Why a good start is important. 5 Tips to start clicker training your horse

If you have not yet started clicker training your horse, here is a good way to start. Start with Key Lesson (your key to success) Table Manners.

Table Manners for Horses is similar to etiquette for people: we don’t use manners naturally, they are learned behaviours. Just like we teach children to use knife and fork and sit with our feet below the table and wait our turn, we can teach our horses safe behaviours around food and treats. We also don’t walk into other peoples houses (strangers) to see what’s in the fridge, right? Our horses are not suppose to check what’s in our pockets either.

Clear criteria

In order to start clicker training well, you need to have clear criteria in your head. What do you want to reinforce and see more off? What behaviour would you like to eliminate from your relationship (biting, mugging, being pushed etc)?

Focus on what you want, is the most important in equine clicker training. That’s what you want to see more of and that why you need to be prepared to click for ~ HippoLogic

Teach Your Horse to Behave Around Food: 5 Tips for Horses

Here are the criteria I like to teach horses who are new to positive reinforcement training:

✅ The horse needs to take the food off of the hand gently and calm: lips only and no teeth. No grabbing or moving super fast towards the food as if there’s a fear to miss out. That could be dangerous.

✅ The horse must learn to wait until the food (treat) is served to the lips and don’t move towards the food (the pocket with treats or hand that’s feeding the horse).

We -people- don’t go to the kitchen in a restaurant either so see where our food is. No, we wait patiently until it’s brought to us. We don’t start eating or grabbing the bread when the waitress still holds your plate. We wait until the plate is put in front of us before we start eating calmly.

✅ Only expect a treat after the bridge (click) and not at random.

Just like not every plate the waitress carries is for you. Only after you ordered you can expert food.

✅ The horse must be relaxed and in a calm state. Ears forward or relaxed to the side. This in combination with a closed muzzle and relaxed lips makes a friendly face. His must learn to trust the treat will come.

Just like in a restaurant you are polite and friendly to the waitress, not looking angry at the waitress when she bring the food to the table. You say ‘Thank you’ and smile.

✅ Make sure your horse is not hungry. In many restaurants you get or can order some bread and butter to change your hangry-ness into a better mood. Do the same for your horse: provide hay during training or train after a meal.

Horses are different than us. They are designed to eat 16 hours a day, so they will eat after a meal. If train when your horse is hungry, you’ll create problems that can be very hard to un-train, like grabbing the food and even biting.

Make sure positive reinforcement is a real win-win: win for you and win for your horse. Treat well ~ HippoLogic

;Read more about starting clicker training here.

5 Tips for Trainers

The criteria above mean also that the trainer also needs to have a few good habits.

Clicker training is not only about training your horse. You-as trainer- need to develop good habits, too. ~ HippoLogic

  1. Click first, then take a treat. Don’t make ‘pre-loading’ a habit or your horse will only focus on where your hands are. That really reinforces mugging
  2. Always deliver the treat to the mouth, so that your horse never has to look for the treat. Teach him that he can trust you to give it to him
  3. Make the food move to the horse, not the other way around. If you encourage your horse to move towards the food you easily reinforce the undesired mugging behaviour
  4. If you drop a treat, immediately present a new one. The one on the ground can be ignored, taken away if it’s sandy or be a bonus. If you or your horse drop treats often, use bigger treats
  5. Start with medium or low value treats (grass pellets, moist hay cubes) and not with high value treats (usually the sweet ones like carrot, apple and store bought treats)

What’s your biggest take-away from this blog? Use the comment below. undefined

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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How to use Target Training for Horses 2 times more effectively

This morning I offered a free webinar Horse Training Mastery in which I explained how people can use the 6 Key Lessons, your keys to success in clicker training, to get maximum results in their training.

These are HippoLogic’s 6 Key Lessons for Horses:

  1. “Table Manners for Horses”
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Goals

At first these simple (read: not-complex behaviours) are your goals, but when you master them, that’s where the FUN part happens!

To me it’s magic because training these basic behaviour that make a great foundation, they really come in handy to teach other behaviours! Yes, you can use the Key Lessons for Horses as Training Tool.

For example, once your horse masters nose targeting, you can use the targeting as a way to explain gaits. Ask your horse to follow a moving target and click and reinforce “movement” instead of touching the target. That’s an example how you can use targeting as Training Tool to teach cues for walk on, trot and even canter.

In this video you can see how Key Lesson Mat training become my training tool to teach “Whoa” and “Walk on” . Because of the context (rain and wind!) I get a bonus: trot.

Aren’t mats a way better training tool than whips or training sticks? Click with your horse in training.

Strategies

Wait, there’s more! Once you’ve trained all Key Lessons and used them to teach other behaviours, your horse masters them well enough to use those Key Lessons as Strategies in your training.

How you can do that, I explain on Wednesdays in my free live webinar Horse Training Mastery- Bond with Your Horse in Training. Click here for more info and to register. For free.

Read more about HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (incl step-by-step training plans)

  1. “Table Manners” for Horses
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Key Lessons for Trainers

I also developed 6 Key Lessons for Trainers and just like the ones for horses they are first your goals. New habits to help you get insight in your training and to get a compass that leads to your goal.

No goal is too big! Dare to dream big. ~ HippoLogic

  1. Principles of Learning & Motivation
  2. Training Plan
  3. Shaping Plan
  4. Accountability
  5. Training journal
  6. Emotions in training (human and equine!)

Just like the Key Lessons for Horses, they start out as goals, then they become valuable training tools and eventually you can use them as strategies to help you excel in training!

I talk about those too in the free webinar.

How have you used targeting to teach behaviours?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve been using targeting to train other behaviours and inspire the readers. Click!

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Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

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 make training a win-win.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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