Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Steps to Train a Horse to Accepting Eye Drops or Ointment

The topic of training horses to be comfortable with routine tasks that must be done by a veterinarian came up on a facebook page I am on. We were asked to create a training plan for one of the many vetting tasks that horses need to be comfortable with. You can use shaping (where the horse willing moves towards the object as in receiving an injection), systematic desensitization (teaching the horse that what they perceive as a threat is a non-issue) and counter conditioning (horse learns to feel good about doing the behavior that they previously have negative feelings about) for any behavior. Below, I outline the steps needed as an example. Word has it, that if a horse is easy to handle, the veterinarian will come much more quickly and willingly (and may even charge less for the visit because it takes less time and is less dangerous).

Giving Eye Medications

Goal: Horse stands still for one minute with head at a height that is confortable for veterinarian to place eye medication in each eye and clean excess off.

Here are the objective behaviors at each level:
Horse stands still for 30 seconds with person standing on each side of head
Horse stands still with head held at required height for 30 seconds on each side
Desensitize horse to having hand come closer and closer to eye (start far away and move incrementally closer and retreat hand between each pass. c/t for staying calm, no flinching etc)
Repeat for other eye
Desensitize horse to clean finger gently touching both corners of both eyes with no flinching. (work your way touching from cheek & neck towards eye)
Desensitize horse to having eye drop bottle (or ointment tube) come closer and closer to eye (no contact though, as this contaminates the bottle tip) from several practical angles.
Put above behaviors together two by two, then in threes, etc until entire process is complete
Add a cue (to prepare horse for procedure)
Desensitize horse to tissue or cloth being rubbed around eyes (for excess goop)
Retrain from beginning with several strangers

A tip: warm up the drops or tube to body temp (with your hands) before applying. Horse will accept this better than cold drops or ointment.

Also if an ointment is used, if may be safer if you apply the ointment to your clean finger tip, then apply it to horse from there. There have been eye injuries sustained when the tip was applied directly to the eye.

What other routine veterinary procedures would it be helpful to train your horse to willingly do?

Internasal injections
Opening mouth (for tooth insopection, tubing etc)
Hoof clipping
Soaking feet in a bucket for infection

