Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted - Page 9 - The Horse Forum
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post #81 of 387 Old 02-24-2013, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Oregon, USA
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Originally Posted by shawnakarrasch View Post
Tiffany, That is a good question. The jackpot is part of the back chaining equation. Something to keep in mind...when we are training a behavior it begins developing a reinforcement history. So a behavior that they have been doing successfully, has a great association for them. You know how your horse (mine too) will often times offer to perform their newest behavior even when we aren't asking for it? This is because of they have developed a good reinforcement history with the new behavior and they now know it can earn then a reward (when done when we ask!) Back chaining is part of this whole premise. They have had a lot of success with the end behavior and they know that the next part is very likely going to get reinforced. It becomes a conditioned reinforcer since the classic conditioning never stops. All parts of the training take on a reinforcing value. So by building on the end of the chain, we are doing all we can to ensure that they will respond correctly. It can also serve as a type of reward when we are working on something new or challenging. Moving into familiar well established territory can be very comforting for them. We used back chaining a lot with the otters (short attention spans). Ideally, I prefer that my horses are alert and watchful so I can mix things up, without having routines. But in the beginning the predictability that back chaining brings to the training equation can help to get more success. I tend to use it in the more difficult situations. As they become more solid with the other elements, I often times fade the chain out.

I hope that clears things up a bit. It is one of those things that can be hard to wrap your head around.
Thank you Shawna!
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post #82 of 387 Old 03-05-2013, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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If any of you working with wild horses or abused horses are interested I've been keeping a blog on the gentling process (using solely clicker training and as little pressure/release as possible) of the most recent mustang I've been working with. I have some video footage starting her first few days from BLM to now. You do need to make a free account to read the blog since it's on my distance learning site, but if you're interested in CT you might enjoy that anyway :) The URL is Wild Heart Horsemanship - Home
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post #83 of 387 Old 03-05-2013, 12:14 PM
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Wow Wildcat - I've always been so impressed by the videos you posted, I'll definitely be watching that blog :)

Jillybean - how are you ponies doing?
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post #84 of 387 Old 03-17-2013, 09:07 PM
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I have GOT to post up my experience today. I have to say the first half of this will be hard for me to admit publicly - but I'm SO proud of what we did today I just have to explain!!

So my mare has been learning to go in and out of a new stall, this one travels through the aisle of the barn and out a slightly narrow back door. The first few days she's been fantastic - some slight hesitations, but each time easily moved on.
For the past few weeks I've just been feeling crumby about CT - perhaps it's reading all the negative posts about it, or talking to other trainers in real life - I've just been dissuaded. So I've been working on my mare's other skills using pressure+release. We practiced lunging and line-driving in her new paddock and she's doing very well. She's definitely not as thrilled about her job and not as eager to work - she used to come running when she saw I had her bridle or lunge line or surcingle. Now she'll even walk away a bit, always lets me catch her - but makes it clear she's not really into it.
But regardless of her obvious opinions I carried on - She's lunging very well, making smooth transitions walk/trot/halt - I never canter horses on a lunge. Her voice commands are definitely getting solid. I also worked on her with leaving her paddock and getting further from home. 3 days ago I took her just out for a walk around all the paddocks, the next day down to my riding ring (there's no fence around it - just footing, so it's not actually ideal for working in over a paddock). She continued to do well - she learned about my large white barrels, which she'll eventually use as obstacles. The next day we went as far as my neighbor's hay field, then to their farm area (they have a large path cleared for their trucks to move through - and being winter everything is dead). She continued to impress me, while she's tense and nervous she has not spooked or lost control of her manners for even a half a second. I'm a proud mommy!
And then tonight happened. She went out to her new paddock, on our way in we made a trip to the neighbor's farm, walked around, then came back to the barn. My fiance was cooking upstairs (we live in an apartment upstairs of the barn) she's used to most noises - but the vent for the stove lets out right at the door of the barn. She froze.
Her entire body was tense and trembling - eyes wide and head high, she was terrified of going inside. I pulled and disodged her, shifting her side to side, but nothing made her take that step up into the barn. Having been focusing more on pressure+release and thinking back to some methods offered to me in my very first post on this forum about her freezing issues - I switched her to her lunge line. Luckily the line is hanging within reach of the door, so I never let up pressure on her halter - she stayed taught against it.
I lunged her but off, right at the door - like loading in a trailer I thought. Then back to the door - each time I got to the door she froze. She wasn't that stupid. She'd rather trot a million circles than walk through that door. So with my lunge line I stretched out far enough to reach my lunge whip - this is where it gets real terrible. This was a suggestion made to me when I first presented my issues with her, almost a year ago I think - by someone highly regarded on here, the suggestion was widely backed by members of this forum. I've sense seen other threads with similar issues with similar suggestions with positive results. I stood beside her to lead her into the door, she froze, and I swung the lunge whip at her hind end. Every time I applied pressure she backed up more - she knows **** well she's stronger than me. I hit her awful hard ;-; (feeling pretty terrible about it now). My fiance at this point came downstairs wondering why I'm lat for dinner - he of course left the stupid fan on. I then followed a suggestion made by someone else on this forum - equally widely accepted and all the same stuff as the other person's suggestion with hitting her with a whip to drive her forward. The suggestions was to have someone haze her from behind. He did - she tenses up so tight her tail was sucked in SO far, she was so terrified.
I lunged her again - it's been over 30 minutes now. This time with the whip, then go toward the door - she freezes, I spank her butt - she lunged forward and around me, not forward through the door. Rinse and repeat this terrible process for many more minutes before I decide to bring her in the front door of the barn, another door she's never seen. Same situation, same results.
It's been over an hour, we're both exhausted and dripping in sweat - it's 25 degrees out (f) and we're boiling hot from all the work we've done. This is more exercise than my mare has had in a long time.

