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!
Get a free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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Join the Clicker Training Academy if you want personal support

What is the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy? It’s an online place where you can learn to train every behaviour you have in mind with R+. We have a small, all-inclusive community in which students can thrive and develop.

  • Professional, personal positive reinforcement advice on your training videos
  • Super affordable
  • Student levels are novice to very advanced clicker trainers

Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy for $39 and get an additional 90-minute coaching session with me for free (value $150 CAD).

Important values in the horse-human relationship: Trust

Personally I think trust is one of the most important values in a horse-human relationship. Without a foundation of trust you don’t have much to built a good relationship on.

It’s easier to love someone you trust, than someone you don’t. That ‘someone’ can be a human as well as an animal. If you trust someone, you can relax in his or her company and rely upon him/her to help keep you safe and not to hurt you.

We can’t learn when we are in fear and our flight-fight response is triggered. The same goes for horses.We learn best when we feel at ease and are relaxed. In other words; when we stay in learning mode.

Trust is not something you can buy (with treats), force (with pressure) or gain quickly. You have to build trust, over time, with your actions. Not with words.

we_trust_actions_hippologicYou want all your actions (handling, training, riding) to contribute to building trust, not to take away trust.

In Dutch we have a saying: ‘Trust comes by foot but leaves on a horse’ which means that trust is built slowly but can be destroyed quickly.

Take this question with you every time you spent time with your horse: Are my actions contributing to building trust or not? If you don’t know the answer, place yourself in his shoes. Observe your horse’s body language, mimic it and see what emotions get triggered. Are you relaxed or tense? Can you still breathe? Do you feel safe or not?

How do you build trust in your relationship and how do you measure it?

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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.

 

 

Best Basics: ZEN time with your horse

Now that the temperatures are much higher than in winter it becomes more enjoyable to spent some ZEN time with your horse. ZEN time is time spending together without having an agKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAenda. You can take a chair and sit down in his paddock or pasture and just see what happens.

Herd behaviour
I really like to observe Kyra in the pasture because I learn so much about her. I see how she interacts with other horses in the herd. I see who moves away when she approached, how their body language is helping them communicate and for which horse Kyra moves out of the way.

Grazing routines
I like to observe the way she eats: she grazes from left to right to left, then she takes one step grazes the next halve circle of grass. It is an interesting pattern.

When I hand graze Kyra I can see if she is hungry or not. If she is hungry she will not lift her head up for the first 15 minutes. She eats, eats, eats. If she is less interested in grass she will often lift up her head to look for the juiciest patches of herbs and grass and she takes more steps in between grazing.

If Kyra eats something distasteful, she will push it our of her mouth with her tongue or open her mouth real wide and let everything fall out. I can even see that she has have a favourite foot, because she puts it forward longer than the other one.

Just be together
Sometimes in ZEN time Kyra comes over and makse contact with me. The other day when I was sitting in the round pen and Kyra was just walking around, she came to me and sniffed my hair. I sighed and she did, too! Then I sighed again and she did another sigh. I wanted to test if it was a coincidence and took one more deep breath and exhaled loudly and she did too. We were really connecting, it was awesome. Then the magical moment was over and she walked away.

Hand grazing and walks
Sometimes ZEN time means I take Kyra out for a walk and I will let her graze wherever she wants and I let her decide what to do. You can learn so much by just observing your horse and seeing what he wants to tell you or seeing if he wants to connect.

Renske, Kyra's beschermengel

Renske was Kyra’s guardian angel when she was young

Other days I will watch Kyra without being seen so I am not interrupting her herd behaviour. If she sees me, she comes to the fence and will not interact the way she would without me.

Enjoy!
Being ZEN with your horse is a really nice way to relax and connect with your equine friend.

My tip for the weekend is: fill a nice picnic basket, bring a pen and paper to make notes or a camera and enjoy your horse in the sun for an hour or so, see what you can learn.

Sandra Poppema