Chaining is linking behaviors to create a new behavior.

We do this with almost every trick we teach our horses. We teach a few separate, simple behaviors. Then we put them together to form a big complicated behavior. Once they are put together the horse receives his reward at the end of the chain instead of after each piece of the chain like the do in the beginning. If we tried to teach the big behavior we would overwhelm the horse, confuse everyone, and get nowhere.

In chaining behaviors there are certain ways to put them together that are more effective than others.

That brings us to Back Chaining

Back Chaining:

When we start at the end of the trick, instead of the beginning, as we teach it. Then we teach each step back towards the very start of the trick.

Fetch is a trick, one of the many, that are taught using chaining. Picking something up, walking to us, carry the something, hand it to us. Trying to do it in that order can get confusing though. Instead I start by teaching the horse to target my hands with his nose. Then I start working on teaching them to hold an object, Then to bring that object a very short distance to my hands, gradually increasing the distance as he understands what is being asked.

By starting at the end of the trick the horse always knows what comes next. The hard part, the new part of the trick, is first. Then it gets rewarded by doing the piece the horse already knows and understands. As long as a hard piece is followed by an easy piece the horse will happily keep doing the hard and the easy thing. If an easy thing is followed by a hard thing the horse will stop wanting to do the easy thing.

The order that we do our training in is very important and makes all the difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.