How creative is your horse? It’s often hard to find this out (unless your horse demonstrates his creativity by finding new ways to escape and break into the feed room!) because of the way we train horses – we teach a behaviour, then we cue it and they get rewarded for doing it. Sometimes they just love being given free rein to use their imagination and show us what they can do!
Scroll down to watch India play ‘Show Me Something New’ for the first time!
There is a clicker training game called ‘Show Me Something New’ or ’101 Things’ in which the animal has to offer a new and different behaviour after every click and treat. This is understandably very difficult as it requires a lot of spontaneity and creativity on the part of the animal. It’s also a concept which can be hard to teach because we generally reward them for repeating behaviours for which they have been clicked and this game turns that on its head a little.
For a lot of horses, this game would be way too hard, especially if they are unsure, lacking in confidence or have been punished in the past for getting the answer ‘wrong’. Often these horses are too scared to try and offer new behaviours and this game could actually be quite stressful for them. For these horses, I have invented the game ‘Show me SOMETHING’, in which the horse gets clicked for any behaviours it offers, even if its already done it. Basically, they get clicked for everything they do. This can be a super way of building confidence in exploring new behaviours and daring to offer new things because they always get rewarded and are never wrong. In time, they may be able to play the advanced game of ‘Show me Something New’.
The other aspect of this game which can be difficult at first is that we have already spent so much time working on solid cues for each behaviour and building strong stimulus control (when you give a cue you always get the relevant behaviour). You have to create a new cue which means ‘show me something new’ rather than one specific behaviour. For this, I used my hands out in a shrugging position. It took only a couple of goes of India offering the same behaviour without getting clicked before she seemed to grasp the concept and became really creative!
This was India’s first ever go at ‘Show me Something New”. Watch video to see how creative she was: