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Where is his birdie and how do I fix it?
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Tammy 2
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:35 am
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Leah,

There is a part in the Birdie Book that shows different horses expressions.  Eyes, nose, ears, etc. in different situations.  The look can be subtle but when you learn to see, you can tell if a horse is in pain. 

I am sure you will love looking through those.

Also, don't feel too bad about the mistakes you have made as, we ALL have.  But, how else do you learn ?  If you look at the True Unity write up again that I had mentioned earlier, it goes into how you should not be afraid to experiment different things with your horse, and not be afraid to do so.....can't remember the exact wording but it is just like a science experiment.....do it, observe, compare and remember and learn from you horse !!  They are all a bit different.

I try not to feel bad about what I have done in the past but look to the new lessons we are learning now, wow, incredible stuff.

Tammy

 

 

 

Leah
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:44 am
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Thank you Tammy-I will be sure to invest good time with those!

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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:01 pm
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Thanks Mac for clarifying! Negative reinforcement CAN be powerful, but it means first the application of an aversive -- so that it can be taken away. If your relationship with your horse is already rocky, I would not introduce aversives. Especially since you will be activating avoidance, which horses are so good at anyway!

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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:12 pm
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Elynne, I do see your point. After all most horses don't have a limited food source like zoo animals and dogs. So the food treats require some manipulation to become valuable. But positive dog trainers have heard this excuse for years (the dog is 'too' focused on the food) and it is frankly hogwash. That's why the clicker is used. The animals focus on the click (or the word if you prefer to use a word) then eventually on the cue because the cue (eg. stand) ITSELF becomes associated with pleasure. Therefore, there can be no tension in any trained behaviour because the horse will love doing it. If a killer whale was focused on the food only, he would just take it LOL!
Conditioned reinforcement training properly can take some time to really internalize, but the science behind it is so rock solid that one can learn it purely systematically, therefore anyone can do it. It doesn't take any longer than learning how to read equine body language so that you understand where your horse is mentally.
I am not saying that negative reinforcement is "bad". Since that is what riding cues are based on (leg squeeze etc) the horse and rider do need to learn to communicate in this way. However, where there is tension and miscommunication in the relationship, positive reinforcement can give the horse 'control' (over the click) and add confidence and fun to the equation.
Does that make sense?

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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:23 pm
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Tutora said: The reason I concluded my habit of giving him a treat for ground tying at tack up time was part of the problem is because I know Panther was a very open hearted pony. Had he not accepted the discomfort while he was first girthed up in order to earn a treat, he'd have politely complained at the beginning of the offense, rather than quietly suffering though the saddling. 

Hm. Doubtful, because the problem didn't occur until you were in the saddle and moving. So, the one didn't really have anything to do with the other. And even if he did feel a pinch at saddling, he ignored it because he felt good about the saddling procedure. How many horses put up with discomfort all the time, because its just not important enough to worry about?? Glad to hear you found the problem though. When a symptom like that shows up *suddenly* I always suspect pain or discomfort. Horses don't become "evasive" or "stubborn" out of the blue. (I put them in quotes because they are human terms describing actions not what is going on the horse's mind, although we can forget that LOL!) I hope that answers your question too Leah about how to know what the cause is for a problem.

Carey
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 03:52 pm
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This is slighltly off topic but-  I have a horse that turns and bites your foot when you put it in the stirrup to get on.  I've been trying figure it out.  I got a little guilty of giving her a cookie when I get on, because then she is too busy eating the cookie to bite my foot-  which I know is not a good solution.
She is good about saddling- and I have tried numerous saddles on her everything from a relatively light weight western saddle to a dressage to a treeless and it happens with all of them.  SO I think it is my foot being there that bothers her- because I can jump on her bareback and she stands fine for that.  Any thoughts on that?  I have even tried mounting from the off side which used to work but she will turn and bite me on the left side also-  She will rethink biting me if I send her a sharp glance, but sometimes my timing is off.   I can't seem to figure if it is because some thing is bothering her or if she is just being a brat- which she is a major brat in her personality- or it could be my mounting technique- but I have tried messing with that also.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 04:45 pm
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Could just be a habit she has formed. I suspect preventing it by changing the process might help. Try mounting from the other side maybe??

hurleycane
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 06:05 pm
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Put your foot in the stirrup and hold your pointed finger so that his muzzle bumps your finger as the face comes for your foot.  It will be poked and it will be his own doing that stops him. 

Or, take up the off rein?

