equine clicker training

using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people

What can I train? X is for …

What can you do with clicker training? Sometimes we are limited by traditional thinking or just need some new ideas. In this A to Z series, I’ll be sharing ideas for things to train. I’ve trained some, but not all of them, and will share links to resources for more information whenever possible. I hope this list inspires you and you can’t wait to go out and teach some new behaviors to your horses.

I’ll be adding to these posts over time when I have time and new material to share. In some cases, I have intentionally been brief because the topic cannot be covered appropriately in this format, but I wanted to mention it so you have more complete list of ideas for things to work on. If there is a topic that interests you, and you would like more information, let me know and I will consider writing a more detailed article on the subject.

If you have a suggestion for an addition to this page, would like to share a photo, or add a comment, please send me a message.

contents: x-rays


x-rays

This is an older picture of Red standing on an x-ray box. I’ve had tons of x-rays taken since then, but didn’t think to take a picture. Anyway, it’s very easy to teach a horse to stand still for an x-ray, whether it’s on a box, blocks, or just holding still while the plate is positioned next to the leg. Poor Buster had to get his head x-rayed. He was sedated for the process but I suspect you could clicker train a horse to do this. The challenge would be that he can’t chew while the x-rays are taken.

If your horse has never been x-rayed, there are some component behaviors that you will want to have in place. Here are some of the ones I teach:

  • standing still
  • standing square
  • allowing me to position a leg and keeping it in that location – sometimes I will need to position a leg a certain way for the x-ray. Other times I need to have the horse adjust the opposite leg so the plate can be positioned for the leg being examined.
  • standing on an x-ray box. In the picture above, the vet it taking an x-ray from below and Red needed to stand on top of the box – which is very similar to a raised mat.
  • My vet also sometimes uses two smaller blocks (one for each foot) and wants the horse to put one foot on each block. This is easy if you have done matwork, and even easier if you have taught your horse to put each foot on an individual mat.
  • standing still while someone moves around and positions the equipment. You can practice approximations of this by getting a friend to pretend to be the vet and using a piece of cardboard so the horse gets used to a rectangular object being held near or between his legs.

Tip: When I teach hoof handling, I always teach the horse to let me place the leg down where I want it. This is something we practice daily and it gives me the ability to place the leg in different locations relative to the horse’s body. I’ve found the clearest way to communicate that I care about the position, and am not just returning the leg to the ground, is to place the foot down in a specific way.

What has worked for me is to place the foot down toe first and click if the horse finishes placing the foot on the ground without moving it. If he picks it up and places it elsewhere, I pick it back up and try again – maybe in a slightly different location if I think I might have picked a location that was too far forward or back. I may have to break this process down into several steps, first teaching the horse to let me place the foot toe first and experimenting with different positions. Over time, the horse will let me position the foot at various points on an imaginary half circle (I don’t go medial) around his normal standing position.

Here are a few stills from a training session working on this:

I didn’t include every repetition. After each click, she was allowed to place her foot back down. I fed her after I placed her foot down, but you can feed while the foot is up if that makes it clearer to the horse. If I feed with the foot up, I will still let the horse place the foot down every few repetitions so she gets a break.


If you have a suggestion for an addition to this page, would like to share a photo, or add a comment, please send me a message.


If you want to learn more about clicker training, check out my book, Teaching Horses with Positive Reinforcement, available from Amazon.

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