Letting go of former tools, now what?

Hi, world!
It has been a while since I wrote my last blog.
How are you all?


Today, I want to introduce my mentor, share one of her great quotes, throw some questions and expand more about it with my thought on it.

I attended Clicker Expo at Cincinnati on March, 2016.
It was a worthwhile, meaningful, educational, inspirational, happy, fun and unforgettable conference!

At this conference, we had a horse track!
The lectures were not only about dogs, we had great lectures on horse training!!!

My mentor, Peggy Hogan, gave great lectures on what she had done in the past and is doing currently.
Peggy Hogan is the person who welcomed and guided me to the world of horse clicker training and suggested me to learn the science of behavior change, applied behavior analysis.
Without any doubt, I took her advice and transferred to the University of North Texas.
Since then, I feel that I was born to study this field.
I love every single word that the professors use to describe the relationship between behavior and environment and I love how they change behavior with the analysis of environment.
I love the way behavior analysts view behavior and do science out of it.
I cannot appreciate more what Peggy has taught me and shaped me to go to the direction I am heading to.

Thank you so much, Peggy.



Let’s start out discussion today!
At the Clicker Expo,
Peggy started her lecture “Trailer loading: Load up with fun” with…


I took my hands off of the lead rope and decided to work at liberty.
Now what?
How was I going to get the behavior without using the familiar tool of pressure?

Before we go on to discuss more on this quote,
I have some questions to you ūüôā

1. When you train, what kinds of tool do you use?
(List all tools you use for any training)
2. Why do you use them?
3. How do you use them?
4. When you use, what kinds of effect do those tools have on your behaviors as well as your animal’s behaviors?
5. What do you think she meant by these sentences?
6. Do you think that this quote is a transitional question?
If you say yes, how can this be a transitional question? From what to what?
If you say no, why do you disagree?
7. Do you think this is a great question to ask before you use any tools to your animals/learners?
If you say yes, why do you think this is a great question?
If you say no, why do you think this is not a question to ask?
8. Do you think there are alternative ways to train without using a lead rope?
9. Have you ever thought that there are alternative ways to train which is different from your current training methods/tools?



Great job!!! Thank you for reading and answering the questions!!!
Have a cookie or something you like for answering those!


When I heard Peggy say this, the quote made me think a lot.

I think, being aware of what tools we use, why we use them, how we use them, the effect the tools have on animal’s behavior, all of these are extremely critical to think when train/teach animals or people.
A little background information of Peggy Hogan:
In the past, before she used clicker training or positive reinforcement training with her horses, she had used negative reinforcement training, well known as Natural Horsemanship.
Simply put, it is a pressure and release technique. A trainer puts a pressure on a horse to get a behavior that the trainer asks for. If the horse does desired behavior, the trainer immediately releases the pressure, which will reinforce or strengthen the exact behavior. The removal of the pressure is called a negative reinforcer, which reinforces the behavior that removes the pressure, thus, the behavior is more likely to occur in the future in a similar situation. In a scientific term, this is called negative reinforcement.
At that time, Peggy used a halter, a lead rope, a whip to get the behaviors that she wanted from her horses.

When she started to use positive reinforcement in her training with her horses, she let go of almost all of her former tools.

I think this quote is a great transitional question that implies the shift from negative reinforcement training to positive reinforcement training.

When she let go almost all of the former tools, Peggy found another method of training.
She started to use a technique/approach called shaping.

Instead of letting go all the former tools she used, she introduced new tools into her training, a clicker and treats.
(Clicker is a devise that produces a “click” sound, which marks an exact movement. It functions as conditioned reinforcer since this click sound is paired with food. Treats immediately follow the clicker so that it function as primary reinforcer.)

She used these tools (a clicker and treats) and shaping to train her horses at liberty.
She allowed her horses to offer a behavior which earn them something good. From there on, Peggy has been using shaping in her training.Peggy said: “It definitely challenges our skills both for getting behavior and putting it on cue!!”

It is challenging, but she continues to explore and discover the possibilities of what clicker training can provide to her horses.


An approach that Peggy had embraced since she let go of her former approach.



If you want to know more about Peggy‚Äôs work and learn from her, I put links to her website and her web-store for her online class on the “Links” page.
I have taken her online class with Jackson, it was so educational.
It is hard for me to apply the concept of behavior analysis into technique, but when I took her online classes, I could connect the techniques she taught me with the materials I learned from UNT.

