Not too long ago I wrote a blog about the ‘boring basics‘ which appeared not to be boring at all!
I realized that maybe some equestrians still consider basic exercises as ‘exercises’ or ‘basic’ while they are so much more. I consider HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement training) not as basic exercises but as tools. Important and powerful training tools.
In this series I will explain how you can turn exercises into valuable training tools.
Key Lessons for Horses
The 6 fundamental exercises in clicker training that can become your most valuable tool are:
- ‘Table Manners’ for horses
- Mat Training
- Head Lowering
From exercise to training tool to success strategy
At first the Key Lessons are goals in training, but once you master these exercises you can start using them as tools. They will help you get other, more complex behaviours. Once you are using them as tools you will notice that they become your success strategy. That is what I teach in my 8 week online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
1. ‘Table Manners’ for Horses
This exercise starts out to teach your horse what humans see as ‘desired’ behaviour around food and food reinforcers.
This exercise starts out to teach people to train their horse not to mug them and to be ‘polite’ around food. With ‘polite’ I mean the food always goes to the horse, never the other way around. Treats need to be carefully taken off of the hand with their lips, not the teeth. Only the treat is eaten, not the fingers and so on. Basically you just teach your horse not to forage for food. You train them to suppress their natural exploration behaviour.
Once your horse knows the fastest way to the treat (wait for the marker/click) you can teach your horse more complex behaviours, like going to his target when you arrive with hay or a bucket of grain.
In the exercise ‘Patience’ you teach your horse to stand next to you, with his head straight and his neck in a comfortable horizontal position. In this way your horse can’t ‘mug’ you (explore/forage).
‘Patience’ changes from a ‘simple exercise’ to a valuable training tool once you make this your horses’ ‘default behaviour’.
Normally you put a cue to a behaviour once your horse masters an exercise. You will raise the criterion from ‘Well done: click‘ every time he displays the behaviour to ‘You can only earn a click after I gave a cue‘.
In a default behaviour you don’t use this criterion: you will reinforce the behaviour also when it is on the horses initiative.
Once ‘Patience‘ becomes a default behaviour and your horse is a well seasoned clicker trained horse, he will use this exercise in his communication to you.
He will display his default behaviour when he doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t understand your assignment or when he gets frustrated. He does this because he knows this behaviour will never be punished. He also learns it will almost never be ignored. So this becomes his tool to communicate with you.
Check out my webinar about this subject:
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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
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