Advantages of an ‘End of Training’-signal in Clicker Training

Most horses get super excited when they get introduced to positive reinforcement (clicker) training. They literally won’t stop. They are always ‘on‘ and in training mode. This can be very exhausting for the owner (and for the horse too).

Green horses

When horses are new to clicker training they get appetitives for things they do (the desired behaviour). Therefor it’s understandable that they will try go get a treat by offering the desired behaviour. They are training you.

If you don’t give them what they want and expect, it can cause confusion in your horse and even frustration. He doesn’t understand that just a minute ago he lift his leg and he got a click and treat and now he lifts his leg and gets ignored or maybe even shouted at! ‘What’s going on?’ the horse wonders.

You horse doesn’t understand that training for Spanish walk is wanted and desired in the arena, but when you walk in front of him at the grooming place it’s undesired. What? It’s the same behaviour!? Why doesn’t he get the same response?

What’s clear to us, might not be clear for our animals. Try to see it from his perspective.

Clarity

Here are some things that give clarity:

  • Use a clear End-of-Session-signal. This indicates: ‘No more clicks can be earned from now on.’ Stick to it! Be consistent!
  • Using a unique end of session signal for a break or indicate the end of the training session gives the horse the security that he won’t miss out and he can relax.
  • You can use an end of session signal in between training sessions too, so your horse can mentally take a break and relax a few minutes.
  • Some horses even need a start-session-signal at first. Some horses think that if you’re in sight, a training session is starting. This can be confusing for your horse. A start session-signal can be calling your horse’s name or simply say: ‘Pay attention.’

Safety

Clarity also increases safety. If your horse exactly knows when a lesson is in session, he will learn quickly that offering behaviours is a desired action and they will be reinforced.

He also learns that offering his latest trick or behaviour after your end of session-signal will never leads to clicks.

‘High risk’ behaviours

If your horse knows this, and they learn quickly when behaviour will be reinforced (in a session) and when it won’t (outside training hours), you can safely train more ‘high risk’ behaviours.

A ‘high risk’ behaviour is a behaviour that can be dangerous if it’s performed unexpectedly. If you train Spanish walk and your horse will offer that front leg up in the air when you’re standing in front of him to lead him, chances are that you’ll be hit by his flying leg.

Same goes for training lying down: you don’t want that behaviour offered spontaneously when you’re riding! Right?


If horses know the end-of-training signal, they know his vending machine is closed, no matter how many quarters (behaviours) are thrown into it. It’s empty. It won’t work. They will safe these behaviours for training sessions.

Of course it’s best to put behaviours on cue as soon as possible, for clarity and safety reasons. However, tn the learning process there will always be a short period when a trained behaviour is not yet confirmed and on cue. An end-of-session signal will help keep you and your horse safe.

Here is how much clarity it gives

In this video you see I end our training by giving Kyra an end of session signal. Putting my empty hands up and say ‘All gone!‘ indicates ‘You’re free to do what you want to do. You won’t miss out on clicks and treats.’ I knew she wanted to roll so badly but she wasn’t doing it because a training session was going on.


Bring a horse to the pasture safely

Here is another example that will help increase safety.

In the past I’ve had bad experiences with traditionally trained horses that run off immediately when released in the field. Sometimes you don’t even get a chance to take off the halter safely. Other horses even kick and bolt in order to get their freedom. Very dangerous!

To prevent such behaviours I give a treat after I release horses in the pasture. In the beginning they get a treat before taking the halter off and after taking it off. Later in training I give a treat only after I take the halter off and get out of the pasture. Instead of running off they will linger in the hope for a treat. Then I fade out the treat.

In this video Kyra didn’t want to leave me, so I gave my end-of-training-signal. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t missing out on reinforcers (food or attention).

It’s clear how powerful that end-of-training signal is. My horse that almost nevers runs in the pasture.

Any thoughts or questions about using or introducing an end-of-session-signal? #justask

Happy Horse training!

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse they’ve always dreamt of and get the results in training they really, really want.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s emails (they are free, full of goodies and joining comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online courses and our Membership Mentoring Program, the Clicker Training Academy, that will change your life.

What Impression does Your Horse make?

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to show off the amazing goals you’ve accomplished with clicker training?

Visitors at the barn

One time a Facebook friend who was eager to learn more about clicker training visited me at the barn.

On this particular day in Winter it was cold, windy and rainy. The field was muddy and when we arrived all horses where gathered around the feeding place in the field.

As soon as Kyra heard my voice she came over to the gate and while I was haltering her, I was pondering how I could show off and what I would do in order to impress my friend.

We went to the indoor arena where Kyra and I demonstrated a few tricks at liberty.  I also kept it short because it was cold and when we brought Kyra back to the field, I asked her what she liked best.

Her answer was not at all what I expected!

 Instead of asking me about How I trained lying down or Spanish walk, she told me that she was very impressed that Kyra had came across field, all the way to the gate. My friend assumed we had at least to wade thru the ankle-deep mud in order to get Kyra or maybe even chase her a bit before I could halter her.

To me this was not something impressive. I didn’t realize that something as simple as your horse coming over to meet you could impress people and I will never forget that feeling. She was already impressed before we started! Just by Kyra showing me she was eager to interact with me and willing to go through the mud!

From that day on, I paid more attention to what impresses horse people.

Some people are surprised that, when Kyra gets loose because I am bad at tying knots, she doesn’t run away from me and I can simply walk over to get her.

Others notice that she’s not mugging me while I obviously have treats in my pocket. While I hope they are impressed by the behaviours I spent hours training, most people are impressed by the side-effects positive reinforcement training has: a confident horse and the relationship I have with Kyra.

How does your horse impress other horse people?

Next time you’re at the barn, pay attention to what others admire about your training. What remarks do they make that tells you they want what you can do? Sometimes their sentence starts with simply with the words “I wish my horse would….

  • I wish my horse would be easy to catch…
  • I wish my horse would stand still…
  • I wish my horse was more like yours…

Share with in the comments what others admire about the relationship you have with your horse or what you’ve trained they wish they could.

Read more: How to Get your Horse out of the Pasture (effortlessly)

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Step-by-step Guide to Teach Your Horse to Come When Called

This month Horse Rookie published another article that I’ve written for them. It’s a shaping plan to train your horse to respond to his name so that you can get him out of the pasture effortlessly.

Why teach it

The better question might be, why not teach it?! It’s fun to have a horse that responds to his name, but it’s also useful.

Instead of trudging out to the back of the pasture, simply call your horse’s name and watch him come running. 

If your horse ever escapes from his enclosure, whether at home or away, he will come to you when you call his name.

Icing on the cake? People will be quite impressed when your horse responds to his name!

Click the picture below to read the whole article on Horse Rookie.

Sandra Poppema's article Teach Your Horse to Come When Called

Join the Clicker Community!

Do you want to have a horse that comes trotting to the gate with a nicker to greet you, instead of a horse that requires you to go into the mud to get (or catch) him? Start small and learn a bit of clicker training. It will almost happen instantaneously. I’ve seen this happen over and over with my students.

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you need an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions, join the Clicker Training Academy for online positive reinforcement training, personal advice and support in training your horse.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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.

Related article:  How to get your horse out of the pasture. Effortlessly! (with video)