5 Horses Show You Why Breaking the Rules Can Lead to Connection

connection-training-logo-horse-onlyConnection Training is about the, errm, connection.
One of the main reasons why Shawna, Rachel and I were so keen to work together and set up Connection Training was because we all value the relationship and connection between horses and humans more than anything. So, your horse is doing that amazing behaviour? Good stuff, but HOW is he doing it??

That jackpot of relaxation, enthusiasm, joy and focus all in equal balance is what we all strive for. But, of course, getting there is often not so easy…

…especially when you’re trying to follow a certain set of rules.

Want to break the ‘rules’? You can!

It’s a tricky thing because humans like rules and plans and guidelines, but sometimes this just doesn’t work for your horse. You might find this leads to tension, grumpiness, resistance or over-excitability amongst others in your horse. UH-OH. Luckily this isn’t a cause for panic – just for re-assessing what you’re doing and changing it up and there is ALWAYS a way 🙂

I’m a big fan of breaking the ‘rules’. Or at least getting very creative to get the behavioural and emotional results I’m looking for in the horse I’m working with. Throughout our videos on Connection Training, we mix it up and change it up and try different things to help increase relaxation or build motivation or reduce frustration or anxiety. Certainly our members report that they find it really helpful to be encourage to really look at and assess THEIR horse and then have plenty of ideas of things to try to improve it.
For you and your horse to have an AMAZING time together and achieve your goals, it’s worth remembering that your horse is an individual.

Your horse is an individual. and so are all these…

Horses for courses...
Horses for courses…

This was highlighted on a course I taught a couple of weeks ago. What a perfect mix of equines we had! Here’s a little info on a few of the horses on the course and how we helped:

> Three horses who were new to Connection Training and were fairly typical in those just getting started – focused on the food but quickly learned to stand calmly and politely, lots of repetition to really give them the idea that their behaviour is what causes the treats and learn targeting etc. They were fed on every click to give that meaning and strength and getting lots of food and short breaks.

> Another horse new to connection training  but very switched on to learning. Picked it up in about 3 clicks. Had we stayed and repeated (or drilled!) this lesson he would quickly have got bored and then just focused on the food rather than the behaviour (we saw a hint of this already). So, we quickly moved on to using the clicks with scratches and other reinforcers as well as food and also as simply a marker (a reinforcer in its own right) with both known and new behaviours. He was totally tuned into the click and he picked up new behaviours really fast while remaining calm and focused.

> One horse who was very very foody and would do anything for the food, including behaviours he found a little scary, such as loading. So, he’d do the behaviour for the treat and then panic about it. Not useful. What did we do? Took the food away and left it at the side of the arena. Reinforced with praise (big reinforcer for this horse) and scratches and fun behaviours. After a big effort on his part, his human would run to the treats and give him some on the floor.
This worked like a dream for him – he became much calmer and more focused on his human and the behaviours he was doing, softer, more relaxed and he even left the pile of treats after a few repetitions to carry on ‘playing’ because the behaviours were so enjoyable for him! Amazing 🙂

So, these few horses showed that they needed very different approaches in their reinforcement and speed of training. In all cases we got more engagement and relaxation and less tension and frustration – bingo!

Actually, I  talked all about this in my Tailored Training presentation at the Equine Clicker Conference in 2013, so it’s very much a part of how we train horses.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

In fact, I finished off my Tailored Training presentation on the human’s part in this – experimentation. If you feel that something is not working or going in the direction you’d like, don’t be afraid to try something new or different. It might be plan D or E you’re on by the time you find something that works brilliantly, but you’ll have learnt a lot along the way!
Most of all, TRY IT and SEE – your horse will give you all the answers you need!


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