I give treats to Kachina for good behavior.
Last December I was having a lot of ground work issues with Kachina and decided to try Clicker Training. I asked for a clicker and some books and videos for Christmas and was going to use that formal technique. We did a few targeting sessions with mixed results. With Clicker Training, you are supposed to wait for a horse to offer a response by themselves, and then click and reward it. First you reward for a behavior anywhere close to what you want, and then you get more and more specific until they figure out the precise thing you want. It's a really cool concept, but it means that it can take quite a while to introduce multiple concepts, especially with some horse personalities.
I spent a few months trying to do things the formal way, but I didn't want to quit riding all together so I split my time between doing Clicker Sessions and getting Kachina groomed, tacked up and ridden the normal way. In the Clicker sessions I was still at the stage of getting Kachina to follow a target around, and had not gotten to the point where I could get her to stand for tacking up with the clicker. However, I still had to get her tacked up. I started just giving her treats when she was good for not pawing, letting me put the bridle on, etc. It seemed to help.
Eventually I dropped the Clicker and the formal technique and just started to give treats as rewards for good behavior. I figured that my method of giving treats might not be the best, but at least it was better to be consistent than to have two different sets of rules.
This year so far I have used treats in conjunction with pressure and release and other traditional cues to improve Kachina's groundwork skills.
Here are some examples:
1. Treat after halter is fastened - has changed her from coming up to me but walking away when I paused to fumble with the halter, to putting her nose into the halter.
2. Treat when she stops when I do while leading - has changed her from charging ahead of me to paying attention to where I am and following (she also politely whickers at me when she thinks that she's done well)
3. Treat when I'm done picking her feet and she was good - has changed her from swinging her butt away from me and yanking her foot down prematurely, to standing still and letting me finish. This has also translated to her being better for the farrier which is awesome.
4. Treat when bridle goes on - this one still needs improvement, but her head stays lower and her feet move less than they used to
5. Treats for braiding - she used to be super squirrely for this process so I taught her a routine of stand for quik braid spray, get a treat, stand for one braid to be finished, get a treat. Now she is patient when I take my hands away and just turns her head for her reward.
6. Treats for sprays - she used to be spooky about any kind of sprays - fly spray, show sheen, quik braid, etc. and would try and run sideways. I started giving her treats whenever she would stand for a second while spraying and now she knows that they aren't going to kill her.
7. Treats for standing patiently - this one is a little tougher to quantify, but whenever she spends a while standing in a stall or standing tied without pawing or getting fussy, she gets a treat. It has cut down on the shenanigans. Also, this means she gets extra treats at shows and clinics so she learns that being away from home has rewards.
Now big disclaimer here, this method would absolutely not work for some horses and might cause dangerous mugging (the more formal Clicker Training method is carefully designed to avoid this). However, Kachina never ever goes for my pocket where the treats are, and understands that treats come for good behavior, not anytime she wants. If she offers a behavior she thinks she should get a reward for, she will look at me, or whicker, but is very polite about it. Any hint of pinned ears etc. and no treats are given. It also ends up that I sometimes don't have pockets on me for treats, or run out, so sometimes she gets pats and "good girls" instead of treats and the good behavior holds.
Kachina isn't a horse who is super food motivated. She gets to eat hay or graze 24/7. She enjoys getting treats, but I think she most enjoys the treat as a reward and being comfortable that she came up with the right answer, rather than just the food itself. Kachina is the epitome of a submissive horse. If you give her no cues or leadership, she is more likely to get anxious and start pacing rather than to offer different behaviors to try and get a treat (like what the formal Clicker method wants). My more informal treat method seems easier for her as I use traditional cues to ask her for a particular behavior, but I use a combination of release of pressure and a treat to tell her that she got the right answer.
Do you use treats for training? How do you do it?
I do the same thing as you. But Stinker isn't super food motivated either and I have a verbal no cue well established that helps a lot.ReplyDelete
Cool to know I'm not alone! I have a decent progression of no cues that I use for things like when Kachina paws (I should try using it on other things though), but I find that Kachina's anxiety seems to go up if you tell her "no", but she relaxes if you can tell her what the "yes" answer is. Same thing with riding, I don't use treats when riding, but Kachina is happiest when doing an exercise that she knows well and understands what is expected of her. So different from my last horse who anticipated like crazy and needed a lot of variety.Delete
I'm a big believer in using bribery whenever possible because horses are hard to bribe! I give my horses sugar cubes with their bit, makes bridling a lot easier. I also taught Rico to passage with sugar cubes, though I did have to then teach him to stop stopping after the first few steps expecting sugar...ReplyDelete
Haha, I like that idea behind bribery! And lol about the passage. I haven't tried treats while riding yet myself.Delete
I don't do clicker training either, but I did start giving Nilla treats similar to your method. She gets them for bridling and for standing still for mounting. It has seriously worked. The bridling is still a problem, but she now stands really well for mounting.ReplyDelete
Bridling seems to be a hard one, you can get it better but it takes quite a while to get some horses to be perfect about it.Delete
I wish I could clicker train Henry... but he gets so frenzied with any hand feeding...ugh. I usually just give one treat when I catch my horses, a post-ride treat and a one treat when I release them. Other than that I try to avoid it because they are such piggies haha! Interesting to read how it helped you!ReplyDelete
Have you looked at Alexandra Kurland's clicker method? (www.theclickercenter.com) She has a very carefully thought out method for treat delivery that is designed so horses don't get pushy for their treats. I'm not a stickler for it myself because Kachina doesn't need it, but maybe it would work for Henry? (the website has lots of things for sale, but if you dig around you can also find some good beginner videos and basic descriptions for free)Delete