Motivation, training and treats

Jane&Ziggy

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Apr 30, 2010
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I am doing a lot of groundwork at the moment with Ziggy because he says his saddle is not comfortable, so we are waiting for the saddler to come next week.

My RI has been helping me teach him "sideways". He finds sideways very difficult because his default button is "forwards." Also he is very on the forehand, and finds it hard to take his weight back enough to move his front feet across. Over 2 lessons and practice in between we have got him able to yield his shoulders and take a step sideways neatly from a rein aid applied from the ground, and we've got him to yield his quarters neatly - no more than 2 steps, rather than all the way around! - as well.

I haven't used treats with Ziggy for a few months because I wanted to see how he went without them. He is obedient when he thinks you mean it, but every lesson I need to re-establish with him that you mean it. My RI doesn't have to because he knows she always means it!

This lesson we were working on getting what an American would call a side pass - moving first front legs, then back legs directly sideways. He was trying hard for my RI and they were getting there. There was a lot of chewing, yawning and general thoughtfulness going on. When it was my turn to have a go my friend Carol, who was watching, offered me a couple of Polos from her back pocket in case he got it right.

Ziggy smelled the Polos and his ears shot up. When I assumed the handler position and asked for the shoulders to move first, he arched his neck and performed 3 neat side pass steps front and back, boom boom boom, then made his whickery "I'm a clever boy, where's my treat" noise.

I treated him, and the 3 of us laughed and marvelled for a little bit at what real motivation can do.

So there is the positive side of using treats. My RI doesn't usually use them, but she recognises how helpful they can be with Ziggy and counsels me to keep them for really big examples of good performance. And afterwards we saw the downside - Ziggy was so eager to earn another Polo that he tried to anticipate what I wanted and ended up pirouetting in all directions rather than waiting to be asked. Clicker trainers like subjects to "offer" behaviours, and he was certainly doing his best to do that, but it wasn't what my RI wanted or what I was asking for!

It was lovely to see him walking sideways like a dressage horse. When he does it, he has to lift his back and carry himself, and he looks gorgeous!
 

KP nut

I'd rather be riding.
Dec 22, 2008
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Ziggy Dressage Diva (but only for polos!!) I used to find that treat training caused horses to also offer a series of random behaviours in their quest for a treat. It seemed to stop them focusing or paying attention to me. But it definitely has a place at times to increase motivation.
 

hormonalmare

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Sep 25, 2005
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You could try just rewarding one brilliant action by Ziggy and then stopping the session completely so you end on a real high so far as he is concerned. I've heard dog trainers suggest it when trying to teach a dog something fairly complicated - I think it's called 'the Treasure Trove'.

I'm a great believer in treats, but one of the first things I always do with a new horse is teach it to back up for a treat. Then you never, ever get walked over by a hopeful horse ;)
 
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Ale

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Ale knows he won't get anything until he moves one foot backwards. I don't use treats in training generally as they blow his mind after one but I have found them very useful in his running away whilst being turned out issue. He now waits whilst I remove headcollar, close gate and then I ask for back and treat him.
 

Jane&Ziggy

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Yes @hormonalmare , I have done that sometimes. My RI, though, likes to be sure that a horse is doing something for the right reasons - a slightly different approach - so we had to carry on this time!
 

Mary Poppins

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I used treat extensively when I was training Ben to do horse agility. He will do anything for a polo including walking on plastic sheets, having balloons around his head, umbrellas popping up all over the place etc. With him it is all about the timing. I needed to make sure that the treat is immediately after the behaviour for it to influence his behaviour, and then I would make him repeat the exericse and replace the polo with a big scratch and huge fuss. That meant that in competition he was satisfied with a scratch as a reward rather than looking for a polo.

I also make sure I never treat him for no reason at all so that when he gets his polo, he knows he has been a very good boy.
 
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joellie

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Apr 24, 2011
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Ale knows he won't get anything until he moves one foot backwards. I don't use treats in training generally as they blow his mind after one but I have found them very useful in his running away whilst being turned out issue. He now waits whilst I remove headcollar, close gate and then I ask for back and treat him.

I do exactly the same with my boy, although his treat is only a slice of carrot :)
 
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Bodshi

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I used to find that treat training caused horses to also offer a series of random behaviours in their quest for a treat. It seemed to stop them focusing or paying attention to me. But it definitely has a place at times to increase motivation.

This was my experience when I tried clicker training with Raf. It works very well with the dogs, but I wasn't keen on Raf checking me for treats all the time. And as for carrot stretches - Raf's ok, but Jack was a nightmare. Every time I wanted to pick his feet out he'd swing his head (and big teeth) down for a carrot!
 

Jessey

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Lol bless his cottons :) it took jess an age to get sidepass, then a new trainer just suggested increasing the motivator, aimed the pole towards the gate and a (empty) bucket and low and behold she got it in one, full length of the pole, once she understood what that command was asking for we could get it any where any time :)
 

Bodshi

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Lol bless his cottons :) it took jess an age to get sidepass, then a new trainer just suggested increasing the motivator, aimed the pole towards the gate and a (empty) bucket and low and behold she got it in one, full length of the pole, once she understood what that command was asking for we could get it any where any time :)

It's funny isn't it - Raf is brilliant at gates, will sidepass up to them. turn on the forehand round them, etc, with hardly a cue. But ask him to pull those moves in the school and he's like, "What? Don't think I get it .... Bored ....Yawn ..."
 

newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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Today's hack reminded me of this thread.
We met a dog walker using clicker training with their dog.
The idea I guess is the dog sits, focuses on her and gets a treat. The horse, mine, walks by, ignores dog and person.

The problem was mine realised that the dog was eating something from a pocket.
If I look at her, will I get something! She lost focus and reversed backwards, still looking at this woman.
I don't treat, but that's not to say she doesn't know about a pocket as I do carrot stretches.
 

Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
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It's funny isn't it - Raf is brilliant at gates, will sidepass up to them. turn on the forehand round them, etc, with hardly a cue. But ask him to pull those moves in the school and he's like, "What? Don't think I get it .... Bored ....Yawn ..."

Well Raf is an intelligent sensible horse! He can see the point of getting through the gate. He can't see the point of just doing some weird manoeuvre. You and me both, Raf!
 
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Jessey

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Well Raf is an intelligent sensible horse! He can see the point of getting through the gate. He can't see the point of just doing some weird manoeuvre. You and me both, Raf!
Jess hates gates in trail classes, she see's no points opening it and faffing about when you can clearly just walk round it, she's a pro doing real ones though :rolleyes::p
 

newforest

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Jess hates gates in trail classes, she see's no points opening it and faffing about when you can clearly just walk round it, she's a pro doing real ones though :rolleyes::p
Mine is scared of a random gate. It's not fitted to anything, it's just there:)
I had to include a gate on two of my tests, I just prayed the wind hadn't battered it and the real one worked!
 
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