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
Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 5
This is Part 6 of
“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses”
by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12
“So you’ll click, feed, and then you’ll move your hand back to the duct tape target on your free hand. If you can get your hand back to the duct tape while your horse’s nose is still in your imaginary box, you get to click and treat again. With this high rate of reinforcement you are saying to your horse – this is where your head belongs. It also breaks up any inadvertent chains. If you delay, and your horse goes back to mugging, you could easily get into a situation where your horse thinks the behavior is nudge, nudge, move the nose away, click, treat, nudge, nudge, move the nose away etc. Clean mechanics help break this up. You’ll feed, move your hand promptly back to your target and click again before he has a chance to move his nose out of the “box”.
Using the duct tape as a target keeps your mechanics clean. It means you won’t be diluting the meaning of the click by moving your feeding hand to the treat pouch ahead of the click. If your horse starts nudging your arm before you can get a click in, that’s okay. Wait until he moves away from you, click, treat and then see if you can’t get another click in while his nose is still in the box. If you begin with a good sized imaginary box, this should be possible. And remember you are the only one who knows if he has met criterion, because you are the only one who can “see” this “box”. As your horse becomes more deliberate in taking his nose away from your pockets and keeping it out away from you, you can begin to gradually shrink the size of your imaginary box.
You’ll use up some portion of your twenty treats. You’ll continue to develop your end of session ritual as you step away from your horse to refill your pockets. Again you’ll go through your assessment process, asking those all important questions: is it safe to go in with my horse? How did my horse do? Was my loop clean? What should I do with the next round of treats?
If you see any behavior that makes you uncomfortable, stay with protective contact. You can gradually expand your training even with a barrier between you. For example, you can use targeting to introduce head lowering, or you could free shape backing and ears forward.
Note: these are not check list behaviors, things you do a few times to get your horse up and running with the clicker and then abandon. These are your building blocks. These behaviors are key components you’ll be using over and over again throughout your horse’s training so taking the time now to build them well is time well spent.
Several key points to remember: there are lots of ways to get behavior to happen. If one shaping method isn’t working for you, shift to another. For example, your horse may do really well at first getting to head down through targeting, but he may not be ready for you to free shape the head-lowering behavior. As he becomes more familiar with clicker training and all the different ways in which you can get behavior to happen, you’ll be able to free shape head lowering, but for now targeting may be the more successful teaching strategy.
Especially if you’ve been seeing a lot of mugging behavior or an increase in anxiety during your clicker training sessions, your horse may be in the early stages of learning how to learn. You’ll be using these initial, protective-contact sessions to help develop his confidence and ability to solve clicker puzzles.
Also note: clicker training is not just about free shaping or targeting behavior. There are many ways to get behavior to happen. You want to become skilled in a variety of teaching strategies. And you want your horse to become skilled at solving different types of learning puzzles.