Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Clicking to Save My Reins

Clicking to Save My Reins

Cole has one very bad habit that is making me crazy—and ruining my reins. He likes to grab at the rein whenever he can. I yell at him and pull it out of his mouth to no avail. I use rope reins, so they can take a lot of abuse. They have reached the stage where I need new reins. I decided I needed to do something before he wrecked another pair.

Since clicker training has been so useful in the past, I figured I would try it again. The question is, “Can you teach a horse to not do something with a clicker?” I click when he does something I want him to do. I wanted him to do nothing.

I started clicking him when I was preparing to mount for not messing with the reins. It would work when I was actively working on it, but as soon as we went to do something else, he would grab the rein. I think he was interpreting it as “I will get a click if I hold my head still.” That was a good thing to do, but it didn’t actually teach him to leave the reins alone.

After about a week, I came up with something new. The one time when he always, always tries to get the reins was when I would put them over his head. I spent a couple of minutes before and after my ride putting the reins over his head. Of course, he grabbed at them. Finally, one time he didn’t. (I helped by keeping them as far away from his mouth as possible.) I clicked and treated. From there, he went to grabbing it about half the time, then a quarter of the time and then hardly at all. If he moved at all to grab the rein—no click. If he left them alone—click.

The next day, after our ride, I had a handful of carrot slivers left, and I used them all on this lesson. Not once did he grab the reins. I made it tougher for him by going slower or holding the rein by his mouth to tempt him. It didn’t matter. My little genius knew he should leave the reins alone. He was able to learn to do nothing with the help of a clicker—and in just 2 short lessons. Why didn’t I do this a year ago?

I will continue reinforcing a lot for the next week or so, and then I will fade it off and use verbal praise instead. Then I will buy some new reins.


Amy B said...

What a fantastic idea! I've never tried clicker training before, but those are some really impressive results!

~Allison said...

Wow! My horse takes really well to clicker training, too. But so far, I have only done tricks and desensitization stuff. Very effective.

Good job on figuring out how to get him to stop messing with the reins!

Anonymous said...

I am a proud owner of Arabians and fell in love with them at an early age. Horses were put on earth to make us happy! Take care of them.

achieve1dream said...

That is so smart!! You are sooo creative!!

Chrome sometimes grabs his halter noseband when I put it on. I'll admit I laughed . . . never thought how annoying of a habit that could be lol. Thanks to you though I now have another tool for my tool box if it comes up. :D