times are very reinforcing!
Let’s say that it took you 3 weeks, but you only trained (practised this behaviour) for 5 days a week 3 times 5 minutes. 3 x 5 = 15 minutes a day for (only) 5 days, is 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you would have done this for three weeks it only took you 3 hours and 45 minutes to teach your horse to self halter.
How does that sound? I took me less than 4 hours to turn my horse into a self haltering horse! Do you still feel you don’t have time to train your horse?
How much time does it cost NOT to train your horse?
Now think of all the time you’ve spent over the years, trying to halter your unwilling horse... How often did you have to walk (or run) after him in the pasture? Think about that question: how much time did it cost you, not to train the behaviour that would improve your mood and your horse’s life?
Every day 1-5 minutes to halter an unwilling horse? That adds up to 7 – 35 minutes a week. How many years do you have your horse? (times 52, times the amount of years). All those hours of annoyance and maybe even frustration and anger…. I remember those times. You had to catch a horse (that’s also how it was phrased: catching not: ‘calling’ or ‘getting’ or ‘retrieving’ the horse) from the field for your riding lesson. If you had to do that, you learned pretty quickly to take extra time and come early. 😉
Now I just call my horse’s name and I don’t have to wade through mud with the risk of losing a boot. Yes it took me only a few hours to train my wild horse and turn her into a self haltering horse. Kyra and I are 12 years together and haltering is very easy and I still enjoy the fruits of my labour (my 3 or 4 hour time investment) in 2009
Have you “flipped your thinking”? Do you think in training sessions or minutes rather than in weeks, months or years?
Keep track of your training
Keeping track of your training (Key Lesson Training journal) is one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers that I teach my clients. I love to keep it simple, so my clients actually read it back (with a smile on their face) and extract valuable information from it. Like tracking training time, so training never seems to cost too much time.
Do you keep track of your training? What has it brought you? Share your experience in the comments and inspire other readers!
Is it really time? Or something else
Is it really time that is holding you back from accomplishing your equestrian dreams? Or maybe something else if you are being honest?
Could it be that you fear something?
Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of not knowing enough? Not feeling comfortable training R+ in a R- enviroment?
I truly wonder if ‘time’ is holding people from being happy with their horse?
What do you think?
Are you struggling with practical things that cost time?
Is none of the above reflecting your situation? Does it take too much time to set up your training environment before you can start? Read the next blog.
Sandra Poppema, BSc
I teach horse people to connect with their horse in training, so they get results and the relationship they want with their beloved horse. Make training win-win!