Which clicker training book/DVD/system do you recommend?
I'd like to do some clicker training with my horse, specifically to help him develop a calmer response to new and scary things. There are a few different books/dvds/trainers out there, and I'm looking for suggestions. If you've done clicker training and found a a resource you particularly like, I'd love to hear about it!
Don't wrassle with a hog. You just get dirty, and the hog likes it.
Alexandra Kurland is the clicker training guru extradinaire. Her original book, Clicker Training for the Horse, is a wonderful book. It outlines the whole system, and you'll read it in one evening.
Then, anything else by her is icing on the cake. She has many DVDs out.
There's a very active clicker training yahoogroup called Clickryder@yahoo.com. Go there to ask specific questions.
I've done clicker training with my spooky horse for more than ten years. I have to admit, he's still spooky. The spookiness is deep in his personality. But clicker training was such a good thing for us. It totally created a relationship between the two of us. (He's not a cuddly, people-loving horse.)
Here's a little example that I posted on ClickRyder recently:
Yesterday someone was handwalking a horse down our road. I was in the house, and I could see out the window that she was having some trouble; her horse was spinning around and neighing. My horse was in the front pasture racing back and forth making things worse for her. So I walked out into my front yard. I couldn't really help her. I didn't have a rope or even a treat bag. I just wanted to observe and be there if there was an emergency.
So she calls out to me, "Can you call your horse over to you?" I'm thinking, "Yeah, right. Who can do that? You think my freaked out horse is going to come when I call him?" I'm not even in the pasture with him. I'm in my front yard. I don't have any tools in my hand, and my horse isn't wearing a halter.
But he is clicker trained.
For years, I clicked him for coming to my outstretched hand. Even if he spooks or bolts or dumps me -- I'll hold my hand out to him, and he'll come back to me for a click/treat. More than once this has prevented him from racing off with the leadrope or reins flying behind him.
So I hold out my hand and call, "Ivan!" You have to picture, he's racing around, blowing and huffing, doing his dancing stallion routine. And horses don't really know their names, right?
Instantly he stopped charging. He came right over to me. Without any hesitation. His head went down. That game was over, and he was happy to come play with me instead. Click! (tongue click)
But dang! I don't have my treat bag! I immediately scrounge around on the ground for some green blades to give him. He stayed with me. The moment passed. The girl got her horse past my property. It was a small thing. But I was absolutely thrilled.
Guess that sums it up... no click fix for spooky or scary.
Geez, 7, would it make you feel better if I told you I passed Parelli L2 back when that meant something? On this same, inherently spooky horse? Clicker training helped me a lot on that path, but it didn't change his innate horsenality. Nothing can do that. But appropriate methods, as you know, will help tremendously in the relationship and the entire horse-human experience. And clicker training was an enormous help in teaching this horse to cope with his emotions. It didn't cure his spookiness, but it sure taught him that I could provide safety.
Where do you live? I'd love for you to come over and see what a "failure" clicker training has been for my sample study of 1. (I'm in Texas.)
Yes, you CAN fix spooky and scared. To a certain degree, anyway. You can definitely change the outward behavior, and often that will change the horse's inner state. You do this yourself- if something unpleasant happens, and you need to keep it together, you'll engage in self-calming behaviors: sit and do deep breathing, or whatever you've learned to do, and this actually does change your inner state. You can teach a horse how to "self calm" using a clicker (or just the principles thereof, not necessary to actually use a clicker).
The example the person above gave about the horse who came when called to touch her hand doesn't really fall into this body of work, however- that's just a simple trick, cue-response-reinforce. Anyone can teach a horse to do that in just a few minutes, and it won't affect the horse's inner state much.
Canine programs for "click to calm" are much more advanced and in more widespread use than equine ones; if you're really interested, go watch some classes or read about the canine programs and see what can be transferred over to the horse world.
Clicker training definitely helped my gelding gain confidence! Pie went from a horse that was literally afraid of his own feed bucket, to one that will boldly approach and touch something he is leery of with his nose. He now is jumping XC obstacles boldly and confidently.
I read a variety of clicker training books and resources. There are lots available for free online- check out Shawna Karrasch's website. I learned the basic concepts and then applied it specifically to working with Pie. I've used it for everything from playing 'fetch', to polishing leading and ground manners, to establishing calmness and relaxation under saddle.
