Take a Bow

This is all about “capturing a behavior” with clicker training. We can train a horse to do anything with the aid of a clicker. When we saw Cole stretch one morning, we thought it was so cute that we clicked and treated him for it.

I don’t know when we clicked him for it the first time, but every time we saw him do it, we clicked again. Sometimes it would be days even weeks between clicks. Last month, it seemed to be getting more frequent. We noticed he was most likely to do it when we weren’t paying attention—to get our attention. It was only in the morning when we were cleaning the stalls. We would just watch through the corner of our eyes. Anything that looked like a stretch got clicked.

Then, it happened—multiple stretches in the same morning. The stretches were morphing into a definite bow. One morning, he did it 8 times in a row! He made the connection. Now, it was time to put it on a cue. When we thought he might do it, we would say, “Bow.”

A few sessions like this, and we had a bowing monster. What he does is he stretches his front legs forward and parks out with his back legs like a proper Morgan. Then, he shifts his weight back and bows like a dog. It is adorable, but he does it over and over. A few times I had to leave the barn to get him to stop!

I have decided to only click him for mostly for doing it on command. When he does a really good one voluntarily, I can’t resist clicking that, too. The rest of the time, I am just saying “good boy.” He only does it in his stall at this time. I would like him to be able to do it out of his stall, too. I will not teach him to do it when I am in the saddle. No way.

When I get home from the barn, my little black dog, Maggie, also bows and bows and bows. I taught her without treats or clicks. She would do it occasionally when I would come home. She would stand on the top of the stairs and wag her tail. I started to say, “Bow” over and over. When she would, I would proceed up the stairs—just what she wanted. After about 10 times, she was doing it whenever I asked her—just to get me to come to her. Now, she does it all the time. I just praise her for it—better than her jumping on me or running down the cat in her excitement.

Now, all my black animals are bowing.

Oh, back to capturing a behavior. That’s what we did. Cole did something on his own, we liked it and caught it with a clicker. Then, by anticipating when he would do it, we taught him a connection between a cue, a behavior and a reward. It is like magic.

Cole is one step closer to being a circus horse.

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