What kind of trainer are you?

A blog from canine clicker trainer, John McGuigan
on how different trainers describe their training method

“Positive reinforcement, traditional, balanced, non punitive. These are all terms dog trainers and behaviour consultants use to describe their styles. I use the terms non-aversive, progressive or force free to define how I train dogs and help people to train dogs.

When I read that someone is a “balanced” trainer, I would suggest that it is usually a euphemism for trainers who use physically punitive methods when training, as well as reward based training. This is a clever marketing strategy as some of these trainers would have us believe that a “balanced” approach of both harshness and reward based training is necessary. There seems something quite appealing about a balanced approach in theory and it is only when we look at it more closely that we discover what many (not all) of these trainers actually mean by the term. This idea is further promoted by Cesar Milan when he says we need to “balance” our dogs, which could in turn suggest a more “balanced” approach.”

To read the full blog follow the link:  What kind of trainer are you?.

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Alexandra Kurland; Horses Mugging for Treats

This is Part 1 of the email from Alexandra Kurland
published in her Yahoo Group and in her blog, Dec 2012

The question about mugging is such an important one because clicker training is only fun when the food issue is settled.  You can have the cleverest horse in the barn, but if in between doing all his cute tricks, he’s after your pockets for treats, the appeal of clicker training will disappear fast.  This is why I place so much emphasis on the foundation lesson I refer to as: “the grown-ups are talking, please don’t interrupt”.

Grown-ups isn’t something you do a couple of times in the start-up of clicker training and then forget about.  Grown-ups is your glue.  It ties everything else together.  Canine trainer Steve White has a great image he uses for teaching core behaviors.  He refers to them as tap root behaviors.  Grown-ups makes a great tap root behavior.  You ask for grown-ups – click/treat.  Then you do a couple reps of a different behavior.  Click/treat.  Now it’s back to grown-ups to establish that your horse can still show you calm, good manners, even with the treats right under his nose.  Each time you return to grown-ups, you strengthen it.  Just like a tap root, it grows bigger, stronger, deeper.  Select grown-ups as your key, core tap root behavior, and over time your horse’s manners will become world class.

I’m going to describe the basic starting point.  This will be a review for a lot of people, but review is always useful.  There are always new details to highlight.  And then because it’s the holidays I’ll share couple of stories.  (I know what some of you are thinking – I don’t need the excuse of the Holidays to share stories and that’s very true!).

Follow this link to read the full article

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Clicker Training Share – Lanarkshire Group

Clicker Training Share – Lanarkshire Group

At last these events are back on the calendar – the next clicker training share is on 30 Dec at 7pm.

Each month we get together and chat about what we are doing with our training, watch clicker training DVDs, practice training games with each other, train and test our own balance and more.

The gathering is a great way to get to know people in the area who are clicker training with their horses, find out what they are training, how they are training it and top up your knowledge and share your knowledge.

If you are within driving distance of Stonehouse you are more than welcome to join us. No need for pre-booking, though we do like to know numbers so we know how many biscuits and cakes we need !

If you want to find out more or to come along, email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk or phone Amanda on 0777 196 5083.

You can even pick up your Simple System feed order at the same time, and browse the items in the SMAART Horses Clicker Shop !

Find out more about Video Consults

Contact Amanda
Find out more about our distance education courses

http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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15% off Selected DVDs !

***15% off this DVD***

For a limited time only !

The Horses Are Talking-Are You Listening?

Training and behavioral issues can be caused by pain issues in the horses head, mouth, neck, body, legs and feet. You can fix this. Learn how to work on your horse yourself using easy Osteopathic, Myofascial and Acupressure releases.

BUY NOW !

The Horses Are Talking

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Christmas Gift Vouchers

christmas present pic

Don’t struggle with knowing what to buy your horsey friends for Christmas,buy them a Gift Voucher for our Online Shop.

