Episode 62 // The Successful R+ Lesson Program
This episode is a continuation of the previous, Episode 61 // Ethical Horse Businesses, and ties in as well to Episode 44 // Lesson Programs with R+, with Steph K. I discuss the keys to a successful lesson program, including knowing when you are experienced enough, knowing when your horse is experienced enough, how a horse's personality type can impact their suitability to be in a lesson program, and so much more!
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast, where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:29] So following our previous or my previous podcast episode, talking about ethical horse businesses. And then also following on the long ago episode with Steph K about R plus riding programs, I thought it would be really beneficial to talk about training horses or preparing horses for lesson programs, with positive reinforcement and what goes into that and what that looks like, because it is a little bit different than it is with traditional training. However, a lot of it is very similar. At least the concepts are similar. The idea is similar. When we're looking at establishing a lesson program and the horses that would be beneficial or necessary to have a successful and safe lesson program for kids and adults alike. But with this time with horses that are trained with positive reinforcement.
[00:01:19] Now, today I'm recording this episode in my barn, in my office. So there may be a little bit of background noise. I apologize for that. But hopefully you guys will all be understanding seeing as we're all horse people and we get it. So it might be some neighs or some stomping around or different sounds. I don't know.
[00:01:36] Anyway, so let's talk about preparing horses or what is necessary for horses that are going to be involved in a positive reinforcement focused lesson program. The first thing that is going to be necessary to understand and to just be prepared for, is that in order to be able to have a successful lesson program with positive reinforcement, the trainer needs to be highly educated with a lot of experience in training with positive reinforcement, because it'll be really important that you're able to keep up your horses training. And you'll probably be the one that is doing the training yourself for these horses that will be in your lesson program. So just like we would fully expect somebody who's teaching a riding lesson program with traditionally trained horses, we would fully expect them to have a lot of experience and the necessary skills to train horses, to be safe and effective teachers. For these students with traditional training, it's going to be the same with positive reinforcement. If you just recently decided to start experimenting with clicker training and positive reinforcement. Keep doing that. Like that's awesome. I love that. However, I want to caution you in jumping right into teaching lesson programs with your current knowledge and skillset with positive reinforcement, with clicker training, with a Lima humane hierarchy focused type training. You're going to need a whole lot more experience and time to build your skillset and to build your knowledge so that you can then turn around and be able to teach your students the things that you are, have learned or are currently learning. Again, just like with any other lesson program, we would expect the teacher, the coach, the trainer, whoever the riding lesson instructor, to be very educated in what it is that they are teaching. So this goes a little bit beyond like the riding lesson program and the horse training aspect of it, but is totally involved in all of that is very, very important. I have a lot of people that come to me that are interested in starting lesson programs that are based on positive reinforcement, which I'm all for and a huge supporter of however, there is a lack of experience or even a knowledge like level and skill level that is necessary for a successful program where you're turning around and teaching these people. Whether they're young adults, adults, kids. It doesn't matter. The skills that they're needing to learn and they need to know. So you need to be educated. You need to have a mentor. You need to have a coach. You need to have a lot of training with other instructors. You need to clock hours, many, many, many hours, not just in horses, because all of your years, your previous years, with horse training, horsemanship, natural horsemanship, traditional training competitions, all of that is valuable. And you will need that. And you will apply that in all of your coaching going forward, but it is not, or it is lacking, I should say, in this particular area. So just like I wouldn't jump out and start advertising for like, as a, let's say a Western pleasure training instructor, riding instructor. I'm not prepared to be able to teach that in a professional manner. I have been doing horses like my whole life. I have been coaching and training professionally for a long time now, but I am not particularly skilled or knowledgeable in the area of Western pleasure or reining or let's think of some other areas maybe I don't know, endurance things like that. I would need a whole lot more education and experience before I could turn around, start teaching people, those things. I'm just not skilled in those areas. And that's okay. That doesn't make me any less qualified to be a professional. It just makes me less qualified to be a professional in those particular disciplines. Same idea here with clicker training and positive reinforcement, you need to be skilled and have a lot of experience in this particular area. Before you can turn around and start teaching people about clicker training and positive reinforcement and all of this in a professional capacity.
