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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A set back and fright today- making me second guess if what I'm doing is good or not. I started clicker training 6 days ago(you can see my journal entries here on the forum in the member journals section)is going well.
Up in the paddock today just hanging out with Beau, no clicker training.
Gave him some lucerne to eat from bucket, he ate that calmly, I stood nearby watching, not interfering at all.
Afterwards when he had enough he walked to me, gave him a pat and he seemed enjoying it and relaxed.
I was standing next to him, in the paddock, leaning on the fence with my head turned the other way and he bit my arm out of the blue. I was shocked really. He gave no hint that he would do that. I gave him a quick smack on the mouth and a quick verbal.
I just stood there though because I was shocked I guess. It didn't hurt or anything but i did feel his whole mouth on my arm. When I was looking at him I noticed his sheath was fully out, like he was very relaxed. What the?....
Was he trying to get my attention, treating me like another horse what the hell went through his mind? I'm now thinking was it because he used to getting clicker treats now and expects it?..
I know a lot of people are for it and a lot are not. I'm new to horses so I really just want to find out the psychology behind his horsey mind. I have a teenage daughter to look out for who loves horses and when fully ready wants her own, but I know if she's the one that gets bitten, it will put her right off.
Any ideas behind his frame of mind would be great. Also any book or DVD on horse psychology that anyone recommends?
 

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It could be the treats, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion after it happening just once and you not actually seeing what led up to it. Getting your attention is possible, also. Were you wearing something new or different that could have a familiar (e.g. treat) or unfamiliar smell/look/etc? Horses are very curious and taking things in their mouth is a way to examine them.
All that said, don't over think it. You may never know the why, but you never want the behavior, so correct it like you did, move on, and don't let it affect your training plans.
 

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By what you said, it's possible that he was treating you like a herd member. Sounds like he could have even been trying to give you a scratch - you know how horses will scratch each other with their teeth? No matter what, if it was done violently, you'd know about it. As it is it's 'just' a nuisance, and you corrected it well.
 

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My horse has done the same thing when I decided to spend time with him in the pasture, just petting him for like 30 minutes. He got relaxed and then rested his teeth on my leg. Fortunately, he only touches his teeth and let's go, he doesn't chomp on stuff.
 

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My previous mare was not a biter at all, and I didn't ever give her treats. There was one time, just one, when I was Scritching her and she was loving it, and she got so carried away in the moment that she started to mutual groom me - as in she brought her teeth onto my jacket to start 'scritching' me. I stopped her instantly, and she looked very embarrassed and never did it again.

Was it a 'bite' caused perhaps by annoyance at the lack of treats?

Or was it a 'grab in mouth' to mutual groom?

Neither should of course be tolerated, but they do have diverse causes.

Don't dwell on it, just learn to be watching your horse when you are with him, rather than looking the other way :D
 

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I had a gelding that became like a stallion only one day, 3 days before a woman's menses cycle began. As for the clicker training, it is imperative you extend your arm so the horse has to turn his head away from your body to receive the treat. When he begins to understand what you are teaching, it is time to wean him off as he has learned it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have to say at this point of time it has totally put me off of clicker training. I think to truly learn it, I would need a trainers support which I don't have.
I agree that I think he was just trying to give me a horse scratch.
However I agree it's just not on, if he ever does it again he'll get a boof in the nose again next time much harder!
Cherie,
I understand about being the leader and boss of the two of us, but there is nothing wrong with spending time with your horse in the paddock! I am not of the attitude of some horse owners who think horses are for riding and telling what to do and that's the end of it. Horses are not dogs, I get it. But every animal can have a little love and hangout time with a human. Nothing wrong with being a horses leader and ' friend'!
Anyways thank you all for your insights. I feel better with the situation now.
 

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Tombo, I believe that you can be a leader to your horse and just hang out in the pasture with them, I do it all the time. However, the moment the horse crosses the line, they get a swift reminder. The problem is that they take back the lead gradually, and unless you are experienced, you might not notice.

