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Rewarding good behavior.... thoughts and opinions

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  • Rewarding good behavior.... thoughts and opinions

    I am working on some more ground training and basic handling with my 2 year old rescued TB. Given her behavior when I first got her, both my trainer and I assumed that she has had no prior training of any kind and so our approach was to start from the beginning. She was virtually untouchable when I first got her and it took three days worth of catch attempts and 3 people to get her back into the barn.

    Now after almost 9 months she is a completely different horse, but I want her to be a little bit better behaved and trained for her age group when she goes off to training in the spring for 4 months. The trainer I have chosen has already told me before I even mentioned my fillys training background, that she spends most of the first 30 days working on ground manners, clipping, ground tying, standing when mounted, yielding from the ground, lunge work, etc. so anything I havent covered at home, she will take care of.

    To get to the point... we have been working on picking up the feet when asked. She is good for a 2 year old but doesnt always get that she needs to bear her weight on her other three legs and not all on me or sometimes she will plant the foot I am trying to pick up and resist me. When she does get it right she gets a BIG pat, a "good girl" and usually a treat...apple, carrot, or mini wheat.

    Am I asking for trouble by rewarding her with more than a pat and praise? I mean this is an all the time thing that she gets a treat, but I want her to see that picking up her feet when asked so they can be cleaned, or even when the farrier asks for her feet, that she doesnt fear it and act out.

    Should I stick with what I'm doing or skip the treat? Should I opt for another method?

    I dont use treats to train for anything else...I used a Parelli method (yea I know) in the round pen one time a week after I got her and now she will follow me everywhere, *usually* do what I ask, stand when she is being groomed, washed, or tacked, come to a single whistle, etc.

    I love this filly and I want to do right by her... she's my first TB and a little more "hot" than my comfort zone QHs that I grew up with. Most of my previous horses were already trained so I never had to deal with this, but I have helped with other untrained horse, but everyone has difference methods and its been years for me.

    Advice? Dos and donts? Thanks guys!
    Crayola Posse~Aquamarine
    Love vs Money...for the love of my horse, I have no money!

  • #2
    How exactly are you asking her to pick her foot up? If you're using your hand, go back to a stiff whip/stick to tap her foot. That puts you out of the picture as far as being leaned on, and you can more easily and quickly stop the pressure (tapping) which in itself is a big reward, and you can more easily give her a pat and a treat. Also, if she's just dense and not getting it, you can use your free hand to offer her a treat or something away from the side of the leg you're trying to get up so she unweights it a bit. Anything you can think of to make her guess the right thing sooner helps.
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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    • #3
      There is a huge thread titled something about Being a Leader that discusses various training methods.

      I'm a Clicker Trainer and feel rewarding with what is most desired by the trainee is the way to go. Whether you are using pats, scritches or Food (gasp, thats right give em food every time they do what you want )

      For more info go to www.theclickercenter.com, www.clickertraining.com or www.equineclickertraining.com

      Good Luck

      Regards

      Comment


      • #4
        Clicker training is very helpful and is based on structuring the reward so that the horse knows why it is being treated. The horse works for every treat, so no free lunches.

        Definitely check out the site that Irishcas gave you. Alexandra Kurland has written a couple of books on clicker training with horses and there are many websites. One good one that talks about using clicker training to teach unhandled mustangs how to pick up and hold up their feet is on the Kickin' Back Ranch site: http://www.kbrhorse.net/tra/clickr01.html
        "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
          To get to the point... we have been working on picking up the feet when asked. She is good for a 2 year old but doesnt always get that she needs to bear her weight on her other three legs and not all on me or sometimes she will plant the foot I am trying to pick up and resist me. When she does get it right she gets a BIG pat, a "good girl" and usually a treat...apple, carrot, or mini wheat.
          Horses can grasp the idea of balancing on 3 feet if they are already wise to preparing to pick up a foot during the early training. If she plants a foot when you're asking for her to pick it up then it sounds as though you've hit a snag. Consistency in how you ask helps. If you go straight for the lower leg vs running your hand along the upper body and then down the limb being requested, this often gives the horse very little time to get ready to unweight and lift the foot. Running your hand along the upper body and then down the leg allows the horse plenty of time to lift the foot by the time you've reached it. So it may have something to do with your approach.

          Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
          Am I asking for trouble by rewarding her with more than a pat and praise? I mean this is an all the time thing that she gets a treat, but I want her to see that picking up her feet when asked so they can be cleaned, or even when the farrier asks for her feet, that she doesnt fear it and act out.
          The earliest reward is the release of whatever pressure you put on her when asking for a foot. This can mean far more then treats and praise petting because it's more immediate and closer to a horse's nature. I mean, in herds, horses use pressure and release in the physical and mental sense but don't carry around treats to feed each other for the correct responses.

          As a hoof trimmer I am often asked to trim horses and donks that are new to having their feet done....or were never done outside of stocks before. I don't carry treats and I've found that pressure and release go a long way towards helping them understand what's being asked...that and a lot of patience too. I may not ask for their hooves in the exact same manner their owners have used but it doesn't cause problems as long as I allow them the time to figure out what I'm asking of them.

          Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
          Should I stick with what I'm doing or skip the treat? Should I opt for another method?

          I dont use treats to train for anything else...I used a Parelli method (yea I know) in the round pen one time a week after I got her and now she will follow me everywhere, *usually* do what I ask, stand when she is being groomed, washed, or tacked, come to a single whistle, etc.
          That's up to you but understand, the hoof care provider probably isn't going to use treats when they work on her feet...unless you hand the treats to them. And even then, they may not agree with their use. If I've been asked to feed any treats to ones I trim, I wait until after I've finished. I don't want to encourage a horse to be looking for treats on me while I'm working under their noses.

          I trim for a client that has created some very mouthy horses by the way they feed treats. The only ones in their barn that aren't nosey/mouthy are the ones they got later in life. The bad ones were raised as babies. So that is an example of treats gone wrong, IMO.


          Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
          I love this filly and I want to do right by her... she's my first TB and a little more "hot" than my comfort zone QHs that I grew up with. Most of my previous horses were already trained so I never had to deal with this, but I have helped with other untrained horse, but everyone has difference methods and its been years for me.

          Advice? Dos and donts? Thanks guys!
          Your love will be very apparent in the sort of energy you give off when you're around her. Love does not = food! Her being hot just means you have more "life/spirit" that is easier to bring up but consistency and understanding will be a calming factor for her. If you're inconsistent and always unsure, this will likely do more to worry her. And don't be afraid to make mistakes. Do things with conviction and if it was wrong, you can do better next time and the horse will reflect it. Be open to her and avoid expecting her to be like other horses you've known before. And just because she is a TB, don't typecast her.

          Tree

          Comment


          • #6
            Ever hear of variable schedule reinforcement?

            Giving a treat randomly can be every bit as effective as giving a treat *every* time. The horse will work in the *hope* of getting one.

            If you're in a situation where rewarding every time is undesirable, then making it random can work very well.
            Manes And Tales

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Just to clarify, I only just started doing this with her. She isnt pushy or looking for treats while I attempt to do her feet...she only gets the treat after I am done with all her feet. She gets the pat and praise after each foot.

              I run my hand down her hole limb and then apply pressure until she lifts her foot, then I release the pressure and lift her foot, pick out, place it back on the ground and praise her. She is young and very inquisitive, so she often will smell her own feet after I do my work... kind of like an inspection I guess. She definantly has more spirit than any other horse I've handled, but she is not by any means a brat or gets out of hand.

              I think its more of a consistancy issue, but do I back it up with positive reinforcement...ie the treat, praise, etc. Ive tried the clicker training with my dog and gave up. Beagles arent meant to be trained... they are too opinionated.