To sum up for today‚Äôs blog…


Take a look at the tools you are bringing/putting to your animal.

Are these necessary?
Are there alternative tools/ways to train the behavior you are trying to train?


I think these are great questions to think about before you introduce/put the tools to your horse ūüôā

Thank you so much for reading.
I hope you enjoyed reading this.

I want to keep finding out better ways/technique/tools to train and communicate with Jackson to enrich his life and improve my training skills.


What about you?

Proposal: Why don’t we continuously seek for better ways in training?

Hello, World!

The other day, I was chatting with my good friend, Miki.

Miki is one of my great friends who loves behavior analysis and positive reinforcement training.
We all love the relationship between behavior and environment, contingency, how behaviors change according to a change in environment.

Miki holds seminars in Japan to share science of behavior analysis in depth, the relationship between behavior and environment, ethics behind positive reinforcement training and suggests positive reinforcement training and interaction using behavior analysis with animals, and more.

It is fortunate to chat with her and share philosophy and ethics behind what and how we train and interact with animals, training ideas, quotes from professional trainers and behavior analysis and clicker training in depth. 


While we chat, ideas pop up and we share them and expand our knowledge and understanding.

As we talk, we discover things.

The other night, we had a great conversation.

Miki said:

but we can continue¬†to¬†seek¬†and¬†do¬†better¬†way”
Inside me goes:
YES, YES!!!!
Big yes!!!!

This sentence from Miki got me think below.


Stop asking whether or not your training method, approach, or tactic is right or wrong,
But, rather increase behaviors of seeking what is the better way to train in this condition/situation/environment and with such and such stimuli.


Let’s dig deep into what I mean by this with two training scenario.

Scenario 1:
Let’s say that a trainer is working on training behavior A in an environment A and a stimulus A, and that procedure A seems to work effectively with training behavior A.

It is high tendency to reach to a conclusion that procedure A is the right way to train.
Maybe, this trainer will continue to use procedure A in training Behavior B-Z in environment B-Z and/or stimuli B-Z.
It¬†is¬†likely¬†that¬†this trainer’s behavior of using¬†procedure¬†A¬†is¬†generalized¬†to other ¬†training session, behaviors, time, place, stimuli, conditions, and¬†species.¬†
This is because procedure A worked effectively in training behavior A.


… Really?


Is it ok to conclude that procedure A is always right?
Is it ok to use procedure A in trading behavior B in environment B and so on?




Scenario 2:

Let’s say that a trainer is working on training behavior A in an environment A and stimulus A, and that procedure A seems to work effectively with training behavior A.
Let’s say that the trainer is working on training behavior B in an environment B and stimulus B, and that procedure B seems to work effectively with training behavior B.

Let’s say that the trainer is working on training behavior N in an environment N and stimulus N, and that procedure N seems to work effectively with training behavior N.

Here you can see that in this scenario this trainer changes procedures according to the current behavior, environment and stimulus.

Maybe, this trainer will continue to seek for better ways/procedures according to Behavior B-Z in environment B-Z and/or stimuli B-Z.

It¬†is¬†likely¬†that this trainer’s behavior of changing procedures is¬†generalized¬†to¬†different training session, behaviors, time, place, stimuli, conditions, and¬†species.¬†



Like Scenario 1,
If you have the behaviors of always using procedure A, you will never improve your training skills.


Like Scenario 2,
If you have the behaviors of constantly seeking better ways, 
You will improve, develop new ways to train so that it is easy for the animal to figure out the criteria and the animal can be successful at each training steps/criteria.


Seeking for better ways is:
looking at
#1. the individual’s behavioral repertoire
#2. the individual’s history of reinforcement(more detail below)
#3. the individual’s current skills
#4. the individual’s reaction to the environment(including you as a trainer, place, time, motivating operation, stimuli, etc)
#5. the individual’s past history with the stimuli and object you use in training
#6. the individual’s response to your current training criteria
#7. the prerequisite skill that is necessary or makes it easy to train current criteria
changing and adjusting training plan/criteria BASED ON the feedback the animal give you right now while you are training (#4,6,7)



Let me talk a little bit about what I mean by the individual’s history of reinforcement.


