I hope you all had fun playing with transferring the head down cue from the lead to a lifted hand. Now let’s look another cue transfer. I now want Oli to put his head down when I turn on the clippers. Once again, I go through the same process and would not do this transfer until the old cue of hand above head was solid.
Clippers turned on as new cue for head down…
…followed by presentation of old cue of hand above head. Remember to present the new cue of the sound of the clippers followed quickly with the old cue of hand above head until he starts to drop his head at the sound of the clippers.
Very soon Oli would drop his head at the sound of the clippers alone.
To review – when he dropped his head first with the old hand cue paired with the new cue of the clippers, he got clicked and treated for head down. Soon with just the sound of the clippers he would drop his head and earn a click and treat. Now Sarah could turn on the clippers and Oli would drop his head. If he was hesitant she could always add back in the old cue of the raised hand or the lift of the rope to help him remember they all meant head down.
The final step in this would be to approach Oli closer with the clippers and click and treat for his keeping his head down. During this stage one must be aware of his mental state with regards to the clippers getting closer. If he shows signs of distress then move the clippers away and click and treat him at that distance until he become comfortable and then move them a bit closer all the time monitoring his emotions and staying below threshold. We are not forcing him to accept the clippers we are allowing him to choose to be ok with them – a huge difference! Oli had not had any experience with the clippers so there were no poisoned cues associated with them so he just took it all in stride; one of the great side effects of starting a young horse with clicker training.
Remember to build duration slowly and click and treat often!
Now how cool is it to have a horse that drops his head at the sound of the clippers and keep it down for clipping? Pretty cool behaviour if you ask me. And an especially useful behaviour in a really tall horse!