Pressure Free Behaviors
How do we get behaviors without any physical contact? When someone asks “how do I train…” your answers should fall under one of these. “I use this weight shift”, “Try pressing here”, “wave your stick like this”… and so on, are not appropriate answers in this group. If someone is asking how to train something on this group they’re looking for how to train it with positive reinforcement, not pressure/release (R-).

So what are the options?

Antecedent Arrangement – first and most important is arranging the environment to make the right answer as easy to stumble upon as possible. With the use of ground poles, targets, stations, mats, grass, other horses, fences, toys, anything you can think of, you can make it really obvious what behavior you want from the horse. I call Janneke Koekhoven the queen of Antecedent Arrangement, maybe she’ll share some photos of how she prepares things to make things easy for the horse.

Shaping – free shaping is what most people think of when they think of clicker training. This is where you mark and reinforce every incremental step towards the goal behavior. It’s pretty straight forward and you can create just about any behavior the horse is capable of doing. But this requires careful timing and careful increase of criteria to keep progress smooth, effective, and not frustrating for the learner. Increase the criteria on the behavior only as you’re sure they’re ready to take that next step.

Capturing – This is another typical thing people think of when they think of clicker training. This is as straight forward as clicking for when the horse does the goal behavior naturally. Like catching when the horse is lying down, rolling, sniffing the air, or anything! Just catch it often enough until the horse offers it and you can put it on cue. Except for this method we need to know when a horse does these behaviors naturally – like rolling after a bath or in a nice sandy area, or smelling the air when given an essential oil to smell. Use those antecedents to get those behaviors!!

Targeting – Using a target is one of my go-to favorite ways to get the behaviors I want. It’s quick and easy and my horses sort things out quickly. We can use a nose target to lure the horse into any position or into any movement. We can use body part targets to teach the horse to move different parts of themselves independently. And we can use stationary targets to teach the horse to stay still or send away from us.

With these methods at our disposal there’s no behavior you can’t teach and get on cue!