For me, my horse's rewards are scratches to the neck, good boys, and some love. He's not treated, and so enjoys that just as much. To me that's still positive behavior reinforcement, without creating a mouthy biting horse.
 

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Tombo, I hope you haven't been turned off CT all together - it sounds like this incident could have been any number of things. The horse may have been trying to get your attention, trying to groom you, trying to move you out of his way, trying to get food out you - or anything, without you having actually seen him and been able to read what was happening and why before hand you won't know what caused this action.
If it is a matter of the horse just being annoyed that you aren't feeding him it does sound like he needs more training, and Clicker Training with him on how to be respectful would be my ideal choice. I have 3 horses of my own and a rescue with 14 horses, all of them are Clicker Trained by me or by our pre-teen/teenage volunteers (under my guidance). NONE of our horses have EVER bitten one of us. But we also don't stand in their paddocks with them without paying attention to them. I do have to say that was a mistake on your side, while you shouldn't have to be watching out 24/7 - but if you're near a horse you should always be aware of what they're doing.

If you are interested in Clicker Training still, I'm more than happy to help you sort out how you and your horse can work more safely together. If you want to PM me or post your questions on the Clicker Training thread (the one you posted up on before) please feel free, you'll get a lot of help from many others there.
There is also a professional trainer Shawna Karrasch, she has a very open website which has a lot of free information on how to safely and correctly train your horse using food.


I hate to see posts like this because it makes people assume clicker training is the 'culprit', while there cold have been a number of causes - and even if it was caused by clicker training, it was caused by it being done incorrectly. I think you're very smart to want to work with a trainer to help you in person, I wish I could help you with that (I'm not sure where you're from). But I'm more than happy to help you with videos and anything else you might find helpful. :)
 

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I will add Punks that I don't think clicker training is entirely to blame in this case. I also sort of find it interesting that when a horse is being clicker trained and something goes wrong than clicker training is viewed as wrong. When a horse is being trained with conventional pressure and release (just clicker training with a less scientific name and less food) than its the trainer not the system that is wrong. If this horse was trained using a strong pop/release instead of click/reward than would people be saying its the training system being used wrong?

I think OP reacted to the situation. Horses are kinda like tall ships. The sailors on tall ships always said "one hand for you, one for the ship." Which is to say, you always have one hand on the ship to keep it going straight. Always have one hand (one half your brain) on the horse.
 

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I think you opened a can of worms here Tombo, as you said in your original post - some people go for clicker training others don't. Same as many aspects of training. So you are getting very different responses.

I am mainly old school, with a large amount of what makes sense to me with the new school training.

So for me, a horse needs a reward for doing the right thing. As many horses tend to be mouthy, and all have the ability to be that way, I tend to scratch in their favorite place, or release the pressure, or verbally reward in that stupid voice. Or all of the above.

My horse will do about anything for a scratch on his neck, in just the right place - that's his crack cocaine, he loves it. The best horse I ever had would do anything for that tone of voice when she did well.

As a personal rule, I don't treat my horses. If I do, like peelings from carrots or parsnips after I have cooked, then it goes in with their feed. I don't associate it with training at all.

A great many people here treat and do well. However there's a number of others who come here as they now have a mouthy horse. To me, if there's a different way of getting the same results - then I would take that different way.

As it's been a few days - what did you decide to do? And how has that been going?
 

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Horses absolutely need a reward so they understand what is a correct response and what it the wrong response. Obviously we want them to learn the correct response to whatever it is we are asking them to do. What most people do not understand (or don't WANT to understand) is that the ONLY reward a horse actually needs is the release of or relief from all pressure that was applied to get the response.

