Sunday, February 17, 2008

Click! She Got it

Siete’s bored. I’m sick. We’ve got at least six to eight week before there’s decent weather here. Click! I tried something new with my little horse. Today, we began “Clicker Training”.

Clicker training is a technology based on a behavioral science known as operative conditioning. It has been used successfully for many years to train dolphins, whales, zoo animals, and last but far from least, dogs and horses. You use a little noisemaker that clicks to indicate behavior that is reinforced while it is occurring, followed by a reward.

In our first lesson, I held a plastic lid from a feed supplement jar and motioned to Siete to touch it with her nose. She did, so I clicked and gave her a bit of carrot. I lowered the lid and motioned for her to touch it again. She did, I clicked, and she got another carrot bit. Then, she tried to stick her nose in my pocket for more carrot. I didn’t let her and instead lowered the lid. She touched it with her nose before I even motioned. Click, you got it, little horse, so here’s another piece of carrot. The goal of the lesson was to reach the point where the lid was on the ground, and she would touch it with her nose. No problem. She got it. Click and treat. Good job, Siete.

I’m following the lessons outlined in Alexandra Kurland’s book, “Clicker Training for Horses”. It’s enjoyable reading, and I really like her point of view. She’s not a “my way or the highway” type of person. Kurland wants you to try incorporating the clicker into your current training program. “Training is a creative process in which flexibility and creativity are the keys to success.” She says, “ Horses tell us what they need to learn. It’s up to us to notice and give them the lessons they are asking for.”

Siete has been practically begging for something to do. We’re going to see if we can have some fun with this and some groundwork exercises until the weather cooperates. Last night, I felt so down and miserable. I remembered that misery breeds from a loss of perspective. Siete and I opened our world to something new today. It only took about fifteen minutes, but it gave us a bigger view of what we could achieve.


Grey Horse Matters said...

That sounds interesting. I've never tried it myself, but learning new things is always fun. Nancy on Cliffy's Mom's Blog, mentioned that she takes Clifford for a walk with the dogs, without a lead on roads and he is clicker trained. I would imagine there must be something to it. Let us know how it progresses.

Victoria Cummings said...

Y'know, the one thing Siete loves the most is to eat. So, if I can teach her to follow me without a lead or ground tie, that could be very useful.

Farm Girl said...

This is so neat and it really works! You will love it! My mare Katie came to us as a 2 year old. We bought her from a horse trader. He had put her under saddle for one week, and obviously wasn't nice when putting the bit in her mouth. I used clicker training to get her to open her mouth and take the bit herself. She was a quick learner, once she figured out that I wasn't going to bang her teeth and force it on her. Clicker training opens their minds and they are so much more engaged. Enjoy the journey!

CadencedHoofbeats said...

I love your blog! :)

My horses are bored, too. The weather is just horrible. I'm going to look into clicker training because they need something to occupy their minds.

Thanks for the inspiration! :)

Bill Evertson said...

Such is life and I think there is someone clicking your clicker whenever Silk and Siete chooses. Lucky horses.

Charli and me said...

The clicker theory does work. We once used it for a Lab and the results were amazing.
Your blog is so interesting. I have never owned a horse but I am learning so much about them through you. Thank you.

billie said...

I've never done this but have read some interesting things about it. Sounds like it will give both you and Siete something to do while weathering these final weeks of winter.

We do a groundwork exercise with our horses that our natural horsemanship trainer calls "dancing." If I could just get my speakers set up so I could have music in the arena it would be even more fun! It's amazing how they'll mirror your movement and watch closely for the next step.

The most interesting thing is that the pony is the best at it. (he's not always the most willing of our herd, but he loves to dance!)

Beth said...

I do clicker training with my TB stallion, Sam. Its an amazing tool. Using clicker training only I have taught him how to hold his frame without gadgets.

He can bow, pick up cones, walk with head down, back away, head down immediately when I come into his stall, open his mouth for the bit.

Its a fantastic tool. The books are fantastic! enjoy!

Callie said...

I've never done this either, but it lends some interest. I'll have to read up on it.

Kimmie Kay said...

That's awesome! Even though I don't have horses, I always find a lesson that I can apply to my life in your posts...thanks for that! :)

the kittens' mother said...

Oh I hope you both feel better soon. It is the same for us too, I haven't been well and my cats, Tia and Rani are bored.
We have three dogs but we have never tried the clicker training. I have seen it used before and it works well, but with three boisterous dogs, starting something like that would be impossible to work unless they were trained separately. All of them are trained, it is just odd bits here and there that need working on. Like the barking each time someone comes to the door etc. Bonnie, the youngest dog who is a collie cross, is a very active dog and still has bad habits which she learnt from her first owners, eg going in the bins, pinching food etc. I am hoping that once we move to a new house with a real back garden, I can train her properly and maybe even get her into agility trials or flyball. She could be really good at that.
At the moment, I have been training Mum's cat Smudge to give me his paw. He's getting there, when I say "Mudge gimme five", he usually stretches his paw out to me and his reward is being stroked and cuddled. He loves it because he loves all the attention.
That is fantastic how Siete learned it so quick! She is obviously a very clever horse, which some people find clever horse a nuisance. My friend once had a horse called Ace and he was a clever horse too. He was always opening his stall door, opening other horses' stall doors, untying the knot where he would be tied up whilst she cleaned out his stable etc. I just think that it is great character and gives the horse his/her own personality. Keep up the good work Victoria and of course, Siete!

Oh yes, I forgot to say, thank you so much for the award! I have never won anything. Unfortunately, I don't know how this works. Please could you explain it to me?

All the best, from Meg and cats xxx

Musiq Mayneack said...


i've been checking out your blog for a while now and i must say. it has a real down home - down to earth feel. i really like that!

you've inspired me to start my own blog. let me know what you think about it please! i'm must a newbie!

your fan,
Rusty J

Victoria Cummings said...

I'm encouraged about all your positive feedback on the clicker training! Thanks.

Meg - I left a comment explaining how to pick up the award on your blog. You deserve it with your good intentions and kind heart.

Rusty J - Good Luck. I left a comment on your blog too. Keep posting!

Anne said...

I'm also fogged in from a cold. The only good thing is that it's giving me time to catch up on my blog reading.

I bought the clicker and the book but haven't had a chance to try it. (I actually thought my daughter would be interested. I guess I'll have to start it and have success for it to catch on around here.)

Please write more about what else you do with this. You're about to get me motivated.

Hope all of us feel un-fogged soon.

Ewa said...

Good to know that I am not alone and this weather makes everyone bored.
I guess you are better Victoria, since you have some activity :)

M. C. Valada said...

My trainer and I have just started working Ace with a clicker. He had one lesson in clicker as a demo for the horse training class at Pierce a couple of years ago and he got it so quickly that the teacher thought we'd been doing it for years. I'm sure you will have a good time and much success with it.

I hope you are feeling better.

CowMaster said...

I enjoy reading your blog. A horse I know has been getting clicker training for a few months now and it does work. Max's blog tells the story.