The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:55 pm 
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My pony unfortunately has Cushing's Disease, which means she cannot have any treats or grain. Is it possible to achieve results with reward/clicker training without treats? She is a very food motivated horse, so I know it would have been a very positive experience for her.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:13 pm 
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I don't normally comment on question posts, since I'm still figuring this all out, but YES you can! I work with treats and without. Treats definitely make life a little easier, but you can do it without. It just takes a little longer for them to understand that you are quite an amazing person :). But, it does work, you just have to persevere.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:54 pm 
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We have another thread that might be helpful: Other rewards but food?

I guess I would still reward with food but then only give very little amounts of it (for example when I use oat as a treat I can give three grains each time), or try to find some kind of treat that is no problem for her health (perhaps you can find something here: What treats?).

But if this really is not an option, perhaps your horse has an itchy spot that she likes to be scratched? Or any other kind of touch that she likes? And then of course the emotional aspect of rewarding becomes even more important, that in your reactions to her offering something you show her how happy you are about it and how proud of her and how amazing she is. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:43 pm 
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Thank you for the links!

Thanks. I am going to try to see if I can get some sort of hay pellets or something that she CAN have, but if not, she LOVES being scratched. I believe that will be a huge advantage. :)

I will check out those forums!

Thanks to both of you.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:44 pm 
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Basically you can use anything that's a positive experience for the horse as positive reinforcement. It just needs to be really rewarding. In some situations even food is not rewarding...

The problem with alternative rewards is usually the timely application. Some horses love scratches, but they take a long time and a calm horse is needed to appreciate it ;) It 's hard to scratch a horse that's about to experiment with rears ;) But often just being interesting and playful is very rewarding.
If you want to clicker train some of the more complex things or want to micro-shape a particular movement it might be hard to do without food rewards that you can administer at a higher rate.

But I'm pretty sure that there is some food you can give your horse - even with Cushing syndrome. I'm reading that carrots are OK also for horses with laminitis and they can be chopped into very small pieces, so that one carrot makes for a good clicker session. Also like you said, pelleted hay is surely an option.
Sometimes I also use the daily ration of minerals as clicker treats - my horse loves that :alien:

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:46 pm 
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Unfortunately she is not allowed any carrots..but the pelleted hay would be a good option, and I am going to look into that.

I think it is possible to train without treats. Many horsemen do so successfully, so I'll just have to make do (if I can't get the pelleted hay without alfalfa and such).

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:53 pm 
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fjordnaturally wrote:
I think it is possible to train without treats. Many horsemen do so successfully, so I'll just have to make do (if I can't get the pelleted hay without alfalfa and such).


Of course it is possible. :smile: I think what Volker said is just that it is hard to base your training on positive reinforcement without treats, simply because other reinforcers are either not reinforcing enough or hard to use with the same temporal precision or impossible to use in the context of some movements. But if the goal is not to train with positive reinforcement in the first place, then there is no doubt that it can be done without treats.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:55 pm 
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Romy wrote:
fjordnaturally wrote:
I think it is possible to train without treats. Many horsemen do so successfully, so I'll just have to make do (if I can't get the pelleted hay without alfalfa and such).


Of course it is possible. :smile: I think what Volker said is just that it is hard to base your training on positive reinforcement without treats, simply because other reinforcers are either not reinforcing enough or hard to use with the same temporal precision or impossible to use in the context of some movements. But if the goal is not to train with positive reinforcement in the first place, then there is no doubt that it can be done without treats.


I understand. I think she would do well with positive reinforcement, but unfortunately circumstances speak. There are many horses that are not motivated by treats...unfortunately she is one of the ones that is VERY motivated by treats! I would have been good. But I think we can find ways to work around it. :)

Thanks for all of your help, everyone.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:11 am 
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Hi Laura,

I know you from It's About the Horse. I'm the one with the new Fjord, Oden.

I know it's a Parelli thing that many horses aren't motivated by treats. They say only LBIs are. Is that what you're referring to? I don't think that's true. I think virtually all horses will risk their lives for a mouthful of grain.

I was going to recommend a pellet called Wenland's One N Only. It's so low in "good stuff" that can be fed free choice. Here's there label: http://www.jupefeeds-sa.com/docs/one_an ... everse.pdf

Cindy

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:06 am 
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Welcome, Cindy! :f:

Cindyg wrote:
I think virtually all horses will risk their lives for a mouthful of grain.


My Pia would not. She would not do anything for the treat unless she really wants to do it, but it is absolutely impossible to convince her to do something just by offering food. Sometimes I even have to convince her to eat the treat, because she simply ignores it.

However, and that's why I think some horses aren't necessarily motivated by the food per se but by it's meaning in the training context, she is more likely to go for the treat the more she deserved it. That is, when she did something that was really hard, she is very eager to grab her treat afterwards. So I guess she is more reward-motivated than treat-motivated. And actually that's one of the reasons why I like working with treats so much: because it is a very salient way of rewarding and showing the horse that he did great. I find that much harder to do with touch or affection, also because I want to give them for free instread of saving them for reward situations and tie them to the horse offering behaviours. :smile:


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:41 pm 
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Yes, may horses are motivated by treats, but I know that many are not. LBI and LBE's tend to be the ones who are, because those worried about comfort and safety may like treats, but have more pressing concerns. Even some LBE's may accept treats, but may not be truly interested in them as motivation. I really believe that. :)

Oh, and your Fjord is so cute! :) I love Fjords...I also follow your Facebook page, by the way.

Thanks for the reccomendation! I will look into that.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:07 am 
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fjordnaturally wrote:
Oh, and your Fjord is so cute! :) I love Fjords...I also follow your Facebook page, by the way.


Oh, aren't you kind! What's your FB name so I'll know it's you if you post?

If you get a chance to look into the Wendland's One N Only, I'll be interested in knowing whether you think it's safe for your horse.

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