TIMING AND TECHNIQUE OF REWARDING EFFECTIVELY
Many times I hear riders saying “I reward my horse all the time”. However, when I see them train, I realize they aren’t rewarding effectively. Their methods aren’t clear to the horse, so he’s confused and doesn’t understand. At the very least, rewarding incorrectly is futile but more often than not the wrong behavior is rewarded and the horse is actually learning to do something you don’t want. To learn reward based training, it comes down to some very basic but important attributes. Timing and Technique. Often times, this is why you aren’t having success and why you throw in the towel before you see the amazing results. So let’s talk about these attributes.
The best way to reward your horse is IMMEDIATELY following the behavior you wish to see more of. Not a 1/2 second later, nor a second later and definitely not a stride later. If you expect the horse to clearly understand what you are rewarding, it’s got to be exact. This is why we use a marker.
First, the reward you offer must be inherently rewarding to the horse. Many times, riders reward with a pat on the neck and this is a learned reward, it is NOT inherently rewarding. At best, it’s a break or a lessening of pressure. If you want to be really effective, you need to use a primary reward. Secondly, you need to use a reward that is strong! Meaning the horse loves this reward. The reason is, if your horse is really working hard in his training, the reward has to be worth it! Third, the reward has to be easy to administer in a quick and timely fashion.
Ok, so you have a primary reward that your horse loves. You have a marker and you realize that you have to be precise in your use of it. Now, you have to practice, just like you practice your position and the correct delivery of your aids. Practice using the marker, practice noticing the behavior exactly, practice shaping a behavior and practice delivering the reward. When you get proficient at rewarding, you will better understand any “clues” that something in the process is not working.
Sounds like a lot. It is but it’s not. Let me explain. To get started in this work it takes just a little time and practice and you can begin using reward based training in your daily riding sessions. Then just like all riding, you will spend months and years perfecting your technique to be super proficient.
By now, I may have raised more questions than answers. The good news, I am giving a FREE WEBINAR on TUESDAY DEC 2 at 7PM to further explain primary rewards, timing and techniques. In addition, I will show you where to learn more.
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