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Posts tagged ‘Jackpot’

Best Basics: House-training for Horses

When I put a picture on Facebook of Kyra pooping next to the poop bin in the indoor arena, a lot of people asked me how I potty trained my pony.

_Horses_only_washroom_byHippologic

Why house-train a horse?
To be honest, I started it because I am a very lazy horse owner. My philosophy is: Why do it myself if I can train my horse to do it?

This is why I trained Kyra to come to the pasture _zindelijkheidstraininggate instead of me wading through the mud to get her. She has to go through the mud anyway, she might as well do it by herself so I don’t risk loosing a boot in the mud or getting stuck there.

I really hated walking across to the other end of the arena with a bedding fork to search for Kyra’s poops. I always had to walk twice because her poops are so big they don’t fit on a bedding fork in one go. I wanted her to make it easy on me. That was my motivation.

This result (see picture) didn’t happen overnight and not even in a few weeks. She doesn’t always poop when we are working in the arena and we are not always working in there. To me it was just of a game, without a timeline.

Clicker training
Kyra was already clicker savvy, so she knows really well that after a click of my clicker, she will get a reward. The click pinpoints the behaviour. In order to get more of the wanted behaviour, the best results are obtained by rewarding the animal while (s)he is doing the wanted behaviour or within 3 seconds after the wanted behaviour.

A clicker acts as a bridge between the wanted behaviour and the moment of giving the reward. So I didn’t have to reward her within or during the wanted behaviour, I only had to ‘bridge’ (click) during the behaviour that I wanted to capture and then bring her the reward. That came in handy at liberty.

Start easy
In the beginning my criterion was really low. In my mind I divided the indoor arena in two halves: the half with the poop bin (light green rectangle) in it and the other half.

Every time she needed to poop I asked her very gently to maintain gait until she was in the “proper half” of the arena if possible. Often we didn’t reach that half. Maintaining a trot was never possible, but at least she kept walking. A few steps.

It wasn’t really about maintaining gait, but more about making the wanted behaviour easy._house-train_potty-train_horse_hippologic

If she needed to go poop and we were in the half of the arena where the poop bin is located (green striped area), she was allowed to stand still to take her washroom break. Why? Because pooping while walking, trotting or cantering leaves a long trail of poop.

Like I said, I don’t like to waste time on poop scooping in the arena. On top of that I clicked and rewarded her with a handful of treats during pooping. She learned that pooping was rewarded sometimes, whereas other times it was not. It was up to Kyra to figure this out. And she did!

Raising criteria
After a certain period I realized that Kyra was 100% of the time pooping in the half of the arena where the bin is located. That was a sign for me to raise my criterion.

I divided the “designated poop area” in half again (pink striped area). So now the space where I let her stand still to poop and click and reward her for pooping was about a quarter of the arena size.

After a while she discovered that the had to go poop in a certain corner of the arena. Every time I had the feeling that she “got it”, I raised the criterion and made the “allowed area” a bit smaller in my mind (dark blue striped area).

Correcting my mistake
The poop bin is located in the same corner where the shavings are stored. Kyra thought she had to poop in the shavings, which was an obvious mistake (yellow/orange area). After all, her stall is full of shavings where she poops in. So I began to watch her closely, because she usually pooped in the shavings when she was in the arena all by herself.

Under saddle I could catch her going in the shavings one time and gently let her out of it. She only had to take one or two steps (towards the bin). Then she pooped next to the bin and not in the shavings. She had earned herself a jackpot. [read here more about -> “rewards and jackpots“<-] After a few times she learned that “in the shavings” wouldn’t get her a reward.

Goal
Now my goal is to let her poop in the bin, so I don’t have to clean up at all. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’ll let you know when we get there.

UPDATE Jan 2017

Here is the sequence on this blog: I accomplished my shittiest goal ever! In which I tell you about how I taught Kyra to poop in the manure wheelbarrow. It even had a video.

Sandra Poppema

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Clicker training 101: Rewards and Jackpots

_keylessonpatience3

In the key lesson ‘Patience’ the horse learns that sniffing pockets will not be rewarded, looking away will!

Many people think that clicker training means you have to reward with food. And that rewarding with food equals a ‘mugging horses’ or that food rewards will turn their horse into a biting disaster.

To prevent mugging and biting behaviour we must teach the horse some rules. As I pointed out in my previous post [->CLICK HERE<-] the horse must understand that there is only a reward coming after the bridge signal (click) and clicks can only be earned during ‘class hours’. A class starts after a specific start signal and ends with a specific end-of-session-signal.

A lot of people think that clicker training is not their cup of tea ‘because their horse doesn’t like treats’ or they are not willing to use food as a training tool.

Rewards

My favourite topic! Reward-based training is NOT all about the food! It is about the REWARD.

The Most important rule is …

The receiver determines the reward.

If you want to use _Hippologic_rewardbased training_receiver_determinesreward-based training effectively you must remember that it’s not the trainer who determines what the horse ‘must’ like or ‘must’ accept as a reward, it is the horse. I haven’t met one horse in my life that wouldn’t work for something they value. It is the challenge for the trainer to find the right reward that makes ‘the magic’ work.

I like money but Kyra, my horse, doesn’t care about it at all. I like food, but I wouldn’t work or even try to learn a new skill for a handful of grass.

Primary reinforcers

A primary reinforcer is a stimulus that does not require pairing to function as a reinforcer (reward). It is something they need for survival as a species. A horse doesn’t have to ‘learn’ that eating is necessary.

Examples of primary reinforcers are food, air, water, sleep, sex and social behaviours for herd animals. Food and scratches are the most practical in training.

Secondary reinforcers

A secondary reinforcer is a ‘learned reward’. For example once you have taught your horse that he will always be rewarded for standing on a mat, “standing on a mat” will become a reward in itself. The mat is associated to the message “good things happen here” in your horse’s brain.

So, food can be a reward, but a reward doesn’t have to be food.

In my career as horse trainer/clicker training instructor I have seen horses that didn’t valued food highly as a reward. Or they didn’t like the kind of treats that I had to offer. I bloopered once with chunks of apple in a demo. The horse spat it out in front of everybody to make his point. Luckily the owner of the horse helped me out by telling me what was rewarding to the horse (vitamin pellets).

Jackpot

A jackpot is a very special “bonus reward” and will only be given to the horse if he performed extremely well or showed a new behaviour on it’s own that you really want to capture. Like the first time Kyra nickered at me or the first time she laid down in my presence.

A jackpot can be a highly valued treat, maybe mints instead of pellets or carrots instead of grain.

If you don’t have a higher valued reward to offer, you can also increase the amount. If you normally reward with a little chunk of carrot, you can give a big handful as a jackpot or feed multiple chunks quickly after one another. Or if you are riding, you can dismount and unsaddle your horse immediately and take him to a nice patch of grass.

In order to let your horse know he has hit the jackpot you must give it while he is still doing the behaviour. Sometimes that’s not possible. What I do instead is I will extend my bridge signal with a lot of verbal praise when a jackpot is coming to let my horse know she’s doing an extremely good job. Like winning a jackpot from a slot machine: there will be bells and lights to let everybody know you’ve hit the jackpot.

So jackpots are not normal rewards and don’t have normal bridge signals. Jackpots are RARE!

After a jackpot you can best end the training of that day so the horse can let the newly learned knowledge sink in.

To be continued…

Read here the next article: Clicker training 101: Using and Introducing cues

Sandra Poppema
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