The vouchers can be redeemed against any item in the shop, including Simple System Feeds, Biovorm Equine Care Products and all of our books, DVDs and Treat Pouches

You can even redeem your voucher against a lesson with Amanda, a video consult, workshop or even put it towards a clinic day with Amanda.

Find out more about Video Consults
Contact Amanda
Find out more about our distance education courses

http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Keep Yourself Motivated Through the Winter Months

Video Consults with Amanda Martin

Find out more about Video Consults

Contact Amanda
Find out more about our distance education courses

http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Simple System Central Scotland

SMAART Horses:
Simple System in  Central Scotland

LucieBrix & MeadowBrix –
Horse Feed of the Month December 2012

LucieBrix

When grazing is in short supply, bring grazing into the stable with our Brix. These compressed 1 kg blocks of forage should be fed whole and dry for your horse to gnaw on. Great boredom buster and a chance to get rid of some anger as well! They can be fed any time, and as with all our feeds, they are free from straw.

MeadowBrix are compressed blocks of mainly Timothy grass. Each block is around 1 kg in weight, so portion control is easy. You just give the m to the horse as they come, and your horse will enjoy getting his teeth into them. It gives them a satisfying gnaw and imitates grazing more closely than any other feed we know. You can use this amazing feed as a treat, a very quick and easy small meal replacer, late night top up or to replace some of the hay ration. Two MeadowBrix are equivalent to a good slice of hay from a normal small bale.

LucieBrix are similar but made from lucerne instead of grass. They have more protein and slightly higher feed value, but are lower in sugars. They are another high fibre feed and particularly good if your horse is sensitive to sugars or grass. They are also an ideal choice if ulcers are a concern, as the chewing and gnawing help to generate plenty of saliva and the feed itself buffers acid in the stomach and the caecum.

Two innovative feeds that will do your horse good as well providing some occupational therapy at a time of year when he needs it most. Or any time for that matter!

To place an order: 
Call
01698 792 963 or
Email
amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk

Click on the product links below to find out more about the feed system

Click Here for the Current Price List
Blends and Balancers,    Lucerne Forages
Other Forages
,     Complimentary Feeds

If you do not see the product you are looking for please contact us as we probably have it in stock.

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Simple System Central Scotland

SMAART Horses are now the supplier for
Simple System in the Central Scotland area.

Simple System products bring you the very best forage feed diet for your horses. Simple System pride themselves on taking a full holistic approach to feeding and horse care.

To place an order:   

Call 01698 792 963
Or Email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk

Delivery Charges may apply:

For deliveries, shared delivery charges are possible
Having a lesson with Amanda ? Your Simple System order can be delivered FREE!
Collect from us – Free
1-5 miles :  £4.50
6-10 miles:  £9.00
11 miles or more, contact us for delivery charge

Click on the product links below

Click Here for the Current Price List

Blends and Balancers,    Lucerne Forages

Other Forages,     Complimentary Feeds

If you do not see the product you are looking for please contact us as we probably have it in stock.

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Clicker Training Lessons UK

We have added lots of new events to the calendar for Jan and Feb 2013.  See our calendar, or email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk, for more details on each event.

****SPECIAL OFFER****

£10 off 1h lessons with Amanda
within a 30 mile radius of ML9 3QY
for Dec 2012 and Jan 2013
********

1 Dec – lessons in Alexandria
2 Dec
– Lessons in Perthshire
8 Dec
– lessons in West, mid and East Lothian
9 Dec – lessons in Dumfriesshire and Cumbria
15 Dec – Lessons in Aberdeenshire
16 Dec – Lessons in Stirlingshire and Falkirk
10 Jan – lessons in Ayrshire
13 Jan – lessons in Alexandria and Surrounding areas
15 JanApplied Online Intermediate Clicker Training Course (6 week course, evenings)
16 JanLive Online Clicker Training Q&A Session (7.30pm)
17 Jan Applied Online Foundation Clicker Training Course (6 week course, evenings)
19 Jan – lessons in Ayrshire
20 Jan – Lessons in Stirlingshire and Falkirk
21 JanApplied Online Foundation Clicker Training Course (Staggered – 3 blocks of 2 weeks online tuition per month)
26 and 27 Jan – lessons in Aberdeenshire
2 Feb – lessons in Dumfriesshire and Cumbria
3 Feb – Lessons in East, Mid and West Lothians
9 Feb – lessons in Perthshire
10 Feb lessons in Alexandria and surrounding areas
24 Feb – Lessons in Aberdeenshire

