Ask the Vet – Clicker training for horses

, , 14 Comments


SARAH: “Clicker
training for horses has been growing in popularity.” You little trend setter. “What are the pros
and cons of it? Is it a more humane
way to train horses?” DR LYDIA GRAY: Clicker training. I thought no one was ever going
to ask so I have a prop here. It’s my clicker, and I
used it earlier on Sara. SARAH: I appreciated it. DR LYDIA GRAY: The
important thing is to know that the
clicker is not a cue. I think people are
confused about that. There’s three names
that pop into my head when I think about
clicker training. It’s been around for
horses since the mid 90s. It was Shauna Karish was the
first one that I knew about. She actually got her
start with marine mammals. Then Alexandra Kurland is one. Then the last one
is Karen Pryor. So those are all good names. If you’re going to try
this you need training yourself or a resource. One of the cons, I’ve found,
is that if the human is not clear in their own head
what they’re doing, then the animal is not
going to be clear either. The thing about
this is it’s a tool for positive reinforcement. When there’s a pro that’s
very attractive to people. We’re finding more and more that
negative reinforcement is not the best way to train
animals or husbands. It’s positive reinforcement. SARAH: Do you want
to take a minute and explain the difference –
not between horses and husbands – but between positive and
negative reinforcement. DR LYDIA GRAY: The clicker
is positive reinforcement because it’s when the
animal does something, a desired behavior,
you click and then the click is timed immediately
with the desired behavior. That’s why this tool
is so important. Now, I can fumble and fish
around and get the treat because with the sound, which
is a very distinctive sound, it can be any sound, but this
they’ve never heard before. It’s easy to associate
this with, “That was the right thing. Now let me find where
I put my treat.” You can not take
your time, but you don’t have to be as quick with
the actual giving of the treat, if you use the signal to
indicate that was right. SARAH: So positive
reinforcement is recognizing the right behavior. Negative reinforcement is
correcting the wrong behavior. DR LYDIA GRAY: Exactly. SARAH: So we’re leaning
towards positive. DR LYDIA GRAY:
Behaviorists now saying animals learn better,
quicker, and retain more when you use positive
reinforcement. SARAH: It makes sense
because that is what’s right. All you know with
negative reinforcement is this is not the right thing. DR LYDIA GRAY: Don’t do that. Don’t do that. And that horse has to keep–
there’s a question been asked and they had to keep
seeking out answers. SARAH: Maybe the answer is this. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, nope. Wasn’t that. And maybe it’s this. Nope, wasn’t that. With this tool, when
I ask the question and they give an answer, and
I go yep that was the answer. So click and treat has been
the term that’s been used and I use click and prune
because with Newman. The nice thing about this is– SARAH: She feeds him prunes,
she doesn’t prune him with pruning shears. He does not find that
rewarding I don’t think. DR LYDIA GRAY: Although, I
use this for mane pulling. SARAH: I know you do. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, yeah. Also to get him to drink water. SARAH: Oh. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah so that is
two examples of– here’s back on the pro list– clicker training can be used
to teach a good habit or skill or behavior, or discourage
or remove a bad habit. If you’ve got a horse
who kicks or bites or doesn’t trailer
load or moves away from the mounting
block, all things we would consider negative,
you can clicker train. On the other hand,
if you want a horse to do some positive
behavior like drink water, you can also clicker train. It doesn’t have to be either
a good behavior or not a good behavior. It can be anything you do. The sky’s the limit. And it calms our– I think people think that,
oh clicker training causes horses to mug you for treats. Quite the opposite in fact. SARAH: Do your horses
not do that already? DR LYDIA GRAY: You can clicker
train horses to not mug you for treats because
you can teach them if I don’t give you a cue to
come wherever my treats are in my pocket, then you
don’t because you’re not going to get rewarded until
this thing makes a noise. With a horse that was
really pushy about that, Shauna tells a story where
she went to the farm. You have to associate
the click with the treat and then they begin
to seek out, what do you want so you push the
button and I get a reward. Every time he looked
and went away from her, she clicked and
gave him a treat. So he was like, “Oh, the
farther I stand away from you, the better it is for me.” He got that in less
than five minutes. SARAH: Wow. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
in less than five minutes you remove the
mugging for treats problem. SARAH: That’s fantastic. DR LYDIA GRAY: She’s
like, next problem. SARAH: On the other cons, you
mentioned an interesting thing before we started
filming which was you clicked it out in the office. It’s more packed. We have like 50 dogs, 60 dogs
that come to work every day. DR LYDIA GRAY: Oops. SARAH: She saw some
gopher heads pop up. “What? What?” DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. SARAH: Is there ever a problem
if you’re using it in the barn, if there are other horses in
the barn are clicker trained, do you try to be not near
where those horses are? Do you try to do it
more as a solo activity? Have you encountered
that at all? Does anyone else
at your barn do it? DR LYDIA GRAY: I have
not encountered it, only because there are
so few people around me that I know that are
clicker training. When I did it at their
rescue that I worked at, I would take the horse
to a specific location for the training. It was partly to get
away from other horses but it was partly for
them to associate. Yeah. This is an area of learning. Yeah. SARAH: All right. DR LYDIA GRAY: I love it.

