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Training with treats - do you?

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  • Originally posted by lv4running View Post
    Perfect Pony, I wasn't attacking your choice. I was merely asking why you, or anyone with a highly food motivated horse, decided not to use such a great motivator in your training.
    I was responding to your assumptions about a horse being obnoxious at feeding time, like there's a damn thing I can do about the behavior of my horse 3x a day when the feeding truck goes around.

    And no, my pony no longer mugs me or invades my space because treats don't come from my hands.

    It might be hard for some people to understand, but not every single horse responds to the same things the same way. I happen to have a pony that is constantly trying to assert her dominance and uses any opportunity to feel like she is the one in control. Treats simply do not work for her at this particular stage in her training. Maybe at some point in the future I will reintroduce them, but right now she just interprets getting one with getting her way, not with having done something for me in particular.
    On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

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    • Well, no I do not agree with "trick" or circus training remarks at all.

      If you delve into the history of German versus French dressage you will find a lot of the same comments. I think it was the original snarky comment in the dressage world. Always from the Germans aimed at the French. Well that might be an over the top statement but close.

      I think it is still leveled at people who train very well, ANYTHING they want to train. Those who cannot match the abilities scream "circus" and get snarkier from there.

      MOST of the people who sneer the word "trick" at others have certainly on occasion trained a single horse up the levels but would have no ability whatsoever to train several to the best of their ability. I used to say nothing and now I sincerely dismiss those remarks. They are just mean.

      Anytime you spend the time with a horse to train it, understand it, improve it physically and mentally not to mention sometimes emotionally you are "training" them. If you are good at it you have a million tools in your box. You push YOURSELF to become better at it and more versatile and take the horse to his best with what tools you have and keep looking for more.
      “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
      ? Albert Einstein

      Comment


      • Alexandra Kurland's main focus with the clicker is.developing the balance and self carriage of the horse.

        Of course she uses aids, they are just body language aids rathrr than a rein pull or kick.

        Under her tutelage a horse learns to carry itself, develop nalance, self carriage...all without extra tack and before it is even broke to ride. When she hops on for the first time it already knows how to carry itself in a good balance.

        Just because someone is using body langiage aids instead of the riding aids doesn't mean they aren't holistically gymnasticizing and developing the horse.

        I wonder how many people on this thread who are calling clicker training a "trick" that doesn't develop the horse or work with their horse have ever taken even one clicker training lesson with a qualified instructor. Even one? Have any of them even read a clicker training book or watched a DVD all the way through?

        I guess I could say I've tried saddleseat if I just get on my horse one day, hold my hands high, sit in the back of the tack and have someone discharge a fireextinguisher at us and then come back to COTH and day saddle seat is no fun and totally doesn't work. Some of the claims people are making about clicker training on here make it so obvious people have never tried it, much less with any qualified help that could explain stuff when they confuse themselves.
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        • Originally posted by mbm View Post
          re: pony turning themselves inside out for treats... this is what my Connemara used to do when we first backed him. The issue was that he did not understand what produced the food.
          My experiences with CT have been that the horses with a lot of training have been way slower to become enthusiastic about the treats, perhaps because they know that there can be very unpleasant consequences for unwanted behaviors, so are more careful?

          Young horses, and horses with less extensive training naturally think that the best way to get the treats is to go after them directly, and since they have little to no experience with the ways of the world, it takes them awhile to give up on the idea that if they try to help themselves to the treats they won't get any.

          I started CT with my 25 year old mare who had been handled and ridden a lot, and even when I finally got her to offer behaviors by maintaining a very high rate of reinforcement all I had to do was try to "help" her with a little pressure/release and she'd shut right down again. With her it was strictly positive reinforcement or she wasn't going to offer anything.

          But when I tried that on my much younger horse he started offering so many behaviors that I had trouble slowing him down, so clicker training him had to be all about his manners around the treats at first.

          Comment


          • All I know is that a sugar cube goes a long way when my gelding does great changes! I rode an ex-jumper yesterday that was so fun to ride, so when I got off of him I gave him a sugar cube...I think he was shocked....yet grateful...he deserved it
            Mirror Image 2001-2007

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            • You can attach a clicker to your whip!