[00:05:29] And on top of all of this. So we've been talking about the, from the student's perspective, right? The human learner's perspective. We also need to be skilled trainers in this area because we are the ones that are training the horses that are going to be in our lesson program and maintaining their training. If you are not particularly skilled or experienced yet in training this way, then your horses are not going to have the necessary foundation or skills that is needed to be able to safely and effectively teach your students. So it's going to be quite a bit of a mess. So your own education and experience level has a huge role here and is really, really important that we pay close attention to that. And if you're listening to this episode and you are looking for a coach or an instructor, I highly encourage you to look at their education. What classes, have they done? Who have they mentored under? What courses have they taken? How many years have they been training this particular way? How many horses have they worked with in this particular way? What are their case studies like? What are their success stories? Do they have referrals, et cetera? You need to be looking for somebody who is experienced. Now I'm gonna put all this with a little bit of a caveat because. It is still like this type of training is still relatively new. So there are some limitations to how many years you should be expecting of experience level from an instructor you're going to be learning from, you're not, you're gonna be hard pressed to find somebody who's been doing this for 20 years, clicker training in particular for 20 years, however, they could have been, they could have had horses for 20 years and training professionally for 20 years. And maybe they've been training as positive reinforcement for the last four years. That is potentially a really good candidate for being an instructor, depending on how dedicated they were to their education and experience gaining experience during those four years, have they been taking courses? Have they been mentored by somebody who has more experience? Have they been studying? Have they been really applying it, et cetera. So do your research on that. Make sure you're looking for somebody who is well suited to being a professional instructor in this particular area. Just like you wouldn't sign up to take Western pleasure riding lessons from somebody who is known for their competitive show jumping career and training and instructing and all that. Not to say that they couldn't do Western pleasure, but maybe that's not the best instructor to be learning from and giving your money to and dedicating your time to instead, it would be more beneficial to find somebody who is actively training and showing in Western pleasure to learn from. Same idea here.
[00:07:52] All right, back to the horses. When you're intention is to create a lesson program centered around, you know, positive reinforcement and clicker training. It is really important that we have horses in our lesson program that are very experienced. So just like we need our instructors to be extremely experienced, we also need our horses to be extremely experienced. This is also very challenging, considering most horses don't have near the level of experience with positive reinforcement clicker training, etc.. that we would like them to have, to be able to do a lesson program. And a lot of times we're having to pull horses out of traditional programs or out of traditional training and retraining them to then be able to teach the kids and students alike.
[00:08:32] I will give you an example. So I have seven horses of my own personally here. Two of them are really integrated into my lesson program. That's not to say that there couldn't be more. I'd say actually it's probably more like three, but two of them in particular, I would consider like really qualified and experienced lesson horses. And when I talk about lessons, when I teach lessons with horses, it does look different than in traditional programs. When my students come out, we go get the horse that we're gonna work with for that day together. And I'm usually doing private lessons. Sometimes I do semi-private sometimes it's small groups, but rarely, usually it's privates. And so we go out together to invite the horse to participate in the lesson with us. So we go and meet the horse, you know, part of the way. Then they come up to us and we go through different steps. So I ask them to self halter. And then we bring them into our training area. And usually we start off on the ground doing some different exercises, whether it's like cone targeting or following the target or some reverse round pen or going over ground poles. Or maybe even we spend the first part of the lesson free shaping a new behavior. A lot of my lessons are focused on teaching people how to be trainers, not so much on a particular discipline. Now you could arrange your lesson program to be different than mine. But mine is very much focused on horsemanship, taking care of horses and being a horse trainer. We do ride, but that is not the primary focus of what I teach. So we send a good portion of the lesson working on our horsemanship skills and our training skills and understanding learning theory and operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and how to shape behaviors and how to listen to the horse's body language and calming signals and all of that. And then usually the second half of the lesson, or maybe it's every other lesson we will, you know, ask the horse if they want to be, you know, ridden. So we do that through start buttons and cooperative behaviors. So they'll line up at the station. We put this tack on and then we go and ask 'em if they wanna line up at the mounting block. And then we do our riding lesson. I focus on heavily on equitation and just safe riding skills and, you know, having a good seat and good balance on the horse's back and learning to move with the horse, learning to read their body language from in the saddle, learning to be effective trainer from the saddle. All of the stuff that we're working on the ground applies to in the saddle with the addition of having good equitation and a good seat we learn how to transfer cues, we learn how to use cues in a certain way, keep them consistent, having good mechanics. Then we learn the rhythm of, okay, a cue, then the behavior, then the click, then how do we feed? You know, that all is integrated into the lesson program. Now it's in the saddle though at that part of the lesson program. So that's how my lessons are arranged and sometimes we don't ride and sometimes we do. And some of my horses are rideable and some of them are not. And whether or not a horse's rideable doesn't necessarily dictate whether or not they can be in the lesson program because many of my horses are not rideable and they are fantastic teachers. They are excellent teachers. They love to participate in the training. They are very patient. By that I'm gonna operationalize that. It just means that they are willing to stand there for a long period of time while the human fumbles around and then figures it out. And they're easy to they're easygoing in the lesson. Meaning it's okay if there's some mistakes or whatever, as long as they have access to that reinforcement and they have a choice to participate, they're really chill about the whole