For those of you who are new to my blog and clicker training horses, I’d like to invite to take a look at a term which, in my mind, has done more to undermine the horse/ human relationship than just about any other concept.
The term is respect.
When a horse steps onto my space and I don’t want that, I have an obligation as a responsible owner to teach the horse what I DO want. As a clicker trainer, I find that to be an easy challenge, I simply set it up so that the horse has many opportunities to be rewarded for standing three feet away.
I capture and reward as many of those moments as I can. I stand behind a barrier and click/treat when my horse is stationary while I move. This helps him realize that standing still makes food come to him. I teach him that standing on a mat brings him food. I feed in a position that encourages him to stay back instead of accidentally luring him closer to me to get the treats.
All of these techniques will create a horse who LEARNS that 3 feet away is a good thing.
We don’t need to slather on human words which are loaded with triggers that allow us to bring negative emotions into our training relationship. Respect is a human word, NOT some action that can be defined. Why on earth would we clutter our training relationship with words which, by design, undermine the way we feel about our horse?
So start training defined actions. Click for what your horse CAN give you. Build on that. You might even respect yourself more when you do.