Rope Mechanics of Clicker Training

“Bone rotations are an important part of food delivery. As you explore the rope mechanics that are part of clicker training, you’ll encounter this concept of bone rotations over and over again. I’ll refer you to my books and DVDs for more on this, but in brief, as you reach into your pocket and draw out your treat, if you extend your hand out involving just your forearm in the motion, you’ll end up with an unstable “table”. As your horse takes the treat from you, your hand may get pushed down. This makes some horses grabbier because they have to chase after the treat to get it off your hand. If you involve your shoulder as you extend your hand, your hand will be much more stable. You’re using a bone rotation to deliver the treat. This can make a huge difference for many horses. They’ll take the treat more gently, drop fewer treats, and remain calmer throughout the treat delivery process. In other words, technique matters.

6.) Go through a round of targeting with your horse. You’ll be setting up a loop of behavior. You’ll hold the target up. When your horse sniffs at it, click. Take your target down out of sight and give him his treat.

Present the target again. At this stage you are not waiting for your horse to show you “good manners” before you present the target. That would be asking for too much too soon, and could easily stress your horse.Later you’ll wait for your horse to show you good waiting manners before bring the target into play, but for now bring it back up as soon as you’ve delivered the treat. You want to be ready so your horse has another ready opportunity to test out what earns him treats.

You’ll repeat this sequence of target-click-treat-target, using up some portion of your twenty treats. This may mean you do four or five trials and then decide that’s a good beginning, or you may use up almost all of your treats, but again, you have only put enough in your pocket to do a small amount of training before you’re going to have to reload.

Leave enough treats for an end-of-session ritual. You want to have some way to extract yourself from your horse without creating frustration, stress or safety concerns. If your horse is in a stall, dropping a couple of treats into his feed bucket so he moves away from the door, is a good strategy. You can then slide his door closed and step away from his stall to reload your pockets.

While you are reloading, you will be assessing what just occurred. The most important question is this:

Was there anything about your horse’s behavior that would suggest that it would be unsafe to go in the stall with him with your pockets full of treats? Until his behavior shows you that he would be safe, you’ll stay with protective contact.

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