The history of reinforcement includes all the history of relationship between you and your animal like that you are the provider of positive reinforcement during training and interaction, the behaviors that they have been reinforced in the past, the environment(time, place, surroundings) that is/are associated with positive reinforcement, the stimuli/objects that have been paired with or predict positive reinforcement.

The history of reinforcement excludes all the history of relationship between you and your animal like that you are the provider of aversive stimuli, the behaviors that produce aversive stimuli or environmental change in the past, the environment(time, place, surroundings) that is associated with aversive experience, the stimuli/objects that have been paired with or predict the delivery of aversive stimuli or punisher.

Basically, the history of reinforcement includes all the history that have produced a delivery of positive reinforcement. 

If you have a great history of reinforcement with your relationship, the animals want to do training and learning from you and spend time with you.

If you have a great history of reinforcement of behaviors, the behavior is more likely to occur in a similar situation that has produced reinforcement. If you train the behavior for generalization, the behavior will occur in different time, place, and among distraction.

If you have a great history of reinforcement of environment/stimuli/objects, the animal can learn without panic, reactive, anxious, frustrated in the environment.

Thus, it is so important to have a great history of reinforcement for everything. 
Now, You can plan ahead and do a simple training with your animal, so that you can have strong history of reinforcement in the future!



Let’s go back to the training scenario 1 and 2.

If you compare scenario 1 and 2,  we will have a different outcome. A completely different one. Both immediate and delayed/long-term outcome.

Maybe you can take some time here and ask yourself,

Which one do you belong to? 
Which scenario are you more likely to be?



Sometimes, it is hard to let go cherished procedures or traditional procedures, but it is important to welcome new changes and new procedures to your training.

Maybe, animals will enjoy the new ways.
Maybe, you can easily and successfully teach a desirable behavior 
with new ways.
Maybe, you can communicate well and discover new things with new ways, which leads to improvement in your training.
More importantly, while it takes some time to train with new ways, maybe new ways enable to enrich the quality of animal’s life and empower them.
For this last one, I cannot emphasize more. It is so important for me.

I don’t care how long it takes to train behavior A.
What I care is whether or not the animal likes and enjoys learning behavior A.
I care whether or not behavior A will be a great training for the animal so that the animal can live safely, successfully and happily.




Every training moment is different.
Every individual is different in learning.
Every behavior is different in a way to learn and acquire.
Every environment is different for the animals.
Every stimulus is different for the animals.


Why don’t we forget about questioning and answering right or wrong?

Why don’t we look at the current environment and behavior, and analyze what is better ways to train based on the behavioral feedback we get from our animals?
Why don’t we think, plan and train based on what the animal give you(behavioral feedback)?
Please, do not ignore or overlook their behaviors.

Their every behavior is a gift for us, it is a chance for us to learn and improve our training and observational skills.

Can we stop settling in one way of training?

Can we be more open to change based on the behavioral feedback we get from our animal?
Can we focus on our animal who give us wonderful feedback through their behaviors?


The other day, my another friend said:

‚ÄúJust because someone advise you another procedure, it does not necessarily and always mean that he/she criticizes whatever you are doing is wrong. Maybe this person is giving you a great chance to improve your training.”

I loved it.

The following day, she visited Jackson and me, and she suggested me a better way to train the behavior of stopping.
It was way clear than the way I used to train.
I will try to shape the behavior as she advised me until I find another better way.——

Let me introduce quotes that I learned in my behavior analysis class.
They are so good!

Keep the company of those who seek the truth,
and run form those who has found it.

by Vaclav Havel

Regard no practice as immutable.
Change and be ready to change again.
Accept no eternal verity.

by B. F. Skinner




My reader,

Thank you.
Thank you for reading up to here.

I want to end this blog with a simple Yes or No questions…

Who is your teacher?
A. Is it a past self of training behavior A successfully with procedure A? 

B. Is it the animal that behaves in front of you?


I hope your answer is NO to A, and YES!!!!!! to B.




Why don’t we happily welcome changes and constantly seek for better ways?


Hoof Treatment: Rewrapping

Hello, world!

First blog in 2016!!!

I hope everybody enjoys these days!
Here, I would like to share what Jackson and I do currently.


At the end of 2015, Jackson stepped on a nail which stuck inside of his right front hoof, near a frog.

It was right after I left for Japan to see my family and friends for winter vacation.