              I just dont want to set myself up for a brat by offering her a treat. She is very aware of my space and when she's allowed into and when she's not, so I dont feel like that would become an issue, but i guess with any animal, it only takes a minute to learn a new behavior, but can take years to undo something like that.

              Thanks for the advice so far.

              oh p.s. I am very skeptical about bringing whips, crops, or sticks around her. A former trainer went after her with a whip and scared her so we dont use whips or sticks around her for the time being.
              Crayola Posse~Aquamarine
              Love vs Money...for the love of my horse, I have no money!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
                I run my hand down her hole limb and then apply pressure until she lifts her foot, then I release the pressure and lift her foot, pick out, place it back on the ground and praise her. She is young and very inquisitive, so she often will smell her own feet after I do my work... kind of like an inspection I guess. She definantly has more spirit than any other horse I've handled, but she is not by any means a brat or gets out of hand.
                As you run your hand along her body, do you apply some light pressure to cause her to shift her weight? This can be helpful too in preparing the horse to lift the hoof. And, is she relaxed in that leg (or leaning on you) when you let her have the foot back?

                I've had adult horses with loads of experience in having their feet handled that were "used to" leaning on the person holding their feet up. A quick way to counter this (and discourage it at the same time) is to go with that leaning motion as though you can't be trusted to hold them up. Rather than fall, most will right themselves and balance on the 3 remaining feet. No muss, no fuss either!

                Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
                I think its more of a consistancy issue, but do I back it up with positive reinforcement...ie the treat, praise, etc.
                More times than not, it is a lack of consistency. Backing up with positive reinforcement only rewards what took place 3 seconds ago so your timing of the PR may be too late with regards for what you intended to reward the horse for.

                Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
                I just dont want to set myself up for a brat by offering her a treat. She is very aware of my space and when she's allowed into and when she's not, so I dont feel like that would become an issue, but i guess with any animal, it only takes a minute to learn a new behavior, but can take years to undo something like that.
                It's not the treats so much as how the horse behaves when the treat is offered. Horses learn all of the time. It's when people assume that horses only learn when their human is focused on teaching them something that surprises often happen. As long as they see you, they are learning something from you.

                My only advice about not turning your horse into a brat would be to be clear in your mind what sort of behavors you consider brat-like. It varies from person to person as to what they will allow or not allow. One person's "angel" is another's "devil-child". And, watch out for cute behavors that are borderline no-nos.



                Originally posted by Empressive Award View Post
                Thanks for the advice so far.

                oh p.s. I am very skeptical about bringing whips, crops, or sticks around her. A former trainer went after her with a whip and scared her so we dont use whips or sticks around her for the time being.
                You should show your horse that there is nothing to fear from objects or actions that have caused her concern or she always WILL BE concerned about them.

                It's often times an excuse we use to 'baby' our babies....sheltering them from supposed bad things that are just simply tools of the trade. Whips, crops and sticks are tools and only as bad as how they're used. I can take the apple picker and use it to scratch the backs and sides of my horses while someone else may use have used it to beat their butts. So? No sense in leaving horses fearful of things that are a part of their shared existance with humans. So what if a former trainer abused them. The former trainer was at fault, not the tools. Okay?

                You could use a crop to stroke her or scratch itchies. As long as you keep a no big deal attitude about it, she'll catch on and reflect it back to you.

                Tree

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hay

                  Tree said: "As you run your hand along her body, do you apply some light pressure to cause her to shift her weight? This can be helpful too in preparing the horse to lift the hoof. And, is she relaxed in that leg (or leaning on you) when you let her have the foot back?"

                  I agree, go back and work on actually shifting her weight over. Apply light pressure to her shoulder and release if she shifts her weight even a smidge. Keep working at this until she shifts her weight when you apply light pressure to her shoulder...eventually hips, etc.

                  Spend some time on this particular exercise before even picking up a foot.
                  Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                  One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
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                  • #10
                    Another clicker trainer here.