At this point I'm crying, I'm hating what I'm doing to her, I can't make myself any more forceful, I can't be any more assertive, I can't be any more aggressive.
Then it occurred to me. I've encountered this issue before an found the solution before.
I dropped the lunge line and went to my barn (I couldn't reach these things while holding it -and this was stupid and terrible, but I just let her go). I went into the barn and got my target and a pocket full of hay stretcher. When I walked back out I thought my heart exploded she's solid black and it's dark night time now - where was she? I thought she was gone. But there she was, in the broken paddock (a tree had fallen in it and took out a fence - I've just been using it for dumping manure). I go up to her and find she's gotten her line tangled in tree branches - so I unclipped her, cause she couldn't move anywhere.
So I show her my target and put a smile on my face and say "touch it"! She says "OH!! I know how to do that!!" She touches it and gets her click+treat. She follows her target up to the barn door and freezes a few feet in front of the door - her black lead rope is invisible now at night and I can't find it so I carry on without it. This time I just put the target 1 step in front of where she is, she inches her way to the door and freezes. Now the target is at the point where she has to take that one step through the threshold. It took about 5 minutes of me chipperly saying "touch it - I know you can!!" My Belgian is making all sorts of noises out side that keep making her jump, but she keeps focusing and reaching for her target. Finally she takes the step!! I clicker and jack-pot treat her!! She comes all the way in and we walk to her stall with no more issues.

I feel so stupid for taking SO long to go to CT - maybe I needed to prove to myself that this was really the right path. I'm so upset with myself for having hurt her, when I clearly didn't need to. I'm so happy that she trusted me and what I was asking of her enough to do it, even though she was scared.
Maybe there would have been ways to physically force her into the barn, outside of extreme violence I couldn't think of anything. Had CT not worked I would have brought her around to her old door and walked her in there, but that would have been 'giving up' IMO.

I don't know what else to say.
I guess in the moment I was stuck on the idea that I was 'bribing her' into the barn, I wanted her to go into the barn because she trusted me, not because I had a pocket full of food. But I think - in hind sight - she had to trust me, that I wasn't asking her to do something that was dangerous. Previously - every time I asked her to enter the barn and she didn't she would get hurt or worked - or some other terrible result, only reinforcing in her mind that the door is terrible. While now, approaching the door and touching her target gets her something good. It's scary and makes her nervous, but I'm continually focusing on the positive, each step like it's a miracle.
Keeping things focused on the positive kept her thinking positively - not reinforcing her fear. I also can't understand how hurting her in anyway makes her trust me at all! How can whacking her with a stick make her trust me to go somewhere scary? Maybe it could force some horses to go somewhere scary, but she'd take a terrible amount of pain before taking chances on something scary. But I don't see it earning trust - only submission. Rather than being forced to go somewhere because otherwise she'll be in pain - she's being told, to come with me because it's going to be wonderful when we get there!

