Clicker Training Games

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Clicker Training Games

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    11-26-2012, 02:16 AM
Clicker Training Games

First, let me be clear about my purpose in this thread:

It is NOT to teach people how to use clicker training - if you'd like to learn how to use it, please create a new thread and I would love to explain it and I'm sure other CT people would as well.

It is NOT to debate whether clicker training works.

It IS to brainstorm new games to play with your clicker-trained horses to teach them new things and to have a little fun.

So let me begin...

For better or worse, I skipped a few steps in starting my boy under saddle. My horse (2 1/2 years old) will respond to direct reining just fine, but my end goal is to train him to ride bridle-less and saddle-less (of course, if he can do that, he will also be able to be ridden with tack with no rein cues and only leg reining and verbal cues). He caught on to the leg cues really well and consistently turning when I cue him, but not always the correct way. We can work on that. A little more challenging is when I want him to go straight - he gets so hung up on the turning that he can't just go straight! He turns around and around and wants to earn a treat, so he tries turning the other way, and I can't get any sustained "straight" movement. I don't have this problem on the trail, which leads me to why this is happening, or at least where he's probably confused and doesn't understand what I want him to do.

The first issue (and solution) that I identified was that there is no cue for going straight. What is a horse to do in the absence of any cuing? He gets that he should be walking, but to where? I could add a cue for going straight, but I don't really want to have to cue him to go straight.

The second issue is that this "straight" concept is probably all very confusing in the beginning to horses - why should the horse go straight to no-where in his mind? We kind of ask them to do things like that that probably make no sense, other than because we said so. So I'm thinking.... what if I gave him something to go toward? I watched a video of someone using clicker training to teach the horse to ground drive, and they suggested using a target so that the horse gets the idea that he's actually going somewhere. He's very good at targeting, so what if I do a "carrot on a stick" thing as I'm riding him, like with a tennis ball, and have him target the tennis ball? Then, I could "lead" him from his back with the tennis ball as he targets it, all the while giving him the turning cues and "straight" cues (as in no cues other than to walk). To turn, I could cue first and then, as he turns where I asked him to, the ball would stay in front of him because my body is turning with his. If he turns the wrong way or turns when I don't ask him to, I just point the ball where I wanted to go and get him back on track. Once he's consistent, I can phase out the target and have him just respond to these cues.

What do you think? And have you come up with some creative ideas for CT games to teach other behaviors?
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    11-26-2012, 02:26 AM
I was also thinking of another targeting game to use on trails and in new situations. Have any of you ever taught your horse to target different objects on cue? For instant, I can clicker train my horse to target specific objects and he knows that when he sees them he's supposed to target them. But what about teaching a horse than when you point to something he's never seen before, he's supposed to go over and touch it?

I'm thinking about having a bunch of toys, including some my boy has targeted before. First, I'd use the ones he knows to target but only click and treat him for targeting when I cue him (probably by pointing at the object and using a word like "target"). How well do you think that would translate into him targeting new objects when I point at them and say target? And then how would that translate into doing it from his back? Would he still be able to see me pointing, or would it work just to have him face the object and say target?

Ultimately, my goal would be to overcome strange things he encounters while we're riding by cuing him to target them while still riding. (of course, taking it one step further, it'd be really cool to ask him to pick things up for me that are dropped on the trail, like my hat!)
    11-26-2012, 04:02 AM
Very quickly, cos I shouldn't be here... I teach them that in absence of any cue to the contrary, they should keep going as they have been - so keep going forward if that's what you cued. Sounds like perhaps he's learned *what* to do when cued, but you need to work on sustaining behaviours before reinforcing him perhaps.

I think picking a focus to ride TO is a good idea, but don't know about using targets, as then you'll have to later have another step to teach him to do it in absence of a target. The tennis ball on a stick thing just sounds to convoluted to me personally & you've got the phasing it out/keeping the behaviour without it prob again.

My cue is simply 'touch' if I want the horse to touch something that I direct the horse to.

& my favourite games to play are 'chasey', fetch and soccer!
    11-26-2012, 09:36 AM
Hmmmm... good points. I think I got a little excited there haha. I also read your post on the other thread and the two make sense but... how do I show them where my "focus" is?
    11-26-2012, 06:39 PM
Um... focus - I pretty much use my whole body to cue. I don't know if you're familiar with Parelli(his old stuff - new seems to have changed quite a bit so not sure if this is what he now preaches), but that is the way I started out many moons ago(got into Parelli pretty fanatically about 20 years ago) and one of the tactics I still find invaluable.

