Your Key to Success in Equine Clicker Training (clickertraining.ca)

Archive for the ‘husbandry skills’ Category

Rehabilitating Horses with Clicker Training

Is that possible? Yes, it is! In my years working for the SPCA I trained many horses and barn animals with positive reinforcement (R+). Some horses needed to be rehabilitated mentally, some physically and some both.

I also taught employees and volunteers the basics of clicker training and together we trained the horses in order to make them more adoptable. These experiences helped me develop my own R+ training system and special tools that now help horse owners all over the world.

Using positive reinforcement to administer medication

Many of the horses at the SPCA needed medication when they were brought in: deworming and other oral medication like anti-inflammatory pills or pain killers. Some animals needed eye ointments or other wound care.

 

Using positive reinforcement in such situations was a real benefit. With coercion you might get it done once or twice before the animal smartens up and it becomes a struggle. The small amount of training time you put in with clicker training before or during administering medication, saves you time and effort in the future.

Building trust with R+

Using positive reinforcement also means giving a horse a voice and a choice in training. These things help building trust and a positive relationship with the animal. This also contributes to a positive view about humans in general.

Whenever a horse or other animal escaped everybody stayed relaxed. There was no chasing or shooing the animal back into his habitat. We usually used food or a friend to bring them back or sometimes we were just being patient. I really liked that way of handling animals. No screaming, no panic and we never had to corner an escaped animal.

We always joked that they where in a spa. The horses didn’t have to work, they got to exercise themselves in the pasture and they all loved their clicker training sessions.

Clicker conference 2.0

In 2019 I gave a presentation at the Dutch Clicker Conference 2.0 A New Way of Rehabilitating Horses in which I shared examples of rehabilitating horses with clicker training.  I’ve seen many benefits the use of positive reinforcement brings.

By listening to your animal in training you can spot problems early on. When my own horse got sore hoofs I noticed right away that she wasn’t as forward as she usually was. Kyra normally is really cooperative and when she is not, I know I have to investigate what is going on. The vet told me she had EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) and laminitis.

Using R+ to rehabilitate a laminitis horse

I used positive reinforcement to exercise Kyra despite her sore hoofs. I hand walked her on the road.

A year earlier I taught Kyra to graze and stop grazing on cue and therefor I didn’t need to worry about the juicy grass next to the road. Yes, this amazed me too since she was also on a restrictive diet.

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Clicker training helped me to lift her feet (she didn’t want to lift her front hoof because it caused more pain in the other hoof she was standing on), helped me get her used to wearing hoof shoes and a grazing mask.

Positive reinforcement to reduce stereotypical behaviours

Some horses I worked with at the SPCA had stereotypical behaviours. Well suited environment (proper housing, management, care) in combination with clicker training helped greatly in diminishing those kind of behaviours.

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I have seen horses that were weaving, cribbing or displayed other neurotic behaviour in training change. They stopped displaying their stereotypical behaviours in training and it greatly reduced altogether.

Although this is purely my experience I would love to see some research done on this. I think the horse world is ready to accept a broader view on positive reinforcement.

Conclusion

The more I work with R+, the more I see how much influence this kind of training really has on the animal. Positive reinforcement has more benefits than just training the desired behaviour. It can be a great way to reduce stress, restore and built trust and improve their welfare by offering the animal choices and ways to influence his environment.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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Husbandry skills: hoof care (part IV)

In this series I will keep you posted on the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A was scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicked out whenever she felt something touching them.

I promised to keep you updated on our clicker training sessions. We had another session since my last post. Progress might seem slow, but I know from over a decade of clicker training horses that slow is the way to go. (more…)

Husbandry skills: Hoof Care (part II)

In this series I will keep you posted about the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A. is scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicks out when she feels something touching her hind legs.

In my last blog I wrote how I started her training. She is now used to the clicker. She knows that a click is an announcer of good things coming her way: appetitives (in this case treats). She understands my end of session signal that tells her that there are no more treats to be earned. (more…)

I accomplished my ‘shittiest’ goal ever!

Yes, this will be a very shitty topic. Sorry about that. The topic is… house-training my horse. In May 2015 I started house-training Kyra. I am a lazy horse owner, so I taught her some tricks to make my life easier.
You can house-train your horse too: http://clickertraining.ca

Thinking ahead

I always, always reinforce Kyra with a treat if she poops or pees when she sees me. If I call her in the pasture and she doesn’t come to me, it usually means that she wants to relief herself first. _house_training_horses_hippologicThe beauty of clicker training is that I can use the bridge signal, the click (‘this is the behaviour I want to see more of, and your reward is on the way’) from a distance and then walk toward her of simply wait until she reaches me so I can give her a treat. I also give a treat when she poops or pees in her stall before I take her out.

Time saving habit

I never have to clean up after her on in the hallway where I groom her. Kyra never has to poop or pee on the cement floor. That is also the reason why she almost never poops or pees under saddle, she already went. Win-win-win.

Other shitty goals

As you can read here, I taught Kyra to only use a specific area in the arena to poop in. The beauty of it is that she can clearly communicates when she has to ‘go’. She simply walks over to that corner and I wait until she has done her business. She has learned to poop right next to the manure bucket, even when I am not around! This is due to the clicker training. She simply made a positive association with pooping in that corner. This means I never have to walk around the arena looking for poop after a ride. I used to walk twice with the bedding fork between the manure and the bucket. It’s a good thing I don’t have to do this anymore, because I used to forget this. I used to think ‘I’ll do this later when I’ve brought Kyra back to the pasture,’ . Only to forget about it. Now scooping her poop takes me less than a minute.

Goal achieved? No…

No. Not yet… I would like her to poop in the manure bucket or wheelbarrow. Like I said: I am very lazy so this will save me another minute. Yay! I must say I had to wait over a year for the opportunity to click Kyra while she was pooping and I had the opportunity to place the bucket or wheelbarrow right behind her in order to catch it.

I accomplished my shittiest goal!

This week was my lucky week: I captured the behaviour twice! Shitty mission accomplished! I even have this on video, believe it or not! Kyra has now been positively reinforced twice to aim for the manure bucket/wheelbarrow. I hope I can ‘catch’ it again. With the wheelbarrow that is. If you want to train your horse to be house-trained, I can help you. Just contact me. Every horse, barn and set up are different so is every training. This blog is how I did it and your situation probably need tailored adjustments to help you succeed. This was my shittiest goal ever accomplished!  Sorry for the smally subject. If you’re not blessed with a visual mind, here is the video. Visit my HippoLogic YouTube channel Next time a more decent blog.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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