About Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
“I always wanted to train horses in a non-violent way. I used reward-based training for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t very effective. Why?
Because I didn’t know the science behind the learning theory and positive reinforcement and I didn’t know how to achieve my goals without pressure & release (and sometimes even punishment) to teach my horse what I wanted; it was not satisfying at all. This all changed when I studied the principles of learning and training animals.
In 1999, during my final year studying Animal Management, I heard of equine clicker training for the first time. I learned the science behind positive reinforcement training and how to apply it correctly in training to builds trust, confidence and mutual understanding between horse and rider. I finally achieved the ‘magic’ in communicating with horses: no force, no more frustration and …. al lot of fun for the both of us! This is what I had in mind when I was a little girl!
In 2007, I became a certified “Basic Instructor Dressage & Jumping” at the Royal Dutch Horse Sports Federation. In 2011 I became a Level 1 Certified Centered Riding instructor, because I wanted to learn more about the rider’s seat and how it influences the horse’s movement.
A lot of horses of my clients had minor behavioural issues. They were hard to catch in the field, difficult to halter, bridle, saddle, deworm or trailer load. Sometimes their horses showed undesired behaviours during handling, like biting or walking away while being mounted.
This is how I started helping riders train their own horses. I see much more value in coaching a horse owner how to train their horse, than me training their horse. If I do the work, the horse will listen to me, but I am not the person working with the horse on a daily basis. What horse owners really need is that their horse behaves safe around them and respond to their cues.
Kyra, my success story: from feral to fantastic
My current horse Kyra was born in 2008 in a nature reserve; she was 11 months old when I got her. She didn’t accept any human contact in the beginning. I tamed and trained her myself using reward-based methods.
In just three weeks, I could halter her, touch her all over, lift her feet and lead her around the premises. After just a few months of training Kyra now seeks out human contact. I used positive reinforcement to start her under saddle and she is doing great. This convinced me that it is possible to train a horse with positive reinforcement. My relationship with Kyra is very special. She greets me with a soft nicker and always comes to the gate as soon as she sees me or hears my car.
I like the movements in classical dressage and that involves a lot of work-in-hand (alignment training) and long reining. I also like trick training, horse agility and trail rides. Giving positive reinforcement horse training demo’s is on our bucket list.”
Simplifying science-based knowledge about the learning theory, horse behaviour and training in order to promote ethical horse training methods among horse owners and riders with the aim to improve communication between horse and handler in a way they both benefit from the relationship and from training & riding.
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.