equine clicker training

using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people

Measuring our Progress

By Melissa M.

This was originally posted to the clickryder list when the author was reflecting upon how far she and her mare had come. I asked her if I could post it here as it is a great list example of how all those little things add up, as well as a good list of things to do in preparation for starting a horse under saddle. Some people worry that clicker training seems to take so long as you have to break everything down into little steps. But look at how much you can do if you keep working away at it.

I’ve been thinking lately that its been just about a year since Ruby came to me. (The piles of snow reminded me…) She came as a naive, opinionated, pushy, bargy, somewhat nerve wracking 2 year old. She knew nearly nothing. She didn’t lead (if you weren’t already going where she wanted to go). She knew nothing of moving away from pressure. This usually became most obvious when she was about to run over you, and you couldn’t get her to consider moving over or back. She’d never done anything but stand in a field, and every now and then, she was walked 50 ft to the barn. She came as a very smart, cute, feisty filly with an opinion on everything. Her favorite default.html behavior was rearing. Too much pressure, up she went. If she didn’t want to go left when you did, up she went. (I too started to get desensitized to rearing…) She knew nothing of manners. I took up clicker training about 2 weeks after she arrived. And in the past year she’s learned:

Head down (rein cue, and hand gesture cue)
Backing off light cues (a couple different ones)
Leading, leading, leading (on and off lead – still working on the off lead stuff)
Bridling herself, haltering herself, standing with head down for saddling
Lunging – halt/walk/trot/ canter (we’ve put ‘canter’ aside – not quite ready for it, but almost)
Free lunging walk/trot/halt/back/reverse direction (still perfecting…)
Elementary long lining
Fetching (a work in progress)
Lifting all four feet nicely
Duct tape lessons (still working on getting her to move hips *toward* me when I cue the opposite hip…)
Touch my hand/touch the goblin (running out of things she thinks are scary)
Posing (still tweeking…learning ears forward)
Cross tying
Standing quietly at mounting block/lining herself up when loose at the mounting block
Go forward from leg cue (halt to walk, walk to trot)
Give to the bit (single rein riding – still a work in progress, but what great work she’s done so far)
Backing up while mounted (sometimes sticky, sometimes very fluid)
Put front feet on pedestal
Lateral work in hand
How to stand for the hose/bathing/vacuuming
How to (almost) worm yourself (She doesn’t push the plunger…)
Stick your head in your bucket and keep it there
Come from across arena to hand target
Stand to have fleece cooler slogged all over body and eventually put on
Front feet on pedestal and pose
Four-on-the-floor virtually all the time (!)

On days that I’m feeling frustrated, or that I’m not making progress fast
enough, or that the people around me can do more with their horses, I just
look at the before and after photos in my head, and smile.

Thanks for letting me share them.

Melissa and Ruby the magnificent