What Skills Do My Horse and I Need to Start the Program?
This program assumes that you and horse have some basis skills:
*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 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.