In this blog I shared how I was smoothing out in clicker training Rita. Rita is still unapproachable at this point, but we’ve made great progress in the weeks I’ve been training her!
It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I started to realize that I was starting to plateau in training. I saw no more progress, something that is a clear sign that I am heading towards the end of a cul-de-sac. You must turn around! That is difficult because you have to let go of your approach and that can be a psychological barrier for a trainer!
Read here how the food puzzles helped reduce stress and promote learning. One of the milestones was Rita stepping on the mat! Not once, but several times! I couldn’t bridge it (that would be too stressful for Rita, see this blog), but the fact that she offers this new behavior multiple times is a huge leap forward!
With the HippoLogic Clicker Training Method I teach 6 Key Lessons, basic behaviors for horses, so that you can easily train complex behaviors in the future. For Rita, I thought mat training would be too advanced, but she proved me wrong! She stepped on the mat several times. Only because I shifted my focus from Results (and using bridges (Clicks) and Appetitives (food rewards to reinforce the desired behavior) to Relationship (how can I make her feel more comfortable with me).
The other thing Rita surprised me with was her picking up the cloth I was hiding food under! For a moment I was afraid it was unintentional and startled her, but luckily that didn’t happen!
This tells me so much that I can use in her training:
- She learns and her mind opens. She offers new behavior! That is good news for her further education
- She is not as shocked by items being moved unexpectedly by herself as she is by items being moved by people (still working on that)
- She is not afraid of items she deliberately moves (controls)
- She is much less stressed with the food puzzles, so bridging and offering food is off the table in the near future training sessions.
Trick training can be another approach to getting an animal trained (again). The fact that Rita loved touching and stepping on the mats with her lips and taking the cloth in her mouth gives me plenty of ideas to keep her busy working out.
Control as appetite
And if she can use tricks to communicate and initiate interactions with people, that would put a powerful tool in her hands! Then she has more control and in a more positive way than using her flight to control the situation. Now she just always runs away when she doesn’t want to commit (and she often chooses not to at this point).
By giving your animal control (over the body, the trainer, the situation) and choices, you give the animal powerful tools. Tools that help build trust where there is none and ways to communicate. This will reduce overall stress in a traumatized animal and improve their well-being. This is what I’ve seen time and time again when working with traumatized animals and the power of positive reinforcement. Let me know if you want me to explain. I have plenty of experience to share on this subject.
Are you a compassionate horse owner who wants to build a close friendship with their horse ? Do you want to understand your horse better and help your horse understand YOU better? Access tons of online clicker training and a fantastic, supportive R+ community in our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!
Or start with a free clicker training assessment to get a taste of what it feels like to work with me. Find out your strengths and weaknesses in training (if you have any) so you know what to focus more on to get the results you want.
After your assessment you have a clear plan and you know exactly what your next step will be to realize your dream behavior with your horse.