If you do not see your area on our list email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk to arrange a date for lessons.

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 8

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
Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 7

This is Part 8 of
“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses”
by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12

“Work on this for a little bit, then go do some targeting or some “grown-ups”. As you progress with this process, you’ll have some activities where he is very much puzzle solving through freeshaping. Other activities will be taught with much more guided or directed-learning via the lead. Or you may be guiding him to the right answer with a target. All these different teaching strategies are important. They help to develop a bright-eyed, eager, well-rounded, and relaxed student.

In addition to the foundation lessons you’ll begin to add in some everyday activities. For example, while he is standing in “grown-ups”, you’ll begin to ask some simple questions: can you stroke his neck as though you were grooming him?; can you run your hand down his leg to ask him to pick up his foot for routine cleaning?; can you move around him, go behind him, while he continues to stand still? If the answer comes back no, you’ll break your questions down into smaller steps so he can be successful.

As you work through this process, gradually expanding out the repertoire of behaviors that you can include in the “playground”, you’ll be able to chain some behaviors together. For example, now instead of clicking after each little unit, you might ask for “grown-ups”. When he is doing well, at the moment when you would normally click, present him with a target to touch instead. When he touches the target, click and reinforce. The opportunity to touch the target reinforces his good “grown-ups”. If you aren’t sure why this works in this way, again I’ll refer you to the books and DVDs. The Loopy Training DVD in particular will help you to understand this process.

So now you are well on your way to establishing a great clicker foundation. If your horse gets overly excited or shows signs of confusion or frustration, you’ll have a process in place that lets you regroup. You can ask for “grown-ups are talking”, or head lowering, behaviors he’s now familiar with. This gives you both time to regroup and settle down. You won’t be trying to eliminate unwanted behavior with time outs or corrections. You’ll be able to stay focused on what you want your horse TO DO, not the unwanted behavior. This overall teaching strategy lets you progress at a pace that is comfortable for both of you.

I am writing this on my way home from the latest clinic. We had three start-up horses on this course. On day one we began with protective contact. The horses were nudging and exploring our pockets. That’s expected. They knew we had goodies, and they didn’t yet understand that those goodies were off limits until they were offered from the hand. All three horses caught on pretty fast to the general outline of the game. On day two we were out in the arena. And on day three we were adding in new elements, including the beginning of the rope mechanics. Folding our arms into grown-ups had become a very definite cue that all three horses knew meant look straight ahead. There was no mugging. Instead we had engaged, happy horses with handlers who were developing good clicker skills.

Good handling skills is a major key to developing a great clicker foundation. If you are encountering issues with your horse, video your training sessions. You’ll often see places where your timing is off, your criteria are unclear, your handling skills are getting rushed or inconsistent as you react to your horse’s energy level. Video can reveal many places where a little dress-rehearsal practice can go a long way to cleaning things up.

The bottom line is this: if you are encountering some unwanted behavior as you move through the early stages of clicker training, if your horse is showing signs of frustration, or confusion which is manifesting in mugging behavior, if he is getting overly aroused and excited by the process, go through a review of the start-up steps I’ve outlined in this post. Don’t think of it as going back. It’s not like school where your horse is being made to repeat first grade. You are simply going back through these early lessons and clarifying for him steps that you may have both missed the first time through.

Review your own handling skills. They can makes a huge difference. I’ve seen this so many times with horses. As the handler becomes better balanced and the handling becomes streamlined, the horse settles.