My friend sent me a video of him walking. He limped really badly at that time. I was really worried and asked my friend to take him to a vet. The vet investigated his hoof and found out that he had developed abscess inside his hoof which was the factor of him limping.

The vet drilled a hole inside his hoof, drained and removed the abscess as much as he could.


After I came back to Texas, I visited Jackson. He still limped. The vet rechecked his condition and gave me advice of rewrapping every other day with epsom salt and wrap it up really nicely to keep it dry and clean.

So, here is an opportunity to work on rewrapping at liberty with Jackson!

In the past years, I have worked on front hoof lift, duration of him keeping his hoof up with good balance while I cleaned his hoof, and establishing stimulus control/cue over front hoof lift.

Currently, I have a tactile cue for the front hoof lift. I tap his elbow twice with my two, index and middle fingers.



I did not know how he would react to all the stimulus and activities I presented during hoof treatment while his hoof is up if I did it at liberty, but I wanted to see where he was in his current skills and how far he could stay relaxed while I did the hoof treatment.

At liberty, I mean that I create an open space by closing the barn doors so that no other horses can come and join us, but I do not put halter and rope on him to tie him up. He can move freely so that he can adjust his balance if he loses his balance, and he can inform me with his  body language if he is uncomfortable with what I do.


Here is the video of the hoof treatment.


I was surprised how he performed.

The whole process took about 30 minutes. Jackson could respond to my cue + lift his hoof + keep his hoof up with good balance while I worked on bandage and wrapping.

During the process, Jackson had lost his balance one time, but I could redirect and adjust his balance by feeding for position, wait for him to get back to all three feet in place and I could continue the process.

I deeply felt that what we have done in the past training is helpful and meaningful to what we do now. It pays off to what we do.


With our past training = history of reinforcement, we can turn potentially aversive experience to be less stressful and less aversive experience. Of course, it is also significant to observe what we do and what and how the animal reacts during the process. Based on their reaction, we should adjust the environment, current criteria and my behavior whenever and wherever.

From Jackson’s hoof injury, I was more interested in husbandry training/behaviors. This is because if I train those behaviors and practce it, I can make future medical treatment to be less stressful, what is better, it can be an opportunity to earn reinforcement!

This will lead to enriching Jackson’s life.

If it leads to make his life better, I am willing to dig deep into husbandry training!




What kind of husbandry behaviors have you trained?



Jackson’s nickering video!


This is when I left and get more treat from my car, Jackson finished his freebies(treat) from the bucket and nickers.

I did not actually measure the frequency of him nickering, but I feel that the behavior of nickering has been increased.

I like his nicker. low and deep nicker.

I would like to reinforce it!



Thank you for watching and reading!


Happy clicking and treating, world!











“Let’s Like the Halter” Training

Hello, everyone!

This is my first blog post! I hope you enjoy it!



The training I worked on with Jackson last year was mostly halter training.

For some horses, being haltered is aversive.

I think there are many reasons for being afraid of the halter, e.g. the experience of being haltered, the sound, the feel of the nose band and/or strap that goes above their poll/head etc.

Jackson was such a horse that walked away immediately when he saw me approach him with a halter.

Halter training is something horses have to learn, and I wanted to provide the learning with the use of positive reinforcement.

Being haltered is not something you are afraid of, but something that has function to your environment to have desired outcome, or being haltered is a way to get what you want!

Through systematic desensitization and positive reinforcement with constructional approach, I could change the topography of behaviors as well as the function of behavior, in other words, Jackson could re-learn that being haltered is something he likes.


Before I go further into detail, here is a video of my whole halter training.

I gathered all the training videos and assembled the way I trained along with explanation for each step.

Below are things I did not mention in the video. I put simple note to all the steps.


Training steps

(Below, I used “he,” which means Jackson)

I started with what he could do when we started.

So, the first step was to put halter on the ground, let him approach it, and shaped him and reinforcing for walking closer to the halter. Here I  reinforced for small efforts.

The interesting thing was that if the halter was on the ground rather than halter in my hand, he could easily approach it. He showed me completely different behavior when it was on the ground and when I held it.

When he comfortably and smoothly (without hesitation) walked close to halter, I reinforced him for lowering his head towards the halter.

I could establish function to his behaviors (walking and lowering his head towards the halter). When he interacted with the halter (by interaction I mean walking and lowering his head towards the halter), he would have access to positive reinforcement.

