"Thinking of your horse as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of your horse as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help him through his distress."- The Concordia Connection

October 28, 2014

In the November/December issue of Horse-Canada, in my article “Starting Them Young: Clicker Training Foals,” I mentioned two new games – Magic Hands and Touch the Goblins.

The goal of magic hands is to have the horse maintain a light contact between the part of his body you are touching and your hand, usually the shoulder. As you move and stop and turn it is his job to stay glued to you through the contact of the hand as a guide in order to earn reinforcement.

Here is an example, with Jen Digate, whom I interviewed for the article and her youngster, Rune. Here Jen has added in a voice cue after building the initial behaviour.

See my previous blog, Clicker Training Foals, for more about starting them young.

Touch the Goblins is another version of targeting. In it, we use nose targetin...

October 28, 2014

Begin at the Beginning.

No matter what the age of your horse one should always begin at the beginning of training because there will always be holes to fill in. Going back and revisiting basic lessons is always valuable.

In my latest Horse-Canada article “Starting Them Young: Clicker Training Foals,” in the November/December 2014 issue, I interviewed a good friend and fellow clicker trainer and TCTT Coach Jen Digate. We discussed how to start a brand new foal with clicker training at a very young age, but really it is not different than starting any horse with clicker training with the exception that with a young foal, that you have brought into the world yourself, there will be no ‘baggage’ from previous training that you will need to be aware of.

So, while the article is aimed at foals it has the same fou...

October 7, 2012

Let’s review what we have done with Bruce so far. His first clicker lesson was to turn and face me. This was done by rewarding him when he looked in my direction. The reward back then was a scratch (we call them scritches) with my lunge whip handle because I couldn’t get very close to him.

By working within his comfort zone, I was soon able to have him associate people with good feelings, and very quickly I could decrease the distance between us; in short order, I was scratching him all over, much to his delight. Bruce’s next lesson was to target (touch) his nose to my hand. This hand target, and the targeting lesson in general, will have many applications in his future training. Bruce was now very curious and like most horses would reach out to sniff or touch a new object. I took advantage of this and had Bru...

September 2, 2012

The story and training of Bruce continues this month. With haying season upon us, I have had very little time to work with the rescued mares and foals. However, I did teach them how to put on their halters. Yes, THEY put on their halters.

All I do is hold the halters up in front of them and they stick their heads in. This is a far cry from the hard-to-catch, fearful mares that arrived here. Bruce had only had minimal work as well. It had been a good stretch of time since they’d been played with, so I was curious as to how well they remembered their lessons.

The power of clicker training never ceases to amaze me. In my pre-clicker days, there would have been no way I could have spent as little time as I had with these mares and even hope to have them respond as they did... they both came right up, away from gras...

August 5, 2012

It has been a long time since we have had a foal on our property. This summer, we are fostering a foal, Bruce, and his dam, Spyder, for a local rescue. I thought it would be fun to try and clicker train Bruce from the start. Bruce arrived here having had no handling, except for the experience of loading into a trailer, so not entirely a clean slate.

He was rather nervous of humans so, unlike the usual curious foals that will come up to you if you get small and wait, he’d have none of that. I moved Spyder and Bruce into the barn for a short time each day so that I could manage the environment better and set things up for success.

I was not going to follow him around the stall and attempt to touch him like a predator, or grab him and force him to submit to my touch; none of the usual “handle the foal” techniques....

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