Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted - Page 14

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Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted

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    05-26-2013, 01:52 PM
Anatopism, my answer based on my limited experiences (4 horses and a donkey; 3 yo Appendix filly, 7 yo Appy gelding, 13 yo KSMH and 13 yo Paint mares, 6 yo Mediterranean Jenny) for 10 months CT.

Each responds differently based on their experiences (so age plays a role) and personality.

The young equines are quicker to offer other behaviors. The gelding likes to play fetch and lifts his feet and holds them up for you with a tap. I am sure he could do a lot more but I don't work with him or the filly as much because they aren't mine.

The older mares (my horses) both had attitudes that were part of what needed work. They both were very responsive to positive reinforcement for "attitude" changes (ears forward, head down, relaxed demeanor, etc). It was a real game changer! We got their ground manners and attitudes up to excellent and are now working on in-saddle improvement.

For me, CT has taken me in a different direction with each horse. I don't use CT alone as my only tool. I also use pressure/release when it works better. But I never go back and forth using both on the same training issue. That can really confuse a creature and should NEVER be done (see "Poisoned Cue" by A. Kurland).

CT is great, but it looks a lot easier than it really is. Use a clicker. It is easier to do to get your timing and it is very clear to your animal. Practice often, especially at first with animals new to CT. Make sessions short and always end with a win. Attitude is always "this is fun!" and it will be!
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    05-26-2013, 01:55 PM
Oh, and one more important key strategy: alternate between "move" behaviors and "be still" behaviors. That way the animal doesn't think it always moves or always stands still with CT. That was one of my early mistakes with the Paint mare!
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    05-27-2013, 02:18 PM
Thanks, Tiffany! I'll check out "Poisoned Cue" as suggested. I forgot I also trained a rat on clicker. Lol. She was the quickest at picking up new tricks, but also the greediest with food. She's also the reason I bought a Karen Pryor clicker rather than the box-shaped ones with the foil sheet where your whole thumb goes in -they're LOUD and to a rat, that high pitched CLACK is counter productive. The Karen Pryor clicker has a gentler click, but I wonder if it will be loud enough to be noticed by a horse.

Another thing I meant to ask - CT with horses on the ground seems manageable and easy if you know how to CT in general, but how does one treat a horse from the back in time? Do they actually help you out and lean back to grab a treat, or are you only working behaviors that they have mastered consistently on the ground?

For anyone teaching their horse to 'touch' particular objects... Do you notice your horse becoming more bold or curious in general with new objects, as they learn that more and more things are rather mundane? Do you find this particular type of cue strengthens your horses trust in you, and can be applied to other actions "out in the world" to create a less spooky horse?
    05-27-2013, 02:42 PM
I'll jump in here :) I like to sit back and see what everyone else has to say, but this is the part I love. I'm a ground person, while I work on mounted work, I so much rather be on the ground. Nothing tl do with disliking riding, but I love to watch as my horse thinks carefully through all the things she knows and figure out what it is I'm asking.
An example of this was when I taught her to stand and to come here. This was a battle for her, I made the mistake of teachibg her only in motion skills for a long while. Then asking her to stand really threw her for a loop! She did everything she could think of but didnt get what she was being rewarded for when she did nothing!!

This same mare is especially nervous. New things don't bother her so much but a new environment leaves her trembling and looking for escape. Teaching her to target has been a life saver. It exposed her to a massive number of new things but also built her confidence big time. Now she's targetting my dumpster that's big, metal and loud! She'll target my car and trees and will follow my crop target anywhere I bring it. It keeps her focused on what I want, she's determined to touch that target even if its in a new unfamiliar place. The other week I forgot to shut the tack room door and was walking her past it, she panicked and bolted backwards, she froze up and wouldn't take a single step to go past it. Rather than shutting the door I took the opportunity and got my target it took maybe 3 minutes before she was walking calmly back and forth past the door.

Yes targetting massively helps their overall acceptance of new things.

Also as for treating while mounted. The clicker needs to be solid for your horse. The sound needs to be a clear marker for "you did the right thing", then you just stop and reach forward and they can turn to get a bite. It is especially helpful if they know the cues from the ground first and only need to translate and reinforce the mounted cues.
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    05-27-2013, 02:46 PM
I also wanted to add... unlike clicker training with small pets, with horses it is important never to skip the first step! When you're introducing the clicker and connecting the sound to the food reward the horse must always be standing calmly with his nose politely pointing away from you. Start with that skill, they may never invaded your space or mug you for treats, that earns them nothing (or a sharp noise may be needed if they get too pushy.)
The first thing any horse will do when yhey realise you have food is to try to find where it is and how to get it, theyll start by diving into the source (your pocket). Which is why food may only be delivered when theyre standing calmly and facing away a bit.
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    05-27-2013, 03:24 PM
Standing patient and quiet is the most important behavior ever! That is why, from the get-go, I like to incorporate relaxation into positive reinforcement/clicker work. Even if you want a bright, energetic behavior like a piaffe or jumping, it is best done when it is done from a relaxed state.