Julia, hopefully this review of the initial set-up for clicker training will help resolve any mugging issues you may be having. The books, DVDs and clinics are invaluable resources for taking you through this process. And if you feel as though you need more direct one-on-one help, I have developed a network of skilled clicker trainers. They can provide you with some on-line coaching. If you want some extra help, email me privately and I can provide you with a list of names.

When horses understand the overall process, clicker training is tremendous fun. And that’s what I wish for all of you.

Have fun!

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 7

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.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 8

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 6

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.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 7

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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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
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 4

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

Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 3

This is Part 4 of
“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses”
by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12

“So let’s assume you’ve decided to do another round of targeting. Things went well the first time through so you are making a slight change, following the mantra of looping training. You’ll change something on one side of the click or the other, but not both in this round of twenty treats. So you might begin moving the target slightly from your original starting point without changing anything in the food delivery. Or you might leave the targeting pretty much where it was in the previous round, but begin to change the food delivery.

I teach “dynamic food delivery”. That means I’m going to use the food delivery strategically. The mantra is ‘feed where the perfect horses would be.” That’s going to change depending upon what I am working on. If it’s a stationary exercise like “grown-ups”, I’ll feed so that my horse is standing in good balance. Emotional balance follows physical balance, so I’ll pay attention to how my horse is standing. I won’t feed so I pull him off to the side or stretch him out over his tippy toes. I’ll feed so he can be in balance over his front end.

If it’s a more mobile exercise like targeting, I’ll begin to use the food delivery to move him back out of my space. I’ll refer you to the books and DVDs for more details on this and for some good visual references. Using the food dynamically is an important part of the process. You are setting up many different elements in your training via this food delivery. You are working on space management and emotional control. You are setting the stage for good rope mechanics. And you are building the foundation of a lifetime of good manners and good balance. This is a process you want to understand and make use of. It’s an important part of your horse’s initial introduction to clicker training.

Before you go to your horse, it helps to find a friend who will play the part of your horse so you can practice your handling with her. When everything feels effective, easy and second nature, you’re ready to go back to your horse.

You’ll do another round of twenty treats. Then you’ll step away to refill your pockets and go through another assessment phase. This time you may decide that your horse is showing a lot of interest in your pockets. Yes, he’s touching the target, but he’s also nudging around to see if he can just help himself directly. This is an important part of his initial exploration of clicker training. It’s okay for him to experiment. Clicker training is all about experimenting, and offering behavior. You don’t want to shut this down by punishing this unwanted behavior. Remember you are working with protective contact. If the behavior feels unsafe, just step back out of range. If all he is doing is nudging your arm, you may be able to stand there and let him explore. Be as non-reactive as you can be. Note: being non-reactive does not mean you are ignoring the behavior. You just aren’t adding any fuel to it by responding to the unwanted behavior.

Good balance makes a difference here. If you are standing over the balance point of your foot, you’ll be very stable. Your horse can bump against you, and you won’t be knocked about. If you are out of balance, when he bumps you, you’ll wobble more. You’ll become a squeaky toy! Think about the way two horses play with one another, grabbing at each other’s halters. Reacting can be reinforcing to a horse who enjoys this kind of close-contact game. That’s why it is so important to be non-reactive. You don’t want your horse to think you are playing this kind of halter game. If you push him away, you’re just engaging in the game and inadvertently reinforcing the very behavior you don’t want.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 5

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 3

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

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

“While you are reloading, you will be assessing what just occurred. The most important question is this:

Was there anything about your horse’s behavior that would suggest that it would be unsafe to go in the stall with him with your pockets full of treats? Until his behavior shows you that he would be safe, you’ll stay with protective contact.

