Training animal friendly

When training is about potentially unpleasant or even painful procedures and manipulations on the body of our animal, we have to be particularly attentive.

A good training plan helps to visualize the individual training steps, to observe the behavior of our animal in constant comparison, and to react accordingly. The so-called cooperation signal is a great help for humans and animals. The idea is as simple as it is powerful: Only if my animal shows the appropriate signal I will start the procedure. No cooperation signal – no execution of what my horse considers uncomfortable.

The training is clearly structured: First, I teach my horse the behavior of the cooperation signal. This might be, for example, a lowering of the head, the touching of a nose target, a neck or ground target or, as for the mare Tequila, a feach.

 

For example:

  1. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for a second – the horse is holding still – click+treat
  2. Repeat five times.
  3. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for 2 to 4 seconds – the horse is holding still – click+treat
  4. Repeat five times.
  5. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for 2 to 4 seconds and pinch its skin a little – horse is holding still – click+treat
  6. Repeat five times.

This means I get a direct feedback from the horse after each cycle on how the horse felt about the previous cycle. As long as the horse gives the coop signal, I receive the horse’s “go” for the next step. If my horse starts to hesitate or even quits showing the coop signal, I know that I overtaxed the horse and should adapt the next training steps. After that I offer a small aid to trigger the co-op signal, go back a few steps and apply a much lower stimulus, then click and treat again. Remember: the Great Moment of Truth always comes after the treat! If the training setup was solid enough before, I can get my horse back into the game and gradually forward to the area that initially got me a “No.”

The following video is about cooperation for mounting. Please note, the mare has received no riding training before.