So I started with R+ (aka clicker) training. It's not something I've ever really used with horses before except to play a little with Paddy, but look, they clicker trained a PUFFER FISH to identify shapes, and surely Haffies are smarter than puffer fish?
Puffer fish starts in at about 1:20.
One of the first things you can do with R+ training is to teach the horse to touch a target with their nose. The target can be anything, but I started with a glove because that's what I had handy. The first two or three times, I pointed to it and said "TOUCH!" When Leo went to sniff it, I kind of gently bonked his nose with it, said "YES!", and gave him a treat. I used "YES" instead of a click because I can use it anywhere, even say it under my breath when riding and he gives me a behavior I want.
After about the third bonk, the lightbulb went off, and he was like a glove-seeking missile. I put the glove high and low, even on the (scary) mounting block, wherever, and he'd touch it with his nose and get a YES! and a treat. This session literally lasted maybe 5 minutes - it took him no time at all to catch on to this new game. Take that, puffer fish!
When we were out trail riding (solo) one day, Leo stopped to stare at this scary pile of leaf bags. I waited about .002 seconds before he took a deep breath and marched over to touch them so he could get a cookie. It was all his decision - no kicking, clucking or anything on my part. This stuff works, y'all.
Leo isn't a fan of loud noises, and since hubby sometimes rides Paddy and Griffy in armor, I wanted him to be more comfortable around that. So, we started touching a metal jousting gauntlet. At first I held it still and he touched that, but eventually I started clanking it a bit. Within one five-minute session, Leo went from extremely tense about the clanking to this:
Literally cannot wait for me to throw the gauntlet so he can touch it
We've also used R+ training when hubby is out swinging swords around. At first, we'd stand and watch, and Leo would get a cookie for being relaxed. Eventually, he'd get a cookie if he would come up close while hubby was actually swinging the sword. Then hubby started giving him cookies while swinging the sword and poking me with it (rude).
Here Leo (center) is taking a nap while hubby (right) and RH (left) are stabbing me with plastic swords. Way to save your rider, buddy.
The only downside to all this is that Leo now expects anyone swinging a sword to give him cookies. Hubby was out doing sword work with Griffy the other night and Leo was literally chasing him around going "Hey Mister! Hey Mister!", absolutely convinced he was going to get a cookie if he could just get close enough.
Dangers of R+ training = attack haffies
Have you ever used R+ training and if so, what for?