In most cases, the only 'punishment' they need is to interrupt or stop the wrong response and to re-apply the pressure. Then, with the correct response, all the horse needs is for that pressure (actually all 'contact' or added pressure) to be relaxed or taken away. Pressure can be in the form of a tightened leg lightly applied, a smooch or a stronger rein aid.

Horses are very sensitive. They flick their skin to get a fly off, so a trainer does not need to apply much pressure if they are good at it. But then, all things are relative. If a horse has become accustomed to a rider hanging on their mouth and pulling hard to slow down or stop, they have learned to 'tune-out' or ignore light pressure. So they must be 're-sensitized' to listen to a light rein aid and 'listen' to a rider's seat and light leg aids. This is rider 'skill'.

Giving a horse food treats makes a lot more sense to people than it does horses. Year ago, I used a lot more food and petting rewards than I evolved into using. What I found from trying different approaches was that when I used rewards, particularly food rewards, that it took a lot longer to get a completely good end result. I was starting more than 50 head of horses a year, riding most for 60 days, some only 30 days. I seldom worked fewer than 8-10 horses a day. I seldom went in before dark, so in the summer, I was putting in 12 hours a day. I was a workaholic that only wanted to train and train and train. So, I had an endless amount of horses to try doing things differently. I tried a lot of things. I used a lot of treats in the beginning because I just knew since horses were food motivated, they would learn to do things more quickly when I 'rewarded' them with food. Guess what? The ones I did not give any food treats to stayed much more focused on listening to and 'feeling' my aids. They trained much more quickly and were much more consistent. They got much 'lighter' in the process. The difference was HUGE -- not just a little difference.

I still 'talk' to horses and I still pet them, but it is not as a reward as such. It is more to get horses to relax after they have been stopped. It is more for my timing and for my reminder t let them just set there and stop staying so tuned in to me. Then, when I pick up the reins and slightly 'tighten' my legs, they can 'tune' back in to listening to actual 'aids'. This has been reinforced to me by talking to trainers that have trained World Champion reining horses that were stone deaf. A lot of the 'Gunner' line of horses are completely deaf. The trainers that have trained them will tell you that they 'listen' better and are less distracted, not only by environmental noise, but by trainer interaction other than the aids they want the horse to focus on. These deaf horses that get no verbal interaction and no food rewards train really well. They are one of the most popular and most successful lines of reining horses today. I think this says volumes.

After years of doing this and working with other people, both very good with horses and very bad with them, has only reinforced the realization that treats and other rewards (including petting and praising right after something is done right) only distract and confuse horses. They are much more willing to 'work' for a release of pressure than any other motivator. They are much more likely to associate the action with the 'real' reward (no contact or pressure) if they are not distracted by an adoring rider trying to use other rewards.

I know there will always be those people that do not want to believe me. That is their prerogative. They are 'treating' horses for THEIR benefit and for no benefit to the horse or the training of it. They can take as long as they want trying to get done what can be effectively and efficiently done very quickly by a good trainer. They will constantly be 'putting a horse back in his place' because he has been completely confused by food treats. The trainers that do not use treats can go on and be teaching a lot more without ever having to remind a horse to stay out of their face and to stay in their place.

What I would like to do is get a couple of people that seriously train horses to experiment like I did. Take the next 6 horses they train and make a completely conscious effort to NOT praise or treat 3 of them and to heap lots of praise and treats on the other 3. The separating of these horses into the two groups would have to be done completely without prejudice. Just see which ones 'get it' first.
 

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You want to know WHY the horse bit you? Because you LET him. Training horses takes TIMING, and the talent for TIMING is the difference between successful clicker, NH, barrel racing,( you pick) and not successful training.

It is why some people's dogs sit when told, come when called, and other's run away.

Same concept in baseball, football, track ,etc. Some people have the timing to throw, catch the ball, jump over the bar, whatever, some don't.

You have to learn the subtle signals that come before the bite, paw, kick, to stop them before they happen. Like dancing.....you learn to move WITH the horse to keep from getting stepped on.

