"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

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.


November 19, 2013

After a week’s worth of practicing you should be ready to bet that $100!

Once this ‘going to the target’ behaviour is solid and predictable (see the Eggo stationary targeting video in last week’s blog) you can start to build on the blanketing behaviour. As always, we are going to break this down into small steps so that the horse is successful, ideally every time. How far you need to break the steps down will depend on your horse. Some horses are bold and brave and won’t need as many steps, others are not, or have issues and they will need a lot more tiny steps. Keeping in mind, all the time, the emotions of the animal and not make him force down a negative emotion in order to perform the task. Remember it has to be a good experience for both of you!

How you proceed to the next step will depend a bit on how tal...

August 6, 2013

Hopefully you had some fun and success playing with targeting to the mat, but possibly you have one of those horses who has some issues from being MADE to do stuff and so is very afraid to try it. In this case you will need a different approach that allows the horse to make the decisions with regards to how close and when he steps on the mat. This approach will do a lot to build your relationship with him.


Another way to teach this would be to free-shape the behaviour. Turn the horse out into a small area and place the mat on the ground in a spot where it is likely to be noticed or in a likely path. Perhaps watch him in the pen for a bit and put the mat where he is likely to encounter it. (Managing your environment to set you and your horse up for success is an easy and very important part of the planni...

July 15, 2013

I like to relate grown-ups and duration by suggesting you look at it this way. You and I are having a great conversation, you have my attention and I have yours. We are responding to each other’s emotional bids. Now along comes a friend of mine. I now ignore you and talk to my other friend. How would you feel? Left out, upset, wondering why you aren’t being included in this conversation? Part of how you feel will depend on your understanding of what is going on. If you are young and still learning the rules of social interactions I should not expect you to wait long before expecting my attention or at least acknowledgement.

A two-year-old human toddler will need to be reinforced more frequently for his quiet waiting than say your husband who has figured out how this works. So, while I can expect my clicker sup...

May 27, 2013

What now? The horse, right? No, not yet!

Now that you have your food delivery skills perfected, it’s time to add another new skill: handling a target. A target can be anything that is easy to hold and is horse safe. An empty plastic water bottle, the lid off of a supplement container or a small cone, all makes great targets.

You will be teaching your horse to touch his nose to a target, in your first horse lesson, so we need to practice with your human horse first.

Pretend that your human horse is in a stall with a stall guard across the door.

Here is the loop of behaviours – standing on your horse’s left side, hold the target out with your left hand in a position where she can easily bump it with her clasped hands (they represent the horse’s nose). Click as she touches the target with her “nose” and hand her the...

April 22, 2013

One of the biggest keys to success with clicker training, like any form of training, is about how to set things up to be successful before you actually do any training. Most people don’t think too much about what they wear to the barn as it pertains to clicker training, at least not until they find themselves in a pickle with the training not going well and wonder why.

I drive my daughters crazy when they are with me and I am shopping for clothes. They tell me that I am obsessed with pockets. I hate to say this, but it is true. As a clicker trainer I covet good pockets on clothes; pockets that permit smooth easy food delivery and are big. Pockets like this are NOT easy to find and are almost never to be found on clothing in the horse stores. I have taken to thinking outside the ‘tack box’ to find suitable clot...

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