Shopping Basket
Your shopping basket is empty
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
Quote Mark

Albert Einstein


Why not recommend CT

CT is just positive reinforcement with the addition of improved timing through the use of a marker signal. As you are aware there is no magic bullet or one size fits all, yet so many trainers advocate CT in this way. This is why I wrote my book on CT which explains all this in greater detail.

Positive reinforcement still needs the trainer to understand and use the science of behaviour effectively, shaping, stretching the comfort zones, understanding the causes of behaviour, timing, systematic desensitization etc etc For me CT is a simple tool to help equines understand the association between a behaviour and a later arrival of a food reward, this tool should be phased out very quickly and can be removed as the animal understands what is required of it.

Positive reinforcement especially the use of food rewards can be incredibly motivating for equines so much so that that they can become increasingly demanding in the search for rewards. As I said on the phone the common approach of one click one reward training of equines I have found often creates problems with increased food aggression, impatience, pushiness. As you indicated your horse already has some issues in this area, highly motivated by food, pushy and excited by food in field, I felt that due to you being new to +PR with a horse displaying these behaviours there is a potential risk that these behaviours could become worse unless your timing and knowledge of the use of food reward and CT was much greater than it currently is. This is not something I would want to happen as it would be very damaging to your relationship. I do meet many horse owners that have started with CT and had limited success or at worse created aggressive horses due to mis-timing.

Also as this is a relationship problem, my personal experience and belief is that CT is so motivating that it produces a false relationship in some circumstances. A bit like a child at school giving sweets away to buy friends, all good until the chips are down then the "friends" desert. Again these are what I term limitations, you can, with the right horse, right owner experience and knowledge, right problem and  environment use CT with a new horse and it does not create a false relationship. As you want to really know and trust your horse and given your calm steady approach so far I believe that the using CT at this moment will not enhance the relationship.

You also have to ask does an owner need to add this increased layer of complication to their training and interaction with their horse. You are new to it so having to learn about clicker, bumbags, food rewards target stick etc at the same time you are also trying to teach the same thing to your horse, in my opinion can make matters worse. From your description of the problem and yourself, having lost confidence, my conclusion that keeping things as simple as possible would be best.

I am an advocate of +PR and clicker training but I also work foremost with the science of behaviour which means I look a the big picture of behaviour, both horse and human, environment etc etc  Hence I do not always advocate CT. as I said my feeling was that where you are now and with your goals as they are , it would be best to follow a program of positive reinforcement using scratches, shaping and expanding the comfort zones, as this would be easiest for you to learn and work with and would provide the results that you require. Then with your increased experience and your horse in a different place in terms of his behaviour CT might be something you would consider again.

I also use a different approach to CT that I believe is more equine specific and eliminates the problems that one click one reward training can create in some equines. I won't go in to the differences here, there are set out in my CT book with I wrote to encourage CT but also to protect the method from people who tried one click one reward and it didn't work for them due to incorrect application who of course then blamed the method rather than their application

Too many trainers advocate CT in all situations with all horses and people yet the criticism of other methods of training such as Monty Roberts and Parelli is that they don't take each animal and environment etc into account and there is no magic bullet.

So taking all these factors into account I felt safest to advise not using CT at the moment believing that you will be able to achieve all that you need without it but still using +PR. As I said it is not that we couldn't use it but on reflection the risks were to great to risk your success.  

This really is a debate that is currently raging in the positive reinforcement world, essentially, just because it is positive reinforcement does the animal always perceive it as positive and should it be advocated in every situation?  

perhaps if I were to meet you and observe you with your horse, timing, shaping steps etc I might find that with some additional tuition you could do CT now, but I think keeping things simple is best, so why add pressure to your situation. you have time to do some reading and ask some questions like you have done here, then you will be able to make up you own mind of what you want to do and what is best for your horse. I am not a trainer who advocates an approach just because I like it I try always to fit what is best with the horse/owner combination. 

[ View All Thoughts ]