The second step was reinforcing for staying when I reached my hand towards the halter and brought it under his nose and neck.

At this step, I started to use the behaviors of interaction with halter (walking and lowering his head towards the halter) as a signal from him so that I could reach my hand towards the halter.

In other words, if he walked and lowered his head towards the halter, then I went ahead and reached it and brought close to him. If he did not interact with it, then I would wait until he did. Mostly, he did engage in the interaction right after the last reward.

I put the halter on the ground → Jackson interacted with it → I reached my hand to the halter.

I put the halter on the ground → Jackson did not interact with it → I waited until he interacted it → Jackson interacted with it → I reached my hand to the halter.

I think the first and second steps were critical in future halter training. During these training steps, Jackson could learn halter was not aversive stimulus which it used to be. These order of steps for him were helpful for future training since from the third step, the criteria was him moving into the halter.

The third step was reinforcing him for putting his nose in the open nose band.

He started with positioning his nose toward the open nose band, and gradually he could put his nose in the open nose band, and finally he could put his nose and mouth all the way into the open nose band.

In the beginning, he put his nose for a second and gradually I increased the duration of his nose staying in open nose band.

By this time, I did not need to put halter on the ground and let him approach it first and then reaching it and bringing towards his nose. When he saw me holding halter, he approached me or he continued to stay with me for more training. Thus, during this step, I started or continued training when he approached me or stayed with me when I held halter.

I held halter → Horse approached me → I presented the halter under his nose.

The fourth step was desensitizing the feel of the strap that went across his poll into the buckle.

First, I presented the halter under his nose and let him put his nose into it, then I gradually moved the strap closer to his skin. In this step, I used the previously reinforced behavior which was him putting his nose as a signal for me to move the strap.

Horse put his nose into nose band → I moved the strap towards his skin.

From this step, I started putting halter on after he put his head into the nose band. Him putting his nose into the nose band was/is like “I am ready to wear halter!”

The fifth step was desensitizing the noise and movement of the buckle.

I started making noise far enough away from him so that he did not walk away, and I paired the noise with treat. I gradually made the noise and movement closer to his ear since when haltering, it took place near his ear.

The sixth step was bringing the strap all the way to the buckle.

When I haltered, he had to wait until I buckled it up, so I increased the duration of wearing it after I brought the strap to the buckle.

The seventh step was buckling it up.

In the previous sessions, I already desensitized the noise and movement of the buckle, so this step went quickly and smoothly. The training was done!!! Good boy~!!



In order to keep halter = the stimulus he likes, I make sure that desirable outcome follows after he wears halter.

In other words, being haltered is a way to get what he wants.

For example,

Being haltered → Training stars

Being Haltered → Access to grazing in a rich pasture (which he cannot have access in daily basis)


All of these training steps and order were planned and adjusted for Jackson.

All horses react differently to halter, since they have their own history with it.

They all learn differently.

All the training you provide to your animal need to be adjusted to the individual, which are based on their history with halter, their current skills in their behavioral repertoire, and reaction/feedback from the animal to the criteria you provide etc.

Here, I just wrote Jackson’s version of halter training.


During the training steps, I made sure that he could walk away from halter since it was once an aversive stimulus. Because it was once aversive stimulus, it was hard to tell whether or not he was confident about being haltered or not. Thus, walking away was a clear feedback/information from him. Also I watched/observed his body language of hesitation as much as I could. If he showed behaviors that I felt that he was a bit unsure about the halter and current criteria, I was happy to lower the criteria or to start it over again.

I always give him choices for either participating in the training or walking away from the training.

Fortunately, He actively engaged in and participated in all the training sessions.

The purpose of training is to enjoy the process, not getting the result fast.

The richness of this training is to share the moment with him, enjoying the process of him learning and progressing the way I prepared and wanted to.

It was a great journey.

I hope it was a great journey for Jackson.


The halter training gave me great lessons and many opportunities to test my skills and improve training, observational and mechanical skills. I cannot appreciate Jackson any more.

Many thanks to my mentors who gave me a lot of¬†advice¬†of training scary thing, how to plan the training according to Jackson’s history of halter and current skills, and how to¬†arrange environment so that I could shape the behaviors I want.

Thank you all for watching and reading.

Happy clicking and treating to empower your horse!