thing. They're easy going and they have a lot of tolerance for mistakes, and that is getting us kind of to our first point about the type of horse that is necessary for a good lesson program, but we're gonna, we're gonna come back to that in a second. So these horses that are in my lesson program, the two that I really view is like, okay, they are really good with beginners. There is a lot of necessary qualities that this type of horse needs, but really what I, the first point I wanted to bring was that they have a lot of training. I have put a ton of hours into their individual training and this was necessary to prepare them for a lesson program because they have to be they have to have very, very solid and reliable behaviors that under certain circumstances where maybe the student is not performing their side of the situation correctly, the horse will still perform the behavior. So it has to be very durable behavior that is very resilient and resistant to errors and different setups and different circumstances and it has to be very well generalized. So can they apply that same behavior here in this location, in the arena, and then also in the round pen and also in the stall and also in the pasture and also for a kid and also for an adult and also for somebody that is short and then somebody that is tall and somebody that has an accent and somebody who doesn't and like just on and on and on like has to be very, very generalized to a lot of different people and have a lot of resilience. That part, those particular behaviors. And so that was only possible though, because I have a lot of experience and time, and I'm clocking a lot of hours in my education. Now, one of my lesson horses, it's Pumpkin she started this whole journey with me, so it wasn't like I started off as a pro training, her and now, and all of her training is perfect. And that's the only way she could be a lesson horse. I'm not saying that, but we have been doing this together for many, many years now and she has, you know, repetition after repetition, after repetition, after repetition. And she's worked with a lot of different people and she's built up her repertoire and she has a lot of really reliable behaviors that I have intentionally generalized to many different people. And I, and also then we've got her personality type and all that, which we're gonna go into in a minute. But it wasn't necessarily perfect from the beginning. I had to fix a lot of mistakes that I made early on, and that was okay. The, just really the point is, is that she has that experience. She is a, an experienced, you know, quote school master type horse that is well suited to a lesson program because of that experience level, I would be very, very cautious if not, just completely not do it, putting a novice horse, no matter how old they are and, and novice with this particular type of training into a lesson program. So I wouldn't take a horse that I just crossed over from traditional training six months ago and put them into the lesson program. Usually, you know, always there's the exception to the rule. Because they just don't have enough experience with the new set of cues, the new set of behaviors, the new way of doing things, the understanding of predictable and reliable reinforcement and that trust history built up and on and on and on. There's just not that history there. There's not that practice, even though this horse maybe had a very successful show career and used to be a lesson horse and on and on, it is really important that it's about this type of training, this particular. Thing. And again, going back to the different disciplines, let's take a a Western pleasure, like a really, really well shown Western pleasure horse that won tons of ribbons and went to nationals and all of that. And then we wouldn't take this horse and then call them a school master for a dressage lesson program. Right. Because that's just not the set of behaviors that they have in the repertoire. They don't know. And they, even though they have a good temperament and they've been there, done that kind of thing. They just are not prepared to be a educator for a student that is also learning because they are also still learning. So your horse having a ton of experience is really necessary here. So we've got the first point, which was that the trainer has a lot of experience so that they can then be an effective and educated coach and instructor. And then second that your horse has a lot of experience, so they can be an effective and educated and experienced instructor, horse, coach, whatever. I mean, I view the horse as part of the instruction or as part of the coaching process, meaning without the horse, without a good horse to learn with meaning and not good as an, I should say a horse that has a lot of experience and is prepared to be able to teach this student effectively, the things that they need to learn and do without that for the student, we're setting our student, our human learner up for failure, because they're going to be frustrated. They're going to make mistakes. And then the horse is not gonna understand what to do with that mistake. And it's just going to cause a lot of turmoil and problems for the human learner and for the equine. The horse learner.
[00:16:52] So as a, an instructor, as a coach, it is really important that we set our horses up for success. And by setting our horses up for success and also setting ourselves up for success, we can then set our human learners up for success. But if one of those three, so the human learner, the human instructor. , which is also another human learner, but we'll just go with instructor and the horse. If one of those three is not prepared for the situation that they are in, we're gonna be struggling. So having that experience for both the instructor and the horse is critical and you need practice and practice and practice and your horse needs, practice and practice and practice. So keep that in mind. When you're looking at starting a lesson program, does your horse have the sheer amount of hours with good training that is necessary to be able to then turn around and teach a complete novice? And then do you, as the instructor or potential instructor have the sheer hours and good hours, like within, with a mentor with your own instructor, with practicing good behaviors, meaning accurate, effective, well timed, good mechanics, all of that. Do you have the shared number of hours that is necessary to then be able to turn around and effectively teach somebody? And then we could go onto all the nuances that come with that meaning like, do you have good communication skills? Do you have enough, you know, business understanding, like there's a lot of different factors that go into running an effective lesson program. But let's focus today on the training aspect, the learning aspect, and what is necessary for that, you know, what is necessary for the recipe to make it a a good outcome. We have a good tasty result from that recipe rather than a, just an absolute disaster. I don't know if any of you guys are grasping at the baking analogy. It's a terrible, I'm being terrible about the analogy, but we need good ingredients to have a good outcome. If your ingredients are, you know, gone bad or you're missing some or whatever, you're just gonna have a bad outcome. Right. So I'm gonna leave that analogy alone. We're gonna keep moving.
[00:18:50] What is necessary next for the horse in part we're gonna talk about that is a personality type and their general temperament. I have horses that have a lot of experience, like a lot of experience, but are not necessarily well suited to working with beginners that may have poor timing. May make mistakes, make get distracted and so on and so forth. They are just a little bit less tolerant of that and going to struggle more so than a different horse. Now, this doesn't mean that I am purposely putting the horse that is more tolerant into a difficult situation and being like, just deal with it cuz you have a good personality. Now I don't wanna punish them for being tolerant. I don't wanna punish them for being patient. I want to reward that and I wanna keep that strong. So it is necessary for me to be extremely effective and intentional with my training program and with how I set everybody up, because I don't want to push that horse to having a problem. Right. I don't want to create a problem where there isn't one. I want to maintain that horse's kind of good nature and goodwill towards this novice student. So I, as if that's my job to set everybody up for um, happy ending for everybody to have a good outcome. And for the horse, not to get frustrated and the human learner not to get frustrated, that is my job as an instructor, but there are certain horses that I have personally and I also work with that. I would not recommend for a lesson program, at least not right now, due to some different factors. Maybe they struggle with inconsistent reinforcement, you know, like, you know, sometimes the handler takes a few extra seconds because they dropped their food and now they're fumbling for some more. And then that is likely to result in the horse getting pretty frustrated. That's the type of horse that I probably wouldn't put into a lesson program, at least not yet until I can help the horse through that and help them feel much more comfortable around food and have better feelings towards food and just have less anxious, general tension, anxiety around food, which is absolutely possible, but takes time. Another type of horse. I might not put into a lesson program is going to be a horse that struggles with like a, I'm just gonna call it generalized anxiety or spookiness where they are, they have a tendency to be a little bit less predictable, like if something were to scare them or today, you know, maybe it's a little bit extra windy, so they're gonna be all over the place mentally and physically. I might not put that type of horse into that into a lesson program. Until at least I can help them. You know, but some horses, I mean, there's personality wise they are more like that or maybe there's a chronic pain that isn't resolved and can't be resolved. Maybe there's something else going on. I don't know. There could be a lot of different factors that lead to those issues. That horse may not be suited to a lesson program. Another type of horse that might not be suited to a lesson program is a horse that has a strong fight or flight response. Particularly a fight response is what I'm referring to as the first horse would be the flight response or the previous example. This horse that I'm talking about, it's gonna have a really strong fight response. So if ever threatened, worried ,anxious unpredictable reinforcement, et cetera. They are more likely to lash out. They're going to act in self defense. They are going to have a really strong fight response. Now, a lot of times these horses can be worked through this and they can get to a place where they are really, really feeling safe and comfortable, et cetera. However, it usually requires some level of consistency and management throughout their life. If you all of a sudden throw them into working with somebody who is unpredictable, that isn't acting the same as you, drops their food sometimes is slower with a mechanic mechanics, or maybe they swing their hands around randomly, or they say something loud, all of a sudden, whatever you might retrigger that sense of lack of safety and retrigger, that self-defense response, which is perfectly reasonable. I'm not saying any of these things are necessarily or inherently bad. They just are what they are. The horse has got something going on. We've all got learning histories. We've all got different personality types. We've all got different physical stuff going on. All of these horses have wonderful purpose and meaning. And value and they're all very special and deserving of our love and our attention. However, they may, you know, some of these horses may not be suited to a lesson program, so let's not put them in a situation that is not setting them up for success. That is setting them up for failure, that is going to cause a problem potentially a tremendous injury to our students.
