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Old 03-25-2013, 11:30 PM
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Raegan Raegan is offline
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Join Date: May 2011
Location: Fond du Lac, WI
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Default Horse Training & Dogs

I'm looking for basic, normal, non-gimmicky horse training. English, I guess, if that makes a difference? Free on the internet is a definite plus. Okay, it's a requirement. I'm not buying anything when I don't actually own a horse.

Secondary, if you've trained a horse(s) AND you also clicker trained a dog(s), talk to me about that. What's the same, what's different.

Third, if you've clicker trained a horse, talk to me about that. Why did you chose that over more conventional methods, is it harder than dogs, what's different from training dogs?

I might have the opportunity to fool around with some horses this summer, and since I've learned more about dog training I've had to confront some of my assumptions about what you "had" to do with horses. Most of them are the same arguments about what you "have" to do with dogs.
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Old 03-26-2013, 12:01 AM
stardogs stardogs is offline
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Two words: Alexandra Kurland. She does amazing clicker work with horses and has lots of resources available.

I've used clicker with llamas, pigs, and horses. The pig was the easiest, followed by the dogs, then the horses, and finally, the llamas.

The horses I trained were taught to give space first (to avoid "treat mobbing"), then I did a little work on two trick behaviors: give hoof and nose targeting a target stick. The horses loved it once they got the idea and only took a smidge longer than most dogs would. The biggest challenge *is* teaching them food zen and I know Kurland recommends you do that in a "protected contact" situation until the behavior is solid, but I didn't. LOL Even with that oversight, my horses never crowded me for the treats and they really seemed to look forward to our sessions.
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Old 03-26-2013, 08:57 AM
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LostAndConfused LostAndConfused is offline
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I don't have anything to add, but thanks to Stardogs. I haven't been around horses in a few years, but this is interesting.

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Old 03-26-2013, 09:05 AM
SaraB SaraB is offline
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I have used clicker training for simple behaviors with horses mostly because the horses I was working with had trust issues with people and it was a fantastic way to teach them that I meant good things, not bad.

The behaviors I taught were to stand still for tacking (not tied as the horse had issues being tied), target my hand with their nose, allow me to apply fly spray, stand still for grooming and to lead without crowding me as well as to lead with out a rope. The other horse that I clicker trained for a brief amount of time was trained to target my hand as well as to target a halter with her nose (she was a pain to catch in the pasture).

ETA: and like Erin, they were taught a type of "leave-it" behavior first and foremost as a way to keep them from mobbing me.

ETA: I forgot the comparison between horses and dogs. It was very, very interesting working with the horses as their capacity for latent learning was much higher than dogs. While dogs might make huge strides in one training session, horses wouldn't comparatively make as much progress in the session itself, but during the next session they would have it. It was like they thought about what I was trying to teach them over night, it was way cool.

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Old 03-26-2013, 04:04 PM
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Cali Mae Cali Mae is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2011
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I haven't clicker trained a horse, although I was going to with Indie... but I can give you a bit of insight because Indie was very green when I first got her (she was a racehorse for the first seven years of her life) and I also trained my instructor's greenie for her.

I think training horses and dogs is relatively similar, but so different at the same time.

- Positive reinforcement, definitely. Always make a big deal out of everything they do if the horse is quite green. Correct canter lead? Huge neck rub, and a walk break. That applies to almost anything, usually if they get it three times in a row, that's when they get the walk break. On the lunge line, I usually just said "good girl/boy".
- Sometimes you have to make it easier. If you're teaching a leg yield at the trot and they're not engaging their hindend, take it to a walk and try... if no success, just do it from a standstill and work on getting them to move their haunches over.
- Patience, patience, patience. I mention a lateral flexion down lower, but when I first started doing this exercise with Indie during warm up... it was like a merry-go-round. It took five minutes of constant circling for her to understand the concept. It also took us hours and hours upon rides to get her to be able to consistently pick up the correct canter lead. But when she finally did it... huge neck rub, long walk break and lots of verbal praise.