              Comment


              • Originally posted by horsefaerie View Post
                Well, no I do not agree with "trick" or circus training remarks at all.

                If you delve into the history of German versus French dressage you will find a lot of the same comments. I think it was the original snarky comment in the dressage world. Always from the Germans aimed at the French. Well that might be an over the top statement but close.

                I think it is still leveled at people who train very well, ANYTHING they want to train. Those who cannot match the abilities scream "circus" and get snarkier from there.

                MOST of the people who sneer the word "trick" at others have certainly on occasion trained a single horse up the levels but would have no ability whatsoever to train several to the best of their ability. I used to say nothing and now I sincerely dismiss those remarks. They are just mean.

                Anytime you spend the time with a horse to train it, understand it, improve it physically and mentally not to mention sometimes emotionally you are "training" them. If you are good at it you have a million tools in your box. You push YOURSELF to become better at it and more versatile and take the horse to his best with what tools you have and keep looking for more.

                You may be right about using the word "trick" as an insult, but I think that you are missing the point. As you progress in your dressage education, you learn that there aren't really that many movements, and they are really not that hard to teach a horse to do. So doing a particular movement is really not the goal.

                Take for example a flying change. You can teach a green horse to do a flying change quite easily. Just knock him off balance suddenly and go in the other direction and the horse will change his lead. If you repeat it often enough in the same place then the change will become automatic or on "cue." But learned like that, the flying change is just a "trick." The horse is not balanced, through or on the aids. The horse may be on the forehand, the change may not initiate with the hind legs, and it may not be a clean change. The horse may not be straight. Is the horse still doing a flying change? Well, yes, but...it is a trick. It was not taught when the horse was properly prepared in accordance with the training scale. It is not being done in the way that we recognize as correct. The horse is not performing the flying change while being consistent with dressage fundamentals, and it would be very difficult or impossible to take that flying change into a half pass or pirouette, and to stop that change from happening to perform countercanter. That kind of a flying change is going to be an obstacle to tempi changes.

                So there is a way to describe a movement that is done badly and trained out of sequence with the training scale. In shorthand, we just call it a "trick." It is not necessarily mean or snarky--it just is what it is. For example, "I am interested in buying a third level horse--he can do all the tricks--but he could not get decent scores on the movements at that level."
                "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                  You may be right about using the word "trick" as an insult, but I think that you are missing the point. As you progress in your dressage education, you learn that there aren't really that many movements, and they are really not that hard to teach a horse to do. So doing a particular movement is really not the goal.

                  Take for example a flying change. You can teach a green horse to do a flying change quite easily. Just knock him off balance suddenly and go in the other direction and the horse will change his lead. If you repeat it often enough in the same place then the change will become automatic or on "cue." But learned like that, the flying change is just a "trick." The horse is not balanced, through or on the aids. The horse may be on the forehand, the change may not initiate with the hind legs, and it may not be a clean change. The horse may not be straight. Is the horse still doing a flying change? Well, yes, but...it is a trick. It was not taught when the horse was properly prepared in accordance with the training scale. It is not being done in the way that we recognize as correct. The horse is not performing the flying change while being consistent with dressage fundamentals, and it would be very difficult or impossible to take that flying change into a half pass or pirouette, and to stop that change from happening to perform countercanter. That kind of a flying change is going to be an obstacle to tempi changes.

                  So there is a way to describe a movement that is done badly and trained out of sequence with the training scale. In shorthand, we just call it a "trick." It is not necessarily mean or snarky--it just is what it is. For example, "I am interested in buying a third level horse--he can do all the tricks--but he could not get decent scores on the movements at that level."
                  Well, yes, but to bring this discussion back to "treats," training with treats does not necessarily mean you are only scratching the surface to "trick" level.

                  If someone is working their horse at liberty developing the balance and posture and self carriage using the clicker and treats, that is not a trick. That is holistically developing the horse.

