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Tactile Cues in reward based training

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

When I crossed over to R+ training this was something I thought about a lot. How to do with my old cues and how can I build new ones..and do I have to?

I think how we answer this question is (and should be) very personal and that you should look for an answer that best suits you and your horse. For me in the beginning stages I choose to do a little bit different with each and every one of the horses living with me back then. For some I kept the old cues for a while and just added a click after. But eventually I went through the process of reshaping them with all my horses. And nowadays I got a system for how to do this which of course makes things easier as well.

So why bother if it works? For me it comes down to four things:

-how did your horse experience his previous training?

-what do you do when you don’t get the desired response

-can you use your cues as reinforcers

-do your horse offer the same behaviors you attached to the cue without

Riding with positive reinforcement
Tactile cues clicker training

the cue

(this last depends how you work but for me working a lot with offered behaviors and cues from the environment this is a very good indicator if your horse actually sees your cue as a reinforcer). The process basically comes down to this: train the behavior first, have it stable on other cues (voice, mats, nose targets etc) THEN add the tactile cue.

If your horse experienced stress in his previous system answer is simple, definitely recommend re-shaping the cue. But also because you have nothing to fall back on if things go wrong if you use your cues taught with escalating pressure. When you reshape you have a whole process of environment set ups, targets etc that work to clarify your cue.

I considered tactile cues and especially shaping with contact an advanced skill mechanically for most of us and something I wait with until the foundation behaviors are installed and working well. And especially if your horse has more difficult experiences from previous training I dont want to use cues that might look the same as from his previous training to early.

For me the traditional “aids” makes a lot of sense and helps with precision aspects later on but it is also true you can teach fine riding with your targets and aswell with any nuanced cue.....but I make a strong point of keeping target versions and environmental set ups as the key way of doing stuff throughout my horses life.


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