Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted - Page 23

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Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted

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    07-08-2013, 04:10 PM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
Way to go Jillybean!! Sounds like he's coming along really well. :) I wish I had just one horse to invest all my time in like that. That's fantastic!
Sounds like he's making great progress, but I hope your non-CT friend hasnt influenced this decrease in CT? Or is it more just moving on to the next skill?
Also, while I agree bits are safer than halters, bits rely on pressure and release. Your horse who isnt used to any sort of strong pressure on his mouth may freak out more if he spooks and you grab for the bit. I feel like it may cause more of an accident. I always find the safest thing to ride a horse in is the thing they respond best in. For Tank it's a halter, because that's what j trained her to respond best too, and for my Belgian its a kimberwick, because we're stepping down from a broken liverpool. So the safest tool you can use on your horse is what the horse will respond to quickly, easily and most important, calmly.
I guess that's why Tank responded to finding the target when she was scared better than me snapping her halter - both resulted in her turning her attention to me. But the target got her focused and thinking, while shanking her resulted in upsetting her more and causing near panic.
So glad to hear he's doing so well with backing up and foot targetting :P that's a great idea for teaching lateral flexation! Ill have to try it, but not with Revel, he's a toe nibbler!

Out of curiosity I've heard two ways lf steering horses with your legs, which do you guys all go for? Squeezing the inside leg a little behind the girth for the horse to bend around or squeezing the outside leg a little ahead for the horse to turn away from the pressure? I've been using both, bjt im not sure if that's confusing her with too many signals and too much subtelty?
Haha oh no, CT will always be a part of our training (in case you hadn't read the post I just put on here lol). As you say, it's more of a matter of moving on to the next skill. He's ready to phase out the clicker for all the basic things we've done at a walk. I'm trotting sometimes and still carry the clicker for that, but I want to teach more skills before we move on to doing things faster.

A halter is fine in the arena (and, of course, we're starting to go without even that), but my friend talked some sense into me about trail riding before Flash had the opportunity to knock it into me. Since he's only ever had pressure from a halter, that's currently the "safest" thing I could probably ride him in - as you said, Flash might freak out if I just put a bit in his mouth and he suddenly has pressure, which could make things worse in an emergency. However, should something happen - especially on a trail - any horse CAN run through a halter much easier than a bit. Just like I hope I'll never need my helmet or seat belt, I hope I never need to haul on the bit to stop him, but will be thankful that I had the bit to do so should it ever happen. So, I decided he needed to learn to respond to a bit in order to be safe enough to do the trail riding I want to. This doesn't mean I'm going to be direct reining all the time, but rather teach him to give when I ask him to. That's why we did lateral flexion - he quickly learned not to fight but rather just to turn his head with a soft touch. I'll be riding him with a bit every day now and treating it just like a new skill by clicking and treating for proper responses to the bit, whether it's just holding it quietly while we neck rein or giving quietly to pressure when asked.

By the way, Flash is also a toe nibbler - which I quickly corrected a while back when we were just riding. It's just like mugging for treats - he won't get good things, and risks getting something he doesn't like instead. In this case, it was a light but swift kick to the nose - it didn't hurt, but it surprised him. He doesn't nibble my toes anymore.