                  Similarly if someone skips Second because it's "too hard" and puts the double on and just rides around on the curb to "do Third," that is just tricks.


                  Some people on this thread have indicated that "treats" necessarily equals "just tricks." This is not the case, anymore than it is true that a double bridle necessarily means the pilot can't get Second together and just wants to kick and pull their way around Third.
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                  Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
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                  • Originally posted by kande04 View Post

                    Young horses, and horses with less extensive training naturally think that the best way to get the treats is to go after them directly, and since they have little to no experience with the ways of the world, it takes them awhile to give up on the idea that if they try to help themselves to the treats they won't get any..
                    personally i love that they are so honest and so in the moment..... i personally really really love the whole process of training a horse from uneducated to educated.... it is just so rewarding!

                    and my goal is always to try to keep that innocent joie de vive to their out look in life

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                      Well, yes, but to bring this discussion back to "treats," training with treats does not necessarily mean you are only scratching the surface to "trick" level.

                      If someone is working their horse at liberty developing the balance and posture and self carriage using the clicker and treats, that is not a trick. That is holistically developing the horse.

                      Similarly if someone skips Second because it's "too hard" and puts the double on and just rides around on the curb to "do Third," that is just tricks.


                      Some people on this thread have indicated that "treats" necessarily equals "just tricks." This is not the case, anymore than it is true that a double bridle necessarily means the pilot can't get Second together and just wants to kick and pull their way around Third.
                      I agree. Training with positive reinforcement (including food rewards) is just a tool. It can be used to teach "tricks," handling necessities like trailer loading, and also in schooling the horse properly for dressage.
                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                      Comment


                      • I use treats when training ground "tricks" such as a curtsey or standing on a platform (that one helped a lot with loading).
                        My horse is highly motivated by treats. Whenever a new foreign object appears in the arena he is sure its a new prop for a trick and therefore the route to a treat. The first time I put trot poles out in the arena and longed him, he trotted right over them and then reported immediately to center ring for his treat. Hmmmm... Not usually a plus when longeing.

                        But I never even thought of using treat while mounted. I know there is a thread here about clicker training a horse to stop and stand when the rider has fallen off but I'm afraid my horse will deduce that throwing a rider is the way to get food
                        ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

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                        • As others have said, clicker training is a tool. You can use it for whatever you want to teach the horse. If you are creative enough, you can find a way to train virtually any behavior the horse is capable of performing. Whether that's gymnastic development or circus tricks depends on your preference.

                          There are a lot of people who are really uncomfortable with clicker training. They flat out dismiss it, or even attempt to insult or demean those who use it. I've found that 90% of these people do not fully understand the principles of training -- any training, not just clicker. The other 10% are hung up over the connotations of "negative" and "positive" reinforcement.


                          Commonly heard phrases are:

                          Clicker training is like bribing.

                          No, it is a system of training wherein the horse is rewarded for doing what you want. Think of it as working for a paycheck. The reward helps motivate the horse to act.

                          In most traditional methods, we apply some sort of aversive stimulus to the horse and remove it when the horse approximates the right answer. Seeking to avoid the pressure (or seeking the release of pressure) is what motivates the horse to act.

                          Neither method is right or wrong, and both methods are very useful in horse training. In both methods, the horse must search for the correct answer. The difference is in how you tell him he got it right.


                          I don't need treats to get my horse to behave.


                          But you do need something. A lead rope, a hand, a bit, a fence, physical contact, threat of physical contact. All training methods use SOMETHING to motivate the horse. These things are almost universally defended by horsemen as tools to make training possible. How many times have you had to explain to a non horse person that whips are not cruel? Halters, bits, spurs -- heck, even hands, legs, and voice -- all of these things can be abused, but the things themselves are neutral. When used properly, they are useful tools.

                          Food rewards are no different than any other useful training tool: they motivate the horse.

                          I think many horsemen have seen food used improperly to spoil and bribe precious Poopsie, so they assume that's all food is good for. But would you assume all bits were cruel and abusive because you saw a few bad riders jerking on the reins?

                          Motivators are motivators, when you get right down to it.


