In 2015 I wrote about the key lessons (your keys to success) for horses. Not only the horse needs to be set up for success, but also the trainer. These three Key Lessons are for Trainers*). They will help you reach your goals quicker and enjoy the journey more: a training plan, a shaping plan and a training diary.
*) This was written in 2015, meanwhile I kept developing myself as R+ horse trainer and as positive reinforcement coach. I found three other indispensable skills or traits for Trainers that help you become successful quicker, communicate clearer and help you avoid struggle and falling into common pitfalls and I added them to HippoLogic’s Key Lessons for Trainers.
6 Key Lessons for Trainers are 1) Training plan, 2) Shaping plan (and splitting behaviours), 3) Training journal, 4) Accountability partner, 5) Learning theory (principles of learning and motivation. Not only for horses but for humans too!) and 6) Emotions in Training (not only equine emotions, but also human emotions). I teach them in my online programs and also in my Clicker Training Academy where you get accountability and coaching.
If you know what it is you want to achieve, it is easy to distill a step-by-step plan from your goal. The difficulty is to determine: what are your goals and how important are they?
Ask yourself: is my goal really my own goal or is it more or less influenced by others? It is harder to achieve a goal if you lack intrinsic motivation . You can’t always influence the extrinsic motivators so if they disappear what’s left?
If your motivation is to get compliments or approval from your fellow equestrians and nobody notices it, it can be a real disappointment. It will be much harder keep going. Or maybe you are working on something your instructor wants you to do and you don’t see the value in this particular exercise.
If you’ve been teaching your horse something because you like it and you enjoy the process of teaching it, you will feel the satisfaction of your accomplished goal much longer. Therefor you will be looking forward to working on your next goal.
Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
So, think about your equestrian goals. Ask yourself if it is really you that wants to achieve it, or is it someone else’s goal? Think about what it feels like when you’ve accomplished your goal. Do you want it because you like it, or do you want it to get approval of an outsider or maybe you think you are supposed to do it.
I know a lot of people who don’t ride their horse for various reasons. They all feel more or less pressured all the time to defend their choice to outsiders. I know some of them will ride because ‘it is expected’. As you can understand this kind of motive will not give pleasure. Riding can become a real struggle.
Sometimes you have to let go of goals. That can be painful. Keep in mind that is is OK to change your mind and your goals. It is easier if you understand why you want to let go of your goal(s).
If you don’t like to ride your horse because you’ve discovered that you have a fear of riding (a real taboo for equestrians) you can choose to work on your fear with a trustworthy instructor who respects your boundaries. Or, you can choose to let go of your riding goals. If you know what motivates your choices it is also much easier to ‘own your story’.
Sometimes you discover that your goals or motivation have changed and that it’s time to redefine your goals. It is much easier to work on a goal that you really want, than a goal that has been expired.
Keep track of accomplishments
One way to keep yourself motivated is to keep track of your achievements by keeping a training journal.
Most people have a tendency to compare themselves to others, which is almost never a fair comparison. I’ve heard someone once saying: “You always compare the best of others, to the worst of yourself.” Yes, sometimes this is true. Better compare yourself with… yourself. The only fair way to do this is to keep track of your own journey and to realize often how far you’ve already come.
It is your journey and as long as you are making progress you are doing a good job! Keep that in mind.
Next time I will write more about shaping plans.
Links to other key lessons
- Table manners for Horses: safe behaviour around food and treats
- Equine emotions during training
- Head lowering & backing
- Mat training
Thank you for reading. Let me know how what you think is a valuable skill in clicker training and why.
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I do this by connecting you with your inner wisdom (you know what is good for your horse if you look into your heart) and sharing the principles of learning and motivation so you become confident and knowledgeable to train your horse in a safe and effective way, that’s FUN for both you and your horse. Win-Win!