Clicker training

fluffy_betty

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Mar 8, 2008
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I'm a big fan of clicker training, having previously used it on my dog and even my cats :)

I'd like to introduce it to my horse, but while I understand the concept, I'm not sure what sort of things I could teach her? I don't want to teach her pointless 'tricks'; I'd like it to be something useful.

Can anyone make any suggestions?

Thanks :)
 

NoviceNic

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May 7, 2003
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I use Clicker Training to remind Captain of his manners. I could place each foot where I wanted them with a different command. It helps me lead him when he is scared. Especially through electric gateways...:cool:
 

Gill

New Member
I'm currently using it to teach Lady lateral steps under saddle.


Also to teach my youngsters to stand for the farrier, stand beside me on a loose rope and wait, lower heads to the ground as a cue to calm down.

Here I am reaching for the treat for my clever girl! We love clicker training.
arenafinished010.jpg
 

capalldubh

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May 26, 2006
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Oh Gill, those are lovely pics :D

I was doing 3-flip-3 on our hack this morning, but I need to do loops ;) - after 5 or 6 straight steps, I ask for a little lateral as a reward and then click - I found at this year's clinic I had forgotten to teach the opposite :D We can do lovely sideways, but sometimes straight ahead is a problem!

You and Lady seem to be doing beautifully - you are clearly both really enjoying yourself! (I am also envious you have pictures - I came back with none at all and nobody will believe my horse was a superstar :().

OP, best place to start is with a good clicker book for horses - either Alex Kurland's The Click that Teaches, or my current favourite, Sharon Foley's Getting to Yes. Both are aimed at teaching useful things, but most of them are good fun too :) And both websites have suggestions for getting started :)
 

Soot

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Aug 7, 2007
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I taught Lance to stop nipping by rewarding non grabby or soliciting behaviour. I also taught him to stand stock still to have sudocrem put on its nose ... but apparently he'll do it for a click. In general, he's better mannered if I happen to be holding the clicker ... typical bloke!
 

Gill

New Member
Capalldubh great to hear that you were also clicking with Alex recently. I would love to hear more about your horse and what you are doing with clicker.

Soot, I use a tongue click (a 'tock' noise) so the clicker is always there, just need to fill your pockets before you start. Clicker is great for teaching manners isn't it?
 

poniesrule

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Oct 3, 2007
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Clicker training is great:D

I started with my just turned 2 year old filly, Calli a few weeks ago after finding that she gets very distracted when iIwalk her to and from the field every evening. She would plant her feet, rush forward and be uneasy about going certain places on the farm. All she wanted was to clear up her feed as soon as possible and rush back to her friends.

I wanted her to enjoy her time with me and become more willing and confident, so I brought a clicker and a bum bag for the carrots!!

I can honestly say that it has really helped us both enjoy our time together.

I have taught her to touch a target (eg a hose pipe, scary carrier bag, anything really!) in return for the 'click' and a slice of carrot, but only when she has turned her nose away.

So far it has served as a distraction tool for times when i want her attention back, or to associate touching scary items with reward, so developing her braveness as well as embracing her natural curiosity.

The other day, it was windy, so i put a tesco carrier bag in the menege and we had great fun following it as it swept along, clicking everytime she nosed it!
Last night i took her for a walk around the village with her mum. It was bin day, so lots of wheelie bins!! At first she was a bit overwhelmed by these scary monsters on wheels. So out came the clicker, I say the words "Go Find" and she happily obliged in touching the bin and recieved her reward:D

Great fun:D
 

rocklanenancy

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Hi, you can clicker train your horse to to anything that your pony is capable of doing! which includes ridden work under saddle, heres some ideas
standing for farrier/vet
loading into trailer
working "on the bit"
engaging hindquarters
jumping
lateral movements
teach to overcome fears of clippers/anything spooky
accepting a bit/new items of tack etc
good manners
leading
standing still while you mount
ground tying
spanish walk
hackney (elevated )trot
sheath cleaning
lunging/long reining
backing up
anything thats possible really! good luck and I hope you and your horse enjoy it!
 

poniesrule

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I'm a big fan of clicker training, having previously used it on my dog and even my cats :)
Thanks :)

Wow what a great idea:D

Ive been trying for ages to teach my very opinionated and thinks he rules the house and the humans within it cat, Sam not to meow (more like scream!) when i'm putting his Felix Pouch in his bowl. My tried but failed method was not to empty the pouch until he was quiet. But no success there!!