Nancy
 

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I don't know anything about clicker training, so I'm not going to blame everything the horse does wrong on that training. I'm just going to deal with your not paying attention to the horse and the "bite". I don't care WHY a horse puts his mouth on me, it just is not allowed. PERIOD. The minute a foal mouths me, I push their face away and say, "NO". If they come back, I push more firmly and repeat the, "NO". 3rd time? I give that young foal a quick "I AM THE LEADER AND NOW YOU DIE!" lesson and there's generally not a 4th time that day. They are still learning about everything so it will happen again. By the time they're a year old though, they know that Mouth + Human Body= Human Asserts Leadership Vehemently and they quit. An adult horse that puts his mouth on me will get every sort of dominance I can exert, immediately. Notice I said MOUTH and not teeth? Because I never let it get even close to that far.

As far as hanging in the paddock and petting and just enjoying the horse, I absolutely LOVE doing that. But what I never do is take my eyes and attention off of them. Even if I know the horse won't bite or kick, under the right conditions any horse will, I keep my eyes and attention focused on my horse and on every horse in the paddock. They're 1000+ lb. animals with a flight response that's hair trigger. It's very easy for them to hurt us badly and never mean to do it. They also don't think like that, "Oh, I better not startle or kick the guy next me, I might get mom by mistake.", so it's up to us to watch their responses and body language. I got 4 ribs broken from a horse who kicked the other horse except, OOOOPS my ribs were in the way. He never meant to hurt me, wasn't even trying to hurt me, but I ended up hurt pretty good anyhow. I wasn't paying attention to the other horse who was coming up and trying to push into my horse's space and I wasn't paying close enough attention to see that my horse was starting to act irritable. When those back feet flew, he nailed me hard and lifted me up off the ground. I haven't missed any significant body language since then, lesson learned.

I don't feed a lot of treats and if I do, it's pretty random so they don't expect it. Mostly, it's scritches and pats when I'm grooming or just kind of sitting around enjoying horse time. I don't mind feeding a horse an occasional treat, but I won't do it in such a way as to have them constantly mugging me or sniff searching for them in my pockets. That brings up the whole personal space thing too, I don't allow them that close to me unless I have asked them into my space. Any other time, I send them out to the end of the lead rope or at least 5 feet away from me. And I enforce it.
 

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I was standing next to him, in the paddock, leaning on the fence with my head turned the other way and he bit my arm out of the blue. I was shocked really. He gave no hint that he would do that.
No, it did not happen out of the blue. YOU were NOT paying attention (note the bolded "head turned the other way"). Of course there were no hints ..... because you were not watching!!!! I guarantee Beau gave obvious signs he was about to bite you; horses always do.

This is just a lesson that you need to be paying attention to your horse at all times.

I'm new to horses so I really just want to find out the psychology behind his horsey mind. I have a teenage daughter to look out for who loves horses and when fully ready wants her own, but I know if she's the one that gets bitten, it will put her right off.
Any ideas behind his frame of mind would be great. Also any book or DVD on horse psychology that anyone recommends?
He's a horse. At this point in time, he thinks that he is boss, and you are his subordinate.

He will choose food over you.
He will choose his buddies over you.
He doesn't sit around during the day, wondering when you are going to visit.
He doesn't care if you are having a bad day.
He. Is. A. Horse.
They don't "bond" in the way humans do, and as some people say, like dogs do.

It doesn't matter what training "method" you use, whether it be Parelli, Clinton Anderson, clicker training, baseball bat training ...... whatever. But whatever method you choose to use, you have to expect your horse to RESPECT you at all times. Your horse does not yet respect you. Hence why he bit you. He feels he is the leader and has the right to do so, like a leader would in a herd of wild horses.

Nothing wrong with loving on your horse and scratching and giving treats. I do the same for my horses. However, even while I am doing that, I expect them to RESPECT me because I am the boss; not them.
 
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