Other questions are: how did he do? What did you learn about your horse? Is targeting a good starting point or do you need to make things even more basic by beginning with just food delivery, then adding in the click, then making the click contingent on behavior. In other words do you need to backchain the whole process? Most of our horses are already familiar with hand feeding so you can go straight to targeting, but some need these more basic beginning steps. And some horses that have had little or no handling need to begin, not with targeting, but with simple accepting-you-in-their-vicinity lessons.

Your horse will tell you where he needs to begin, and what he needs to work on next. This first targeting session gives you a way of assessing where he is and what you should do next to get him off to a successful start.

Another question is do you have a clean loop of behavior? Your first training loop is:

Present the target => your horse touches the target => click => treat => present the target.

In a clean loop these behaviors occur promptly and there are no unwanted behaviors creeping into the loop. Both sides of the click have to be clean to have a clean loop. It’s not enough to have clean targeting behavior. If your horse is clumsy getting the treat off your hand or shows a lot of mugging behavior, your loop is not clean.

The mantra of loopy training is: when a loop is clean, you get to move on. And not only do you get to move on, you should move on. So the loopy training teaching strategy is a good way to know when to change criterion. Some of the behavior Julia described in her post makes me think that she may have been asking for too much too fast. When horses are feeling overwhelmed or confused by the training, they will often express their stress by becoming grabbier for the food. How a horse takes treats is a good indicator of the level of emotional stress a horse is experiencing. If a lesson becomes too hard, if you are jumping ahead too fast, if the criteria are not clear, if your timing is off, or if the level of environmental distractions is too much, you’ll see this expressed in grabber treat taking. Use that as an indicator that you need to make some adjustments.

The last question you’ll ask is what should you do with your next twenty treats? Should you do more targeting, go to simpler food delivery lessons, or shift to another foundation lesson?

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to work on next, refill your pockets with another round of twenty treats and go back to your horse. You won’t always be limiting your training sessions to just twenty treats at a time. Very soon you will just fill your pockets, but beginning with just twenty treats is a good strategy for these initial sessions. It builds in assessment time. You won’t be training, and training, and training, and missing some early warning signs that your horse is feeling either a little overwhelmed, confused, or overly excited by this new game. Using food has so many advantages and this is one of them. It is a great way to gauge the emotional state of your horse. As you become familiar with the assessment process, you’ll find that you are constantly monitoring and adjusting your training. Starting with twenty treats helps develop the assessment process into a good training habit.

Stopping and starting again has another huge benefit. It shows your horse that the clicker game stops for a little bit, but then it starts up again. He doesn’t have to be anxious because there’s a momentary pause in the process. You’ll be back. For some horses this is a hugely important understanding. They get so excited by their initial clicker experience, they don’t want it to end. They can finally understand you! They understand what you want, and they can train you! Their SEEKER circuit is turned on. They don’t want this brand new game to go away. But their excitement often makes novice clicker trainers uncomfortable. Novice handlers don’t yet know how to fill their horse’s clicker dance cards, so they have their “training sessions” and then it’s business as usual. For some horses this is a source of anxiety. They don’t understand why one moment they can influence your behavior in a positive way, and the next it’s back to the old murky communication. These horses need to be more actively engaged via the clicker. When they discover that taking a break from the clicker game doesn’t mean that it goes away permanently, they become much more relaxed. They are discovering that you will be back with another round of training.

Taking a break has yet another advantage. It gives your horse process time. Often when you return for your next round of training, your horse will be much more consistent and deliberate in his actions. He’s had time to think and understand what just happened, and he’s ready for more.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 4

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 2

Read Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 1

This is Part 2 of 

“Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses” 

by By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12

“Bone rotations are an important part of food delivery. As you explore the rope mechanics that are part of clicker training, you’ll encounter this concept of bone rotations over and over again. I’ll refer you to my books and DVDs for more on this, but in brief, as you reach into your pocket and draw out your treat, if you extend your hand out involving just your forearm in the motion, you’ll end up with an unstable “table”. As your horse takes the treat from you, your hand may get pushed down. This makes some horses grabbier because they have to chase after the treat to get it off your hand. If you involve your shoulder as you extend your hand, your hand will be much more stable. You’re using a bone rotation to deliver the treat. This can make a huge difference for many horses. They’ll take the treat more gently, drop fewer treats, and remain calmer throughout the treat delivery process. In other words, technique matters.

