Clicker Training – Teaching a horse to go Long and Low

The three Clicker Training exercises I use the most are: Touch Target, Look Away, and Head Down. From there I can advance these three basic exercises into many training exercises I use every day.

For example, Touch Target becomes touching a target to teach: come to me, follow me, body stretches, lining up to a mounting block, or entering a horse trailer. Look Away I return to any time a horse becomes greedy for treats. Head Down I can use to simply relax the horse when approaching a fearful or new object such as a water hose, fly spray bottle, bridge, or horse tack.

However, the most useful aspect of Head Down and Touch Target for me is teaching a cue to stretch the horses back when he travels over ground poles, caveletti or lunging.

I start by using Touch Target, which I keep low. I am looking for the Target to be at least below the horse’s knees. I prefer the nose to be reaching towards the Target, instead of the nose being tucked behind the vertical.

In this photo, I’ve switched to a new Target stick which is far longer and easier to use when I want the horse to travel a little farther from my position. All it took was one click for him to transfer the knowledge from the other Touch Target to this one.


Once the horse understands to touch the low placement of the Target, we take that to moving the Target forward. The horse is rewarded when he follows by keeping the nose low (touching the Target is no longer necessary).

At the point of this video, we’ve started spacing out the amounts of clicks and rewards, asking for a longer time at head down before the click (the signal that marks the desired behavior.

Once the horse understands to follow the Target with a low head set, the Target can be switched to the head of a whip or a lunge whip that is easier for the Handler to carry and use – and which again, the horse is asked to follow with the nose down reaching towards the target with the nose. (I’ll upload a new video next weekend to show the progression).

A voice cue of DOWN, can be added, which makes it possible to remove the Target at a later date once the horse understands the voice cue. Hand gestures can also be used or body position to signal the desired behavior (i.e. pointing to what you want the horse to touch).

When you start increasing duration, you have to go at the horse’s pace – keep him interested and if he seems to lose interest go back to shorter duration between CT’s or give him a Jackpot (i.e. a lot of treats for one click among other clicks that receive only one treat).

As we progress, I’ll post further videos showing how you move from one desired behavior and shaping it into another. We could progress faster but I do think (especially after seeing this video of Dante trotting away) that he may be sore on the right hind where he injured his leg two months ago.

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1 Response to Clicker Training – Teaching a horse to go Long and Low

  1. Pingback: Masterson Method: the hind end engine | Horse Ideology

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