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  1. #1
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    Sep. 22, 2006
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    Default What to do in winter w/ limited riding- clicker training?

    During the winter, my horse is pretty much given the season off. There are no shows in my area & its nice to spend a little more time with my family.

    My riding time pretty much gets limited to riding in snowdrifts on the weekends bundled up in a snowsuit and since I don't have a covered arena I lose all my good footing to do any schooling, even lunging really. On weekdays I get out for a quick grooming session before it gets cold & dark but thats about it.

    What is clicker training all about? I think anything I do w/ my horse to keep his mind working will be beneficial. When he gets bored he gets naughty. Where do I start? Any book/video recs?

    (I don't want to hurt any feelings, but is it similar to NH stuff? I am really not into NH.)



  2. #2
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    There are some basic moves like carrot stretches and such. Really not that NH and can help keep the horse limber, maybe even loosen up some chronically stiff places. I am sure there are some generic-as in non NH- books out there. IIRC there are some with a Dressage slant out there that discuss this kind of thing.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.



  3. #3
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    Don't worry. Clicker training has nothing to do with NH thingy, though it does utilize horses' nature to accomplish things (which good training isn't anyway). It is a very fun and effective way to spend time with your horse and teach him things. I used clicker training when teaching my foals basic handling skills (picking feet up, holding for trimmers, loading, etc). I also used it to teach one of my horses who was very high strung to relax.

    I myself found clicker traing and NH mesh quite well but that is me. I like to try many things and always found various disiplines/training techniquees have things in common and compliment each other. But if you are not into NH, you don't need to do it.



  4. #4
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    Clicker training is a form of "operant conditioning" and is very interesting. Most of all I notice it "trains the trainer" meaning it makes you extremely aware of how the timing of your actions affects the horse's reaction. There are lots of good books (I used one called I think "On Target Training" that deals with target training specifically, which is a particular method of clicker training also used to train marine mammals).

    Pick up a book and give it a whirl.

    BTW, clicker training is kind of the opposite theory to NH. NH tries to emulate the particular body language/social structure of the horse herd to shape behavior. Clicker training imposes a completely artificial, objective means of shaping behavior -- and is based on psychology that works about the same in all mammals. You can clicker train a horse, a dog, a seal, even a cat using the exact same method.
    Last edited by HelloAgain; Nov. 20, 2009 at 09:12 PM.
    Proud Member: Bull-snap Haters Clique, Michigan Clique, and Appaloosa Clique!



  5. #5
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    First, yes try something new.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. This month's _Practical Horsemen_ has some kind of article on what looks like target training. As HelloAgain's post nicely explains, both are just special forms of conditioning.

    It can be plenty of fun for man and beast.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  6. #6
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    Jan. 17, 2009
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    I've used clicker training on my dogs and a couple of horses. I think it is great for some things and probably not so great for others.

    I have had good and bad experiences with it. I would be very cautious about using it to teach things that your safety could depend on- teaching a horse to halt for example. I would like my horse to respond to such important commands because he is willing and obedient not because he feels like getting a treat. Its not a substitute for good horsemanship.

    I believe that I was pushing one of my horses too far too fast using clicker training because he was so willing to be rewarded and to please me he was tolerating more than he was comfortable with (of course I was too hard headed to see that at the time )- obviously most of that situation was my fault or all of it as the horse didn't ask to be put in that situation, and I supose I would have pushed him too hard whatever training technique I used, but it is something to think about anyway.

    I wouldn't hesitate to use it for fun stuff and definitely to help keep my horses mind sharp but its not a miracle training technique.



  7. #7
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    Apr. 27, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldiegirl View Post
    What is clicker training all about? I think anything I do w/ my horse to keep his mind working will be beneficial. When he gets bored he gets naughty. Where do I start? Any book/video recs? (I don't want to hurt any feelings, but is it similar to NH stuff? I am really not into NH.)
    Clicker training is a way of life between my horse and me. We use it in virtually every interaction -- not just for tricks.

    For example, if I need him to step back as I enter his stall, I ask him, he complies, I click and give him a treat. Somebody else might say, "Why bother with the treat? My horse backs up when I ask him to." Well, why not? You can bet I have a happy horse.

    No, many NH people distain clicker trainers as being too wimpy (and not natural since horses don't click each other); and many clicker trainers find NH too negative and punishing. Certainly there is a group of people who does both; but CT and NH do not automatically go together at all.