[00:23:17] Yeah, so, you know, there's a bunch of different possibilities as far as like horses that might not be suited to a lesson program, but let's focus on what horses are going to be suited to this lesson program. And I already briefly went through this, but we can talk a little bit more about this. So a horse that is more inclined to move away. I would prefer over a horse that is inclined to move towards a person. I am more inclined to work with a horse in a lesson program that has a little bit stronger flight response, over fight response, meaning if they're worried or anxious, they're gonna step away versus coming into the person in self-defense. I am more inclined to work with a horse and a lesson program or be more inclined to think they were suited to a lesson program. If they are on the energy conserving side, they're a little bit slower. They're like, eh, do we have to trot today? Like that type of horse I feel is much more suited to a lesson program because push come to shove, they're just gonna kind of stop and be like, Hmm, I'm good. Versus a horse that has a lot of energy and is like really wants to run and play and have a good time. I'll come back to that in a second about higher energy horses and different levels. We'll, we'll talk about the different levels of kind of lesson horses. So let's see some other things that would be beneficial in a lesson horse. There's a horse that likes to be touched and groomed. That makes a world of difference to the students, a horse that actually enjoys, you know, tactile touch, but it's not always necessary. It just would be beneficial. It'd be nice. A horse that enjoys people's company, so is more than willing to come up to the pasture, is excited to engage a horse that doesn't have a lot of baggage and trauma in their history or at least has worked through it. I have one horse that's in my lesson program that has a lot of trauma that we've unpacked, it's taken years. And she is the most wonderful horse and, and teaches people in such an amazing way. And people love working with her and she's very patient she's very steady and just is like, yeah, whatever. Just take your time. As soon as you're ready, like that's just her temperment, and she's fantastic working with students of all experience levels. However, she does have a lot of history. She does have a lot of trauma, but it took us years to work through it. So I can't always guarantee one way or another. As far as when I first start working with a horse, what it's gonna look like at the end, cuz some horses, we work through trauma and stuff and it actually, we have the reverse happen. So before it looked like they were more energy conservers and they were just really closed up, they were really shut down and then we wake them up essentially. And unpack their baggage and help them out and help them feel safe in their environment. And all of a sudden they start showing me like, oh, I'm excited. I want to engage. I want to play. I want to participate. And I have a lot of energy now. I feel safe to express myself, you know, et cetera. That horse may or may not be suited to a lesson program even if maybe they were in a lesson program before. That sometimes happens, actually a lot of times. I also find that horses that are really calm around other horses is very helpful because if you have more than one person in the lesson and they each have their own horse, you wanna make sure that the horses you're working with are good around each other and are good around other horses and are not going to just like, get really upset or start resource guarding or anything like that. And I mean, honestly, I could spend like an hour going through all of the different things, but I think a lot of you listening. Hopefully my hope would be that you're, you know, as you're listening to this, you're imagining the kind of horse that would be well suited to a lesson program and you get the general idea of like a temperament type and how they are. And honestly, they are worth their weight in gold and most horses are not going to fit that bill. Most of them are not. Like I said, I have seven horses of my own, personally. I have eight here on the property and only two of them kind of fit that bill. And they're different. Both of 'em are different. One is a little bit more energy conserving and we only do ground stuff with her. And the other one does do ridden stuff. However she does like to play and have a good time. So, you know, I have to manage the whole situation and that's where it comes back to being a really educated and experienced instructor, because I have to know how to set my horses up for success, just as much as I have to know how to set my students up for success. So I know. Say that the one horse that likes, that does ridden stuff and she is great undersaddle. She does like to trot and cancer. And if I have a complete novice riding student who just needs to walk calmly, I'm not going to put this horse, Pumpkin, on the reverse round pin. Actually the reverse round pin would probably be okay, but I'm not gonna put her on a straight line. So like I can open up my reverse round pen. It's just a circle of it's cones with bars across them. And I put it on 20 meters and I stand in the center of it and the horse goes around the outside and they learn that they, you know, to do the different like walk trot canter cue. And it's a way that we can exercise horses and achieve kind of a similar result to lunging, but without the pressure and release and without trapping them. So they actually have access to my entire arena. But I'm inside the 20 meter circle with a little barrier, which, you know, I can get out of easily and so can in the horse. And they just know that that's like a guideline that they go around the outside, but they can walk away anytime they want. Versus in the round pen they're trapped and they can't walk away. And so there's just a big difference in mentality and the type of the way that we approach training, it is just a totally different behavior. However, it kind of looks or achieves a similar results as far as exercise goes. Okay. So on the reverse round pen, Pumpkin knows. That we walk and trot mostly, and she waits for the different cues. However, if I open up my reverse round pen and make it a one big, long straight line we tend to sprint from one side to the other. And so I am not going to put my student on Pumpkin and like, who only needs to walk and put it on a straight line PC and say have fun. Like it's just not setting them up for success. Right. Which then brings us to. Training your horses that are gonna be in your lesson program to have a really, really, really, really, really solid set of behaviors that are very, very well practiced, that are known, that are predictable, that are the same every single time. And I tend to focus on like, I it's like if you imagine, you