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Get On Target with Using More YES

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clicker training

  • Do you want to help your horse to overcome fear of scary objects? 
  • Would you like to play with your horse?
  • Does your horse get easily distracted and would you like your horse to concentrate?
  • Would you like an accurate way to let your horse know it has done the right thing?
  • Are you curious about how to get an incredible bond between human and horse?
  • Do you want a partnership with your horse based on saying yes?
  • Would you like to build self-motivation with activities that are fun?
  • Are you curious on how to unlock potential and be successful?

Yes to any of the above then read on……

How to Get Started

Firstly I teach a noise = a reward. This is easy to do.

1)      Place a treat in your hand and offer it to your horse.

2)      As his mouth goes round the treat make a click noise that you will use to replace the word yes.

I don’t use the word yes and often we interact with our horse and talk at the same time and if we used the word yes it would be confusing to the horse. I don’t use a hand held clicker as I want to be able to indicate my horse has done the right thing in any situation at any time with my horse.  It’s a pain to always carry a hand held clicker, but our voice is transportable everywhere.

3)      Repeat numbers 1 and 2 as many times as you need to teach your horse your chosen noise = a reward. 

4)      Test to see if your horse has learnt the noise = reward by one day when your horse is minding his own business chilling out nearby make your click noise. If he’s learnt that noise = reward his head will turn towards you with an expectant look. Then give the reward. Your horse has now learnt the click noise is the bridge to a reward arriving. Now we can attach it to any given situation and training.

Yes it is easy to teach your horse a noise that = YES. This is a wonderful horsemanship tool, as two legs or four we all love positive feedback when learning.  

When we engage in any training activity, no matter the methods we use with a horse we are using an extrinsic motivation. It could be a positive or a negative reinforcement. And there are good, bad and ugly practices out there.  And maybe you already know the difference between a positive and a negative reinforcement, or maybe not?  You can read for FREE my published article in the motivation series which examines the difference between negative and positive reinforcement in horsemanship. It also discusses extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in horsemanship. Knowing the difference makes a huge difference in the ignition of self-motivation, joy and fun in the horse. 

Cool so you taught your horse a noise = yes. Here is how to use it in a practical way. I am going to select for an example teaching your horse to target touch. Why? Most horses haven’t been taught it, so it’s something new for the horse. You can’t force your horse to touch either, so you will have to engage with your horse in meaningful horsemanship dialogue. You and your horse will have to work together. You will have to recognise a try from your horse and be ready to reward. For some horses the smallest try is like panning for gold. 

There are so many practical reasons for teaching your horse to taget touch: Your horse will never risk touching anything without investigating it first with its’ nose. So having a shared language about checking out new objects can be very handy if you wish to do agility, or play with objects such as ball, or help your horse to be confident with everyday spooky objects, or be a confident self-loader into your trailer.

How to Teach Your Horse to Target Touch

1)      Select a safe object for your horse to learn target touch. I suggest something your horse is used to seeing every day, so it is familiar and non-threatening.  When I am teaching this on an agility day I use a plastic cone.

2)      Let your horse relax and be comfortable before you start.

3)      Place a treat between your fingers and with your hand in a pointing gesture use this to draw your horse’s nose towards the cone. I use the word touch as I do this.

4)      When your horse touches the cone use your click noise then reward.

Once practiced your horse will recognise the hand gesture and word are to indicate to check out an object and that you will reward the right behaviour. Any safe object can be used for target touch training. So get creative. This can be extended to teach your horse to push a ball, or pick up objects and even to retrieve objects.  

You can also use a hand held target. They are easy to make, some people use a simple stick with a ball on the end, or with a paddle like bat end etc… These are great for encouragement direction of movement, as you can teach the horse to follow the target. Great for motivation of moving in circles or from one point to another.  

You can also use targets to train stand and stay. Such as on a target mat; or use your rope earthed as a ground tie.

Target touch is great for spook busting and helping horses gain confidence approaching scary objects.  It is a Golden Gift in Crappy Paper to use positive reinforcement to help you and your horse tackle confidently every day issues that will no longer limit your world. There are two types of objects ones you can move and ones you can’t – I have covered how to tackle these in my FREE to read article – Lets Go Walkies.

If you want to have a go at horse agility or tackle natural trail obstacles target touch is an essential skill to master. A horse will not risk any part of its’ body or feet until it has investigated things with its’ nose. They risk things in this order, nose, head, neck, shoulders, body and feet.  So for example: For your horse to stand on a podium it will need to check it out fully with its’ nose before its’ head will move over a bit further, then it may move more over so nose, head and neck are over the podium before it will risk walking over. You can also help your horse by teaching target touch with its’ hoof touching the object, click and reward.  

You can also use target touch for physio type carrot stretches. Plus teach your horse it is safe for you to inspect and handle parts of their body.

You can also extend positive reinforcement into training tricks, liberty work, in hand work and if you ride ridden activities. Plus every day interactions such as catching, leading, mounting, etc…. The only thing you are limited by is your imagination and creativity.   

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