Last edited on Wed Nov 5th, 2008 06:06 pm by hurleycane

Tutora
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 06:31 pm
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Hi Sunnyriot- Thanks for your reply. I think we're sort of talking past each other, though. I do think positive reinforcement training is more ethical than much of the traditional negative reinforcement training: when people treat other people the way the majority of horse trainers treat horses ("Perform this and your  'reward'  is I won't pressure you further") it has another name--slavery. In once sense, I'm no beginner with horses-- I've started a bunch of them under saddle and the ones I started who were mine became reliable horses. And as I said, I did have a pretty in depth "wet lab" as well as theoretical understanding of clicker training over the course of 7 years. So I'm not speaking out of ignorance or inexperience when I say there's a reason I started over as a beginner again with ideas from Dr. Deb and the like. What I was doing before was working quite well; this stuff is even more considerate of the horse, though, in my agenda-less observation. Nota bene, I'm sincerely not judging you as someone with an agenda (I actually rather like the fact that you take the time to think through horse training.) I'm simply referring to myself as agenda-less because I'm free to go back to what I was doing before. I'm not going to, though, because the horses themselves have confirmed they prefer this way. By no means do I think clicker training is worthless--but if there's something ever better in the horse's own estimation, isn't it worth a genuine try?  I do need to say, it seems I could have originally been clearer--Panther was a thin-skinned pony with Arab/Welsh/App blood. Believe me, without a treat he would have told me of his discomfort right off the bat  (at girthing) and that would have made my detective work easier.      With regard, Elynne    

Last edited on Wed Nov 5th, 2008 06:54 pm by Tutora

sunnyriot
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 06:49 pm
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That is certainly a possibility and of course we risk misunderstanding the situation completely when we are not present ourselves to observe the horse or exactly what the human is doing -- or not doing LOL! And, of course, I can't know what your skill level is with either method.
As a prey species, horses will tend to react appropriately to avoid pressure (more so than predators such as killer whales, dolphins and dogs), so you may be right that it is more suitable to the horse -- I will ask a friend who trains her horses using both R+ and R- for her observations.
The only reason I suggested trying R+ (adding something pleasurable rather than removing discomfort) is for those less than comfortable horses mentioned in this thread and elsewhere. It is the giving of the discomfort no matter how emotionlessly it is applied that may be hindering the building of trust. Plus, when you are using R+, you are also (inadvertantly) applying Pavlovian (classical) conditioning. In other words, the horse starts to feel better about the situation. That just might help the horse become more accepting of human presence. Just a thought I threw out there to consider.
Keep talking though -- this is good stuff for me to work through!

Tutora
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 07:47 pm
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No argument from me, Sunnyriot. Like you, I think the reasons some horse people give for not using food treats are based on fuzzy thinking, their own poor timing, or lack of imagination about how to utilize all ethical means of communication. However, I do think there's an inherent flaw in clicker training with horses. Though I think anthropomorphological analogies often do a dis-service to horses, the best way I can think to express my concern is this: Horses are masters at outwardly conforming to our requests -as Apples (I think, sorry if I'm wrong) said earlier, as prey animals they have an interest in looking cool (healthy, strong, and confident) on the outside. Getting or anticipating a food treat can cause them to mask their real feelings, too. I'm looking for a more mask-less (or armor-less, or callous-less) degree of communication with my horses.   Holy Cow! No more daytime computer for me, I'm burning the ever shortening daylight.

Tammy 2
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 Posted: Wed Nov 5th, 2008 08:34 pm
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Just a question here and this is not to step on anyone but is my thoughts and opinions. 

If you reward with food treats, how do you reward your horse under saddle ?  There are so many instances that you need to reward every little try.  My horse would weigh 5000 pounds !!   I just don't see it.  And I agree with Tutora, I feel that food treats can "muddy" what the horses actual reaction may be if the food was not there.

If you do use food treats or even clicker on the ground, does that not confuse your horse under saddle to be using another method of reward ?  Do you use clicker undersaddle as well ? 

Pressure and release I think is hands down your most effective tool and one that the horse can really understand on the ground AND undersaddle.  Also you can then strive to make it so that the pressure is so light that it almost disappears, which in turn creates lightness.  I don't think you can make a "click" light.  It remains the same always.

I think there is a HUGE difference between someone, say, performing a dog show and having to give a treat after each trick OR teaching the dog without using food and the dog willingly doing all that is asked.  That is an amazingly great teacher and a wonderful partnership.   

Tammy

 

leca
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 Posted: Thu Nov 6th, 2008 01:37 am
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Interesting discussion.  

Horses are prey animals so their ok-ness is based on them feeling safe and comfortable, giving food treats is not going to make them feel safe, in fact they would rather go hungry and be safe, than be well fed and feel unsafe. So negative reinforcement seems to work best as its a 'feel safe'.  It seems to me that horses are all for comfort before pleasure.  Because for them to feel pleasure they have to be comfortable or 100%ok first

Dogs are predators whose survival is based on hunting food so using food to train them works really well.  So positive reinforcement is best as its 'hunting food'.  

I dont think you can compare the training of predators to the training of prey.

The subject of 'evasion' is one I must look into further.  If a horse is not being evasive what is it being?  Obviously not ok, not feeling safe and not understanding what we ask.  Is that the answer?  The horse just simply doesnt understand the instruction.  OOOPs that means its my problem then doesnt it.  *hangs head* back to the drawing board

AdamTill
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 Posted: Thu Nov 6th, 2008 02:01 am
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Tammy - giving treats under saddle works fine...been doing that myself for years. Stopping to reward just gives another opportunity to reestablish whatever was working well enough to reward in the first place.

Rewards don't always have to be treats as well. Moving in a balanced way is often a reward in an of itself.

thegirlwholoveshorses
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 Posted: Thu Nov 6th, 2008 02:17 am
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There is some good discussion on the "clicker training" thread from last year, which has some input from Dr. Deb on it.


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