Clicker isn't a 'fix' so much as a communication bridge- it taught me to be a better trainer, and gave Pie a 'yes!' marker that skyrocketed his confidence. I've completely phased out the clicker now, and replaced his treat reward with a stretch down or a free walk. (I still use the 'click' marker, I just cluck at him)
I've used clicker and/or operant conditioning to teach headset, no mugging, ground tie, stand at mounting block, whoa, stop pawing, be far less spooky and to tolerate things like clippers and hair dryers.
I've used it on dogs, cats, birds, horses and people. The most difficult were the people.
I would read all of Alexandra Kurland's material, and jump on the yahoogroup, 'ClickRyder'. You'll get enough to really get a good start. Alex's material will help you avoid the most common pitfalls in clicker training. Shawna Karrash is pretty good, but much less systematic, and mostly focused on targeting. Targeting is awesome, but there's so much more you can do.
If you're really keen to learn more about learning theory (which, in my highly biased opinion, you really should do!) try reading anything by Kathy Sdao, Shirley Chong, Ken Ramirez, Jose Rosales Ruiz, or Kay Laurence. They all have materials on the 'net you can google, and may have some videos you could find on youtube. They focus on various other species including dogs, cats, marine mammals etc, and they each do a great job of elucidating the science behind the training. If you ever have a chance to go to a ClickerExpo, I'd highly recommend that as well. Most of it will be dog related, but most of it is easily transferable to horses (or whatever other species, including human)
If you delve into it, the science and terminology can be daunting at first, but it's well worth educating yourself about it. Knowing the science of operant conditioning will allow you to see what it is about different training methods that works, and why certain aspects of someone's method might be ineffective. You can more accurately assess for yourself whether any method might work for you. Learning theory is not limited to any one species. Check out Tag Teaching if you want to see how it can apply to people learning new skills.
Clicker training definitely helped my gelding gain confidence!
Yes, it is a great confidence-builder. It seems to work in two ways. First and most obviously, the fact that the horse getting something nice (treats) and, even more importantly, that it discovers that it is in control of outcomes, changes its mood to one that is incompatible with fear. So the object, action or situation that caused anxiety comes to be perceived in an entirely different light - despooked beyond desensitization alone (though that inevitably plays a part in the process too). The positive change in emotional state typically seen in a CT session goes much further than what can be achieved just by giving the horse food willy-nilly. My guess is that's because the horse realizes that its own actions determine what happens. (The fact that it is we, as handlers, who ultimately decide what happens is probably not even part of the horse's thinking!)
However, the despooking of specific objects, actions and situations also appears to have a more general effect on increasing the horse's confidence outside the CT sessions and in other situations. This is more obvious in some horses than others, but it's definitely there.
7HL, you seem desperate for CT to not work. Why is that?
7HL, you seem desperate for CT to not work. Why is that?
I really don't care.
I am sure some horses respond to it and can be taught to respond to a clicker.
Just not sure it is the answer to spooky or scary. Just as I don't feel that the answer to a horse kicking out or crowding ones space is a crop, whip. Much of what people have a dificult time dealing with is standard horse, herd behavior.
If people want to hang their horses behavior on a clicker, then go for it.
Often wondered is it the click the the horse is responding to or the person doing the click? So could you overrule, take charge of someone's horse by showing up with a clicker? If so it might cause havoc at a horse show.
Originally Posted by leahandpie
Clicker isn't a 'fix' so much as a communication bridge- it taught me to be a better trainer, and gave Pie a 'yes!' marker that skyrocketed his confidence.
7HL- A clicker does not illicit a response behavior, it is a MARKER. Anything can be a marker. A word, a cluck, a tap. You condition the marker with a POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT so that the marker has meaning, and so that you can reinforce and shape behavior.
You don't 'click' to get a behavior. You don't 'click' to 'take charge of a horse'. It is merely a communication bridge.
I don't think CT is the solution for everything. You can certainly teach a lot with a clicker, and I have found it is an excellent tool working in conjunction with more traditional methods. It is worth learning about the behavioral theory behind it, because those laws apply to ALL training. Clicker training implements only one of the laws of operant conditioning (positive reinforcement)- and there are 3 more that are also important. (negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment)
It shows you an exercise to do with your horse. It covers some of the principles and you get to watch the training in action and see the results. I am sure you will find it very informative and it may address some of your questions.