 

14 Responses

  1. Skijoring With Your Horse

    February 14, 2018 12:39 am

    It's wonderful to see you guys putting clicker training out there. I am a huge proponant of positive reinforcenent. But for anyone interested that has not used this method with an animal before, please please please seek out further guidance and coaching before you begin. Positive reinforcement is a hugely powerful psychological tool which if dabbled in or used improperly can cause problems. There are tons of free intro videos on youtube and amazing books and online classes available. Dive in and it will change your life with horses for the better forever!

    Reply
  2. Empowered Equines

    February 14, 2018 12:44 am

    We are also huge proponents of clicker training! It is just like any other training, you need to learn it thoroughly to do it safely and effectively. We have a facebook group Empowered Equestrians focused on educating people about positive reinforcement 🙂

    Reply
  3. Laurie Fredrika Higgins

    February 14, 2018 2:36 am

    Peggy Hogan has also been around working with horses and positive reinforcement for over 15 years.

    Reply
  4. Laurie Fredrika Higgins

    February 14, 2018 2:38 am

    Your definitions are quite off. Positive reinforcement means that you add something the animal wants as a way to reinforce or strengthen the desired behavior. Negative reinforcement is strengthening a desired behavior by removing something the animal doesn't like, such as pressure/release.

    Correcting the wrong behavior is punishment.

    Reply
  5. Gill Langridge

    February 14, 2018 8:17 am

    Excellent to hear that more and more people are using positive reinforcement training. Please do get expert help when you first start out. Like anything it needs good timing and it is useful to have someone with you or to video a session for feedback from another trainer.
    I learned from Peggy Hogan and Laurie Fredrika Higgins – well worth looking up – they run a course for beginners and also so a course if you want to work with more than one horse at a time, all online.
    Jo Hughes is my mentor – The Academy of Positive Horsemanship.
    Negative and positive are not feel good words but are used as mathematical terms so -ve = subtracting and +ve = adding.
    You also need to pair the clicker or another sound with the food – this is classical conditioning.
    So at first the click means nothing to the horse – in fact my horse ran away when he heard it as it was too loud.
    Reward based training is a huge subject and I am only just scratching the surface.