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ground Work Part C

Ground Work Part C
Training ChartLevel 1Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Continuing ed
HomeworkExplain how you can use distance to help a fearful horseExplain what arousal is in horses and 5 behaviors that tells you your horse is in a state of high level of arousal.Make a list of all the reinforces you can think of for your horse and prioritize themnoneList 3 worst behaviors of your own horse and how you plan on improving themnone
m) BackingBacking 10 steps with you and a friend standing in front, 2 cuesBacking 3 steps with you and friend standing behind horse, 1 cueBacking while 4 people stand beside horseBacking into a narrow channel or small enclosureBacks 3 steps while saddled, 2 cuesnone
n) Cavaletti Step over pole on ground, no cueStep over jump raised 6 inches, body cue only, Jump over 3 different types of jumps on raised 18 inches, 1 cue each, c/t for each jumpJump over winged bar jump raised over 18 inches, 1 cueJump over 18 inch blind jump, 1 cueKeep varying the appearance of the jump, (such as half barrel and full barrel on side) increase the height and add other jumps one at a time at least 2 horse lengths apart. Add stepping over through and onto other obstacles, including water
o) Collection (weight on hide legs while moving)Riding out-head and neck free, straight lineRide a 60 foot diameter circle with head and neck freeCapture back end thrusts while riding up slopeFlexion of poll with relaxed headMove forward 10 paces with collected back end, flexion of poll, relaxed head, head and neck free on level ground.Add distance
p) ComeTurns head towards you voluntarilyReturns to you on 2 cues from 10 feet away in small enclosure no larger than 60 feet diameter, no distractionscomes from 50 feet away in pen 100 feet or larger, 2 cues, 1 mild distractionComes away from feed trough 100 feet away, one cueComes from 100 yards away through lush grass and away from horse buddies, two cuesComes from further away, more distractions, different locations
q) DirectionalsLeft right in front of horse two cuesLeft right in front of horse one cueLeft right from lead position on right and leftHorse turns left when one cue given from behindHorse turns right when one cue is given from behindHorse turns right, then left when you use long lines as cue from behind horse
r) DistanceAround a garbage can, 2 Q'sAround a post 10 feet, 1 cueAround a post 30 feet, 1 cueAround a large object 50 feet away 1 cueAround 2 barrels situated 30 feet apartIncrease distance and vary the objects you send the horse around.
s) Gate zenStands calmly on inside of open gate for 1 minute, 2 cuesStands calmly until cued to go through gate. Turns back to handler after being cued to exit open gate.Stands calmly on outside of open gate for 30 seconds, 2 cuesStands calmly for 30 seconds, goes through gate on cue, turns back to handler. Goes back through gate, turns back to handler and allows handler to close gate.Same as level 4 but with 2 distractionsContinue adding distractions.
t) Ground DrivingAccepts Shoulder or HarnessDrags light pole in a straight line for 20 feet with 2 cuesDrags heavy pole 50 feet 2 cuesDrags noisy light load with a left and a right turn in 100 feet, as many cues as neededDrags noisy heavy load through 200 foot obstacle course, as many cues as neededAdd distance, distractions, progress to carting
u) HandlingAccepts blanket or rugCalmly accepts eye medications given by drops or ointmentStands with foot in bucket of water for 5 minutes, 2 cuesCalmly allows farrier to clean and trim all 4 feetCalmly allows veterinarian to examine ears, eyes, mouth, feet, & give innoculationsAllows vet to take rectal temperature, give internasal vaccines, give oral medication etc.
v) Lunging (Circling)Follows a target stick in a 6 foot 360 degree circle around you on lead at a walkCircles you on a 12 foot lunge line, at a walk no stick, two cuesCircles on a 30 foot lunge line, at a trot as many cues as neededCircles on a 30 foot lunge line, at a trot, slows on cue and changes direction by turning into you and trots again. Changes direction again. Repeat. As many cues as needed.As level 4 but 3 complete circles, adding speed, slowing and stops. As many cues as needed. Add distractions, speed changes, duration
w) MovementTrot 2 cuesLope 2 cuesSwitching between 2 speedsSwitching between stop, walk, trot and lope in all combinations.nonenone
x) On the RoadnonenoneLevel 1 Part A & B away from home 5 new locationsLevel 2 Part A & B away from home 5 new locationsLevel 3 Part A & B away from home 5 new locationsLevel 4 & 5 Part A & B away from home 5 locations
y) Rein Horse calmly accepts reins attached to sides of halter and placed over neckHorse calmly accepts reins thrown over horse's headHorse walking 50 feet straight with reins attached to halter over neckHorse responds to light physical cue to turn left, the right on long line from behind horseHorse responds to long line cue held by handler walking behind horse for 200 feet, making 3 repetitions of alternating right and left turnsnone
z) RetrievenoneNose target 5 safe objects 1 cue eachHold 3 objects in mouth one at a timePick up 3 objects from groundRetrieve 3 objects from 10 feet awayPick up 1 object off ground and give to rider in saddle
aa) SaddlenoneBlanket on backBlanket, small saddle with stirrupsAccept full saddle to placed on and cinched up, saddle the only cue Accept rider's full weight sitting on saddle, stepping stirrup (stepping on stirrups only first, then more)Go on to In Saddle Work
bb) Side passing (side step)noneFront end side step 2 steps, 2 cuesBack end side step 2 steps, 1 cueBoth front and back end side step 4 stepsHorse sidesteps in opposite directionContinue adding number of steps and mix with forward , then backward movement
cc) TraileringWalks across plywood sheet no cuesSteps onto plywood sheet laying on packing crates (raised 4 inches off ground), 2 cuesSteps up into trailer (all windows and doors open) and is led throughStep into and stand in open trailer for 30 seconds, 2 cuesStand in closed trailer for two minutesAdd start and stop, movement for 30 seconds on upwards and increase duration slowly. Load with a buddy, load with a unfamiliar horse. May also be used to teach a horse that has never been in a small space.
dd) TricknoneCaptured trickShaped trickSeries of 3 tricks, one cue per trick, one reward for series of 3 tricksSequence of 7 tricks, one cue per trick and one reward for whole seriesContinue chaining more behaviors together (might be a series of jumps or obstacles etc)