I am going to have a go with the clicker definately:D Lol, im sure he's reading this, he's just gave me the most wicked glance from my OH's lap!!!!
 

wundahoss

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May 7, 2008
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Your imagination is about your only limit. You can teach anything that you would usually teach a horse, if you don't want to teach her any obscure things.

But as for 'useless' tricks... retrieving isn't useless, especially if you drop something when riding - you don't have to get off, just ask your horse to get it for you. Stepping on a pedestal or such isn't useless, it's great to teach them to step up with particular feet on things, prep for floating, obstacles, farriery, etc. Many other 'tricks' can be put to practical use. Getting her to push a ball or other tricks may be useless in themselves, but I think they are also valuable in teaching the horse to problem solve, to have a positive attitude towards whatever you ask, to have fun playing with you.:D
 

Xandoz

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Mar 9, 2009
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I cliker trained my old lady (27 years :) ) to touch things with her nose and to bow and lift her head on commend.

The touchi thing has proved useful when she's unsure about approaching something. I can ask her to touch it and she'll do it unpressured and it her own time and gets over her fear quickly.

For the bowing, I use it when I need to check her ears for ticks. She drops er head. And I use "head up" (lifting the head) when I ride. If I ride n a long rein, then take the rein back and pull her head up, she gets excited and speeds up. But if I say "head up" fist, she'll lift her head to the right position, then I can shorten my reins and she'll keep the same speed.
 

BindyB

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Mar 13, 2009
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I've never had any dealings with clicker training before, but this sounds like a great method to use on my new share pony who won't stand still to be mounted.

So basically, each time she does as she's supposed to (eg stands still next to me, or stands still while I put a foot in the stirrup, then as I put some weight on her etc etc), I click once then give a treat? Do you gradually phase out the treat but keep going with the clicker as she gets better? Do you ever phase out the clicker once she's doing it properly? What treats do you use? Would slices of carrot do it (cheap and cheerful :eek:)

Sorry, lots of questions but I'm really quite interested in trying this with Minty :)
 

poniesrule

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Oct 3, 2007
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I've never had any dealings with clicker training before, but this sounds like a great method to use on my new share pony who won't stand still to be mounted.

So basically, each time she does as she's supposed to (eg stands still next to me, or stands still while I put a foot in the stirrup, then as I put some weight on her etc etc), I click once then give a treat? Do you gradually phase out the treat but keep going with the clicker as she gets better? Do you ever phase out the clicker once she's doing it properly? What treats do you use? Would slices of carrot do it (cheap and cheerful :eek:)

Sorry, lots of questions but I'm really quite interested in trying this with Minty :)

I am intersted in hearing the answers to these questions too! Especially the phasing out the treat bit!

Last night i was in the menege teaching Calli to trott in hand for the 1st time. As soon as i upped my energy and did an exagerated jog, she broke into a trott beside me!! I was so pleased that i clicked at every trott footfall to reward her for her effort... However, i didnt give her a carrot as this would have been impossible!!
 

laura jeanne

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You do phase out the clicks and treats.

When I was teaching mine to push the ball, the first step was to get him to target (touch) the ball with his nose. But that is all I would do. So my RI said when he touches it, do not click right away. Then he kept touching it thinking, hey where is my treat??? When the ball finally moved, then I clicked and treated. Gradually, (only a few minutes really) he was shoving it. The next step was after the shove, he did not get clicked until he walked up to it and pushed it.

