Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 5

Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 1
Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 2

Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 3
Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 4

This is Part 5 of
“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses”
by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12

“The nudging behavior is a good indicator that it is time to introduce your horse to “the grown-ups are talking, please do not interrupt” lesson. Initially this involves a very stylized body posture on your part. Instead of outlining all the elements that go into “grown-ups”, I’m going to refer you to Lesson 1: Getting Started with the Clicker in the Click That Teaches DVD series. The third section in particular of that DVD will show you many details that are important. These handling details will help you and your horse sort through this early mugging stage.

You will still be working with protective contact. You’ll stand outside your horse’s stall in the stylized, “grown-ups are talking” position. This position will develop into a cue which you’ll use to signal to your horse that you would like him take his nose away from your body and to stand in the “grown-ups” orientation.

“Grown-ups” is not just a behavior you’ll use to teach your horse good treat manners. It is a behavior you’ll be using throughout the rest of your horse’s training. It becomes the glue that binds other behaviors together in chains. It gives you “punctuation”. It becomes your commas and periods. In other words, you’ll use it to create breaks and pauses. You’ll ask your horse for an adrenaline-raising activity such as trotting. Then you’ll return to grown-ups so he can show you that he can calm himself down. From Julia’s description it sounds as though she may be missing some of this “punctuation.” If you have a horse that is becoming overstimulated by the clicker training process, go back to these beginning steps. Review the protective contact phase of this process, paying particular attention to the “grown-ups are talking” lesson. In the next few steps I’ll show you how to use this lesson to develop much needed pauses that will help build emotional stability into your training.

For now, you’ll stand outside your horse’s stall or paddock. When he takes his nose away from your pockets, click then treat. Remember, feed where the perfect horse would be. In this case that means feed so your horse’s head is positioned evenly between his shoulders. His nose will be about level with the point of his shoulder and he should be in balance over his front end. If you feed him twisted off to the side, or too far forward, the lack of balance may encourage him to move his feet, and it will make it harder for him to settle emotionally.

You want to have your horse on a high rate of reinforcement. At first this may be hard because he’ll be spending so much time nuzzling your hand. As soon as he moves his nose away, click then treat. Try to get another click in before he can move back to nuzzling you. Your good mechanics will help with this. I often have people put a piece of duct tape on the back of the hand that is closest to the horse. If you are on the left, you’ll be feeding with your left hand. The duct tape will be on your right hand. This reverses on the right side. If you aren’t sure what this looks like or why you are feeding with the hand that is furthest from your horse, refer to the Lesson 1 DVD.

Imagine there is a large box surrounding your horse’s head. As long as his nose is somewhere in this box, you get to click, reach into your pocket, and feed him where the perfect horse would be. The perfect place for “grown-ups” is in the center of your imaginary box.

When you feed, you don’t want to find yourself twisting or stretching so you are out of balance. Move your feet as needed so you are feeding from a balanced position. You are training components you’ll be using later when you ride. The more you keep yourself in good balance on the ground, the more this will ripple over into riding in good balance. You may think you are just giving your horse a treat, but really you are riding. Think about what this means if you are working on a young horse or one that is being rehabbed. By the time your horse is physically able to be ridden, he’ll be beautifully balanced, ready to be ridden. And what’s more, you’ll also be ready. I know at times it can seem as though I fuss a lot of details in these foundation lessons, but the details make the rest of the work flow easily into place.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 6

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses

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