As for leg reining, I usually push the front end around with my feet close to the cinch/girth. We haven't worked on giving the back end yet, but we'll be doing that, too. In my opinion, though I've never had a horse thoroughly trained this way, I think it's important for a horse to know which part of their body you're asking them to move and they should be able to give them from under the saddle just like they do from the ground. I'd start with the basic moving away from your foot first, then refine what they're supposed to move later. One way Alexandria Kurland shows this in her book from the ground is to put duct tape markers on your horse so that you're consistent with where you're tapping the whip and applying pressure so your horse can learn which spot means what. And like everything else, if you do it properly on the ground, it will translate into proper movement while riding. I'm not there yet, so I haven't worked out exactly how I want to do it, but we'll get there someday once we've exhausted our current list of things to train (which it seems like we're doing rather quickly!) haha :)
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    07-08-2013, 04:15 PM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
Out of curiosity I've heard two ways lf steering horses with your legs, which do you guys all go for? Squeezing the inside leg a little behind the girth for the horse to bend around or squeezing the outside leg a little ahead for the horse to turn away from the pressure? I've been using both, bjt im not sure if that's confusing her with too many signals and too much subtelty?
Here's a list of cues that I found handy when trying to decide exactly how to train Flash off leg cues, including the way that I stop him now without any rein pressure :) All Around Horses: Leg Cues for Riding Your Horse
    07-08-2013, 04:35 PM
Super Moderator
I think the above link covers it really well
Think about your leg being the thing that moves the quarters over so the further back your leg is and the more pressure you apply the more 'turn' you'll get
In a normal circle your inside leg remains on the girth and the outside one slightly behind to ask the horse to not swing outwards but if you want to make a tight turn then you can get more action from the back end by moving your leg further back - which might mean opening up the outside leg slightly to allow the horse to step into it and then closing it again when you reach the right position in the turn
I start from the ground by pushing the horse over and saying 'turn' if I want to just move the quarters - If I want a sidestep I use the command 'over'
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    07-08-2013, 06:08 PM
Punk, I suspect she's zoning out. My spooky boy could have given lessons he was so good at it. When it dawned on me I realized I needed to keep his mind busy. If I was beside him and he looked away, a hard pull brought his attention back to me. I knew in those few seconds he'd be slipping into la-la land and scaring the crap out of himself when he came back to reality. Keeping his attention on me became my focus. He soon learned to follow my every move or his head got a yank. It was a joyous time when I realized he'd gone 30 days without mentally retreating.
    07-08-2013, 06:53 PM
Saddlebag, her issues are all just about worked out. I wish you would read my previous responses - ill be repeating everything I've already posted.
She's not spacing out, she's obsessing. At one barn I work at we call this Arabian Mare Syndrome. It clearly effects more than just arabian mares, its just so iconic of them in particular. Its when you dwell and obsess on something that's mildly concerning, you build it up in your head until it's absolutely terrifying. At this point you freeze up and/or explode. It happens mostly with intelligent horses who don't have enough better things to think about.
Your absolutely right I need to get her focus back on me and away from dwelling on this concerning object. Though if you'd read one of the last things I posted you'd see exactly why I don't do what you suggested.
When her attention diverts to scary things if I snap the rope or do anything else to physically get her attention back on me, pulling or pushing or shouting (because general talking isnt enough) then she reacts explosively or freezes up all together. At this point she is sure that the object is scary and im trying to force her to be near it. This turns into a violent battle of wills and strength, and when her will gives out her strength beats me. She bolts backwards and to her stall faster and stronger than I can prevent.
But if I maintain her focus by having her touch her target she is calm and responsive. No aggression and no battles.
This is why I asked the clicker training thread - because pressure doesn't work.
    07-08-2013, 07:23 PM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
That's so cute Jaydee ^^ I also find it easier to train horses who are likely to mug people using treats to teach them how to accept a treat, rather than just avoiding the issue all together.

Today went great for all my horses!! Tank had 2 days inside due to thunderstorms and me working too much, so I was very concerned that she would be terrible to get out today. She was actually fantastic! She's still nervous and tense in and out of her stall, but I brought my target and kept her focused and moving without giving her time to analyze anything that made her nervous - but I did put the target on some things that made her nervous, but only if it was in our path and we could achieve it quickly. She walked right out without freezing up, but still clearly nervous. She was so good I brought her to a different paddock that's further away and she handled this situation exceptionally well. Coming back in though she got very scared of the garage windows with her reflection in them, she bolted sideways, but stopped when she reached the end of the leadline and then found the target. Then we worked on the target until she was touching the window, she didn't bat an eye at the second window we past. She's coming along! The only diet change so far has been reintroducing Brewer's Yeast, but when it arrives I'm going to start her on MagRestore to see if that at least allows her to be unafraid in her stall.

I worked with Viking today too (my 3 year old from the last video) He was exceptional! I worked with him outside today, I had him on lead because he's very dangerous off lead, won't hesitate to kick or strike. I started by standing next to him and C+T when his head was straight ahead. He exaggerated it a bit and turned a bit further away, but this time he didn't turn back to me when I clicked, he learned to wait with his head straight and the treat would come to him there. Then I just started taking a step or two, wanting him to keep himself in the same position next to me. He caught on FAST. I would walk, then stop, if he went to far he'd back up or circle around me to get back in position.
I then went to his other side and spent a few minutes teaching all the same things, but his attention span was coming to a close so I ended it on a good note. Later that day though when I went through his paddock he did throw a hissy fit about having to back out of my space and actually reared, no striking this time, but he got in a good bit of trouble for that. Off lead he's seriously dangerous, I guess I'll stick to on-lead until his manners improve.