                          Treats make horses mouthy and dangerous.


                          Only if you feed them indiscriminately. Properly timed food rewards teach a horse rules and boundaries, just like any other training.


                          You always have to have treats.

                          This one is my favorite. First off, no, you don't always have to have treats. Let's just dispell that myth right now. Once a new behavior is learned, treats are faded out until they are only given occasionally to keep the behavior sharp.

                          Second, traditional methods are THE SAME. Once a new behavior is learned, you must still reinforce occasionally to keep it sharp.

                          Sound like I'm repeating myself? I am. The basic principles of HOW and WHY the horse performs are similar regardless of the training method. The horse performs when it is appropriately motivated to perform. Period.

                          Let's say you teach your green horse to move forward from a whisper light leg aid. Great! Your horse is now Trained, and you can use a whisper light leg aid 100% of the time from now until forever ... right? Right? Hah.

                          In reality, you will use that whisper light aid most of the time. But there will be times when you occasionally have to sharpen it up with a stronger aid: a kick, a tap of the whip, a touch of the spur, a growl, whatever. Sooner or later, the horse will need a reminder. That's normal and expected.

                          Similarly, you still need to reward a clicker trained behavior occasionally to keep it sharp. The principle is no different, but for some reason people have major hangups about rewarding their horses vs. disciplining them.


                          Anyway, I don't believe positive methods are The One True Way, but simply one more way to train a horse. They are becoming more mainstream and I do think attitudes are gradually changing and evolving. It would be interesting to revisit this discussion in another 50 years just to see how things continue to change.

                          Comment


                          • Eclectic, I don't think I have too many more years to progress. I had my first dressage lesson around 52 years ago. I still disagree with you.

                            I have seen decent horses stall at training level with their riders for years. THeir canters sucked and instead of going to second level lateral work to iron out the strength issues they just stayed "stuck".

                            If they had been taught lateral work and had it been used they would have progressed just fine. Having done it with numerous horses and riders I assure you it isn't a "trick". If a horse offers piaffe at any level, you had better believe I will develop it. Same with any other movement.

                            I am not missing the point, I just don't believe in regimentation that doesn't assist everyone. The training scales may be just peachy for a $50,000 WB with 9 gaits and three generations of dressage parentage.

                            THere are many roads to Rome and lots of rider who can't afford those horses that are having a blast getting there, getting the movements and strength and suppleness and not doing tricks.
                            “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
                            ? Albert Einstein

                            Comment


                            • wow, you managed to bring your contempt for the german system even to this thread! good job!

                              Comment


                              • WHAT? WHere do you get this stuff? You can read anything into anything if you try hard enough.

                                Good grief!
                                “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
                                ? Albert Einstein

                                Comment


                                • i was teasing you, but this is what i was commenting on

                                  I just don't believe in regimentation that doesn't assist everyone. The training scales may be just peachy for a $50,000 WB with 9 gaits and three generations of dressage parentage.

                                  Comment


                                  • Well I gave Ms. Bossy Pants her first treat today after not giving her one for nearly 2 months! She seemed better able to handle it. She can be a real PITA in her stall, so she got one once she put her ears up, walked over to me, and quietly let me put her halter on. It was a big day for us
                                    On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

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                                    • Originally posted by horsehand View Post
                                      Nice post. Thank you for not being confrontational. Not sure about the fast and easy part thought.
                                      But something does separate the circus training from classical form. What is it?
                                      To me it's the purpose of the behaviour. I'm going to use dressage as an example because this is the dressage forum and I do ride dressage more often than any other discipline.

                                      Teaching lateral work - say shoulder in - for the purpose of doing shoulder in is a trick. Initially horses learn it as a trick, and if the rider doesn't keep asking for better, it will stay a trick. If the rider doesn't use it as a tool to improve the horse it will stay a trick. Horses learn everything as a trick initially. As trainers we accept that, and when the horse is becoming consistent about responding in X fashion to Y aids we can start to move it beyond trick into a true communication between horse and rider. How long something remains a trick depends on the trainer.