My friend taught her horse to target the mounting block. Big mistake. Then every time she led him to it to try to get on, he would turn and touch it with his nose!!! She was using Cheerios as a treat! I used bits of carrot.
 

quarryhorse

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Jun 21, 2009
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Hi everyone,

Clicker training is certainly a fantastic way to teach and communicate with horses. I think also that it is vital to understand at least some basic behavioural science and learning theory before doing too much with clicker training. It does have it's pitfalls if not done correctly and I would highly recommend anyone interested in trying clicker training to read as much as they can on the subject before starting. Books I would urge people to read are;

"The art and science of clicker training for horses" by Ben Hart

"Don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor

"Knowing your horse" by Emma Lethbridge

Ben Harts book is fantastic for pointing out clicker trainings limitations and pitfalls as well as the amazing results it can have when used thoughtfully and well.
 

wundahoss

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May 7, 2008
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So basically, each time she does as she's supposed to (eg stands still next to me, or stands still while I put a foot in the stirrup, then as I put some weight on her etc etc), I click once then give a treat?

Yes, that's the basic idea.... after you've taught her what the click means. You first do this by just clicking & instantly giving a treat, over & over, so that she associates the click with the reward. Then the click becomes a 'bridging signal' which effectively buys you a bit of time when it's not practical to give a treat or such instantly, at the time of the behaviour. It's basically a marker which tells her Yes! That instant was the behaviour which earned you a reward.

Do you gradually phase out the treat but keep going with the clicker as she gets better? Do you ever phase out the clicker once she's doing it properly? What treats do you use? Would slices of carrot do it (cheap and cheerful :eek:)

Yes, you definitely phase out c/t when behaviours become good. You start with phasing out c/t for the behaviour that's become good, and start being more particular, only c/ting the better examples of what the horse gives. This gets them to improve on what they're doing. Also creating a 'variable schedule of reinforcement'(VSR), which is not reinforcing every instance of a behaviour, but doing it gradually less, only for the better ones & randomly for others gets them more solid on it, teaches them to 'gamble' - the probability of getting a treat is still there, it's just not reliable - and hooked on the game, regardless of treats.

Different people do it differently - some phase out treats & keep clicking for a fair while, some do it the other way round, some c/t together & phase them both out at the same time. I personally don't use an actual clicker very much, tend to just use the word 'Good!' in an enthusiastic tone. When I'm using the clicker, I make sure I ALWAYS give a reward when I click. I use it as a kind of default to fall back on, if training takes a step back, the horse loses impulsion or such. But generally in training, when it's going well & I'm not using the clicker, I phase out treats but keep using the word 'good' to mark the behaviour.

As for what rewards to use - anything that the horse truly enjoys will work as a positive reinforcement. However, some things are stronger(more desirable) reinforcers than others, and some things are more practical. Eg. your horse may like a chest rub, but not always, and a slice of carrot may be a much more desirable reward anyway. Depending on what you're doing, what you're wearing(eg. pockets:rolleyes:), etc. you might find that a good scratch in an itchy spot is more or less practical than carrying treats. Regarding treats, I would choose something healthy tho. I wouldn't be giving peppermints or sugary treats, but use slices of carrot, apple, bits of milk thistle, rosehips or other plants they love, a tiny amount at a time of pelletted or other horse feed.... I actually feed my boys a pelletted ration balancer & often use this as training treats.

Sorry, lots of questions but I'm really quite interested in trying this with Minty :)

Don't be sorry! Ask away:D

I was so pleased that i clicked at every trott footfall to reward her for her effort... However, i didnt give her a carrot as this would have been impossible!!

I think this is a valid way of doing it, once they've become solid & know what the click means, as I hoped I explained above. But don't confuse the click with the actual reward. It's not a reward of itself, but just a signal that lets the horse know their behaviour has made the likelihood of a reward greater.

My friend taught her horse to target the mounting block. Big mistake. Then every time she led him to it to try to get on, he would turn and touch it with his nose!!!

Hey, that's a minor hiccup compared with my mounting block mistake:rolleyes: I'd taught my horse to stand on it..... when I got on he did too! :p

Clicker training is certainly a fantastic way to teach and communicate with horses. I think also that it is vital to understand at least some basic behavioural science and learning theory before doing too much with clicker training.

I second this, big time. I think it's vital to learn & understand the principles behind the method. It is basically, behavioural psychology. It's the principles that are important, not the specific 'tools' or actions.
 
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