Turning your energy-saving horse into a forward horse is totally possible! It’s not set in stone or ‘in their nature’ to only offer a minimal amount of exercise. Get your horse in shape with R+!
Yes, it’s in their nature to always save some energy to get away for a predator but nature has built in a reserve energy storage that can be accesses by adrenaline. That’s called ‘flight mode’.
In this series of articles I’ll show you how you can recognize and overcome the most common struggles horse owners of overweight horses have.
Out of shape is not natural
Have you ever considered that horses need to be in shape in order to escape their predators? Therefor it is a natural state to be in a good condition!
So let go of the thought of “my horse is an energy saver/a whoa horse/a lazy one” and get in action to turn this around. If you think “this is the way my horse is” you might feel powerless and won’t even start to change your horse’s shape. Read more about how Mindset (<<click) determines your actions.
If you’ve ever been overweight you know this is not a natural state and it doesn’t feel good. I guess the same goes for our horses. Your horse feels better if he’s healthy and in shape! The more he’ll exercise the easier it gets. I think the runners high that people (and mice!) get, also works for horses.
I couldn’t find studies about runners high in horses, so if you know of one, please link in the comment section. The studies I’ve read about mice and people are very interesting!
Consistency is Key
Moving is aversive for overweight horses. Get your horse in shape with clicker training! That will help turn exercising into a rewarding and fun thing to do for your horse (if done properly). Anyone can do this!
In order to turn your “energy saver”, “lazy horse” or “fatty” into an athlete you need a Training Plan (<< see this blog). Once you know how to start and what to do, the next key is consistency. You have to turn exercising your horse into a habit in order to succeed.
In order to be consistent with your exercise program for your horse you need accountability and support.
We all start enthusiastically new tasks. Our brains love novelty and in our mind it’s easy. Then reality kicks in and we discover that it can be quite daunting keep up the good work. If you have ever started an exercise program for yourself by yourself you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard by yourself. With the right support it’s so much easier. And more fun, too!
In order to prevent quitting before you get the result you want, you need a good plan. Just like a training plan for our horses, we need to consider that we also need small approximations in order to keep going until we see results.
Make a plan (for yourself!) and start small. Be consistent! Hand walking your horse using R+ to keep him walking in the same pace is the first step. This will help get your horse in shape. It’s the first (tiny) step! Even if it’s 10 minutes hand walking on day 1. It doesn’t mean you’ll do this for months. Remember, it’s just a beginning.
As you well know, as clicker trainer: the beginning of training a behaviour almost never looks like the end goal (unless you capture behaviour). Same goes for getting your horse in shape and turning your Whoa horse into a Go horse.
Accountability is your Key to Success! That’s why it’s one of the Key Lessons in the HippoLogic program and Clicker Training Academy. Find an accountability partner that you can share your successes with, that listens to you and that you can always turn to if you need support.
Start where you/your horse is at
For some horses ‘walking’ for 10 minutes is where they start. If that’s difficult, start smaller! There is no ‘rule’ that states that if you start small you’ll never accomplish a big goal. You know that! On the contrary: every journey starts with the first step.
You do this for your horse all the time in positive reinforcement training: looking at the target is reinforced because without seeing the target, your horse won’t aim for it. But clicking your horse for ‘looking at the target’ doesn’t look like all the amazing behaviours that follow this first step. Think of hip targeting to align next to the mounting block or accepting a dewormer.
Exercising your overweight horse is the same: start small, make it fun and rewarding so he’ll be looking forward to next time. When your horse starts to enjoy it more, it will be easier for you, too! The ‘secret’ is to get into a positive, upward spiral!
Get your horse in shape with R+
Don’t over train your horse, even if he still likes to earn his appetitives. Doing too much in the beginning will only set you or your horse back and you’ll make it more difficult to consistently exercise.
Even if you feel you make no progress (How much will it help slim my horse down when I start 15 or 20 minute hand walks?), you are lying a solid foundation (a habit!) for your horse and for yourself.
If you are not used to exercising your horse regularly, it’s a change. Don’t underestimate this! Anticipate.
Turn ‘exercising your horse’ into your habit!
Maybe you’re not in the habit because he’s your companion, you don’t ride or you’ve always focused on other things with your horse. All totally valid and understandable. Now you’re aware that exercising your horse is not (yet!) your habit, you can take that into consideration. This is another Key to your Success in getting your horse in shape. Now you know, you cannot un-know this! Think about it!
In my program R+ Training for Overweight Horses this is one of the many things I address and tailor to your needs. I share how you can make this easily into your new habit. Getting your horse fit and healthy becomes fun. This will turn into an exciting journey for you, instead of something you dread or give up on before you get results.
If you think: This is me! I need help with this. I’d love to talk to you.
Join my September Program!
In my brand new September program I teach how you can use positive reinforcement to get your horse to move and get him in shape. We work in a small group and I help you personally with setting goals for your horse and make a training plan, that’s tailored at your horse, your situation.
The program is aimed at clicker trainers with overweight horses, since their owners struggle so much. They worry about their horses. Exercise is aversive for your horse when it’s (physically) hard and I teach you can help your horse overcome that.
In this program I give participants a training program, help them tailor it to their situation and share R+ training techniques to teach your horse to move so you can get him into shape with 100% clicker training! How does that sound?
If this is what you need, then book a short (free) Zoom call with me (<< click here to book your slot). I’m interviewing people right now so I can tailor the content of this program exactly to your needs.
I’m only offering this to a small group so everyone can count on individual coaching in our group. We start Sunday September 12 with coaching over Zoom and then I will coach you for two weeks online.
This 14-day program includes:
- Live class on Zoom
- Facebook support group
- Feedback on your training videos
- Tailored advice
You can book your call by clicking the button below. If timing doesn’t work, please just reply to this email and we’ll figure out a time.
Happy Horse training!