R+ solutions in a Natural Horsemanship environment

How to carry through with Positive Reinforcement solutions. dealing with R- trainers. Without getting into My Way/Your Way-discussions. That was the topic of this week HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy (CTA) coaching call.

It can be very difficult to navigate through the minefield of sensible topics. Having a tribe that has your back helps.

Are you defending or explaining R+?

Do you fall into the pitfall of trying to explain R+ to R- horse people? Do you get in to endless -and most often frustrating– discussions, without conveying your point of how much more beneficial clicker training is than working with aversives? Do you ever feel as if it’s better to avoid certain subjects, in order to keep the peace?

One of the downsides of boarding your horse in a traditional oriented barn is that you find yourself explaining positive reinforcement principles to deaf ears. How frustrating is that? Do you wish to be among R + people, who understand how the relationship with your horse changes with positive reinforcement training… Do you wish more people would understand how the world changes to the horse when more R+ is applied?


Do you come into conflict with yourself, your (equestrian core) values or other people (barn owner) when you’re being the best guardian of your horse? Does it wear you out fighting against mainstream horse training approaches at your barn? You’re not the only clicker trainer dealing with this!

Do you find it hard to talk about or carry out your ideas about how to introduce new horses into the herd, introduce more feedings a day or would you like to introduce slow feeders or a low sugar hay to your horse’ diet? Do you feel bad that your horse is locked up way longer than promised?

It can be very useful to discuss these topic with other R+ minded people and share your experiences. I’ve learned a great deal boarding horses for 3 decades in (more or less) traditional boarding facilities.

Share your Ideas effectively

Would you like to know how to make your ideas, the ideas of other people effectively and with ease? People who might not have the best interest of the horse as a priority, or maybe only until it interferes with their own goals and ideas. That’s a topic that comes up over and over in the Academy. It’s so good to talk about this with other like-minded horse people and hear about what they do, how they handle it and what works…

In our weekly group clicker coaching session this week, we talked about how we can avoid ending up defending and explaining clicker training to deaf ears, how we can carry through with our R+ ideas and solutions even when the barn owner has a different idea and also how to avoid the “My Way is the Best Way”-kind of discussions. Those will only leave you with a bitter taste and a fear of being asked to find another stable for your horse. Recording of this session and other group sessions are available to members.

Support from like-minded R+ trainers

Today’s topic of our weekly Zoom conversation in the HippoLogic Clicker Training was how to introduce 3 new horses into a herd of two, without just putting them all together in at once as is a common traditional approach.

How to teach a herd bound, claustrophobic horse to horse adapt to being left alone when the other horse is going out for a trail ride (with other horses!) without locking him up in a stall. How to talk with the other horse owners and come to a Win-Win solution without emotional discussions.

All women, one barn. We all know how that goes, when someone said something that was hurtful. We won’t forget. It’s even more challenging when our discussion partner is in a power position (owns the barn, for example). Then we need tools to empowers us, and help us enhance the relationship with our barn owner instead of undermining it! How to accomplish that?

Avoid this pitfall

Tip #1: avoid explaining how and why positive reinforcement works. The more you explain, the more amo you’ll give them to ‘prove you wrong’. Yes, some people will do that. I don’t believe it’s ill will, but often it’s the confirmation bias at work. Avoid that pitfall!

How to honour your ideas in a R- oriented environment

Heart to heart connection with your horse

There are many ways to implement a positive reinforcement solution in a negative reinforcement focused environment, without yielding your own values or opinions about horse training, riding and horse care. And without evoking a Loose-Loose-Discussion, also known as falling into the pitfall of confirmation bias.

What is your biggest struggle when it comes to carrying out R+ solutions or approaches at your barn?

Do people understand your point of view (giving horses a voice and a choice and reinforcing it with appetitives)? Have you ever felt conflicted between your equestrian values and the need to ‘keep the peace’?

If you struggle with this…

One thing I noticed is that lots of clicker trainsters often struggle with this. They don’t know how to convince other horse people to use clicker training, make it more acceptable or to find horse friendly approaches that won’t compromise equine welfare (but reinforce it). Which makes sense, because it’s a lot of things to work on at once. I believe you too, can become a positive leader people listen to. If your goal is to be listened to and get the respect for your training you deserve, check out the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy (CTA for short). We’ll give you the tools to navigate in a R- world.

Find help

The CTA is an online mentorship program that helps enhance and expand your clicker training skills, as well as overcoming the daily challenges you come across as a positive reinforcement trainer in the ‘Normal’ horse world. We offer clicker training courses, Zoom coaching calls and an online very supportive positive reinforcement community with like-minded horse women! Apply here: *CLICK*

Need support, inspiration and your own R+ community?

Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy! A few times a year the doors open up to welcome new members.
In the Academy you get accountability, I am a great fan of goal setting and supporting horse people to live the live they dream of. You get access to my personal feedback and advice and also get access to online courses.

The most important aspect is our supportive, loving community with a wealth of knowledge that we want to share with other enthusiastic R+ trainers. Want to get a notification when the doors open? I usually celebrate it with a free challenge, training or other fun activity. Get on the wait list. We’ll open the doors soon.

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of HippoLogic

 Sandra and her horse Kyra

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