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HorsesAreForever 05-06-2012 09:31 PM

Clicker Training?
Im trying to decide what training method I want to use with my two year old. I was originally thinking Parelli/CA.. but Ive been doing some research on clicker training and I was thinking Jovie has the curious playful personality it might work for her....

but has anyone tried it.. or use it?? Opinions/Suggestions.

gypsygirl 05-06-2012 09:59 PM

i think clicker training/ positive reinforcement training works well for trick training and not much else. i would check out some of CA gaining respect and control on the ground, round penning, and colt starting.

Shoebox 05-06-2012 10:03 PM

I just ordered a clicker, actually. For trick training - bowing, picking things up, nodding, rearing on command, laying down, touching things with nose - it is supposed to work absolutely amazing. People swear by it. I guess it would probably be harder to use just training to pivot in saddle, or any work in saddle, but I don't see why it couldn't be done. There are some vieos about it floating around I'm sure you could find.

Meatos 05-06-2012 10:20 PM

I work with dogs and can't say enough amazing things about clicker training. It's a common misconception that clicker work is only good for basic manners, handling, or tricks (and it is excellent for these things). But I can tell you that I've used clicker training to treat dog-dog/dog-human aggression in dogs with fantastic results. The possibilities with a clicker are truly endless.

Clicker training started with sea mammals a few decades ago, and caught on with horses about 20 years before it ever became popular with dogs (fairly recently). If you're curious about it I would get my hands on anything by Karen Pryor, and particularly "Don't Shoot the Dog!" Don't let the title fool you, the book isn't about dog training. It's all about how we use reinforcers in our every day lives (i.e. work relationships, personal relationships, parenting, etc.). It's fascinating and eye-opening.

I know that horse training is somewhat traditional. I see a lot of corrections-based methods described in posts, and while I don't claim to know anything about horse training, I am 100% sure that all mammals (humans included) learn the same way - with reinforcers. The four quadrants of the learning theory are (and I'm going to get really geeky here):

Positive Reinforcement: Rewarding good behaviours (clicker training applies here).
Negative Reinforcement: Removing a punisher (anything the horse doesn't like) when the desired behaviour has been achieved.
Positive Punishment: Applying a punisher to eradicate an unwanted behaviour (anything from an ear pinch all the way to abuse).
Negative Punishment: Removing something the horse does like (i.e. treats, attention, etc.) when they display unwanted behaviours.

Once you understand what these quadrants are, and how to use them in everyday training, the possibilities are endless. With dogs, I use primarily positive reinforcement and negative punishment. Most of the methods I see described on this forum fall under Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment, with a fair bit of the other two quadrants mixed in. All of my training is force-free and I believe this can work with horses just as well. It already has been for decades. Can't wait to get my hands dirty with clicker training and horses!

EDIT: I'm not arguing what's right and wrong with this post. I definitely don't claim to know any better than those who have been riding and training their whole lives. I'm just trying to explain the science behind how animals learn, and how we can use this in our relationships with horses.

shawnakarrasch 05-08-2012 01:34 PM

Hi HorsesAreForever,

Positive reinforcement training (with a clicker or without) is a great way to train all behavior that you would train a horse to do with the more traditional pressure/release methods. In either case you are using a reinforcer but with the clicker training you are choosing to add something to the equation that has a reinforcing value to your horse. With P/R you are adding an aversive(pressure) and the removal of the aversive(release) is what reinforces the behavior. So one way is adding(+ reinforcement)and the other is removing(- reinforcement) but all behavior is trained through reinforcement of one kind or another. With clicker training you are putting something in the training equation that your horse enjoys and this helps him to become invested in the outcome. The principles behind the training are at work whether we are aware of it or not. With a basic understanding of these principles you can become a more effective trainer and communicator. It is not complicated, is highly effective and the best part is it is not confrontational. You may also add it to whatever you are currently using as part of your training or you may use it by itself. From the get go you establish mutual respect and good manners. All work done with horses can be enhanced by using positive reinforcement as part of the equation. Everything from ground work, trailer loading, vet procedures, backing and under saddle work. Clicker training has been used successfully with everyone from the backyard enthusiast, pony clubs to Olympic Medalists in show jumping and dressage. I actually started my "clicker" training business (back in 1994) with two time Olympic Medalist Beezie Madden. You will be amazed at the trust and respect that result. Here are a couple of a links to more info if you are interested in learning more. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. In any case good luck with your young horse. :0)

