When you start clicker training your horse you might want to start with something fun and measurable. Key Lesson Mat training is an excellent exercise to start clicker training your horse. It’s a very simple exercise to train and easy to understand for your horse.
What does Key Lesson Mat training look like?
Your horse steps with his 2 front hooves on a mat. Soon you can train for duration and teach your horse to stay on the mat.
Purpose of Key Lesson Mat training
- Safety: It creates distance between horse and handler. If he is standing on a mat he is not in your personal circle
- Practising sending your horse away from you, towards the mat
- Practising asking your horse to come to you, towards the mat
- Groundtying with feet
- Clarity: horse knows what to do, where to go and where to stand
- Great foundation: ideal stepping stone to train other behaviours
5 Benefits of teaching your horse Key Lesson Mat training
- Horse pays attention to the mat, not your hands or your pockets
- Horse learns he has to do something in order to receive a click and reinforcer (C&R). He also learns that he can influence the C&R with his own behaviour
- Makes it way easier and quicker to teach your horse other useful behaviours
- Teach your horse to move towards something, instead of moving away from something which is so common in other training methods
- Mats can become ‘safety blankets’ because of their positive reinforcement history. If the horse spooks there is a huge chance that he will look for the mat to stand on to give him comfort.
In this video you can see what happens when Kyra spooks: she doesn’t run to me or run me over. Instead she runs to the mat for comfort and safety. Super powerful benefit, wouldn’t you say?
Advanced Mat training ideas
- Put 5 or 6 mats in a circle and teach your horse to go from mat to mat
- Exercise your horse without riding by sending him from mat to mat with a few poles or low jump in the middle
- Teach your horse to stand on other (unfamiliar) objects like tarps, pedestals, trailer ramps, wooden bridges, hoof jacks, into a bucket of water and so on.
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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse they really, really want. I do this by connecting them 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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