Well, those recent posts were all well and good but how are you going to do this day to day? How do you even make this plan of Friendship-Liberty-Traditional?
The first thing I do is create a list of what I want to work on. I don’t want my horse flooded with too much too do – he won’t learn that way.
This list has to be chunked down – in smaller micro tasks that my horse can learn over a course of 3 sessions before another piece is added. Think of it like rail road cars and each car is a task, the entire train is the final, completed goal. However, until the first car is learned and can be repeated with 90% or better accuracy, you don’t hook up the second car.
So if each micro-task is a ball, how many balls can my horse juggle before he starts dropping them? Don’t have too many going on! It’s better to keep it small and focused, and let that ball achieve 90% competency before adding in another ball. Until your horse can juggle that ball without thinking of it, don’t add in another.
Each task I consider the following: low or high energy? how much choice the horse has? how can I increase my horse’s motivation? What activities does he like? What ones does he seem to do naturally?
With each activity, I consider how much time I spend on it in proportion to other activities. In making my weekly plan, I want to weight Friendship time and Horse Can Choose time more heavily then Person Controlled Activities. Horse Enjoys vs. Must Get Done. Tasks can be layered in sequences that can encourage more “buy-in” for tasks your horse doesn’t enjoy as much. End on a task your horse enjoys.
Let’s look at my weekly chart. For my convenience I’ve made this in a table using Word (here is dantes_workschedule in a pdf).
The Light Blue areas are those that are required to get done. Dante wouldn’t choose to do these activities but I will reinforce with food rewards when I can. For example, the grooming and hoof care sessions take place while he is eating breakfast. The Physical Therapy (PT) and Masterson Method both take place with a halter and leadrope; the first has food rewards.
The Rose Pink areas is training that I feel needs to be done to make him stronger such as Straightness Training. An extension of the Physical Therapy it is probably his least liked activities, with little Horse Choice, and the maximum Person Decided.
The Light Orange areas mark Liberty and Clicker Training sessions with a lot of room for Dante to say no as these activities take place with little to no tack, in large areas with the option to leave at any time.
The Green areas are Friendship and Companionship time where nothing is expected from Dante from me other then “chillaxin.”
You can see that Tuesday and Thursday are going to be his hardest days – days spent doing things he would rather not do! HA! So I will have to pull out my rewards and think creatively about how I can make him start liking this task a bit better. I could end those days with something he loves to do – such as letting him eat grass in the outer field, or play the leg lift or shoulder in game at liberty.
This is a living document – something to be scribbled on so there is a notes section for each day. Things I want to record –
- what was Dante’s energy level that day? (1-10, 1 being low, 10 being highest)
- how long did we spend on each activity? (write in a time in 5 minute increments)
- what level is he showing with each task? (Zero = clueless; One slash = attempting; two slashes = accomplished)
Once an X is at a task, that shows me that he has become accomplished; that ball (exercise) is now juggled without thought. Time to hook up a new railroad car to the previous task as we work towards the bigger picture.
Time spent on the task also gives me a clearer idea of how long I’m doing activities where he has no choice, vs. ones where he does. I can see how that effects his mood and willingness to be with me or work hard on tasks he normally doesn’t care for. Recording time is an important part of this training schedule – don’t forget it!
After next week, I’ll show you a video of a completed record and how I’ve used it to shape the next week’s training schedule.
Most common problems I see with training:
Not having a plan – just winging it. This means you will have no ability to track your progress. Your horse will learn things out of sequence and there is a greater chance of confusion on the part of your horse. Bigger possibility of flooding the horse with too much information resulting in your horse becoming non-cooperative.
Not understanding the reason behind how the training works. There are some great training methods out there – such as Liberty, Clicker Training, Straightness Training, etc… but if you don’t understand the theory you won’t get the application. This can lead to over doing something (flooding = overwhelming the horse) or not doing enough micro tasking which causes the horse to become confused.
Not listening to the horse. Each horse and your relationship with him is unique. Trainers make it look easy in their videos, but they don’t show how long it took to get there! If your horse acts out, gets frustrated, gets confused, or you get mad he isn’t performing, it’s time to take a step back and figure it out. Listen to the horse – he really does know stuff!
Expecting things to be done quickly such as in a day or week, when it will take months. This is the person who throws too much at their horse, too quickly, (flooding = overwhelmed), resulting in the horse becoming frustrated and confused. If your horse doesn’t get it in 3 sessions, break down into smaller micro tasks. Give yourself and your horse time. It takes a lot of building bricks to make a building!
Spending too much time on accomplished tasks. This is the person who continues over and over again with a task the horse knows well, and then wonders why the horse eventually becomes bored, disengaged, and non-cooperative. Once a task is truly accomplished, move on to making it slightly more challenging (in a micro way). For example, if your horse knows to walk over a ground pole, raise one end of the ground pole.
Giving up because you are confused or making mistakes. I’ll tell you something the horse world won’t – it’s really okay to make mistakes! Your horse will forgive you! It’s through mistakes that you and your horse will really learn! If confused, go back to Friendship time, and review your reading, videos, books, and helpers to see where you might be going wrong.
Be flexible but stay consistent. If your schedule isn’t working, make a new one. But re-working the schedule from the bones up every day is not consistent. Not coming out but once a week to see your horse isn’t consistent. Your horse and you need consistency to progress.
And last DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN A DANGEROUS SITUATION. Yes, horses are dangerous but you don’t have to encourage it! 😉 stay safe out there! If your horse scares you, or an exercise became scary, pull back and rethink. You might need some professional help or at least a friend or trainer’s outside judgment.