- You can't afford to give them any slack, and by this, don't allow any misbehavior. I know with my own horse, I did give a bit of slack when it came to contact, but it was on my terms. She came to me with a problem of pushing on people which she eventually realized was not acceptable unless it was invited, and it was no longer a strong enough nudge to knock someone off their feet. This is the difference between dogs and horses, a lot of owners can brush training off like no big deal and not have to deal with the consequences... with horses, them respecting you is a necessity.

Also, some tips for training a horse from the ground up:
- Start with groundwork, which is even more important if the horse hasn't already been trained to ride. Get a solid whoa, and make sure they understand that while you're mounting, they must stand still. If they start walking forward, get off and try again. If they walk off after you're completely on, back them up and make them wait.
Indie always walked off before I even got on when we first brought her home, since racehorses aren't expected to stand still... but before she died (two and a half months later), she would stand to be mounted and could wait patiently while my instructor talked. At the start, she couldn't stand for three seconds without prancing around. I'll be honest and say she's one of the smartest horses I ever worked with, so not all horses will catch on that quickly.
- Backing up is great to supple them, and always keep backing them up until they relax into the bit and you feel the release in pressure. Lateral flexions are helpful as well and you can later add haunch movement.
- Lungeing is also a pretty important aspect, but it's also important to do it right and take your time with it... it is great for building a topline on horses when done correctly.
- Each gait is a stepping stone to the next... if the trot is horrid, chances are that the canter will be even worse.
- I also recommend time just grooming the horse as well, because honestly, it was one of my favourite parts of working with Indie. A good hour of grooming does wonders for relaxation, plus it gives you a nice bonding time as well. Also, I always gave Indie half an apple after a ride and I have noticed that when I give other horses apples/carrots after a ride (if they behaved), they generally look forward to the ride instead of starting out sluggish.
- Don't expect perfection. I remember when I first got Indie that I got caught up in getting her a nice headset/frame, but my instructor brought me back to earth and said, "Ride a horse from the back, and the front will come." Once I got her engaged and rode from back-to-front, as riders say, her poll came up and she looked great.

I could write so much more probably, but I'll stop there. I haven't talked horses since Indie died so it was great to share and reminisce through that. In every rider's life, there will be that one horse who no others can compare to.

The two and a half year old papillon. Crazy. Social butterfly. Clever.
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Old 03-26-2013, 04:54 PM
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BostonBanker BostonBanker is offline
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By "messing around", what is it you plan to be doing with the horses? Riding? Groundwork? What are the horses used to, and what is your level of experience in dealing with them?

I've done a lot of silly, fun clicker training with Tristan. Mostly stupid pet tricks. I did try to use it under saddle at one point, but I found that it was too difficult for me to mark things at the right time, and I was confusing both of us. Not enough hands on my body for it

Sara covered a lot of important things, especially making sure that one of the first things you train is "do not mug me for food". I admit to skipping that step with Tristan - he was already incredibly respectful of my space and it was never an issue for him. I shaped everything, and he was remarkably quick to pick up on the game. Be a bit smart about what you train. For instance, I was originally going to teach "shake hands" by having him thrust his foot directly outwards. A friend watched me working on it and said "you know he's going to nail you in the knee, right?". I learned the hard way that she was right, and changed the trick to a knee lift!

I'll be honest and say that most of the stuff you find online, in my opinion, ranges from "gimmicky" to "absurdly stupid and/or dangerous". Most of the programs I've seen online/DVD and such isn't stuff I'd recommend. There are a lot of similarities to dog training, in that you need to learn timing and how to read body language and learn to predict reactions - but because the risk of messing up is so much bigger than it is in dogs, it is something you really need to learn with a competent trainer at your side.

I'd be happy to throw out some more thoughts once you give us a better idea what you are looking for.

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