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Equine Therapists & Entrepreneurs Stay Informed!

What is Clicker Training for Horses?

I finally taught wasp some new concepts.

Clicker training

TRM (treat receiving mode)

The target.

This is what I taught to my other mare with a personality that needed a different approach such as this. This helped her to finally want to come up to me to be haltered or to follow me in the pasture. For horses who are shy, fearful, deal with trauma, angered, guarded, etc this really is a great tool to keep in the toolbox.

Some disclaimer:

It's not just feeding treats, there is a method that must be followed in order to prevent treat mugging and to make a distinction between the type of training being down between traditional pressure and release training and utilizing positive reinforcement. It's much easier to teach manners around treats versus having a cookie monster in the pasture. Plus the "treats" aren't anything special, they are plain alfalfa pellets. Another important thing to note is the food used should not be something they can only get from us humans during this.

She is fed this as her usual diet and knowing they have hay available and still want to engage using their normal food is important. Doing this when they aren't deprived of food is also key to teaching this safely and to know they aren't just with you for food. However, there is nothing wrong with food as a motivator. If using pressure and release its motivator is the "release". I myself am more motivated with food :), but pressure in the real world is present and does contribute to us getting our day to day goals done. Horses in the wild utilize pressure and release if you watch how herds behave. Watching my group of mares interact you can see common themes of this as well. So being able to set up an environment to teach skills and preventing coping mechanisms is something to keep in mind.

Happy balance.

At this stage in the video more work is needed in TRM to start moving her default position to neutral verses tipping her nose toward me. It all comes in time with patience and direction. Clear communication and consistency are key.

From here I can build on the behaviors and capture new ones. Eventually you use variation in receiving treats, but weaning off is what it leads to keep this concept simple for now. So eventually the behavior in the manner its presented becomes rewarding in and of itself overtime.

Using a food motivator vs pressure and release.

For a horse like wasp, dealing with EPM, and trying to understand her personality, while allowing her to express it, this was so much fun to do with her.

What your seeing are clips of a video. This was all in the first 15 minutes of teaching her these concepts. You can see her begin to understand what I am looking for and watch her process how to get what she wants by giving me what I want. Now to perfect TRM and progress.

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