                    No horses don't carry food. But they don't tie them up, put them in stalls or ride them either

                    I find my horses that have been CT are less grabby for food than those who aren't. The CT ones know the food is for doing something.. and is not for 'free'. We had a gelding in who would maul you if he even thought you had food on you. Friendly but dangerous. I CT him to teach him how I wanted him to behave around food. Now when her REALLY wants what you have he will back up out of your space and keep his nose to himself. I used CT to teach my very food oriented JRT to retrieve hot dog wierners... its not true that you will then have an animal that is food crazed or that you will always need food.

                    If you want to reward with food that is fine. Just make sure that you don't show the food first. Have it in a pocket or a bucket out of sight. Mark the moment you have what you want.. then reward.

                    You WON'T have to reward forever. That only tends to happen if the food is lure or part of the cue. I taught one of the OTTBs to leg yield in 5 min with the clicker. Never used food again after the 2 sessions. I had a horse on a movie set who need to lie down and 'die' on cue. I couldn't use food (one it would be seen, and two dead horses don't chew).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I trimmed some young minis today and they have been trimmed before, but they still like to test. Of course with them I just hold on until they give in and then I release and praise them. So the release becomes the reward in combination with the praise.

                      I don't like to rely too much on treats, because I don't always have some, but it can help in some cases, like with an easily excitable TB mare that I recently acquired as a new client. She started to be aprehensive about the hinds and from what it sounded like, she'd been man-handled by the previus farrier.

                      After a few tries it was clear that I could not convince her that I could be trusted and I grabbed some apples and tried again and immediately rewarded her for even the smallest effort. That really helped to break the ice and I was able to complete the job without any more fussing on her part.

                      The second trim was even better with only a couple of tidbits here and there. I suspect we will no longer need any next trim

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I love clicker training. But I think it is a method that requires a thorough understanding of shaping and scheduling reinforcements, and the ability to break down every behavior into the smallest possible increments. It takes excellent timing, observation, creativity and a lot of thought.

                        It is extremely effective but actually a very demanding method for the trainer. I think that's why many people give it a try and feel it "didn't work."

                        One thing about behavioral (clicker) training is that the behavior has to be offered before it can be reinforced. So, rather than starting with cues or creating the behavior yourself (running hand down leg, pushing the shoulder, etc), you would begin by waiting for the horse to begin the behavior on its own--watching closely for the instant it began to shift its weight in preparation to lift the leg--click. Reinforce the shift of weight and then begin to shape it for an actual lift of the hoof, then lift the hoof and hold it up, gradually raising your criteria. The rate at which you raise the criteria is critical, and it's important to only work with one criteria at a time. At some point you add your cue--it could be touching the leg at a certain point, it could be blinking twice, it could be anything. Then you fade your reinforcements.

                        You would be able to train the horse to lift any leg and hold it up without ever touching the horse if that's what you wanted. But you have to be very very clear about the process that gets you there to use clicker training successfully.

                        It's a fascinating process, very logical way to communicate with a non-verbal creature but not for everyone.
                        Ring the bells that still can ring
                        Forget your perfect offering
                        There is a crack in everything
                        That's how the light gets in.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hay 2

                          I agree with MelantheLLC. You have to be so in tune with clicker training and REMEMBER to do it or you fall into the "inconsistent" category. Consistency, of whatever it is you're doing, is the basis of all training.
                          Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                          One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
                          Add Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers on facebook

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                          • #14
                            Remember though, that you may not always have a clicker handy!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by BornToRide View Post
                              Remember though, that you may not always have a clicker handy!

                              It isn't the "clicker" but whatever makes a sound that is the signal, from what I gather. I've heard clicker folks clucking or using some other verbal signal like the word "X".

