Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It just clicked!

I am reading Karen Pryor's new book Reaching the Animal Mind in which it has a section on her pony training days and "Pony surfing" I will tell you no more but I do encourage anyone interested in shaping and positive reinforcement to pick up a copy!

This long weekend was fantastic as I got to work with Bodhi and the clicker. We are working on three main things and I will try not to move on till we have these on cues (though it is so hard!).

manners cue- to work on his over eagerness during training. I was rewarding him when he kept his head away from my hands and pockets

Targeting- While leading he is the slowest walker in the universe. It leads to me feeling like I am constantly nagging him. We used his targeting behavior to work on walking speed. I used a dressage whip as the target.

Undersaddle we worked on transitions and being forward. I clicked and rewarded for speed in which he responded to my legs and voice to trot and canter. We then worked for a sustained trot and he was clicked when he maintained his speed on his own.

All three areas are well on their way, he responded consistently and seemed to understand what I am asking for. The next step will to put the behaviors on a cue. The cue for the anti-mugging I think will be me saying "Manners". The cue to increase his speed while leading will be "walk-up" The cues while riding will be my same neg reinforcement cues but by using positive reinforcement as well I hope to really soften up my aids. I would like to not use spurs anymore. I have been told by trainers I use them correctly, and I know they can be a good tool I just don't like the feel. I am very excited as Bodhi was more forward yesterday than he has been in a while with spurs. How powerful this is! I think we both have more fun too. Which is after all the most important part.

Tie is well. The picture is of him begging for a carrot. He is such a ham. When I wonder if the things I did to get Tie were worth the trouble and problems in my realtionship with the owner I just to have to look at him to know the answer. I am thankful for Tie and I think he is thankful for me (and Kathy too!)


  1. Very cool stuff! Can't wait to hear more.

  2. Great to hear that you are getting results with the clicker... I've used clicker training with my dog and just started working on with my horse since it is cold and crappy out.

    I just have him targeting small pylons right now... it is working fairly well. My horse walks slowly and isn't very forward, so I'm glad to hear that you are having some success with the clicker with that stuff!

  3. Hey congrats! Clicker training, operate conditioning, is an awesome way to bond and communicate with your horse. I need to do more of it with my new one.

  4. Sounds great!

    Are you familiar with Alexandra Kurland's "The Grown Ups are Talking" exercise?

    It's a no mugging exercise, in which you click for the horse standing nicely with his head straight, leaving you alone. For the cue, the exercise uses arms crossed or hand over hand on the stomach. Once the behavior gets solid, many use it as a default behavior--the horse knows if I'm not asking for anything else, please do the grown ups game.

    There are a few videos on youtube if you search "grown ups are talking"

    I'll be eager to hear how your targeting goes! I have a few pokey ones, and really need to find more ways to keep them motivated and energetic.



  5. Clicker training IS fun I am glad to hear other people have discovered the joy.

    Mary-- Yes I am reading one of Alexandra Kurland's books right now and I am really glad I did. I was kind of skipping some of the "basics" Like the "grown ups are talking" with Bodhi and really paying the price as his default behavior currently is to go wildly searching for the behavior that will earn him a click instead of standing quietly. That is a good idea to use crossed arms as that is one of my default behaviors too! That would work well. Thanks! BTW I love your blog!

  6. The books sounds intriguing. Glad you training is going well. Tie is adorable and a good beggar; I would have to give in and give him a carrot.

  7. Tie is a beautiful horse and he looks so happy now. Glad you have him and he's got you.

    The clicker training sounds interesting. I've always wondered about giving it a shot with Donnie. I even bought the books and clickers, I'll keep checking back to see how it's going. I may just give it a try.

  8. Reading about Donnie at your blog makes me think that clicker training would be great for him. It is a great way to get them out of the reactive and into an interactive state of mind. It works great for timid horses as it rewards curiosity and puts the ball in their court so to speak. Good luck with Donnie is such a pretty boy!