know, like a pony, a school pony, and you know how sometimes they get into their arenas and they just go round and round and round and round and round the outside, like they're broken robot. Right. They just go round and run like mindlessly. And if you tried to get them to come off the rail, they just wouldn't. Right. Okay. Different mentality, meaning that the horse is not just, you know, trained into absolute roboticness, but similar idea in that the horses understand their job and they understand what it is that is being asked of them and how to do it. Exactly. And they will not deviate from it unless somebody tells them to specifically. Now my lesson horses have this. So both of my lesson horses have their foundation behaviors, which I teach in my foundation course that they have very, very well rehearsed. They know them, they could do them in their sleep. They could be half asleep doing them and they could be sedated doing them. They know them so well. Now these are all on the ground and both of them can do them backwards and forwards and beautiful. And on cue and they're well generalized and they are solid. So I set my student out there to, to learn about the, you know, doing these different behaviors. And I know the horse knows them backwards in their sleep. So I can focus on my student. Then this really allows me to focus on my student more and allow the horse just to do what they know well. Now, under saddle I've transferred. Most of the foundation behaviors to under saddle work, particularly uh, cone targeting is one. Where like my riding horse Pumpkin, she has she knows how to go from cone to cone, to cone in a large shape. So I can do like a circle or square or it doesn't matter diamond. But she knows to go from cone. She goes to the next one. She stops there, waits for the click, waits for the food. Then she goes, knows to go to the next one. And she does it on autopilot. It is, she will do it in her sleep and backwards. Right. So again, I can focus on my student. I don't have to worry about what Pumpkin's doing, where she's going next. I don't have to stand right next to her. I can step back and away from her so I can watch my student and their equitation, you know, and help them out with that and focus on helping them with their timing and their mechanics and all that while Pumpkin knows exactly what to do and how to do it. And that gets access to reinforcement and she is more than happy to do it. So this is the big difference is she's happy to do it. Ears forward. Excited to go to the next cone. Yep. Just go on going, going. Don't have to wait for anybody. It's beautiful. Now I wouldn't take the same set of behaviors and try and modify them and make them really complex all of a sudden. I wouldn't take the same set, the same cone pattern with the cones. And because I know I've intentionally put it on autopilot, right. I wouldn't all of a sudden take her and go, okay, now you have to wait for me to cue you to go to the next cone. And now we're actually gonna trot sometimes. And then I want you to loop back to this other one, and sometimes I want you to back up, like, I'm not gonna mess it up. So I'm not gonna ask Pumpkin to do that same set of behaviors in a different way, because I want to maintain those on autopilot. I want them to be the same every single time. However, if I wanna do those other complex behaviors, that's fine. I'm just gonna change it. I'm going to put it in a different context. Maybe it's in a different environment. So maybe out in the pasture, I do the complex one, while in the arena it's on autopilot. Maybe I don't use cones. Maybe I use, you know, buckets upside down buckets or something, or maybe, you know, jump blocks or maybe we don't use any targets and we use something else or mats. Maybe we train it with mats. I don't know. I'm gonna change the behavior that I want. For these other things, I'm gonna just, it's gonna be a totally different set of behaviors that way. When I set out my cone pattern with my novice student, she knows what to do. There's no variability, it doesn't change. She's got it. And so it doesn't matter what the kid is doing up there. The kid could be jumping around and she's just like, yep, no, I can be ignoring the kid and going to the next cone cuz that's what I know what to do. That's how this is how this goes. And I prepared her for all that. I spent hours and hours and hours and hours preparing her for this, for this exact purpose. So when you have horses that you're integrating into a lesson program, or you're trying to train for a lesson program, keep this in mind is that you need well rehearsed behaviors that are performed exactly the same way every single time so that your horse knows exactly what to do. And you can focus on your student, and this is going to play a big role in the success of your program and really help your horse out. This absolutely doesn't mean though, that you can't have other complex behaviors you know, or maybe you have more advanced student that wants to make, you know, needs to keep going. Right. So my cone patterns are always a walk. Let's say this student wants to start learning how to trot. I'm probably gonna move over to like the reverse ramp pen and we can start working on the trotting. If she wants to learn how to canter, then we're going over to the straight line PC. So I have like different behaviors that are set up to teach different things and they're always the same. And then, you know, I don't have this right now. Well, actually I do, I could use one of my own horses, so I have horses that are in training and are, you know, all my horses are constantly in training, but horses that are more of my, like, like I consider them more of my personal horses, but if I have a really advanced riding student, which I've had, I have interns that come and stay with me and work with my horses and stuff. And we work with all of my horses. So yes, I have two that are particularly in my like lesson program for like my complete novice students that are starting from scratch and they help me teach my clinics and they teach beginner lessons. And then I have my horses that are more like the intermediate meaning they take more knowledge and experience because of a lot of different factors. A lot of them that I mentioned before, maybe they don't completely fit the bill for everything in the beginner lesson program horse would need, as far as behaviors go and patience level and all that. So maybe these intermediate students have better timing, better mechanics, but they're still learning how to free, you know, to shape behaviors more accurately. And maybe sometimes their equitation isn't great or whatever it is. Then I have horses that are suited to that. And then I have my horses that are like what I would put more of like an advanced student category. So the only people that get to work with those