                                      Going back to my shoulder in example, the horse must learn it as a "trick" - this collection of aids means this bend, this angle, legs moving this way. Heck the horse has to learn it one thing at a time - bend my neck slightly to the side while maintaining a straight walk forward... Once the horse understands those basics we can adjust the bend, the angle, the direction of movement, the gait at which it is performed, the lightness of the contact, the balance of the horse, the degree of bend in the joints, the angle of swing in the legs, the power of the push, etc. At which point we begin to develop the communication with the horse so that we can make minute adjustments to the horse's way of going in the shoulder in so that the work becomes and exercise to address a specific weakness or resistance in the horse. If we try to make minute adjustments too soon, the horse never understands the basics of the movement and it becomes a nonstop series of adjustments. The horse needs to know that this weird way of moving is the desired result so that we don't have to adjust something every instant.

                                      Even something as basic as going forward from the leg. First it means walk, then walk actively, then it can mean trot, and in this alignment canter, and in this fashion more push within the gait, and then oh heavens it doesn't mean forward at all but instead sideways... and so on.

                                      I hope I've managed to explain my ideas without getting you lost in the explanation.



                                      As far as the fast and easy thing goes - it means that you train the horse at his speed. The easier you can make something (which is to say - the better you can set it up to make the right thing easy) the faster the horse will learn.

                                      And the less time any given behaviour falls into trick status.

                                      Comment


                                      • I use treats in different amounts depending on the horse. I almost never give them from the saddle, but my mare always gets a horse cookie coming out of the ring at a show. She is never rude about it, but she is watchful to see where her cookie-dispenser is until she gets one!

                                        I have to admit, I'm guilty of giving her treats for no reason at all. Actually, there is a reason - she's cute. She looks adorable and does nothing other than put her ears up and tip her head sideways, and it makes me laugh (https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...52145840_n.jpg). I've had her for 6 years and she's never done anything worse than that asking for a piece of carrot. I also use pieces of carrot to encourage her to stretch her neck and back out.

                                        I don't think there's a black-and-white answer - using treats is going to work differently for different individuals, some prefer not to use them, some do... it's all relative IMHO.
                                        http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
                                        Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

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                                        • Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                                          Exactly. That's because with negative reinforcement and with punishment, the reinforcement must be given every single time in order for it to work. Positive reinforcement works just as well given intermittently. I have always done what you describe as "variable" positive reinforcement. When the horse is learning something new, or being refreshed to something it has forgotten, I use food rewards every single time until the horse "gets it." While I am doing that I introduce a "bridge" reward, such as verbal praise, so then you can just use the verbal praise and the horse understands that "reward is coming." When the desired behavior becomes a conditioned response to stimulae at that point a reward is no longer necessary for that particular behavior.
                                          The above is a misnomer. Negative reinforcement is the act of taking something away to reinforce a behavior. This can be taking the clippers away from a skittish horse after he let you put them near his ears for the first time. Positive reinforcement is adding something to reinforce a behavior. This can be giving a treat when a skittish horse let you put the clippers near his ears for the first time. Neither is better than the other, generally speaking.

                                          Neither HAS to be used all the time.

                                          Originally posted by HorsePlayyy View Post
                                          I don't work for free. Why should my horse?
                                          My horse gets room, board and two square meals a day. I do not think he *needs* treats added to his salary. That is a bonus.

                                          I am personally against treats for most training. I prefer pressure and release and my personal experience has been that this type of training makes the training stick better. My mare only got treats after I halter her, when we are done with work for the day and right after I take the halter off. I have used treats for a few skittish horses, but not on a regular basis. I have not seen many aggressive horses, but enough that I do not want the ones I do train to be that way. I also have seen a horse or two stop and turn their head mid-ride, for a treat.

                                          My yearling filly just doesn't get 'treats'. We have tried putting carrots in her feed dish, along with other treats. We tried 'force feeding' her carrots/treats, all to no avail. Apparently she is really watching her girlish figure. She will take grass and grain out of my hand, so it isn't a matter of not understanding that. So, she is de facto trained sans treats.

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