    How to get started? Anything by Alexandra Kurland. I read Clicker Training for Your Horse in about one evening. It's a very easy read and very motivating. She has many other books and DVDs out now. Her step-by-step book is probably a good place to start too.

    Also, check out the yahoo group called clickryder.

    Some things I always click for:

    * Coming to my outstretched hand. My horse is not friendly or trusting by nature. His inclination is to turn away; but he has learned to come to me.

    * Putting his nose in the halter or bridle. My horse used to so resent the moment of being caught. CT has erased all of that.

    * Visibly relaxing during the girthing process. Again, he used to grind his teeth and pin his ears as I saddled him. Now it's an opportunity for a treat.

    * Standing still for mounting. If he doesn't budge, he gets a treat. If he does budge and doesn't get the treat, I can *feel* his disappointment. Sometimes, I'll get off and give him another chance. He never messes up twice in a row.

    * Stopping quickly from a canter. If I ask him to stop, and he does so immediately, he gets a CT (click and treat). You can bet he has a quick stop. He never messes this up. (And he's a very go-ey horse.)

    * Controlling himself from spooking (either online or under saddle). When I feel him about spook, but then he doesn't, he gets a click for that. He is hypervigilent by nature, so this happens a lot.

    A million other things. I couldn't list them all. We just do this for everything. Clicker training defines my interactions with my horse. We've been clicker training together for almost ten years. It's really very lovely and very partner-ish. And this is a horse who is not partner-y by nature.

    I really recommend you look into it.
    Last edited by Cindyg; Nov. 21, 2009 at 03:30 AM.



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldiegirl View Post

    What is clicker training all about? I think anything I do w/ my horse to keep his mind working will be beneficial. When he gets bored he gets naughty. Where do I start? Any book/video recs?
    I clicker train.

    It's nothing like NH. Some people try to splice the two methodologies together, but IMHO they're not always so compatible.

    You can teach your horse pretty much anything you want with clickertraining. It's not just training for a stall-bound or inactive horse.

    I'd say start with the Alexandra Kurland books and videos. There are also two great email lists on Yahoo Groups: clickryder and clickthatteaches

    It is NOT true that clickertraining risks safety. If anything, since I've been using this approach I feel safer: the horse is taught how to act with food in the room, how to do such-and-such with distractions, how to solve problems himself so he doesn't need to have emotional meltdowns, etc. Animals far more dangerous than domestic horses are clicker-trained rather than other methods. Elephants and killer whales are some of the most dangerous animals to work with, yet clicker-training is becoming the method of choice.

    For example, I had a spooky green young belgian. I used to teach him to keep his mind on me, and if his mind is on me, it's not on imagining invisible monsters in the shadows. The old way said to set him up to fail (spook into me), then whack him hard for it. The clicker way says set him up for success, then keep rewarding him for little things (in this case focusing on me, looking at me, head not turning away); he can't spook at imagined monster if he's being kept busy and is given reasons not to look at the 'scary' woods.

    The other myth is that it's only for tricks, and that's not true either. Unless you count riding, standing for mounting, tying/ground-tying, standing for farrier, or trailer-loading as tricks.

    CT is more than just a clicker and a bag of treats. It gets you away from using a whip or a fancy carrot-stick to poke with.... and get you using your brain to activate his brain. Training is all about reaching his brain to shape behaviors and develop new habits. It just seems more natural to me than trying to reach his brain by whacking or scaring the crap out of him.

    If you have specific questions, I'd be happy to help you. I've been doing clickertraining for years. I don't claim to be an expert, but if i don't know the answer, I probably can direct you to someone who does.



  9. #9
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    I really like clicker training, it seems to complement other methods very well. Some like to use it a lot/exclusively like Nin described, some don't. Every NH type that I've met did look down on me with disdain when I used it, whether it was 'unnatural' or just the plain fact that it used treats. I tend to teach targeting when I get a new horse and a couple other little things, say like lowering the head for haltering/clipping so that the horse understands 'the deal' and then I use it for anything that becomes a problem. My last mare had a real issue with swinging her butt away at the mounting block, so I broke that down into move your butt away when I tap your hip with a dressage whip on each side, then move your butt towards me when I tap over the top on the opposite hip, then bring your butt back at the mounting block when I tap, then for standing the right way at the block, etc. Taught ten minutes to teach something the 'helpful' NH person in the arena spent 30 minutes trying to negatively teach my horse. The sour grapes look on her face was more than a little priceless, as well I hesitate to use it for something like pulling faces when girthed though as I'd rather not teach my horse not to show me when it's uncomfortable. But overall it's very helpful and can be quite fun, too.