First link: On Target Training with Shawna Karrasch

The second link takes you to a video clip that is just fun to watch:
Clicker Trained Horse Remembers After 7 Years! : On Target Training with Shawna Karrasch

HorsesAreForever 05-08-2012 04:29 PM

Thank you so much for the replies! I think im gonna start her with it next week! Meatos, and Shawna very helpful responses thank you! Shawna I just messaged you!!

loosie 05-10-2012 04:24 AM

288 Attachment(s)
Agree with Meatos & Shawna above.... although Shawna you made me think for a second about the "P/R you are adding an aversive..." because I read 'P/R' as positive reinforcement!

I don't get Gypsygirl's attitude that it can only be used to teach tricks - why do you think that Gypsy? Tho I guess you could look on anything as a trick really - like moving on cue in any given way, standing for mounting, standing tied, bridling, hoof care, floating, being ridden happily, going 'on the bit', flying changes, getting used to 'scaries'.... etc.

Using a plastic clicker & food treats can definitely be classed as a 'method' of training, but IME the principles behind the method are extremely valuable to understand regardless of the 'method' you choose to use. For eg. understanding the 'laws of learning' will also enable you to be more effective with negative reinforcement(release of pressure) too.

There are those who use purely positive reinforcement & don't believe in any aversives whatsoever. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with well timed & appropriate negative reinforcement & find it difficult to think of training or riding a horse without it. I just use a lot of positive reinforcement/reward in conjunction with other 'methods'.

I also don't use a plastic clicker, just my voice as a bridging signal, but I do think using a clicker(or other similar noise maker) is a great way of starting off, because it's a short, sharp, unique sound that makes it clearer, and I reckon it's a great training tool for the trainer too!

PaintHorseMares 05-10-2012 05:43 AM


Originally Posted by Meatos (Post 1488720)
Once you understand what these quadrants are, and how to use them in everyday training, the possibilities are endless. With dogs, I use primarily positive reinforcement and negative punishment. Most of the methods I see described on this forum fall under Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment, with a fair bit of the other two quadrants mixed in. All of my training is force-free and I believe this can work with horses just as well.

I agree with this and the other posts. Like loosie, I use my voice instead of a clicker, but I'm sure the effect is the same. Over the years, I've found that positive reinforcement/negative punishment produces a much longer lasting result overall than negative reinforcement/positive punishment (there are times, of course, that a quick smack on the shoulder is necessary). To be honest, working a horse in a roundpen for an hour to correct some behavior seems to provide (IMHO) more benefit to the owner as a way to relieve frustration and exert dominance than any benefit it provides to the horse's training.

HorsesAreForever 05-10-2012 08:01 AM

So I tried doing the bridging conditioning.. and it had her ALLL over her me she couldnt focus on anything other then she NEEDED the treat.. even if i pushed her head away and waited a second and clicked then treated she would keep her head and mouthing me the whole time unless I pushed her head away from me.. so after a while I put her on cross ties to groom her to let her chill out because she was getting so excited about the food I wanted her to relax..

Not sure where do go with that..?

Skyseternalangel 05-10-2012 08:09 AM

730 Attachment(s)
If she's too much with the treats, try petting/scratching her hiney as a positive reinforcement.

It'll take awhile to train her not to mouth you for treats. There was a video that Shawn Karrasch had about introducing a horse to the clicker with a little bucket of feed and she went over what to do if he got too excited about the food rather than the actual clicker training.

Wish I could find it for you..

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