Here’s a video I found recently that I really like. The video is of a gal named Lindsey and her mustang Breezy. The horse is a mustang yearling who was captured in Nevada.
The video is titled “first 90 days of horse training.” Usually, when I find videos titled “the first x days of training,” the video is crammed full of everything the trainer rushed the horse through in too short of a time. As I’ve written about before, (see this post), I’m not a big fan of trainers who set time limits on training or make a competition out of how much they can get done in the shortest period of time. I like this video because it looks like this gal is spending a lot of time hanging out with the horse and developing a solid foundation and relationship, rather than rushing forward.
One of the parts of this video that I really like is the short part around ~1:55 when she uses scratches as a reinforcer after asking the horse to take a step over with her hind quarters. The trainer has pretty good timing and she switches to scratching as soon as she gets one step over. She has a light touch and is not using much pressure to ask the horse to step over.
Also, she knows exactly where to scratch and does a good job of scratching enough for the horse to enjoy it, but keeps it short enough to keep the training session going. Scratches can be a great reinforcer, but I’ve learned it does take some practice to get timing and delivery down, and she seems to have a good feel for this.
I often use food as a reinforcer when clicker training because it is convenient and easy–the horse can eat the treat quickly and then we can return to training. However, I think it’s really important to also think about and develop other reinforcers that can be used during training. Although most horses love working for treats, there are plenty of other things that horses like as well! What are your horse’s favorite non-food rewards? Have you found ways to effectively incorporate these into your training?