How to teach your horse to lie down on cue

Horse Rookie asked me to write another article for them. This time I wrote about how you can teach your horse to lie down on cue with clicker training. You can find my article Teach Your Horse to Lie Down on Cue here.

Benefits of clicker training (positive reinforcement)

You:

  1. Give your horse a choice: he is allowed to say yes or no without negative consequences
  2. Listen to your horse clickertraining.ca

    Listen to what your horse communicates

    Learn to listen to you horse. You can only reinforce the behaviour with an appetitive after he performed.  If he says ‘No’ to your cue, you have a great opportunity to learn from your horse. Every time you figure out why he said ‘No’ (they are hard wired to cooperate) and act on it, you’re building on your trust.
  3. Get to know your horse better. You need to know what appetitives reinforces him (what does he really wants to work for), you’ll develop a keen eye for behaviour in order to pinpoint (click) the desired behaviour and your timing will be impeccable. Where you can afford and get away with sloppiness in negative reinforcement, that won’t happen in R+. You get what you reinforce and it will be soon clear what that was.
  4. You built trust! You give your horse a useful and clear communication tool in hands with positive reinforcement. The better communication and mutual understanding you have, the better your relationship will be!

If you want to teach your horse to lie down on cue it helps to know his habits so that you can capture that behaviour. In my webinar I teach you exactly what you need to know to teach your horse to lie down on your cue.

Plan your webinar date.

Here is an easy clicker training plan to train your horse to lie down without ropes or force

Clicker training is a training method that uses positive reinforcement. The ‘positive’ means -in scientific terms- an appetitive is added to strengthen the desired behaviour. An appetitive is everything the horse want and is willing to do an effort for. The click is meant to pinpoint the desired behaviour. After a few repetitions your horse will quickly associate his own behaviour with your click and that the marker is always followed by a appetitive, a treat. In order to provide clarity we will use a click of a box clicker to mark the desired behaviour, because that sound always is the same, no matter how you feel.

Timing

Timing is everything in clicker training horsesThe sooner the reinforcer (treat) is followed or even been given during the desired behaviour the sooner your horse connects the dots. This is not always practical and that’s why we use a ‘bridge’, the click, to close the time gap between the desired behaviour and the delivery of our reinforcer (giving the treat). The click also gives you, the trainer, time to get a treat out of your pocket and give it to your horse. The better your horse is clicker trained, the longer the time gap between the desired behaviour (the behavior that you want to see repeated) and the treat can be.

Trust

HippoLogic_trick training_clicker training _online coachingLying down without coercion can be a challenging behaviour to train because there needs to be a certain amount of trust between trainer and horse. It helps if you use high value reinforcers to train this behaviour. I use my own baked treats with cinnamon that all horses seem to value very highly!

 

5 Ways of Training Behaviour in Clicker Training

 In positive reinforcement you can use 5 different techniques to train behaviour. These 5 methods all have their pros and cons, which I have written about in here.

  1. Luring (using a lure to lure the horse into a behaviour with a treat)
  2. Molding (also sometimes referred to as ‘manipulation’, is physically guiding or otherwise coercing a horse (or one body part) into the behaviour you want to teach)
  3. Targeting (touching a specified surface (e.g. a target stick) with a particular body part)
  4. Shaping (goal behaviour is achieved by splitting the desired behaviour into many tiny steps. Each step is trained separately (clicked and reinforced)
  5. Capturing (‘catching’ the end behaviour as it happens and reinforcing it with a click and treat)

What method do you choose

In order to teach your horse to lie down we can’t use luring effectively. Experienced trainers can use molding and use ropes to lift the horse’s legs in order to let them kneel and then lie down. This can be very dangerous; it takes great expertise to do it right and not fall into the pitfall of just forcing the horse to lie down by pulling a leg away so he gets down. Not friendly and it will not help in building trust!

In order to use targeting skillfully in lying down I guess you could teach a horse to target his sternum so he will bring it to the ground eventually and as target the legs separately in order to bend them in the way they usually lie down. Not practical! In my webinar I share ways how you can use Key Lesson Targeting effectively as a training tool to help in training your horse to lie down on cue.

There are two techniques left over that can be successfully used to teach your horse to lie down with clicker training: shaping and capturing.

Here is how you do it

What you’ll need:

_treats_size_matters_value_matters_hippologicClicker, your horse’s favorite treats, a place where your horse is likely to lie down (soft surface like a sandy spot in the pasture or the arena)

 Why teach it:

It’s a way of measuring the amount of trust you’ve built and a fun way to test your skills as horse trainer.

How to do it:

 In my online trick training webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down I go into detail how you can use shaping and capturing successfully to teach your horse to lie down. In this blog I would like to give you practical tips, so let’s focus on capturing the behaviour.

Prerequisites:

Your horse needs to know what the ‘click’ means. Read here how you teach your horse the HippoLogic Key Lessons, you key to success in horse training.

Know your Learner!

hippologic train horse to lie down clickertrainingYou need to learn as much as you can about your horse’s behaviour and his habits. In the live webinar I give tips how you can learn about your horse’s habits and normal behaviour. In order to capture this behaviour you need to be prepared! Make sure you have your clicker and high value treats so that you can let your horse know right away what you want to see more of: lying down.

You can capture this behaviour when he’s about to roll. Usually after a ride or a bath (in Summer!). You need to be ready to click and treat as soon as he’s lying down. Wait until he’s on the ground so that he won’t jump up right away when he hears your bridge signal to ask you ‘Where is my treat?”

Another great opportunity is when your horse lies down to sleep. If you keep your horse at home you probably know what times of the day he lies to take naps and you can enter his stall quietly and give him lots of treats.

