Where Training Becomes Mastery

Chapter 9 The Steps in Training a Behavior

Training a Behavior

Most behaviors are taught in a very simple way.

You should have first studied the Lessons on Taking Control, Body Language, and know what the 5 Primary Reinforcers are, Conditioning Behavior and the Balanced Method of Training a Behavior or the 80% /20% Method.

Now let’s begin to learn the Steps to Train a Behavior.

Step 1 The first thing you need to do is GET THEIR ATTENTION.

Try to train in a DISTRACTION FREE environment.  [No other horses or mules nearby. No Loud noises. Not during a storm or when it is windy. The animal shouldn’t be real hungry, or in other words make sure that it has have been fed recently if it is going to be a long training session or you can use food and water as a reward if it is a short training session. Your horse needs its strength as well as you do. Well rested not tired. Not in pain. All the opposites of these things are deterrents for learning.] I believe the very best environment would be an enclosed covered arena with no other animals inside except you the trainer and your horse or mule.


First step is to Get Their Attention

Try to always use their name. Mules as well as horses learn with all their senses so use verbal cues, visual cues and correct body language always. With horses and mules you can train with food, however, you know by now that I elect not to. Food as I have mentioned before can be as much a distraction as any other you can name. I like to get their attention by and through my body language, visual cues and verbal cues, then reward with pats and kind words. I will give them food, grain, carrots etc. after the day’s session of training is done.

Actions to get their ATTENTION (are the same as teaching any behavior):

  1. motion first with your hand, (ask visually) you can: snap fingers, clap hands, wave
  2. to get them to look at you say their name (ask verbally)
  3. show body language with command drive, look into their eyes (ask with body language)
  4. wait for a response. (pause to let them decide to follow you, [choice])
  5. If you get a positive response then (reward) with a pat and praise if your close to them or drop your hand

    No learning will take place unless you have 2 eyes.

    and let them rest if you are not. The idea is to be positive.

  6. If they don’t give you a positive response add a little pressure on the lead rope. (pressure = jerk or tap on body, in the air or with your stick on the lead rope, or even have them back up.)


(example behavior to “BACK UP” out of personal space)


Begin with small steps. “Slow is Faster” and “Refine as they progress.”

  1. Visual cue ( wiggle rope, advanced finger )
  2. Verbal cue ( “Back”) speak calmly, slowly and clearly
  3. Body Language – (Command Drive)
  4. Pause – (wait for the choice to be made)
  5. Positive response – (positive reward)
  6. Negative response – (pressure)

“As gentle as possible and as firm as necessary. “

Ask once but don’t keep asking. This becomes nagging or begging and you are neither a Nag or a Beggar. You are their Leader. When you ask as their leader they will listen so don’t confuse them with a lot of words or a lot of superfluous action. Ask again only if you think that they didn’t understand or hear what you asked in the first place. You probably asked before you got their undivided attention.

“If it is a new behavior be patient but persistent.”

Steps in training a 2nd behavior. Yielding Hindquarters

  1. AFTER getting  itsATTENTION
  2. ASKwith Body language. Command Drive/ Visual Cue – tap in the air at hindquarters / Verbal Cue – “cluck or kiss” means move your feet
  3. PAUSE – let the horse make the decision toRESPOND
  4. When results are positive then reward – pat andPRAISE
  5. When results are negative then increase thePRESSURE –

Don’t under value step 3 in letting the mule or horse make the choice. This moment is for using the thinking side of the brain. This is the key moment in the learning process. Once he chooses the right action the behavior is quickly learned.

Short cut to remember 4 steps to TRAIN:

 A A R P  Attention / Ask / Response/ Praise or Pressure