  10. #10
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    I have a question!!! (EAW Standing up and waving madly)

    This is something I have always wanted to know but never have been able to get an answer on. I have had a personal experience with it and to this day we have "moments".

    The question is, what happens if the horse leaves you after being extensively clicker trained. What my concern is that the horse who is trained to respond to a click and treat might display negative behaviors when the the click and treat is removed from its daily life. Or if given away/sold/traded will the horse be put into a difficult situation with a new owner who isn't aware of its clicker trained past?

    This is why I am concerned.

    I have a pointer. He is a gun dog with PTSD from hunting (oh yippee!) and was shuffled around to a whole bunch of owners who kept trying to make him hunt. When he got here he was so spun out that if you talked he would jump a mile in the air and take off. When you would get him under control he would just shake uncontrollably and urinate. It was not a pretty sight and his fate was decided by the fact that it was a long holiday weekend when he was brought here.

    After spending some time with him we noticed he didn't respond to any verbal commands. No hand commands...nothing. So I am thinking "Geez, fruitbats, no wonder he didn't hunt...he's not trained at all!" So we started working with him with limited success....just too traumatized for much of anything.

    I had him out working with him and my daughter came out with a can of soda. She popped the top and the dog sat and looked the happiest he had ever been. I grabbed a clicker that I had in my tack box that a friend had left and tried a couple of things and he responded to the click but not to do anything but sit.

    It's obvious in this case that he was not clicker trained properly, he didn't respond to further CT exercises-everything seem to be bizarre...no method to the madness with him. I think he had been messed up beyond help. Today he is trained with verbal and non-verbal commands. It took a LONG time, and he is still a neurotic kinda boy but his new life as a couch potato affords him comfy non-stressed security.

    My daughter wants to try something with the mini whinnies, so this is timely for me.
    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

    Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.



  11. #11
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    Most of the time the object is to phase out the treat so that they only get one every so often. Daily stuff that they should be expected to do isn't CT'ed after it's established, like haltering, etc. So I would say, unless the person that clicker trained the horse just went totally overboard, it wouldn't have any negative affects on the next owners. Horse might not be quite as happy, but I don't think it would regress, so to speak. CT is a big motivator, so I would think taking it away would simply lead to less motivation, not anti-motivation, yanno what I mean?



  12. #12
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    I do understand Mosey, and thanks. I think I have been surrounded by animals who get ditched because of poor training (and I swear...it covers just about any method of training out there) so long that I question everything and worry a good deal about "what if's". I know many people who have had some really good success with CT and horses, especially when it comes to fun things, which is what the kids here all want to do in their spare time anyway.

    It's the when the clicker is actually removed in the training process that has been throwing me.
    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

    Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.



  13. #13
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    That's why I tend not to use it for everything. There are certain things I just expect a horse to do because I say. I really find it the most helpful when I'm trying to teach something new or fix something where the horse just isn't understanding what I want (or don't want). Can you accomplish all the same things without it? Sure. But if I have a tool that I can use to make it a lot faster, easier, and more positive I'd much rather go that route. Like with my mare and the mounting block. Could I have taken the extra time to do it 'by hand' and just corrected her every single time and repositioned and spent a few weeks getting it solid? Absolutely. Did I have to? I don't believe so. Faster, easier, less frustration, and a positive experience for the horse. Plus I've found by working on problem areas with it the horse tends to think of it as a 'trick' or special accomplishment and a lot of the time you can actually see how pleased they are to offer the behavior once they know it's what you want and that they're going to be rewarded for it. I could almost guarantee you that if I went to her new home now, more than a year after I taught her, I could stand on a mounting block and she'd be pleased as punch to shimmy over to it and show me she remembered. So I like the methods overall. Just another great tool in the box if you ask me.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by equineartworks View Post
    I have a question!!!...what happens if the horse leaves you after being extensively clicker trained. What my concern is that the horse who is trained to respond to a click and treat might display negative behaviors when the the click and treat is removed from its daily life.
    There are times that I can't use the clicker with my horse -- during lessons, at a clinic, and, of course, during a show. Or if I don't have any treats! There is no question that my horse is disappointed when I don't click. But he goes on. His disappointed behavior is nothing anybody else would see. We're both pleased to get back to our normal routine as soon as we can.

