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
Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 6
This is Part 7 of
“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses”
by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12
“As long as you are working with protective contact, you’ll go through the process of counting out twenty treats. But at some point in this process you’ll become confident that you can work directly with your horse without the precaution of protective contact. You’ll go in the stall with him. Or you’ll take him out into a small fenced paddock. Once you are working directly with your horse, you’ll fill your pockets with treats. He’ll be ready for longer training sets. You’ll still be giving him breaks. They will just be a different kind of a break. The process of dividing your training up into these preliminarytwenty-treat training units will help you to be better at keeping track of when you need to shift activities to give your horse a mental break.
If you have cones, it can help to set them out around your paddock. The cones become stations for different activities. Think about a toddler in a playground. You might spend a few minutes on the swings. Then before your toddler gets tired or bored, you’ll move to a different activity. You’ll go to the merry-go-round. And while she’s still enjoying that activity, you’ll move to the slide or the teeter totter. You’re going from one fun activity to another. Your toddler is learning to leave a favored activity without any fuss, because she knows you’re just moving to another.
When you take this concept to your horse, it means you’ll be leaving one activity while things are going well. The clicker game isn’t ending. You’re just moving on to another fun activity. This process lays the ground work for using the behaviors you’re teaching as conditioned reinforcers.
So you’ll bring your horse out into his paddock. He may be at liberty, or more likely he’ll be on a halter and lead. At the first cone, go into a few rounds of “grown-ups”. Refer to the books and DVDs for details on the rope handling you’ll be using at this stage.
When your horse shows you some good behavior, walk off casually with him. Walking off casually has a very specific meaning. You won’t be activating your lead. It’s your body language that signals to him what you want. At this stage, you aren’t going to assume the lead is a click-compatible tool. You’ll be developing that understanding as you work through the foundation lessons. You’ll gradually be turning your lead into an effective communication tool. Again refer to the books and DVDs to learn more about this process.
Walk just a couple of steps then go back into your stylized “grown-ups” position. Your horse will come to a stop with you. Click as he stops and places his nose into the imaginary “box”. Note, cues evolve through the shaping process. As you walk off casually and then shift back into the “grown-ups” position, the contrast between your body language will develop into the cues you’ll use to ask for the different behaviors you want.
Do a little more “grown-ups” and then walk off casually again. The mistake many people make is once they walk off, they go too far. Go just a couple of steps before returning to “grown-ups”. Walking off casually – letting your horse move his feet – serves as a break. But you don’t need much of a break. That’s where the cones can help you. Place them just a couple of steps apart. As you reach the next cone, go into “grown-ups”. Click then treat a couple of times, then pick up the cone and do a little targeting. Get some good touches in, then drop the cone and go back into “grown-ups”. Repeat this a couple of times, then walk off to another cone.
Work for a few minutes, then give your horse a complete break. Go clean a stall, fill water buckets, or have a cup of tea back at the house while you think about what to do next. If things are going well, you can begin to add in new elements to your activity stations. For example, you can begin to ask for backing or head lowering. Instead of just relying on targeting or freeshaping, use your lead to ask your horse to back. This begins to turn the lead into a clicker-compatible tool. Again, refer to the books and DVDs for more on this.