Groundwork Part B

Ground Work Part B
Training ChartLevel 1Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Continuing ed
Homework5 things you hope to accomplish by training with the levels programDescribe 4 legs of OC plus Extinction, define reinforce and punish10 reasons a horse might not perfrom a behaviorDefine default behavior and how to achieve itResearch the meaning of systematic desensitization and counter conditioning
f) Accepting Strangersstranger stroking and feedingstranger directing back up (carrying large light object)stranger dressed on odd clothing grooming horsestranger picking up feet, looking in mouthgroup of 5 strangers walking around horseContinue to introduce new people of all sizes to your horse, add sounds, speed of movement
g) DistractionsStand calmly as car or motorbike passesWalk calmly as bicycle passesWalk past a herd of cows or deerStays calm in presence of tarps flapping in the windSuccessfully learns 2 simple behaviors from Part A while in while in presence of a medium level distraction (for your horse)Practice with large farm machinery, goats, known dogs, kids running and yelling, strange dogs running out at you etc.
h) Following on loose lead Releases light pressure on lead rope, no cueTakes 10 steps with no pressure from lead rope, 1 cueLeads off handler left side with loose lead rope for 50 feet, 1 cueLeads off handler right side with loose lead for 50 feet, 1 cueFollows handler in figure 8 around 2 barrels placed 30 feet apart, 1 cue (repeat on right side)Set up obstacle course and walk horse around them asking for more obstacles and greater distances separately before combining. Walk through narrow channels. Train walking one person, two horses (one on each side). Speed changes, through dorrways and gates, in a tight circle.
i) Following off lead-libertyStands stationary with you for 30 seconds (halter optional)Takes 10 steps with you, cue you move forward or backLeads off handler left side for 50 feet, 1 cueLeads off handler right side for 50 feet, 1 cueFollows handler in figure 8 around 2 barrels placed 30 feet apart, 1 cue (repeat on right side)Add stepping backward at liberty
j) HandlingLift each foot on 1 cue, for 15 secondsCalmly accepts dewormer in mouth, delivered by youStands calmly as you hose down whole body incl legs and feet, all cuesMove hindquarters to side, 2 cues repeat with shoulderOpen mouth in front of stranger to look at teeth on 1 cueCalmly accepts sheath or udder cleaning
k) Starting and StoppingStarting 2 cuesWhoa 2 cuesHorse responds to alternating start and whoa cues at slow walk and fast walkStarting 1 cue (test 3 different cue options) Whoa 1 cue (test 3 different cue option)none
l) Stationary Stand Stand relaxed 2 cuesStand 10 seconds 2 cuesStand one minute Stand 15 min lead tied, 1 mild distraction, 20 feet awayStand 15 minutes lead dropped, 2 mild distractionsMore time, more locations, more distractions

Groundwork Part A Basic Behaviors

Groundwork Part A
Training Chart
Red text is linked to a training description
Level 1Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Continuing ed
HomeworkList of 3 food treats and 3 non-food reinforcers your horse enjoysList 5 behaviors you might observe if your horse is fearful or stressedList 5 behaviors your horse might do to indicate he is excited about trainingDescribe 5 behaviors that your horse does when interacting with other horsesDefine training threshold. List 3 behaviors your horse does when he is at his threshold.none
a) BackingBacks out of your personal space 2 cuesBacks 3 steps on 2 cues with trainer standing in frontBacks 10 steps with you stationary in front verbal cue only Backs 6 steps one cue you standing on left sideBacks 6 steps one cue you standing on right sidenone
b) Food zen (no mugging)Stay off treat in open hand 10 secondsHorse stays off treat pouch no matter where it is on your body for one minute, the presence of the pouch is the cue.Horse stays off a strangers hand for 30 seconds one cueKeep head up off fresh-picked grass on raised surface for 2 minutes no cuenonesee description for details
c) HalteringNose Targets halter, 2 cues