Anyway.. Sorry for my forever long story - how is everyone else doing with their horses? I'd love to hear some updates.
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post #85 of 387 Old 03-18-2013, 02:03 AM
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When I first started CT I relapsed several times. I had to prove to myself it was really better. I still have small relapses but now it's over small things like tugging a lead rope harder than I should, etc. CT does work but it's also an alternative path that not everyone is going to be open to. And really, look at the thought process you've gone through over that ordeal. All those people who naysay positive reinforcement would have to look at themselves
And admit that years of their life were devoted to intimidating, scaring, and forcing ther horse to do their will rather than actually teaching them and building true repor. It amazes me that I still run into people who's horses hate to be caught or buck every time they're saddled but the owners still aren't ready to admit that to themselves and make the changes needed.
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post #86 of 387 Old 03-18-2013, 07:52 PM
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That is so awesome. Thank goodness for the situations that sometimes challenge our comfort zones. From my experience, if she had the lead rope on...her suspicion probably would have been greater. By working her at liberty, you really gave her a choice. She knew it was on her terms and that simple fact can make all of the difference, particularly at first. That is why I like to work at liberty first and move to halters and lead ropes further down the road. I am so pleased for the two of you!! You are not alone in the taking a while to get there...never fret that, you are there now. :0)
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post #87 of 387 Old 03-18-2013, 08:01 PM
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Neat!! I feel like CT somehow empowers a horse, in that they know how to do something (like touch a target)... they just have to apply it to something new or scary (like entering the barn). It's not an empty abyss of "what do I do?!" Happy for you! :-D
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post #88 of 387 Old 03-18-2013, 09:46 PM
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Wow thank you all so much ^^ - definitely not the response I was prepared for (was prepared for a firing squad) xD But definitely the responses I needed to hear. I've been feeling terribly guilty about taking so long to come to the obvious answer, I apologized to my mare all day today <3 she appreciated it.

WildCat - this absolutely made me realize why I'm doing CT and the difference between CT and 'bribery' which has been a nagging thought in my mind, I kept feeling like she's not doing it because of me, but because of food - this event fixed that. Now I've realized the food is what enables our learning together - but she needs to trust I'm not going to ask her to do something she can't.
Shawna - I think you're absolutely right!!! Back before when she had issues just leaving her paddock, I would open the gates connecting her paddock to other paddocks and just go rake up the other one - on her own terms she would start to come over to my new paddock - she's gallop back home at the slightest breeze, but she knew she had the ability to do so, which made her braver.

Shawna and Wildcat - the two of you have taught me so much, I can't begin to thank you enough! I hope to someday be half a great as you guys are working with your horses!!
Shawna, I PMed you a while ago about another pony I was working with - it looked like you responded, but for some reason it came to me blank?

Existentialpony - I think so to! It teaches them a clear "yes" answer, they know exactly what they need to do - and they know exactly what they'll get for doing it - and they know they want it! It definitely did feel like an abyss when trying to force her into it - she had to choose between the potential of something terrible (the dragon waiting to eat her inside the barn) or something terrible that she knew was going to happen (me hurting her) - she (much like me) would always opt for the 'evil that you know' Vs. 'the evil that you don't know'. Which left us both in a terrible position. :(

I'm so glad I was shown Clicker Training, I'm so glad my mare puts me in these situations, I'm so glad she's patient enough to tolerate me when I'm not as good at figuring out what she wants as she is at figuring out what I want. :)
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post #89 of 387 Old 03-18-2013, 10:12 PM
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Punk, your story sure tells us that a battle of wills doesn't work. Congrats on resorting to a softer method. I'm a great fan of CT altho I don't tell the horse to touch the target. I hold it and wait until he seeks it. That way it's all the horse's idea. It's episodes like the one you had that teaches so much so don't feel guilty. It has reinforced in you that there are better ways. The old adage...we learn by our mistakes.
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post #90 of 387 Old 03-19-2013, 09:11 AM
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Thanks Saddlebag, I like the idea of having them touch the target on their terms - when they first learn to touch it I just wait for them to seek it out - but eventually I put a cue to it.
I use the target for teaching my pony to go through his little obstacle course so I want a cue for him to follow it.

One of the other members on here even taught them to 'target' anything they were near, I'd love to figure out how to teach them to do that (like targetting trash barrels on a trail?) I think that would help her overcome some of her fears.
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