    Reply
  6. Bird's Antics

    February 14, 2018 7:53 pm

    So, so glad to see you discussing this topic! Clicker (also referred to as marker or reward based) training has been successfully used in the zoological industry for years. I started using it several years ago with horses, and wouldn’t do things any other way now. It is important to have a fundamental understanding of the difference between positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment. The ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are not value judgments (as in, positive = good, negative = bad), rather, they are mathematical (as in, positive = add, negative = take away). That said, positive reinforcement adds something the animal likes after a desired behavior is performed (and the clicker, or marker tells the animal when that desired behavior has occurred), and negative reinforcement is when the trainer takes away something the animal doesn’t like when a behavior is performed. Traditional horse training is almost exclusively negative reinforcement; the pressure of the bit, leg, etc. is taken away when the horses performs desired behavior. Sadly, too many people also use positive punishment on horses. Positive punishment is when something unpleasant is added after an undesired behavior. Spanking is a perfect example of positive punishment. Research on animals AND humans has shown that for positive punishment to permanently change behavior, the punishment would have to occur immediately after the behavior, and would have to be so severe, that most people would not ha e the stomach for it.
    There are loads of resources out there now to learn how to do this extremely effective and humane type of training; I do agree with the others, if you are interested in learning, definitely consider a coach. This can even be done remotely with video coaching if you don’t have a positive reinforcement trainer in your area.

    Reply
  7. Connection Training

    February 16, 2018 2:08 pm

    Hi there, thanks so much to Lydia for mentioning our Shawna! Lovely to see clicker training becoming so much more popular, I'll pass this video on to Shawna, she'll be delighted to see it.
    Clicker/reward-based training for horses is so much more accessible now than it was even a couple of years ago – there are so many talented trainers out there nowadays.
    It's important when beginning to utilise positive reinforcement training with your horse that you seek some guidance, even if you're an experienced horse person. Whether it be in person lessons or remote learning like the courses we offer at Connection Training, one-on-one help is essential to you and your horse's success! Happy training.

    Reply
  8. Connection Training

    February 16, 2018 2:08 pm

    Hi there, thanks so much to Lydia for mentioning our Shawna! Lovely to see clicker training becoming so much more popular, I'll pass this video on to Shawna, she'll be delighted to see it.
    Clicker/reward-based training for horses is so much more accessible now than it was even a couple of years ago – there are so many talented trainers out there nowadays.
    It's important when beginning to utilise positive reinforcement training with your horse that you seek some guidance, even if you're an experienced horse person. Whether it be in person lessons or remote learning like the courses we offer at Connection Training, one-on-one help is essential to you and your horse's success! Happy training.

    Reply
  9. LauraMay

    February 17, 2018 5:00 pm

    So great to see a discussion of positive reinforcement and clicker training and all of the benefits. The only thing I would suggest is that you provide an update as what you are describing as negative reinforcement is actually positive punishment.

    Reply
  10. The HenCam

    February 18, 2018 2:24 pm

    It's great that you're talking about the clicker perspective – look for what you want, and reward each small step to the goal. As others mentioned in the comments, some of the terminology in the video is inaccurate. Also, although Shawna has been instrumental in bringing clicker training to horses, she wasn't the first. Karen Pryor was clicker training her Welsh ponies in the 1960s (at the same time that she was doing marine mammal training.) It was Karen who was the first to spread clicker training throughout the marine mammal world and into the companion animal community.  Like anything you do with horses, there's not a magic fix. Clicker training takes skill, study, and experience. But, it is effective and rewarding – for horse and trainer, alike! – and worth delving into.

    Reply
  11. Darlene DeMayo

    February 26, 2018 1:47 am

    I have no history with being around or handling horses but I now own 2 Quarter Horses as of Sept. 2017, and clicker training has created a way for me to be with my horses, as I learn everything 'horse', and I can honestly say I don't see any relationships at the stable like mine with my mares because of finding Shawna Karrasch and the crew at Connection Training!

    Reply
  12. soph k

    March 8, 2018 9:30 pm

    I thoroughly support positive reinforcement but as a university student I have access to a lot of scientific reports and have found many that prove it is difficult to train with horses, in most cases it didn’t work well

    Reply
  13. Rachel Powell

    December 11, 2018 7:40 pm

    DEFINITIONS ARE NOT CORRECT. Smartpak, you can do better.lol. If you are going to talk about clicker training, please interview an expert in that field. Dr. Gray is great but I don't think this was the exact interview you should have asked her to do.

    Reply

Leave a Reply