6.) Go through a round of targeting with your horse. You’ll be setting up a loop of behavior. You’ll hold the target up. When your horse sniffs at it, click. Take your target down out of sight and give him his treat.

Present the target again. At this stage you are not waiting for your horse to show you “good manners” before you present the target. That would be asking for too much too soon, and could easily stress your horse.Later you’ll wait for your horse to show you good waiting manners before bring the target into play, but for now bring it back up as soon as you’ve delivered the treat. You want to be ready so your horse has another ready opportunity to test out what earns him treats.

You’ll repeat this sequence of target-click-treat-target, using up some portion of your twenty treats. This may mean you do four or five trials and then decide that’s a good beginning, or you may use up almost all of your treats, but again, you have only put enough in your pocket to do a small amount of training before you’re going to have to reload.

Leave enough treats for an end-of-session ritual. You want to have some way to extract yourself from your horse without creating frustration, stress or safety concerns. If your horse is in a stall, dropping a couple of treats into his feed bucket so he moves away from the door, is a good strategy. You can then slide his door closed and step away from his stall to reload your pockets.

While you are reloading, you will be assessing what just occurred. The most important question is this:

Was there anything about your horse’s behavior that would suggest that it would be unsafe to go in the stall with him with your pockets full of treats? Until his behavior shows you that he would be safe, you’ll stay with protective contact.

Other questions are:……..

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 3

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 1

By Alexandra Kurland, 3 Oct 12

“I saw the posts on the forum today with questions about mouthy horses. Let me go through the initial protocols for getting started with the clicker. That may help address some of the issues written about in the post about mouthy horses.

Here’s the basic prep:

1.) Count out twenty treats. If you are using carrots, count out twenty carrot slices. If you are using pelleted grain, count out twenty pellets. Hold them in your hand. Get a feel for how heavy twenty treats are, how much volume they take up. Depending upon the size of your treats, you’ll be feeding one to two or three treats at a time. So you have ten plus or minus trials before you’ are going to run out of treats. That limits the amount of training you can do before you have to take a break to refill your pockets.

2.) You’re going to begin with protective contact. That means there will be a barrier between you and your horse. Stalls with a stall guard are ideal, but you can also work over a paddock fence (as long as it is not electric.) The important thing is you want your horse to be free to interact with you – or not. And you want to be safe. If your horse gets excited or pushy, you can step safely back out of reach of your horse. That means you don’t need to correct your horse for unwanted behavior. Your horse is free to experiment. A bit of mugging in the initial steps is actually desirable. Your horse will nudge your pockets, get nothing, and discover that this is not what gains him treats. Moving away from your pockets is the behavior that works.

3.) There are six foundation lessons: targeting, head lowering, backing, “the grown-ups are talking, please don’t interrupt” (in other words, take your nose away from the handler’s pockets), “happy faces” (ears forward), and stand on a mat. You’re going to begin with basic targeting. You’ll be using this to introduce your horse to the clicker. You’ll also be using your initial targeting session to asses your horse and decide how best to proceed with the training.

4.) Have your target, your treats, and your clicker ready before you go to your horse. Be prepared so you don’t confuse your horse or miss an opportunity to reinforce your horse.

5.) Review the lesson with a “dress rehearsal”. Before you go to your horse practice presenting the target, clicking and getting the food out of your treat pocket. Targets can be empty water bottles, small cones, lids off of supplement containers – anything that is easy to handle and horse safe. You’ll have the target in one hand, the clicker in the other. I don’t hold the clicker in the same hand that I hold the target because I don’t want to click the clicker close to the horse’s skull. I generally begin with the actual clicker. I think horses notice the sound sooner and begin to understand its significance when you begin with the clicker. Within a couple of sessions I’ll switch to a tongue click so I have my hands free.