I knew a horse that every morning after his breakfast, he lied down for a nap. Other horse’s lie down after lunch to take a well-deserved siesta. If you know when your horse sleeps, you can be at the barn at these times to capture the behaviour.

Once you have captured this behaviour with a click and lots of treats you’ll notice he will be more and more eager to lie down when you’re around. Then it’s time to put a cue on the behaviour. You can say “Down” and point to the ground. If he lies down or rolls without your verbal cue you can give the cue quickly so he can be successfully earn a click. You want this behaviour on cue for safety reasons. More about that in the webinar.

Success tips

  • Start teaching lying down in Summer when it’s hot or in Winter when there is snow to roll in. Horses love to roll in the snow and this will be a perfect opportunity to click and treat him for lying down. When the ground is wet changes decrease to see your horse lie down.
  • Make sure you give your horse a generous jackpot after he lied down: keep feeding him treats until he gets up. You might have time for 1 treat or multiple treats. If you keep feeding for as long as he lies down, he understands that this behaviour is heavily reinforced.
  • For safety reasons: don’t sit or kneel down next to your horse. Bend over to feed treats or squad so you can stand up quickly if needed
  • Squad next to him, and never right in front of your horse. When horses stand up they put their front legs up first and you don’t want to be in their way.
  • Always squad down to the side where his back is, not where his legs are:

3 steps to ly down_horse_clickertraining_hippologic.jpg

 

  • Practice regularly in the beginning, but don’t over-train. I recommend three or four days in a row and then let it rest for two days. This will give your horse’s brain the chance to make the neural pathways that are needed (this is called latent learning). The brain is making a backup of the learned behaviour and you will most likely get better quality after a two-day break. Just like a weekend.
  • Don’t over ask. If your horse lies down once, that’s it for that day.
  • You can make the reward even more reinforcing if you use verbal praise to support your treats.
  • Once he offers the behaviour more often when you’re around it’s time to put a verbal cue on the behaviour.

Where to Learn More

Join HippoLogic’s Trick Training Webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down

webinar_horse training_clickertraining_hippologic_tricktraining.jpg

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

Join our group on Facebook where you can ask questions, interact with like-minded people and get support on your clicker journey. In the last quarter of 2019 I will do weekly LIVE videos in the Happy Herd. Don’t miss out!

 

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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6 Things You Might Not Know About Clicker Training (2/6)

In this series I will be sharing 6 interesting facts I didn’t know about when I started using positive reinforcement in training animals. This is part 2. Read also part 1 and part 3.

Some of these are common misunderstandings people have about clicker training while others are facts most equestrians don’t know at all.

The goal of this blog is to help more people understand how well positive reinforcement (R+) works in training our horses. I want every one to know that clicker training offers more great benefits besides training your goal behaviour. Positive side-effects you won’t get in negative reinforcement (R-) based training methods (traditional and natural horsemanship). I wish I had known these benefits earlier in life.

# 2: Clicker training will make you more resourceful

When using pressure-release in training and the horse doesn’t cooperate, the go-to strategy is to increase pressure until the horse does what you want. This is actually the only strategy I they taught me, when I was learning traditional and later on natural horsemanship training.

light-bulb-1926533_640When you decide to use less pressure-release in training and focus more on positive reinforcement, you give your horse a voice and a choice in training. Therefor you have to learn to listen what your horse is communicating to you if things don’t go as planned.

If you know the reason your horse does not follow your cue, you need to come up with a way to address his feelings or concerns first. It helps if you have knowledge about (natural) horse behaviour and natural needs horses have.

What if my horse doesn’t want to do what I want?

Depending to the cause of saying ‘No’ you can come up with another way, a new strategy to make it easier for your horse to say ‘Yes’ (without making something else more difficult!).

Possible causes of not cooperating are:

  • fear
  • something else is more reinforcing
  • something else is more urgent (e.g danger, internal processes like hunger, pain)
  • your horse doesn’t understand what he has to do
  • and so on.

Become resourceful

You have to come up with strategies that will be:

  1. Addressing the reason your horse said ‘No’ so he gets into learning mode again.
  2. Easier to understand (splitting behaviour and making a shaping plan)
  3. Worthwhile for your horse to participate (it’s the receiver that determines the reward, not the trainer!). You don’t want him to ‘zone out’ (and go into learned helplessness)
  4. Interesting and fun for your horse, so he will stay engaged

So you have to become very creative! That is the fun part of training animals!

When you allow your horse to say ‘no’ in training, you have to accept that ‘no’. Treat the ‘no’ for what it is: valuable feedback from your horse. It is ‘just information’. Information you can use to benefit you and your horse!

You have to find out why: What is causing your horse to say ‘No’?

If you figure that out, you listened to your horse. This helps you come up with a strategy to entice him to say ‘yes’, without forcing him.

clickertraining.ca

This skill -to think out of the box -is a very useful skill in all other situations in life. Get creative!

Read his body language

It can be as easy as recognizing that he is just tired. Simply ending the training session will give you more of the desired behaviour next time.

If it is mental fatigue, you can focus on a well known and established behaviour that take no thinking effort. And so on.

Tell me your story

Share your story (use the comment section at the bottom) about one time you had to come up with an alternative strategy. What did you do differently than you would have done traditionally?

we_listen_hippoloic_weclickWhat was the situation and what do you think caused your horses to say ‘No’ ? What solution did you come up with and what was the result? Do you think it benefited your relationship with your horse?

Stay tuned

Read the other articles in this series:

part 1 of 6 Things You Might Not Know About Clicker Training
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6

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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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