They will easily take food from the saddle. You may find that they are stiffer turning to one side but more supple going toward the other side. In just a few days you will se that they have become more flexible on both sides. Just an added bonus!! I also recommend feeding from both sides so they learn to wait to see which way to go. Ideally you want to teach them to stand with head forward watching you to see which way you are going to go....not the other way around.
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    05-27-2013, 06:37 PM
Excellent and informative responses guys, thanks! Looking forward for more updates on how everyone is doing with their horses :)
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    06-08-2013, 12:38 PM
Woops :P
    06-10-2013, 04:55 PM
So color me furious.
Its been a while since I've been doing any real clicker training, just been using it for the usual daily routine, no new skills. So basically I've just been doing it with my mare, she's learning to lunge because the vet says she has got to loose some weight. She's doing exceptionally well and no longer uses a lunge line - I'm torn with a few things - but I'll get to that later...
So not much was happening on the CT front and I needed to go away for a few days (my brother got married! ) - my pony sitter is wonderful, my best friend since middle school. She loves my horses (especially the pony) and does CT with the little one when she has time. She's always been perfect, but she had a rough weekend while I was away.
She knows the routine with my mare, when something "scary" is happening (like the landscapers making funny noises outside) she'll freeze up at her stall door. I usually work her through these situations by getting her focused on the target and going outside. My pony sitter is used to this situation even though it doesn't happen often.
Apparently something was lost in communication this week. Apparently my pony sitter was upset about something and forgot that you actually do need to give the food after you click. Apparently she did a LOT of target work with Tank, clicking but without giving any reward after.

Needless to say when I got home I had trouble getting my mare out of her stall (I had brought the fans out and they were pretty terrifying). When I got out the target she didn't care, she did eventually touch it for me, for which I clicked + treated, but when the target was in a less comfortable place (closer to the fans) she just didn't want to take the gamble. After much work I got her outside. I started our lunging work again and she moved out when asked and switched up to a trot, but whenever I clicked she wouldn't stop for the treat - she just kind of ignored me...

SO I'm frustrated But I'm taking this as an opportunity to get serious and get her training on track.
I've started again completely from the beginning, this time I'm using an actual clicker (not a smooch noise). She was the first horse I worked with and I was new and unsure when I started her - so I'm discovering a few gaps in our previous training (or maybe they were things I let slip), but I'm curious some ideas on how to work through these little issues.

I'm working on just the first step of standing calmly and looking away - I'm finding she's not very calm at all - she's actually very worked up, desperate for the click. She fidgets a lot - faces away in both directions back and forth, she'll back up and step forward, touch me then pull away, toss her head. I click and treat when she turns her head away but I just can't seem to achieve "calm".

Also, I do have to keep lunging her, but I'm a little torn about the way I'm doing it - I can't think of another way to do it though. I started by lunging her like normal and C+T when she responds correctly. I started with a line and a lunge whip and asked her to move out, C+T when she moved out and walked, I repeated this until she understood walk and to stop at the click. She's figuring it out to wait for which direction I want her to go and has progressed to trotting. She still has trouble with downward transitions, but she picks up her trot well. She's been doing great but I still feel like I've been relying on a lot of Pressure+release and the C+T is just a cherry on the cake, not so much what she's working for. Except now she's doing so well I just need to use the lunge whip, she'll lunge around me without a line (even in her big paddock!) - I prefer this because the circles are easier to make bigger and I like to change things up and make her move down straight lines up and down the area and continue the circle without having to use a line to make her listen. She's doing fantastic with that, but again I still feel like I'm using more Pressure/Release than I'd like using the whip as actual pressure (not just for more clear communication).

Thanks in advance I'm looking forward to some advice I'm feeling pretty torn right now. Having trouble sticking with things.
    06-16-2013, 11:21 AM
Punkstank, I wish I had advice, but I think you are doing what I would do. I definitely think going back to an actual clicker is good.

What about walking her and CT to reinforce downward transitions? I have found walking beside my mare and clicking just as I stop gets her to stay right with me and stop. I didn't use it to lunge her but for improving her stop when riding and it seemed to transfer well to in saddle work.

Also, can you change up the food reward? My donkey was uninterested in CT training until I started using some new treats that have this wonderful anise smell. Now she loves it!

We just moved from our rental of two years to a new place a month ago. It's very exciting because the new place is 33 acres of grass. But it is a "fixer upper" old ranch hand house and land, so there is a lot to do. Just packing and moving cut into my horse time. Now building stalls, paddocks, an arena, fixing windows, weed eating endlessly, discing and harrowing, screwing down the barn roof, fixing gates...You get the picture. Plus it is year end at work (school) and that is many evenings of banquets, graduations,etc. that require longer hours there.

But the good part of all of this is the attitude of my horses, thanks to CT. They hang around in their pasture right by the house and ask for attention. Its wonderful to have them outside my windows and watch them roam so much space. When I call them, they come galloping at full speed to whoever I am! They haven't gotten much CT or riding for two months, but they are interested and well behaved when I do have time to ride or train.

Hang in there! You will turn it back around very soon.

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