horses are people that have a lot of experience that have really good timing, really good mechanics have great seats and are just looking to improve their skills. Maybe they're even professionalism themselves, but coming and coaching, you know, they wanna learn from me. That happens too. Those would be, then we can bring out those horses and work with them. That doesn't mean we can't work with the other horses too, but you get what I'm saying? Like there's different levels of horses, at least how I've set up my program. And I think a lot of lesson programs are set up this way. At least I know growing up there was, you know, the beginner lesson horses, and then there was like the ones that were a little bit more advanced. And then after that you had to move on to like leasing a horse. That would be like more advanced. And then by the time you were like advanced, you know, you'd own your own horse. So. I mean levels are pretty normal in lesson programs. So that's really how I have mine set up too. And how I have my horses trained. , I don't have behaviors, like for example River my mare I don't have behaviors that for her that are particularly trained for a lesson program because she is not in the lesson program. However, I have people that travel to, you know, to visit me and learn from me that have a lot of experience or people that intern with me. And by the end of like the six weeks that are interning me with me or whatever. We might start actually working with River and they can help me work on different riding behaviors. They can help me work on generalizing, certain behaviors, like some cooperative care medical behaviors. They can help me achieve these different training goals, but they are not like River is not in the quote lesson program. She is not a horse that I would put in a lesson program. Not only because she's my personal horse, so she's my baby. But because she is not, she doesn't fit all of that, like checklist that was earlier. As far as personality type and like their patience when it comes to a food and when it, you know, she just doesn't fit those. And that's okay. Like I don't expect her to, I'm not trying to train her to, and then the other part of it is too is I did not, I have not put in the hours that are necessary to get her to that point, to be able to integrate into a lesson program cuz I don't have that goal for her. So it's okay. So she may be able to eventually, especially as she gets older, cuz right now she's only six. She may eventually be able to be suited to join a lesson program with more novice handlers and work with more novice handlers. But twofold, one, I don't know, personality wise we'll have to kind of see, but two, I just not have not purposely put that training, that type of training into our time together because I don't have that goal for her. So that comes into play too, just cuz the horse has a lot of experience with clicker training does not make them well suited to a lesson program or that they've been trained for a lesson program.
[00:37:53] So I'm thinking I've pretty much maxed out, like what I wanted to say with this particular topic. Really, I guess, really what it came down to was understanding the amount of hours that are needed for your own education and experience to be able to run an effective lesson program safely and help everybody be successful and not be frustrated. Like you need to clock the hours you need to be experienced in this particular type of training before you start professionally training other people to do what you're doing.
[00:38:25] The second thing was having. A horse that is suitable for the lesson program, temperament wise, but also training wise. So the amount of hours and time and intentional types of training that go into preparing a horse for a lesson program is critical to the success of the training program of the lesson program and everybody being successful, whether it's the horse, the human, the learner, the student, or you. So both sides of that between you and your horse, they need, it's like a lot of time and a lot of hours and a lot of experience. Now, I'm not saying all of this to like crush your hopes and dreams, or to make you feel like it's gonna be forever. Or like you can't do it or it can't be achieved. Absolutely it can. I I personally mentor quite a few young professionals that are getting started that are creating their lesson programs that are getting going. And of course, you know, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do as far as like. Maybe your horse doesn't have quite as much experience as you would like them to have. That's okay. You can still use them in or help have them help you in your lesson program. You just need to modify the program to suit that particular horse.
[00:39:34] So let's say this is another, I guess this is another point that I should have brought up earlier, but. Let's say I had a horse that like River, like maybe I, I needed to use River for whatever reason. I don't know what maybe I had only a couple horses and one or two of 'em were out. I don't know, whatever reason I needed to use River. And I just said like, like I just said, she's not suited to a lesson program. What I can do though, is I can help everybody out by putting her and the student in protected contact. So have a student on one side of the fence, the horse on the other. I can pick a behavior that River knows very, very well, and isn't really complicated. So maybe something like stationary targeting or I don't know, something else. So we'll go stationary target. And I can use that particular setup with that particular horse and that particular behavior to have an effective lesson for that student, without pushing anybody out of their comfort zone without causing any frustration and without anybody getting hurt. And with everybody having a good, like being able to walk away, feeling successful and like they learned something so we could achieve building duration, like teaching the student about duration. We could work on mechanics. We could work on timing. We could we could even start to create this. You talk about how this could learn it. How this could progress into a cooperative care behavior. We could talk about what cooperative care is. We could build this up to being able to groom the horse. Like there's a lot of different things we could do. With that particular set up with that horse's specific needs to educate the student and provide them with a valuable experience that will benefit them long into their their time as a horse person and give them that experience and help them walk away with feeling like there was a lot of value in their time was spent well without putting anybody in a position where there's frustration or confusion or stress. So for many of you. This will be needed. You will need to adjust what your expectations and your students expectations are