blog-64As an aside for those of you playing the Tim Horton’s online no need to buy anything roll up the rim game, I found it to be an interesting experiment in reinforcement schedules. I played for a while and even managed to get badges that earned a ballot to a draw for a bigger prize and two free cups of coffee, whoopee. But I stopped shortly after the rate of reinforcements in the form of free coffees or tickets took too long to get. This is often what happens when training our horses; they suddenly stop doing the behaviour we were getting before.

There can be several reasons behind this:
1. Like in the Timmy’s example, often the rate of reinforcement or the amount of reinforcement (size of reward) is not enough to keep the horse ‘in the game.’

2. There may be a behaviour that you ask for after this first behaviour that the horse either does not understand or does not want to do. For example, click and treat at the mounting block and all is good until you start to get on and then he leaves. Before this, he would happily go to the mounting block. There can be several reasons he doesn’t want you to get on, everything from saddle fit to bad riding experiences. Once we give our horse a voice, it is our responsibility to listen to him and find out the why.

3. You have slightly changed the criteria for the behaviour after waiting too long to do so. In the horse’s eyes you have changed the rules of the game and that’s just not done. So you need to remember that if you get a behaviour that meets your initial approximation then you very soon need to slightly change that behaviour towards the finished behaviour so the horse does not get stuck in a particular form of that behaviour.

So let’s get to this month’s blog.

Taking a Halter Off

What’s so hard about this? I see people having issues with this all the time, but what strikes me as odd is that they don’t think they have an issue. Being safety conscious, I guess I can see the danger in a horse not standing still to be let go, or turning and taking off as soon as the halter is unbuckled.

Many folks ask me for help in catching, haltering or bridling issues but they often forget the other end of this. Taking the bridle or halter off. Horses that have issues putting these items on often also have issues taking them off too.

For bridling have a look at this video. This is my clicker superstar Icaro.

I like my horses to bridle and halter themselves. I’ve almost forgotten how to put a bridle on a horse the usual way! I also like to have my horses catch me. By that I mean I hold up the halter and they come over to me and halter themselves.

Here is the reader’s digest version of how I train a horse to halter themselves and also have their halters removed nicely.

The video was not edited so that you can see how to deal when you go slightly over threshold or lump things into too big a step. While this does not show all the steps in shaping and capturing this behaviour, it will give you a good idea of how to go about it. Depending on the horse’s history and the teacher experience this can often be taught in one lesson of just a few minutes time.

The horse in this video was very hard to catch and was ok to halter after you had him ‘caught,’ but that’s not my idea of ideal behaviour so we have worked on getting him to this point. I think he has learned to catch me quite well considering his past experience with humans and baseball bats.

For those of you in the Ottawa area and are interested in attending a clinic please contact me for further information on the April 22-24 clinic. Only one spot left!