Horse stands with head down while you encircle your arms around his head, 2 cues

Horse stands for 30 seconds and puts head down while you place bitless halter on head, 2 cues (halter is one of them)

Horse eagerly nose targets halter 15 feet away, with 2 cues
Horse walks to you from 30 feet away targeting the halter, drops his head and stands still while you put it on with 1 cue
Add more distance and distractions
 as space permits
d) HandlingAllows hands on neck and shoulders, no cueshands rubbed all over body, incl head and ears, no cuesHorse nose targets 5 tools regularly used on him (brush, foot pick, hose etc)Allows wet cloth rubbed all over body and legs hosed off with cold waterHorse accepts 5 regularly used tools to be used on him in appropriate pressures and locations, tool and environment only cuesnone
e) Target Target nose to object one cueNose target end of stick from 5 feet away, 1 cueStand with both front feet on wood or rubber mat approx. 18 inches square 2 cues for 10 secondsNose Target 5 objects common to horse's environment, 2 cues each Nose targets 3 objects and foot targets 2 objects that horse showed some fear of one cue Roll balls, send out to objects for distance, teach object retrieval,overcome fear of animals etc  

What Skills Do My Horse & I Need to Start the Program?

What Skills Do My Horse and I Need to Start the Program?

This program assumes that you and horse have some basis skills:

Trainer needs:
*A basic ability to read your horse and know when he’s approaching his threshold for ability to focus, fear, arousal etc and know when it may become a seafety issue for you.
*Safety is the most important aspect when training a horse so plan your lessons accordingly and keep it in mind at all times. If the situation changes, be prepared to get yourself to safety and forget the lesson.
*You are comfortable around horses and are physically able to train the behaviors in the program or get help to do so.
*Be able to create a quiet and relatively distraction-free environment to train new behaviors. (corner of a barn, round pen etc)
*That you know at least 3 food rewards he enjoys and can tolerate without stomach upset and 2 other reinforcers such as neck scratch etc.

Horse Needs:
*Horse is comfortable around most people, other common animals in your environment and normal events in his stall, barn and paddock.
*Shows predictable, safe behaviors in the same environment.
*Can safely eat food from your hand.
*Is respectful of your personal space when in a pen with him (does not run into you or push you around).

Any of the above behaviors that are an issue with your horse need to be directly addressed first and made a priority. Call in professional help, if you don’t have the skills to address them yourself. Have your horse assessed to see if he is safe to work with. Find out his limitations and work within them.

What if My Horse Does Not Have all the Basic Skills?
If your horse does not have the skills listed above, it does not mean you cannot train him with this program, it just means you will have to take extra care in choosing the physical space you train in-one with a barrier such as a fence or gate between you and him, for example.

Also carefully choose which behaviors you start with. Any of the behaviors that can be taught from behind a fence are good ones to start with. As you train each behavior (while working on his other issues) and he becomes more comfortable with you and trusts you, and you feel that you are safe with him, you can progress carefully to training easy behaviors without physical barriers. These basic skills become the foundation for other behaviors.

The Clicker Training Levels Program for Horses has Three Groundwork parts A though C, and one Saddlework part. If you want to train a behavior in Part B but are not yet done all of Part A yet, you need to make sure that prerequisite behaviors have been trained from part A to the level you need them for part B behavior. This will be indicated in the description for each behavior. The same applies for Part C. Groundwork behaviors are taught before moving into the saddle (Part D). This is so your horse has a firm understand ing of the behaviors with you on the ground and speeds his learning (and your control) when you get in the saddle.

Should I Retrain all the Behaviors from Scratch?
You may find it valuable to train your horse all the behaviors from the beginning, even if he has been taught some or all of them using other methods. The more different ways you train a behavior, the better he will understand what you want and be able to perform them.

Working this process also allows you to learn how to make the best use of the clicker. Working through the entire process with at least one horse may also add to your training knowledge & experience as well. You may find that the clicker allows you to train to a higher level of precision in each behavior than your previous methods.

