Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Clicker Convert?

A Clicker Convert?

I was riding Cole Train in the arena, when one of the boarders that I haven’t seen for a while showed up. She has been working different hours than she used to and was coming out to the barn when I wasn’t there. Consequently, she hadn’t seen Cole’s new dance steps. I showed them to her—how he can do them in the saddle or on the ground, and she just laughed and laughed. He is even learning to cross his leg over when I cross my leg over—and of course he performs in a very dramatic way. I swear by the way he seems to show off, that he likes when he has an audience. I would even click him, and it would take him a few more steps before he stopped for his treat.

I told her that once he volunteered the step the first day and I clicked him, it only took about five minutes and he was doing it consistently. She said that her horse couldn’t learn anything in five minutes. My response, “Wanna bet?”

She wanted to lounge her horse first, so I went to clean our stalls. When I finished, she was ready. I told her to cut her carrots in small pieces, and I went to grab the clicker. (Cole doesn’t need a clicker because he has learned the tongue click.) I also grabbed a towel.

I told my friend that we were going to teach her horse to touch the towel. Her husband peeked in and asked her if she was only going to be another five or ten minutes. She laughed and replied, “I guess so. She says that’s all it will take.”

This mare had had no exposure to clicker training in the past. I spent about a minute to charge up the clicker. Once she knew a click meant a treat, I put the towel near her face. She touched it out of curiosity, I clicked and treated. It took another minute of her inconsistently touching it and getting clicked and then I saw that “look.” It is the look I have seen before when the light bulb goes off in an animal’s head—the connection is made. She knew that she could do something to make me click and treat her. Within only 3 minutes, she was deliberately touching the towel to get clicked. It didn’t matter where I put the towel, including on the ground. Her owner was amazed.

Then I pointed to the ground, and her mare put her head down. One click and I captured that behavior. She did it each time I asked. Now, her owner was shocked. She saw it was in the timing. She realized the consistent tone of the clicker marked the behavior. During my demonstration, I didn’t just teach a horse the basics of clicker training, I taught her owner, too.

I told her how you can teach a horse anything with a clicker. If there is a problem in her current training, it could help her solve it. I also told her that clickers are cheap. If it didn’t work for her, she wouldn’t be out much at all. And when she is done with her horse, she could use it with her dog. Then, she really laughed. It makes me wonder what her dog is like?

I told her where she could buy a clicker, and I think she might do it. She works a lot of hours and often doesn’t have much time for her horse. Most of the time, she just does ground work. Clicker training would be a perfect fit for them. I hope she follows through. Cole Train may not be the only dancing horse at our barn.


~Allison said...

I love that "look" when they finally get it!
I use clicker training (mostly for tricks, but trying it on mounting lock behaviors) with Shy and it is amazing how fast she learns stuff.
We play the touch game and she loves it! We walk around the barn and I ask her to touch all kinds of different things. Sometimes she is not sure, but after she touches and I click and treat, she goes back to touch it again like, I did it!

achieve1dream said...

Sweet!! That's awesome. I really hope she tries it out. I wish I could convert some people, but I'm never around their animals (or they don't have any) so it's impossible to show them how easy their animal can learn. Sure they are impressed when I do it with Chrome, but I think it makes more of an impression when it's their pet. Oh well. Maybe someday. Good job!