Friday, October 5, 2018

Playing with Clicker Training

I also washed the inside of the trailer on a particularly cold
and wet day.
Aside from the usual schooling and trail riding, I've started to implement some clicker training exercises with both horses. Not for any reason in particular - other than I think it's cool and I figured it would be something a bit different and possibly help bridge gaps in other areas of their training. 
When I first started out, I didn't know how either horse would react to the idea of clicker training - some horses (like dogs) are very inquisitive and overly-friendly while others could simply care less and are perhaps a bit more withdrawn. I knew which category Spud would be in, since he is constantly looking for cookies and snuffling prospective cookie hiding places (ie. my pockets). I didn't really know where Annie would fit tho - she kinda does her own thing and while she enjoys treats and cookies, she doesn't turn into a Cookie Monster like Spud does.

The first day I played around with the clicker, I wanted the game to be simple and easy to understand. I had intended to get a tennis ball, but forgot, so used a plastic bag on the end of a lunge whip as my "target". The only thing the horses needed to do for a click and subsequent cookie was to touch the bag.

Before starting, I separated them and worked Annie first. I introduced her to the bag and did some yielding exercises as well as rubbing the bag all over her (something she is used to, but figured why not). She wasn't necessarily as keen to touch the bag, and I think the swarming midges were giving her a rough go. I swallowed several, so I didn't really blame her that she just wasn't into it.

I let her go and worked on Spud, who was happy to oblige and work for his cookies. He figured the game out in no time and we even put some distance between myself and the lunge.

Our second session was the same, and Annie was a bit more involved but kinda didn't seem to care for the game. So I switched it up and decided to start working towards having her side-step over to the mounting block. There are several horses I know of who will wait for you to step up onto the block just to swing their hind-quarters away. Annie doesn't do it, but I thought it would be neat to teach her how to position herself at the block vs me putting her there.

We started on the ground and slowly tapped her opposite hind-quarter over her back until she understood to step IN to me. She wasn't very sure about it, but caught on quickly. When she stepped over, she got a click and treat. She definitely thought this game was better than the target game, so over the course of two more days we refined it and added my "mounting block" to the picture.

She's picked it up so well and I've used it a few times now without the whip, asking her to swing her haunches over by clucking and lifting and lowering my right hand. It's pretty cool and kinda useful.

With Spud, since he was keen on the target practice I started to add even more distance between us and he did pretty good with that. So I started to attempt teaching him to smile, which has gone pretty well so far. He still needs to lift his lip a bit more, but he is trying and slowly getting what I'm asking.

It's been a cool little experiment away from riding and there are a few more exercises I want to do with each of them when riding is no longer possible (winter is coming you guys :'( ). 

How about you - have you done clicker training with your horse? Was it to improve a behavioral issue or just for fun? What did your horse learn?

1 comment:

  1. I've never done it, but I'm really impressed with how quickly your horses took to it!