When you are new to the idea of clicker training your horse you might ask yourself: How do I start? What do I need? Where do I buy these things? How do I teach my horse to respond to the clicker? These and more questions are answered in this blog to help you get started. (more…)
Posts tagged ‘end-session’
‘My horse can’t stop throwing behaviours at me since I started clicker training‘ or ‘My horse keeps doing tricks, even when I don’t ask him to do so‘ are common ‘problems’ when
people start clicker training their horse.
Problem? No, not at all!
I have written ‘problem’ between quotations marks because it is not ‘a problem’. It is in fact a normal part of the process: your horse is getting enthusiastic about the influence he now has on his training and of course he is excited about your rewards. It is a step you can’t skip.
Have encountered this problem when you started clicker training? I certainly have! I have struggled with this for a while and I didn’t know how to handle it. (more…)
Clicker training or positive reinforcement is based on a simple concept: adding something the learner wants (an ‘appetitive’) in order to strengthen a behaviour. What can possibly go wrong with a simpel concept of noticing (a tiny step towards) the desired behaviour – mark the behaviour (‘click’) and reinforce (strengthen) it by giving the learner something pleasurable?
Theory versus Practice
Like every training method there is the theory which assumes the trainer, the target animal (learner) and the environment are perfect and then there is reality…
History of the Horse
Not all horses are blank slates. It is very rare to come across a horse that hasn’t been handled by humans before he’s trained by an experienced positive reinforcement trainer.
In other words, almost every horse already has a history with humans and he has already made lots of associations with situations, humans, things et cetera. Both good and bad.
If the horse has negative associations with certain cues, tack or situations the trainer has to counter condition (make them ‘neutral’ or ‘positive’) them first.
In positive reinforcement an appetitive is added to strengthen a behaviour. When the horse doesn’t understand what he has to do in order to earn the treat or if the horse is too excited by the high value treat, he can become frustrated.
If the trainer is not noticing little signs of frustration in the horse and doesn’t respond adequately the learned behaviour can regress or the horses loses interest in the exercise. If the frustration builds up the horse can even become aggressive.
Make sure your horse understands when he can and when he can’t expect food rewards. Implement a ‘start session’-signal and an ‘end of session’-signal.
Lumping criteria (making your steps too big) or raising criteria too quickly can cause frustration. Split the goal behaviour into enough steps that you can reward.
If the treats are too distracting and causing frustration, use low(er) value treats and make sure the horse is not hungry during training. Provide a full hay net during training.
Some horses are very excited once they discover that (high value) treats or other very desirable rewards can be earned in training. Due to their excitement they can get aroused or even over-aroused. If not properly addressed the physical signs (like dropping the penis or erection) can be reinforced (unconsciously) in training.
Prevention works best but in order to prevent this you have to have a keen eye for body language and behaviour. (Over)arousal can be caused by frustration, see above.
In order to counter condition and/or prevent reinforcing physical signs of arousal, start marking and reinforcing before the arousal happens. In other words: split the behaviour, increase the rate of reinforcement and counter condition the behaviour.
Like in any other training method there are many mistakes a trainer can make. I think that is inherent to learning a skill.
Find an experienced teacher to guide you around the pitfalls. There are enough things to learn without falling into them.
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website
Awesome! I use reward-based training to teach horses what I want them to do. I must say it works like a charm and I don’t need whips, carrot sticks, spurs, swinging or wiggling lead ropes or shouting “Hey!” in my horses face anymore! What a relief that is! And Kyra works more willingly than ever. Today I’ll summarize a few of the basics of reward-based training.
Rewards as training tool
In order to get more of the behaviour you want, you have to reward the horse during or within 3 seconds of the behaviour you want to reinforce. In that way the horse can associate the behaviour with the reward. The animal learns quickly that a specific behaviour leads to a reward and offers more of that behaviour in order to get more rewards.
It is not always (read: “rarely”) possible to offer a reward to your horse within 3 seconds or even at the time the wanted behaviour occurs. Therefor I use a bridge signal to tell the horse “Yes, THIS was right, your reward is on its way”, while I am reaching for a treat out of my pocket or offering something else that is really rewarding to my horse. The bridge works as a marker signal to mark the wanted behaviour. I use a click from my clicker as marker.
So, a reward is always preceded by the bridge signal. No click = no reward. Clicker training has nothing to do with bribing your horse into behaviour. The horse has to perform first, then a click will follow. Or not, depending on the stage of learning and if the trainers’ criteria are met.
A click has two meanings
A click tells my horse that she is ‘going to receive a reward’, therefor the click also marks the end of the behaviour. Receiving the reward will end the wanted behaviour anyway. After giving the horse the reward, the trainer can ask again for the same behaviour. The marker signal is not a ‘you are doing OK, but keep going’-signal. You can introduce a ‘keep going’-signal if you want to train duration of a certain behaviour.
Teaching a ‘Keep going’-signal
In order to train duration you can use or introduce a ‘keep going’-signal. That means that the horse is performing well, but not long enough to earn a click, yet. Example: you want your horse to stand still and you want to encourage ‘4 legs on the ground and a relaxed expression’ you can build duration once your horse can stand still for a few seconds. Then you can start using a ‘keep going’-signal to let the horse know that you want to extend a certain behaviour. In the beginning the ‘keep going’-signal is always immediately followed by the click & reward. After a few sessions your horse will know that the ‘keep going’-signal is followed by a click & reward and you can extend the click a second longer. In this way you teach the horse that he has to keep performing and that a click soon will come.
‘Starting’ and ‘End of Session’-signals
For safety reasons I recommend using an ‘end of session’-signal. That is very important. In that way the horse will learn that he can offer as much behaviour as he wants, but there will be no more click & rewards until another session starts. It gives the horse clarity that all his tries will now be ‘useless’ until class starts again. Trying harder or doing more will not result in rewards. As an ‘end of session’-signal I hold up my two empty hands and give the verbal cue “All gone”. A starting signal for a session can be as simple as clapping your hands or getting your fanny pack. Make it clear to your horse when class starts and ends. Outside class hours no click & treats.
If you have any questions, please let me know. I’ll be happy to answer them.
Friday I will explain more basics: rewards, jackpots and using and introducing cues. Stay tuned.