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John Lubbock


my horse stops when I click

Q: Ben, have just started positive reinforcement after 6 years of Parelli. What I want to know is, if I 'click' when I ask my pony to canter and he responds, how do I stop him from stopping dead and turning his head to me and ask for a treat? Which I want to give him but I would like him at least to canter a few strides first!! Help please.

This is a normal question I receive from people using one click one reward training. The click ends the behaviour hence the stop and the look for the reward aren’t horses smart?

The normal answer from a one click one treat trainer will be stretch the time before you give the click to make the horse work harder or longer for the reward, in this case more canter. Problem is most people struggle to do this very well and most horses on a one click one treat system, become frustrated when the reward doesn’t arrive when they expect and the behaviour breaks down, they start offering other behaviours in order to be reinforced. This is what makes it difficult for most owners to stretch the behaviours they want with one click one reward.

This is one of the reasons that Equine specific CT makes it easier to stretch duration behaviours. The click becomes a keep going signal, so you can use a variable schedule of between 1 and 5 clicks to mark the canter and then use reaching to your bum bag, or a different marker signal if you wish, most ridden horses soon pick up your movement to reach to the bum bag or lean forward as the terminal bridge. Make sure you also delay the reward between 1 – 8 seconds after the last click, this means the horse won’t just stop dead, they learn patience and to keep working because they can’t predict when the reward is coming. This also prevents the brain reward spike which leads to frustration is not completed.

So although this sounds a plug, which it is not, but if you want to remove this behaviour of stopping then my advice would be to, read The Art and Since of Clicker Training for Horses and switch to using Equine specific Clicker training. This will also allowed you to phase the clicker out and increase your reward schedule.


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