Originally Posted by munschk
Oh, on one more note, I don't decrease the treats as my horse is not one to be motivated by pats. Instead, you increase what they have to do for the reward.
For example, when using clicker training for lunging, when asking a horse to drop its head on the lunge, initially you click and reward the moment the horse drops its head, then you extend it to asking them to drop their head for half a circle for example, before clicking and treating.
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Spot on! We use clicker training with all our horses, from starting under saddle to retrain many problem issues such as not standing still to be mounted, incorrect canter lead, shying etc.
The key with it is to remember that any behaviour that gets rewarded, even inadvertently will be reinforced- that is the horse will do more of it becuase it has previously gotten a reward for it. So accidentally rewarding a horse coming in too close will make the horse barge or mug more. A handy tip taught to me by a fantastic clicker trainer in Australia is the concept of negative punishment- that is, "punishing" a particular behaviour by taking something away- the food. In this context punishment is anything that motivates an animal to do less of a behaviour and reinforcement is something that motivates an animal to do more of a behaviour. So in the case of mugging, by not giving a treat when the horse mugs you are effectively punishing the mugging by taking away the food. When the horse stops mugging and stands quietly then you can click and reward the standing quietly behaviour with the food. Pretty soon the horse learns that the quickest way to get the treat is to stand still. You have successfully punished an unwanted behaviour without having to use any 'punishment'. Well trained clicker horses are very "respectful" about getting their treats.
As noted above, it can be an excellent way to train horses not to be pushy or bossy. As far as using clicker training and pressure release or negative refinforcement, the latter is unavoidable in horse training unless you never use any kind of tack or equipment on your horse. Anytime we apply a pressure on our horse to cue it to do something and then take the cue away when it does what we want we are using negative reinforcement.
The beauty of clicker training, a form of positive reinforcement is that it uses something that the horse is evolved to seek and thus values very highly, food and thus most horses trained with it are highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get the food. It is possible to use only negative reinforcement to train horses humanely and kindly, but we find using a combination of the two means our horses learn more quickly and are much quieter and softer to handle than using negative reinforcement alone.
For some really good info about it check out Horse Training