Would you want to learn in an environment that is confusing and unrewarding? As it is for humans, it is very important to create an environment to teach our horses in which is open, clear and rewarding. Using Positive Horse Training concepts helps to provide this environment.
Food is very meaningful to most horses and one of the best ways to reward good behavior. Many horse owners steer away from using this type of reward as they believe their horses could develop unwanted behaviors such as barging or nipping.
When using food as a reward for teaching horses this does not happen as the horse has to ‘earn’ the reward and if unwanted behaviors are not rewarded they will not develop. As always, the timing of the reward must be very precise to prevent unwanted behaviors. Using a noise, such as a clicker, as a bridging signal to mark the behavior you want is the best way to ensure your timing is right.
Food is not a bribe, I do not feel bribed when I get my pay at the end of a month’s work, I feel like I earned it!
How Clicker Training Works
Clicker Training was first started about 60 years ago by marine animal trainers who initially used whistles to communicate with dolphins – how did they get an animal that cannot be bridled to jump through a hoop?!
The research and lessons learned by the marine animal trainers can also be applied to teaching horses. Like all mammals, horses learn by associating things together. So if you want your horse and you to be properly prepared, stick to these rules.
It is the ability of the horse to pair events together that forms the basis of clicker training. The more the sound of the clicker is paired with a positive reward (food) the stronger the association in the horse’s mind.
For the horse, the reward has to be important enough and must vary. Offering small food rewards creates the idea of eating rather than the amount, therefore, they get seriously motivated! If you were to be given a large bar of chocolate every time you did something simple your enthusiasm would begin to dwindle but if you only got a little bit every time you would be motivated to do more.
Likewise, if you got the same chocolate every time, again you would be disheartened but if you didn’t know what was coming but you knew it was going to be good then again your motivation would be increased.
Using positive reinforcement gives you the advantage that the horse associates you with food and attention, not with unpleasant things.
We can also use things like scratching our horses as a reinforcement provided they are already enjoying a good scratch from their human partners. There is no point in using scratches for a horse who doesn’t like being groomed by us as it will be a punishment, not a reward!
Equine Sports Massage
A horse’s body is 60% MUSCLE! Have you ever seen your horse slip or stumble during turnout? Just as we can injure our muscles in everyday activity, so can horses! Even pleasure horses can have muscle soreness and/or spasms.
Equine Sports Massage can improve:
-Cold Backed & Girthiness
-Healing of Injuries & Swelling
*Equine Sports Massage is NOT a substitute for proper veterinary care!*
Sports massage is the only therapy specifically oriented to prepare a total body or an individual muscle for exercise.
But beware that while this is all-important, things like saddle-fitting shouldn’t be overlooked as well!
It produces a degree of freedom and ease of motion
beyond that which the body can achieve for itself.
Judicially applied it can never do harm – only do good.
It’s a basic that should be learned and not complicated.
The most valuable asset that any moving body can
have both for performance and protection is Free.
Take also a look at these Horse Stretching Exercises.