What If I want to Pick and Choose Behaviors to Train?
If your horse has some of the skills, but not others, you can choose to do only the behaviors he needs to learn. It is, however, a very good exercise to teach each behavior from the beginning as you will learn how to train that behavior using the clicker.

Choose a behavior and test your horse to see if he is able to do each level for that behavior and start training from his highest level of success. If you are going to do this option, it is recommended that you read all the previous levels for that behavior so you will know how to apply the training to other behaviors later on or do any remedial work should it be required.

How do I test to see if my horse knows the behaviors already?
Start with the first training session of the day (if you do more than one).

Get him set up for training (with clicker and trat pouch ready, quiet training environment) and cue the behavior as described. If he does it the first time you cue, he passes. If not, he needs more training at the previous level. Your can train him that day and test him cold the next dayif you are eager to move ahead in the levels. If you keep testing and he passes the second time, this becomes part of your training session. It's that simple.

Introduction to Horse Clicker Training Levels

Modeled after Sue Ailsby's Training Levels for Dogs (old version), this program provides a basic framework to train a horse foundation behaviors for life and sport.

It is designed to help the trainer learn how to train a horse using the clicker, as well as train the horse. You'll find that many of the behaviors at each level reinforce each other. For example there are several behaviors that focus on increasing duration at level 3. This helps the horse to learn the concept more easily as he is getting multiple exposures to that concept through various behaviors.

It is intended to be a starting point for horses to fill in any gaps in existing training foundation skills or to provide a framework for those new to clicker training. From here, you can advance and train in any discipline that you and your horse enjoy as you will have a good partnership with your horse and will know how to train almost any behavior you dream up and your horse will be a willing partner in the process. .

I make no claims in regards to the effectiveness of this program, nor claim any liability for its use. I am putting it out there as a framework of ideas for horse clicker trainers wanting some structure for their training. Use it how you want.

I found Sue's program incredibly useful for training my own dogs (who I have and plan to compete with in a variety of dog sports), foster dogs and even visiting dogs.

The program has 4 parts:
Groundwork Part A -basic behaviors to start with
Groundwork Part B-more complex behaviors to continue training
Groundwork Part C- higher level behaviors
Saddlework Part D-transitions groundwork behaviors into the saddle (as appropriate)

Each part has 5 levels plus continuing education.
Level 1 is an easy behavior to get, level two will take a few more steps. Level 3 and up will take many more training sessions to achieve and need to be broken down further into smaller steps as you train. Each level are (mostly) goals in the process of training a more complex behavior by level 5.

Homework section assures that you the trainer understand the concepts you are applying & Handling section ensures the horse is getting continuous exposure to being handled. That is why they are in all parts of groundwork.

Continuing Education offers ideas of how to generalize the behavior and apply the behaviors in real life.

On the Road means that you take your horse to a less familiar place to train that level.

Following this post is a quick summary of each behavior and the goals for each level in tabel form. These are simply goals for each level and are part of the development of each behavior. Links will be added over time to explain how to train to each goal for that level. Food Zen and Targeting have already been written up as examples.

At the moment, I am still evaluating the basic framework to ensure the program is practical and applicable to all horses, be they young, rescued or retired.   If you have suggestions or questions, please ask.

As any any good horseman knows, start with the groundwork, spend time perfecting behaviors on the ground and you will reap huge rewards when in the saddle. There are no short cuts in training, only re-training.

If you video tape your progress as you work through this and would like to let me know of a link to your video, I'd love to add them to the blog under each behavior training description. This would be a great to have this resource for everyone to see the training process as well as see the goal for each level.

In case you are wondering why I am doing this. I am helping my sister train her horse with the clicker and the process of designing a program from one species (dogs) to another (horses) helps me to see how the principles apply across the board. As a zoologist and teacher (who uses a form of clicker training with children (called TAG Teaching), this fascinates me!

I also like to promote humane reward-based training for all animals and would like to put this program forward as a tribute to Sue Ailsby who so freely shares her knowledge and skill of both dogs and clicker training by creating the original 'Training Levels' for dogs.

Donna Hill B.Sc. B.Ed. CHI
Nanaimo, BC Canada Nov. 2010