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?