Friday, January 15, 2010

Clicking away

As I was telling Wolfie last night in the comments, I tried the treat method to keep Gwen calm outside the barn and away from her brother. It worked fairly well, she stayed pretty calm and attentive. We didn't get very far before she started getting anxious, only to the front of the barn (about 20 feet), but no one got upset or started a fight. It felt like a win to me.

When I was driving home I though to myself, "gee, that felt a bit like clicker training." LIGHTBULB! Last summer before the quarters arrived, I got a book out of the library on clicker training horses. I scanned it into a pdf and saved it on my computer (maybe not that kosher of a thing to do) and bought some clickers. Then forgot all about it. As soon as I got home last night I dug the clickers out and stuck them in my purse so I'd have them at the barn today.

After I rode Coriander, more on that in a bit, I went into Gwen' stall with a pocket full of treats and a clicker. As soon as she turned her head in my direction I clicked and gave her a treat. Pretty soon wherever I moved to in the stall she was turning around to face me. I had her full attention! Clicker training FTW! I took her out, groomed her, and took her for another little walk. She got a click and a treat every time she stopped her feet when I said "whoa," with that method we got a little further away from the barn than last night. So far so good!

Coriander is doing great getting back into the swing of being ridden. We rode in the indoor last night. We did a little bit of trotting and then did a fun ground pole exercise that I learned in my last lesson. I set down two ground poles in the middle of the ring walking distance apart. We went around the outside, turned in and walked between them, then turned and walked in a circle over them. We did it in both directions. Even though he definitely has a stiff side, he turns very easily and isn't bothered at all about walking over ground poles. We're practicing up for those trail classes!

Tonight, since it's been so warm, we were able to ride outside. We did a little more trotting, just down the long sides while walking the short sides, trying to get those transitions a little better. Then I tested him a little. I wanted to see if I could get him to walk in a serpentine without using the rein aids. He did it! It wasn't textbook perfect by any means, but we made it all the way down the ring and back without the reins. What a good boy!


  1. Wonderful! I think you have found the way to communicate with Gwen to calm her down. I love the whole positive reinforcement thing. I can't use treats with Gem, but I give lots of "good boy" and rubs. Good work with Coriander, too. A great way to end the week!

  2. Yeah, I really hope this works. I haven't found any options to try if it doesn't. I wouldn't normally turn a horse into a treat hound but she's a special case. Coriander is like Gem, I can't give him treats either, but he responds well to an enthusiastic "good boy."

  3. sounds great! I've found horses take so well to clicker training (especially if you establish solid rules about food delivery to prevent mugging and bad behavior!)

    I saw from your profile that you are in New York. Not sure exactly where you are, but there are a lot of very good horse clicker trainers in your state. I know there are a handful of clinics held in NY every year. Makes me jealous, not to many other horse clicker trainers down here in TX!
    (Are you familiar with Katie Bartlett's website? It's got good info, as well as a community section which I've used to network with others in TX. )