Icelandic Horse Connection

Training Discrimination Behaviors

Link to this page!
Here is how we did the discrimination. First you place three objects in front of your horse. Your horse will choose one object by touching it. Write down which object was chosen first. Remove that object.(let's say it was a wrap) Now there are two objects, the horse will pick a second object. Write down which object was chosen second.(for example a hoof pick) There will only be one object left. Train your horse to touch that object.(let's say it was a brush). In 30 second sessions.(you can have as many sessions as you wish) Stop between sessions to catch your breath and refocus.

Now add a second object, such as the hoof pick. The horse is not to touch the hoof pick. Only click for touching the brush. (horse may not pick up brush only touch it) If the horse insists on touching hoof pick, pick up the brush as soon as the horse touches the hoof pick. When the horse stops touching the hoof pick THEN place brush back down. Click and reward as soon as the horse picks the brush. Hoof pick and brush must be moved around so the horse isn't just picking the object in that one location. You once again have 30 second sessions to accomplish this goal.

Once your horse is reliably choosing the brush and not choosing the hoof pick it is time to add the third object, the roll of vet wrap (or a normal leg wrap). Your horse is to continue to only choose the brush. If the horse chooses any other object more than once (ever) you pick up the brush and wait until the horse stops choosing anything. Then place the brush back down. Yep you guessed it 30 second sessions.

Once you have this part you start moving the three objects about so that position is not what tells the horse what to pick. Next step, remove the brush for a time of up to 20 seconds. You may now train in 60 second sessions. If your horse does not touch either of the two remaining objects in that time period, even though they are moved about during the 20 seconds, you have a discrimination!

Any questions so far? This is only the first part of the exercise. Keep careful notes so we can compare, such as how many sessions, how many incorrect touches, that sort of thing. When we have gotten to this point I will write up the next part (which is even harder!!!).

No cue is required. You can use one if you like. This is to teach you how to train a discrimination, improve your timing, and teach you about baggage. Nothing like only training one thing at a time Eh?

How to train your horse to touch an object. Let me count the ways. You can shape the behavior. By clicking for getting closer and closer until the horse eventually touches the object. (slow way to get this behavior BTW) You can use model/rival, ask another horse to touch the object then show it to your trainee. (even slower way to get the behavior).

Or you could lure the behavior Place some food on the object you want the horse to touch, click when the horse goes to eat the food. Reward with food from your hand (not what is on the object). Do this 3-4 times, then remove the food. Click for touching or coming very close to object. Reward right over the object. Very quickly you should have touching the target. If not your timing is off. I have yet to meet a horse that wasn't interested in eating.

Time for the next step. This is called a stimulus reversal. The way it works is that one of the incorrect targets, normally the second one the horse chose, now becomes the correct target. For the purpose of this exercise you may NOT cue, move about, put food on the correct target. You MAY click often, reward with the food over the correct target, leave the targets in one position.

For this exercise there is no time limit. Go until you have gotten the reversal. The way to start is by THINKING about what you want to achieve. ASK questions. To start you MUST click and reward twice for the old correct target and no more for touching that target. You end when your horse has touched the new correct target twice in a row with no other behaviors in between touches.

HINTS: Getting your horse to not touch the old correct target is the first step to success. Shaping, the process of rewarding successive approximations, is the only tool you are really using here. Ask lots of questions. Be very careful not to give any body signals. No moving before clicking.

Record keeping. The hallmark of any good trainer. Seriously if you want to get excited about your training progress, records are invaluable. All you have to do is look at what you were doing a couple of months ago and how long it took you to understand how much you have improved. If you want to be able to identify problems without spending much time wondering about why things are not going well, again record keeping is the way to go. You should always see steady improvement. If not look at your records to see what your criteria is, how much training you really did on that exercise, and if there were similar problems with similar exercises. (some animals are better at spatial relationships than others, some have problems knowing where their rear is going, etc.)

It is a great idea to keep records of what you were training, how long you trained, any problems or breakthroughs that occured. If you are concerned about how much your horse might be eating you can note that also.

Timing exercise: Have a friend help you if you can, if not video tape is a great idea. Otherwise do the best you can.

Ask your horse to walk in a circle around you. This can be on a lead rope or lunge line or at liberty. Click when the inside rear hoof hits the ground, not before, not after the horse has weight on it. Do this 10 times. Notice the distance between the rear hoof and the front hoof on the inside when both are on the ground. Take a break. When you feel you have the timing right go on to the next part otherwise repeat this part. For the next 10 trials click when the distance between the two hooves is the average distance it was before or less. Try VERY hard to only click the correct distance. If your horse walks with the hind hoof placed just barely behind the front hoof then work on clicking the front hoof as it is extending forward, before it lands. Large circles are best for this exercise. If your timing is good your horse should collect and extend his/her stride.



"...and what big LIPS you have!"
Roker Targeting

The three items:
hat, whisk, racket.
Roker Targeting

He touched the hat,
and it is removed.
Roker Targeting

He touched the racket second;
it is taken away.
Roker Targeting

He consistently targets the whisk.
Roker Targeting

The racket is reintroduced.
After touching it several times
with no reinforcement,
he returns to targeting the whisk.
Roker Targeting

Gaefur has three yellow objects to choose from:
Bowl (large), Cup (smaller bowl), and Ball.
He is asked to choose "Cup".

Gaefur chooses

Optional Viewing of Videos:
Gaefur--Piano Playing
Gaefur--Bell Ringing
Gaefur--Horn Tooting
Gaefur--Picking "Cup"
Gaefur--Picking "Ball"
To contact us, please go to the Contact Page.