Smooth, prompt, efficient food delivery is important. There should be no movement to your treat pockets before you click. You’ll click, then you’ll take the target down out of sight as you reach into your pocket to get the treat. Not all pockets are equal. So use your dress rehearsal to make sure you can easily get in and out of your pockets. I like to use a vest for my treats. Other people prefer pouches. As long as you can easily get your treats out, either choice is a good one.

You don’t want to be quick in your treat delivery. But you do want to be prompt. What does this mean? As soon as you click, you want to begin your treat delivery process. There should be no hesitation after the click. But you don’t want to race to get the food out of your pocket and to your horse. You’ll control the pace of the lesson and your horse’s energy level, by controlling the pace of your food delivery.

To be continued….

Check back next week for
Clicker Training and Mouthy Horses; Part 2

Amanda Martin
Learn Clicker Training with Applied Education Training Courses
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk

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Maya’s Story – My Clicker Training Journey Part 2

This is the story of a horse and her person who I had the privilege of working with this year.  It is not often we come across horses who have such extreme behaviour and so I wanted to share Maya’s story with everyone.  I hope it inspires.

Many thanks to Julia for agreeing to share Maya’s story and for writing this blog.

Read Part 1 of Maya’s Clicker Training Journey here.

_____________________

Maya’s Story – My Clicker Training Journey Part 2

Beautiful but dangerous…then she started her clicker training journey

I guessed that the sound of the clicker would be a problem to Maya, so I introduced it to her a fortnight before the course began. I held it in my palm to dampen the noise slightly. The first time she heard it she ran to the back of the box with eyes like saucers, snorting and shaking. I just stood still (by the door in case she lunged at me), and clicked a few more times and then left the stable quietly. Over the next few days I repeated this until she eventually came to see what the click in my hand was. It still made her jump for a couple of weeks but she could tolerate it!

Next was to introduce the treat.  Maya would not accept any food from your hand and regarded carrots/apples/treats as poison even if they were in her bowl of feed. Initially Maya worked for scratches, which she liked even then, and over a week I introduced carrots.

It seemed to take her a long time to associate the click with a treat – it seemed like she didn’t see the point of it, which was just the whole problem in the first place. Then suddenly she wanted a carrot and SNATCHED it from my hand (minus my fingers thankfully). After just 1 day I was having to work with carrots over the stable door as she was mugging me for them, biting and kicking. After 3 days over the door, and then me able to go in to the stable (exiting if she got too angry), she learned how to earn and receive treats nicely.

Once the online training got underway, it was clear that emotional control was going to be key to Maya and me, that unless she had this it would be difficult and maybe even dangerous to continue. We learned GRUPS (grown ups are talking – good manners around food) very early on and still practice this a lot.

I have managed to reduce rearing by about 90% by teaching her this. Whenever she looked like her energy was getting high, I would ask her to do GRUPS, and click/treat +++, then move into a favourite game like targeting.  When she did rear, I quickly told her ‘no’ got round to the side of her and asked her into GRUPS – it worked every time, with no repeat of rear. Once we had the energy back down I would ask her to do some targeting, and I would mix in other things; walk-on, back up, GRUPS.

The biggest step forward was 2 weeks after the course started, when she stood in the stable after a clicking session and sniffed me all over, head to toe, really getting to know me – no biting, head butting or kicking. It was the first time she had ever done this and I felt quite emotional. Maya now displays a remarkable level of self-control which would have been impossible 2 months ago, and as a result we have moved clicker training out of her ‘safe’ stable into the yard, and even sometimes into the first 10 metres of the arena, although she finds this really scary. Clicker training has totally changed the relationship I have with Maya, and has given her a voice – just as an example, yesterday I was grooming her and as she is very ticklish she finds this quite difficult. Previously she would have bitten or barged me, but this time she swung around to face me screwing her head around and made faces. Instinctively I offered her the brush and she took it and threw it on the floor!!!!! FANTASTIC. She would never have had the confidence to tell me this before. I laughed and kissed her nose (never would have been possible before), and she definitely laughed back.