So things are looking up, someone got a video of me with Viking, but hasn't sent it to me yet. I'm still having trouble with making him stay calm when I make him wait a bit for the treat, if I try to make him stand straight and face ahead for more than a few seconds he'll start touching me, turning to face me, backing up, just fidgetting, I'm not sure how to stretch out the cue making him stand longer.
WOOHOOOOO WITH TANK!! It sounds like you got right to the heart of the problem. I was SO excited when I read this! And I'm so glad you found a solution that works for her!

Keep it up with Viking, too. It sounds like you're doing great with troubleshooting for individual horses and their needs :) Keep it up!
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    07-10-2013, 02:10 PM
Had some more fun with Tank today, this was Tank's first introduction to ground poles. I moved her into a new paddock, this one isn't as overgrown and we can actually move around. This is her very first time doing anything in this paddock and her first time learning about ground poles.
She did surprisingly well for both of those things! She had lots of energy in the beginning, but it dwindled fast, she's just miserable in the bugs. The only funny thing I noticed is that she seemed to forget how to change directions while lunging, I don't know if it's the new paddock or the ground poles that's throwing her off, but she threw a little temper tantrum at about the 4 minute mark when I asked her to change directions xD Good thing she's pretty when she's naughty!
She was funny, she tried all sorts of combinations, I think to start she thought she just had to trot near the poles, or outside them, or inside them, or walk, eventually she figured out I'd give her the food just for walking over them, I'd take a trot too, but today I'm not going to be picky! I started out trying to lunge her over them, but found it easier if I was closer to her, making my inside circle a little bigger just helped her find where she needed to be. Lots of fun today
I stopped after only a few minutes because the bugs were really bothering her, you'll probably see she keeps pawing her belly, it's so itchy :( that's why she didn't like that last treat, I had belly cream on my hands.

    07-15-2013, 10:22 AM
Super Moderator
When I recall how you described her a year ago and all your problems she looks to be a totally different horse to the way she was then, obviously dealing with things in a very different way. You must be so pleased with the progress
She is a fantastic looking horse, you have her in great condition
    07-16-2013, 11:59 AM
Thanks Jaydee :) If you consider "round" as a shape - yup she's perfect :3 Now that you mention it, I haven't really thought of her now compared to her a year ago and wow! You're right, I'm so proud of how far she's come.

I just came home from a clinic with Shawna Karrasch - I had a blast!! I just auditted, but I learned so much and getting to meet some other New Englanders who Clicker Trained was a real confidence boost - I was beginning to feel really alone. :)
I thought that I'd write some of the things I learned on here to see if it helps others. I'll try not to repeat too much from the OP.

We talked alot about +reinforcement, -reinforcement, +punishment and -punishment. I know these were already defined in much more detail in the OPs, but I figured I'd resay it (to make sure I've got it down solid) and in case someone's poking into this thread now.
I like to start with
Negative (-) Reinforcement: The removal of something unwanted that increases the frequency of the behavior (this is most commonly used in traditional and natural horsemanship)
Positive (+) Reinforcement: The addition of something desired that increases the frequency of the behavior (this is what CT focuses on)
Negative (-) Punishment: The removal of something desired to decrease the frequency of a behavior
Positive (+) Punishment: The addition of something unwanted to decrease the frequency of a behavior

The biggest thing I never really thought about with the +/- Punishments and Reinforcements - is that we have to look at the results to see what the horse wants and doesn't want. We have to be careful not to put our own human standards on what we think horses should and shouldn't want. For example, one of our rescues likes to nip people as they walk by, resulting in the person trying to hit him or yell at him (which we would think would be +punishment, thinking the horse doesn't want to be hit or scolded). But the behavior increased in frequency, despite the (+)Punishment, so clearly it was actually reinforcing it - the pony just wanted a fight and enjoyed the reactions he got.
So I learned the best response for horses who don't respond well to +punishment (when +punishment actually ends up reinforcing a behavior) that -Punishement is best. In this case the pony wants a fight (or to watch us squawk) - so by giving him nothing, removing all stimulus when he acts like this will be sure to not reinforce anything. Also keeping his door closed so as not to set him up for failure will help while we replace the behavior with better options.
So I learned not to place my own values on what I consider Punishment or Reinforcement, and use the results alone to determine how the horse perceives it.

