"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

March 18, 2015

As promised, I will have the after leading video in here for you to compare with the before one from an earlier blog. I hope you can see the start of the change in enthusiasm and energy being put forth by ‘U’.

If you are watching his expression, you will see that he still has that grumpy face that is often seen in horses trained with a lot of pressure. He is saying “Okay, I’ll do it, but I’m not really happy doing it.” I am not forcing him to be with me, but I will reward him with a click and a treat to tell him when he has ‘done good’ and offered me the tiniest bit of what I’m looking for. There is no consequence other than no reward. There is no threat of escalating pressure or punishment.

As we progress with the lessons, I will start to reinforce him for when he has his ears forward as well as moving with me...

November 20, 2014

Opening the First Lock

I always go back to this: I did some of my very best training when I knew the very least. At the time I was surrounded by people who knew how to muscle horses around. They were perfectly willing to use strong pressure to impose compliance. I was watching effective training, but I was also watching people who were willing to get into a fight with a horse because they believed they had the skill to come out the winner.

I was greener than green. I knew I didn’t have those skills. I couldn’t get in a fight because I couldn’t guarantee that I would win – and furthermore I didn’t want to fight. They relied on fear and intimidation. I relied on patience and persistence. At the end of the day, those two pillars of good training have taken me further with my horses than they ever went with theirs.

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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...

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