Check back soon to read the next installment of Maya’s story about her Clicker Training Journey.

To join an Online Applied Clicker Training Course please visit http://www.clickertrainingcollege.com or email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk for details.

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Maya’s Story – My Clicker Training Journey Part 1

This is the story of a horse and her person who I had the privilege of working with this year.  It is not often we come across horses who have such extreme behaviour and so I wanted to share Maya’s story with everyone.  I hope it inspires.

Many thanks to Julia for agreeing to share Maya’s story and for writing this blog.

_____________________

Maya’s Story – My Clicker Training Journey Part 1

Beautiful but dangerous…then she started her clicker training journey

Maya is a bay Arabian filly who was originally bred for endurance and racing. I bought her in August 2010, aged 14 months, with the intention of doing endurance with her. However, it was soon clear that she was unused to being handled and was more or less wild.

Loading her into the trailer to come home was just the first of many nightmares over the next 18 months. During these 18 months her behaviour became increasingly dangerous and unpredictable causing herself numerous injuries as a result of throwing herself around her stable and the yard.  She started to attack other horses in the field inflicting injuries on them and she even attacked and injured me on occasion (some of my injuries were serious).

Sadly it was obvious to me, and other people, that on each occasion where she attacked her intent was to hurt me. Her favourite manoeuvres were rearing and lunging towards me whilst striking out with front legs, biting, barging, head butting, crushing me against a wall, and striking out with forelegs.

It just seemed to me that she did not understand us Humans, why she should want to interact with us, what the benefit of that would be, and why she should trust us at all. I had put a lot of effort into trying to understand her and it made me sad to see her so angry and miserable.

Last summer (2011), I asked a Parelli Natural Horsemanship practitioner to come and help me with Maya, but this was not a success. To Maya it seemed it was just another punishment based intervention and she was not prepared to engage with it. The poll pressure enraged her and she did not understand the ‘game’ at all even after 6 hours of sessions. It was just not helping, and so we stopped.

The final straw came this March when her aggressive behaviour intensified and one day reached a crescendo when she launched an attack on my other horse in the field, tried to bite my face, reared up directly over me striking out, head-butted and bit me, then lunged at me in the stable as I tried to retreat after putting her in the stable.

I came away from the yard in tears, shaken: in over 40 years of handling horses I had never seen a horse launch such a deliberate and sustained attack in this way. It just felt like she had no means of communicating with and understanding me, and I had no way of communiccating with her.  All the usual punishment based tactics that we are taught were useless as she would respond to all these as though they were an attack on her and she would either defend herself or attack back.

I had been aware of clicker training for horses for some years but knew virtually nothing about it, so Googled it. SMAART Horses (Amanda Martin) came up and immediately I could see how it might help Maya and I to communicate better. I got in touch with Amanda and joined the next available online applied clicker training foundation module which was due to start in July 2012.

Check back soon to read the next installment of Maya’s story about her Clicker Training Journey.

To join an Online Applied Clicker Training Course please visit http://www.clickertrainingcollege.com or email amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk for details.

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Just for Fun !

We thought you might enjoy this video, just for a bit of fun.

Although it is definitely about having fun with our horses, it also illustrates that ‘serious’ training can be fun.  This horse is learning cues, he is learning his handler would like him to respond, he is learning to wait for the cue, he is also learning about making decisions and problem solving (a very important thing for horses to learn) and so much more.

We hope you enjoy the short video, have fun while you watch the horse make his choices but also see how this training can benefit your horse and how you can apply it to day-to-day life and training.

Amanda
http://www.smaarthorses.co.uk
info@smaarthorses.co.uk

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