Another thing I learned was about Thresholds. What I came to understand a horse's "threshold" as (correct me if I'm using the term incorrectly), is when a horse has reached a line in their mind when they're too concerned (working up to afraid) to really learn. Our goal is to keep the horse working well below the threshold, only approaching it to help get a horse more comfortable with something that concerns them, but always trying to keep them below the line.
I've found, personally, that I work with my nervous mare a little too close to the line - and sometimes over the line. I need to focus more on keeping her under the line and taking our time toward the things that concern her. It's easier to work under the line and work her up, than to start over the line.

Another important thing I came across is truly the importance of a JackPot at the end of a session. We all know to try to end on "a good note" but by not jackpotting the last skill they learned you may also be using -Punishment. Ending the session, when they still want to be doing it, when they've done something very well, you're removing what they want and could be decreasing the behavior.
Here's an example of why I found this so important. My 3 year old colt, who's very pushy and invasive - when I started CT with him he started out alright, but got pushier during the session, when it got too far I stopped the session with no jackpot. When I returned later he was much better about my space and was much calmer. So my leaving while he was acting inappropriately (while he still wanted me around) acted as negative punishment, and ended that behavior.
So if not using a jackpot has such a strong response to end that behavior I want to be sure to provide a good solid jackpot when the session ends on a good note, letting them look forward to every step of the training, even the end.

One last thing Shawna suggested was giving the horses a heavily reinforced safe place in their stall. Like a stationary target, I think this will help my mare alot. Shawna used a cue that she could do while riding too, that helps them calm back down if they get nervous while riding too. Giving them a simple cue that occupies their mind and makes them feel happier.

I learned so much, I'm sure I'll think of more later - but if I have anything incorrect or if anyone wants to build on anything I've mentioned - please feel free, I'm eager to hear.
I can't thank Shawna and the others at the clinic enough, I had so much fun and learned so much :)

I came right home and started working with my horses again. I taught Tank a new target, one that I'm going to attach to her wall. I'm actually going to do this with all my horses, it will probably help when I'm cleaning their stalls around them and when the vet is around and things like that :)
I never bothered much with my belgian, he's very well trained, but there are a few little nit-picky things I'd like him to be better with. I started him with just keeping his head straight and not mugging but never went further than that. This morning while I was working with Tank all I could hear was Revel opening and closing his stall door, he doesn't do it to get out (he has a stall guard) he just likes to open and close his latch. So I decided to spend a few minutes giving him something constructive to work on and brought the target into his stall for the first time. He was Brilliant! He figured it out in seconds!! I can't believe how smart he is - I'm glad I recorded it. :)

How is everyone else's horses doing? What are some skills you're all working on?
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    07-16-2013, 12:51 PM
Super Moderator
I really should look out for these sort of clinics - not just CT but others as well, sometimes I see them advertised and then don't make a note of the dates and forget about them
This heat and humidity is helping nothing and its easy to see how Honeys behavior is affected by it and we see a pattern developing - which is good because now we know better how to deal with her and also that there isn't anything physically wrong as such - she is actually a lot smarter than we've ever given her credit for!!!
I do think that staying just on the right side of the comfort zone is the way to go - all horses have a breaking point - doesn't mean you can't challenge them, you just have to do it gradually so they barely notice. I've seen some terrible disasters where people have taken well behaved in the ménage newly broke horses out on the roads/trails on their own for their first outing and they just haven't coped at all - some will but you can do damage that's hard to repair if it goes badly.
A strange thing with Looby - I finally bought her a lovely square shaped saddle pad to replace the old and oversized 'saddle shaped' sheepskin one. Now this is a horse that has blankets on and a fly mask etc with no worries but she took one look at that pad and got really jumpy and anxious (My husband said she didn't like the design/colour/brand!!)
She was a bit tense when I rode her and shied away from it when I untacked her. Same again the next 2 days but she seemed worse when ridden and shot off a couple of times - quarters all tucked under her like she had a monster up her backside. I decided to give up and put her oldie back on - and now more worries. We had an odd experience last year with Jazzie and a synthetic sheepskin but she has one like this and is happy in it
Another funny - We had someone here collecting our muck that we store in 3 wood sided compounds and they had to leave their machine behind in the corner of the field. All the horses walked past it without a look - Jazzie even had to go back and thoroughly inspect it when she was loose yet every single one of them had a really good stare at the empty spaces where the muck had once been!!!
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