                              Tree

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                The marker doesn't HAVE to be a mechanical clicker ... I use that or a very quick, high-pitched "Good!" (not the same "good" as I would use for "Good Girl" but a very distinguishable vocal) or a tongue click. The "click" (sound) has to be very distinguishable from any other word or sound that is used and very distinct being used at the very INSTANT of the desired behavior. My guys and the horses I train quickly pick up that any one of the 3 "markers" means the same thing ... yes! You've done it right! And, the "click" is a promise! A promise of a treat to come right away. (The treat is not only a reward but also a motivator to help the horse to *want* to try again.)

                                When first starting out its important to motivate the horse to want to "get it" meaning the right answer so one would mark the instant of the desired behavior then give a treat (motivator/reward) EACH time the horse gives the "right answer". After the horse is fairly comfortable with the behavior and cue then one can definitely put a variable reinforcer into use and then, eventually, when the behavior is 100%, the marker (click) and reward can be pretty much done away with in any sort of formal schedule. One doesn't take a clicker into the dressage arena or show ring but then the schooling/teaching for those events is done at home (hopefully) so when the horse does enter into the arena he/she KNOWS what is expected of him. But then, at home, the horse just might need a reminder now and then or its just nice to be able to click and reward to say "thanks - good job!"
                                --Gwen <><
                                "Treat others as you want to be treated and be the change you want to see in the world."
                                http://www.thepenzancehorse.com

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by BornToRide View Post
                                  Remember though, that you may not always have a clicker handy!
                                  Don't you remember the last conversation!!!!!! You can use your tongue, stop trying to make it out that it won't work if you don't "have the clicker handy"

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by MelantheLLC View Post

                                    One thing about behavioral (clicker) training is that the behavior has to be offered before it can be reinforced.
                                    This is true of shaping. But not strictly true with clicker training. You can pick up the leg and click for the horse relaxing the foot in your hands. You can push the horse and click for the shift of weight.

                                    With dogs I tend to shape. With horses I tend to 'help' and then click when the horse gives me the smallest effort. I only have one horse that is good at shaping....

                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjCgiUWLTa8

                                    I had taught her to lie down with 'help' and clicker (and the 'click' was a dogs squeeky toy) Then I got a call from a TV show. I need her to 'die' right over and lie motionless on the set. Unlike a dog you can't push the horse down. And shaping it really wasn't in the cards. So what I did was I cued her to down. Then I gently pressed on her neck. At first I c/t if she didn't tense up against my hand. Then I pushed a little harder and c/t for a relaxed horse. Then I pushed hard enough to get her to flop over on her side. Huge jackpot reward. It only took 3 training sessions (of 2 downs each) till she got it.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Aven you are absolutely right, you can induce an action, something that's always under discussion among clicker trainers, no? But an induced action (such as luring) is different from an offered behavior, so there's a middle step added to the communication. The animal has to figure out what you want and then choose to actively DO that rather than always react to what you did. And they can figure out to do that. (IE, by fading the lure or the push.)

                                      But it's my understanding that if you can catch and shape an offered behavior it's generally thought to result in a stronger and more established cued behavior.

                                      This is where it gets so challenging, and on the good side calls for such minute observation of offered behavior and exquisite timing.

                                      It *seems* certain animals are better at theorizing what a human is getting at--dogs being the prime example--and more active at trying things out to see if they get rewarded. So they are easier and quicker to shape with more offered behaviors. Maybe this is due to their predatory pack inheritance, maybe just due to a greater range of agility in a smaller animal.

                                      Be interesting to compare clicker trained minis to clicker trained dogs.
                                      Ring the bells that still can ring
                                      Forget your perfect offering
                                      There is a crack in everything
                                      That's how the light gets in.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by irishcas View Post
                                        Don't you remember the last conversation!!!!!! You can use your tongue, stop trying to make it out that it won't work if you don't "have the clicker handy"
                                        What's the problem?? That's precisely why I rely more on my voice than treats or gadgets - they are just as effective if used correctly. The clicker is another fancy tool really

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