*When I started learning this I had also started learning behavioural psych & c/t & some was contradictory to the other, but I stuck with the PNH principle of starting with the 'smallest' cue & escalating as/if needed until I got a response. Ie. Starting with the cue I ultimately want my horse responding to.

So... I'm just sitting on my horse relaxed & decide I want to go in a certain direction. So first thing is I raise my energy/body to tell the horse I want to do something(get the horse 'at attention'), and then direct my focus to where I want to go. This is where I think it helps YOU to have a target in mind - a particular tree, post of the arena, rock, whatever, so you've got a definite focus.

If/when the horse doesn't understand to 'listen' to that, then you 'point' your whole body towards that point, which inevitably includes your legs(I use direct leg aids, of which the horse already understands before I get on). If/when the horse doesn't understand how to listen to that, then you add rein cues & stronger legs.

After a while, the horse learns to do 'what comes first' without waiting for 'stronger' cues.

Once he's learned reasonably solidly to 'follow my feel' then I start working on sustaining it - asking him for something, then relaxing & 'expecting' him to keep going in the manner I asked. I do this by using no pressure/energy except when I need to 'correct' him for slowing, turning, whatever. Of course, along with the -R you need to start that in 'baby steps' too & +R for little 'wins' to begin with, asking for gradually more as he 'gets' it.
    11-26-2012, 06:52 PM
So I just had to post this up here, because I knew this was the place to go! My clicker trained mare (Which I'm sure you all have heard way too much about) Just made a massive stride in her training today! Since the day I got her she was horrified to leave her paddock and nothing got her out, with clicker training and lots of positive thinking/energy I got her comfortable leaving her paddock to my driveway and around where the pony's paddock is, but each time she's always been nervous and ready to explode - I reinforced when she stood calmly and let her graze when we reached somewhere new. Today though she was ultra-focused. She walked by my side without fussing for grass anymore, she was no longer breathing heavy or having that 'ready to burst' feel to her. We made a full lap around my entire property, she was polite around the neighbors dog (to my knowledge she's never met one before) and quiet walking near the road, didn't mind not seeing the pony and Best Of ALL! She made it to my riding area! CT rocks, we couldn't have gotten here without it. She may actually make a quality trail horse yet :)

I just had to let that out! I'm so excited, but back to the OP-
What I do is use targets all around my paddock and have her target each, but I'm having trouble getting her weaned off the targets. I'll have to try Loosie's ideas - Loosie, how exactly do you teach your horse leg cues on the ground? Mine I've taught to yield her hind end, front end from her hip and shoulder - but if I apply pressure on her side (Where my foot would be) she steps directly over (Crossing over). I still want her to know that cue, what can I do to better teach her to steer from the ground with my leg cues? She gives lovely to her bridle, but I'd like to rely less on that.
loosie likes this.
    11-26-2012, 11:16 PM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
Loosie, how exactly do you teach your horse leg cues on the ground? Mine I've taught to yield her hind end, front end from her hip and shoulder - but if I apply pressure on her side (Where my foot would be) she steps directly over (Crossing over).
After they've learned to yield to pressure in obvious places - eg on your shoulder means move that shoulder over - then I 'refine' it by asking for the same move with my hand getting closer to where my leg will be when riding. I don't really move my leg much but I sort of use the back of my calf/heel for hq yields, more knee & toe for forehand, and calf for sideways, if that makes sense, so there's a difference, but I think focus is a major difference.
    11-26-2012, 11:22 PM
Thank you Loosie, that does help a lot. I will work on that with her, I may have to exaggerate it a bit at first by moving my foot a bit forward of back but I'll try that! I will work on the focus too, I'd really love to get to that point, but right now I'd be happy with forward :)
    11-27-2012, 12:11 AM
I clicker-trained "foot." I just point to one of his feet and say "foot" and he lifts it all the way up.
It was handy when I broke my tailbone and couldn't bend over very far.
    11-27-2012, 01:29 AM
I have been using CT since August, so I'm pretty new at it. I have been working with 4 horses and a mini donkey. I have focused on the practical things mostly, although Roudy plays fetch because he loves it!

I would like to teach my mares to help me mount them because they r tall and I'm not! I have taught then to lower their heads. Now I want to lean on their neck and have them lift me up a little. Has anyone taught this or have any ideas?
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