    I've only clicker trained this one horse (whom I've had 12 years), so I don't really have an answer for you. The thought of him going to someone else who would not understand him, not notice his tries, not reward him -- it's unthinkable to me.

    I do think he would adjust. As I said, he's not very human oriented. He would probably go back to being very independent, aloof, and stoic if clicker training disappeared from his life. He would do what he had to do to get along. But, of course, it wouldn't be the same.

    That probably doesn't answer your question.

    If I finished and sold horses for a living, there's no way I'd want to bond with each one through clicker training. If your horse is your forever companion, then why not? If you're somewhere in between, then, well, who knows. When a horse changes hands, his circumstances change. Some horses adjust to that change easily and some struggle with it.

    That probably doesn't answer your question. It's a personal decision.
    Last edited by Cindyg; Nov. 22, 2009 at 04:13 PM.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by equineartworks View Post
    I have a question!!! (EAW Standing up and waving madly)

    The question is, what happens if the horse leaves you after being extensively clicker trained. What my concern is that the horse who is trained to respond to a click and treat might display negative behaviors when the the click and treat is removed from its daily life.
    The thing about clickertraining is that it's just like any other training method: you only need to use the strong motivational thing when you're training. Once he masters the behavior, he can do it without the reinforcement.

    The click+reward is given only while you're teaching. Once he's got it, you don't need to reinforce all the time. Many of us clicker-trainer folks will keep giving rewards all the time because it becomes fun for us. But it's unnecessary. Take a look at a dog agility trial: you don't see treats given when the dog runs the course. He knows each behavior he needs to do each course obstacle.

    Long-term if you're thinking of reselling the horse, you just phase all treat rewards out. When I use it on Equihab's rescued horses, odds are right now most people don't clicker-train, so I can't expect the horse to go on to another person who will do the same. So I just try to teach the behavior well using a common cue most people might use to ask.

    Horses are smarter than we might give them credit for. They can distinguish between people. They can also distinguish between me when I'm in clicker-training-mode and me when I'm just rushing into the pasture to put out hay in a hurry.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mosey_2003 View Post
    I really like clicker training, it seems to complement other methods very well. Some like to use it a lot/exclusively like Nin described, some don't.
    You may know this Mosey, but I am going to put it out there for others to be aware of:

    Use caution when mixing CT and other motivations (punishment/aversion/pain type things). The behavioral scientists study the pos-reward, neg-punishment, and pos-punishment (Operant Conditioning) systems. They found that when training with a positive punishment, the animal can learn the behavior but there is "emotional fallout" and/or a "poisoned cue".

    The study I saw was on dogs. Traditionally dogs are taught to come with a choke collars and "leash-pops" (corrections). You call. If he doesn't come, under that method you correct with a leashpop. They studied teaching it this way vs a positive-reward approach, and they videotaped the progress. Both groups do learn to come. However, the leash-pop group come cowering or with other clear signs of anxiety. Later the leash-pop group is taught to come using rewards and a new cue word. They come to both ... but with the old cue word and the presence of the leash both trigger observable fear behavior. The presence of the leash and the punishment-trained cue are both "poisoned".

    As horse people, unless we're starting with an unhandled foal, we need to consider that the horse may already have associations or ideas concerning cues, objects like leadropes, or people. If a horse was beaten with a leadrope to do something, we may not know it... and it may be perplexing why he doesn't willingly do some new behavior when he's being leaded. Is a horse really "bratty" or "stubborn" or was he taught some time in the past to fear going into the trailer/ring/wherever?

    Every NH type that I've met did look down on me with disdain when I used it, whether it was 'unnatural' or just the plain fact that it used treats.
    I'd respond by telling them do you NOT need treats to clicker-train. You need a reward: anything the animals inherently wants & finds positive. (Not what we think he'd like or not a secondary reinforcer such as saying "good boy"). A dog might find getting a favorite toy as rewarding as food. An itchy horse may find scratching his withers rewarding. Part of the fun of CT my animals is that I really get to learn what they love and hate in the world.

    Who decides what is unnatural"? I don't think it's natural to tie a rope to a horse, run him until his exhausted, then terrifiy him to no end, until he hides shaking in a trailer natural. I don't putting a horse on a short line and turning him on his haunches over-and-over-and-over until he's sore and joints start to ache is natural. Yet, this is what I have seen "Natural" trainers selling to others.



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