There are many ways to built on ‘duration’ in behaviours you train with positive reinforcement. I will give an example of building duration in stationary behaviours and building duration in moving behaviours. (more…)
Posts tagged ‘keep-going-signal’
In this series about the key lessons (the key to successful clicker training) I’ve already talked about five important exercises. There are two more important basic lessons for the horse: ‘patience’ and ‘mat training’.
Standing on a mat
The purpose of mat training is to teach your horse to stand on a mat with his two front hooves. It is basically targeting with hooves. If your horse learns to stand on a rubber mat, he learns to trust you and standing on new surfaces. Horses have a lot of ‘feel’ in their hooves and therefor it can be scary in the beginning to stand on a item that is soft and squishy, like a puzzle mat.
Once your horse has learned to stand on a mat on cue, you can build ‘duration’. Just like in targeting. If you train for duration in easy exercises it will be easier in the future to train duration, like in exercises under saddle. Your horse can learn to generalize. You can introduce a keep-going signal to make it more clear what you want to train.
Train opposite behaviour
Always reinforce the opposite behaviour of what you are training as well. You want don’t want teach him to stand on the mat only, but you also want him to step down on command. If you don’t do this, you will create a horse that always runs to whatever mat or similar surface he spots. And expects a treat!
After introducing a mat, you can ask your horse to mount other surfaces like a piece of plywood. Or ask your horse to walk over it. The sound of his hoof beat might scare him at first, but if you reinforce every little step (literally!) or even weight shifts he will soon gain the confidence to walk over it. This is a really good preparation for walking up ramps or entering trailers or walking over (wooden) bridges. It makes it easier to teach your horse to mount a pedestal.
Mat training also helps to make clear where you want your horse to be. If you want this to teach him to stand next to a mounting block, the mat can help indicate where you want your horse to stand.
If you have a horse with more whoa than go, it can help to teach him to walk from mat to mat in the arena. First at walk, then trot and finally in canter. It can make energy-saving horses really enthusiastic: it is clear that they have to go from mat to mat. So they know when to go and where they can stop. It can give them a feeling of control and makes it predictable for them. It can also help the trainer to be happy and content with little progress because the mats make the criteria and progress ‘visible’.
If you have a horse that has more go than whoa you can also teach him to go from mat to mat. Place the mats close together at first until your horse knows what is expected. You can teach him to slow down, walking over a mat, but keep going. Or you can ask him to stop. Experiment!
Jumping at liberty
Mats can help send a horse over a jump by himself, without chasing him with a whip over a jump. Simply place two mats on either side of a pole and ask your horse to go to the other mat. Place the mats a bit further apart each time,then you can raise the criteria by making a low jump and built from there.
Links to other key lessons
- Horse, stay in training mode: equine emotions during training
- Table manners for Horses: safe behaviour around food and treats
- Head lowering & backing
Thank you for reading. Let me know how what your favourite key lesson is and why.
Here is a blog about advanced mat training.
Happy Horse Training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.
What is a keep-going signal (KGS), why do you need it and how can you teach it?
What is it?
A keep-going signal is used to tell your horse that he is doing the right thing and that he should keep doing it in order to earn a click and reward.
A keep-going signal can be very useful in building duration of an behaviour. Not all horses ‘need’ a KGS. Sometimes withholding a click will work, too. Just experiment with it.
A KGS can also be used as encouragement and signal that the horse has to keep doing what he is doing.
A KGS can help prevent frustration. Some horses will get frustrated if they don’t get a click soon enough and will give up. If they hear a keep-going signal, they will know that the click will follow.
A keep-going signal also helps you get more behaviour per click. So basically you click & reward less often. Which can make the clicks even more desirable for the horse, since he doesn’t get them as often anymore.
How do you train it
Horses are smart and they quickly learn to anticipate cues. They will learn that after a keep-going signal, that has no meaning yet, the click & reward follows.
Choose a word that you would otherwise not use in either training or speaking to your horse. Choose a word that can be extended easily.
Introduce the keep-going signal in a behaviour that already has a duration of a few seconds, so you have time enough to introduce it. Slowly you extend the time between the keep-going signal and the click:
Cue behaviour + keep-going + click & reward (repeat several times)
Cue behaviour + keep-going + 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)
Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 2 seconds + click & reward (repeat several times)
And so on. Make sure your horse doesn’t get too frustrated by the removal of the click. Later on you can also extend the time before using the keep-going signal.
Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)
With a keep-going signal you can help prevent the horse from getting frustrated, since you can indicate what he has to do to earn his reward.
Related post: Reward-based training is…
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Would you like to hear more about a keep-going signal or do you have a question about clicker training your horse? Click here to connect and I will be more than happy to help another horse-human relationship blossom.
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.