of what the lesson is going to look like based on what your horse needs, that is gonna be really important. And then also maybe what you need, maybe your experience level is lacking in this one area. So if that's not something that you're suited to. Let's say maybe you have a lot of experience teaching, you know, horsemanship stuff from the ground. You you've been around horses, your whole lives, but maybe you've never done like competition type stuff with riding and your equitation maybe lacking or whatever it is, but you wanna teach horsemanship lessons. You wanna teach people how to clicker train use positive reinforcement, whatever. And you have a lot of experience in that. Make sure that you talk to your student and let them know that you are particularly teaching this. And this is what your lesson program is centered around. And they need to be aware that we're gonna spend some time in the saddle or no time in the saddle. But this is all of the other stuff that they are getting, and this is how valuable it is. And this is what they're going to be learning, et cetera. I think there's a huge amount of. Benefit to that, even if they want to go do riding lessons at a different barn at a different time. So they're getting the best of both worlds kind of thing, and also there's a lot of value there's so there's tremendous amount of value of that. And then there's also a big demand for it. I think people are, would be surprised to realize how many parents and students, adult students, young students are looking to connect with horses or are looking to learn how to engage with horses, how to read equine behavior and body language and understand their emotions and understand how they learn and be able to connect with them. Like there is such a market for that. People want that they want that connection. They want more than just riding and maybe instead of riding. So I wouldn't let that hold you back at all from becoming an instructor or professional in this industry just know that you need to market accordingly and you need to set your client's expectations up accordingly, and you need to train your horses accordingly. So focus on their ground behaviors, focus on their foundation, behaviors, focus on their autopilot type behaviors, being stuff on the ground. There's no, not a lot of point in focusing on a ton of riding behaviors. If you don't plan to teach those not to say you couldn't teach them to ride, but I'm just saying if you're particularly training for a lesson program, well, let's focus our attention where it is needed when it comes to training hours, cuz there's only so many hours in the day. It's okay. If you need to modify your, your program and your client's expectations and your expectations, according to what you have available to you right now. So maybe your horse. Doesn't have the number of hours necessary training wise, but you're working on it. And you already had an active lesson program and you don't wanna, you know, just completely shut down and give yourself five years to retrain everybody and then start back up again. That would be really hard and isn't necessary. I don't think What I would tell you, though, my recommendation there is to find somebody that can help you a professional, a mentor who is doing a lesson program, or who is just really good with this type of training that can help you learn how to set your horses up for success, and then be realistic of what you and your horses can do, and then adjust your expectations in your client's expectations accordingly, meaning just present the information very accurately, let them know that you're adjusting your program. We're gonna be really focusing on horsemanship stuff and on the ground, these are the things we're gonna be doing and learn from other lesson programs, clicker training, positive reinforcement focus, lesson programs about all of the ways that you can really enrich the lives of your students and provide value to them during their lessons, without having to push your horses beyond what they know and really expect too much of your horses from, you know, based on their training that they have so far and how to modify your lesson program accordingly to keep everybody happy and fulfilled. And. You know, being successful and getting a lot of value out of the experience.
[00:45:30] All right guys. So I'm gonna wrap up this episode here. I hope it was really valuable. If you're interested in learning more about lesson programs and setting up your own program and what is necessary to go into that I'm I do offer consultations, then I'm more than happy to help in, you know, in any way I can. And I can also refer you to other people that have their own lesson programs that would potentially be really helpful and be interested in assisting you in getting your program started. Also, if you are still learning and wanting to continue your education and learning how to train with positive reinforcement and clicker training , my foundation course, and my academy has a lot of professionals that have gone through it, or are currently active members and have found a lot of value. And it has helped fill in a lot of gaps and offer them the support that they need to be able to start their own programs and to be successful in that. And then also to be able to continue have the guidance that is needed, and sometimes you just need somebody to bounce ideas off of, or, you know, Hey, I've got this one student, they wanna do this, but this horse isn't quite ready for this. What are your recommendations? You know, like we can bounce ideas back and forth and having that community and that support system that is really rooting for you and wants you to be successful and wants you to continue to expand the world of positive reinforcement and, and bring it to, you know, new equestrians and equestrians that are curious and learning new things still. And the next generation, all that, having that community there to support you is such a huge aspect to being able to be successful long term and avoiding burnout and compassion fatigue, and like all of these things that I know. Of us professionals currently or have in the past, dealt with or dealing with and, or trying to avoid. I know myself, I I'm actively working to avoid burnout right now. So yeah, so having that community is so important and never be afraid to reach out for help for coaching for just somebody to bounce ideas off of, I am more than happy to help.
[00:47:31] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcast, if you'd like to learn more head to our website. A willing equine.com where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything. We also have our blog, our training services and the TWE academy where you can enroll in the foundation course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening. And I look forward to chatting with you in the next