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This video is so simple and beautiful a demo of building the skills for delayed gratification.

This takes place in England – the owners of the yard added each piece
of the Rube Goldberg contraption slowly so that when the squirrel
learned one section and got the nuts, they then added the next
Finally it ended with what you see on the clip! It took over 2 weeks to
get to this point.

Last week I talked about teaching a horse to become less independent, and more community oriented. I think learning to delay gratification is a huge part of being community oriented. So the question at hand is: how do we make that process as fun for a horse as it is for this squirrel?

Elsa Sinclair


  1. This video is really hilarious and amazing, I love it!
    I think this can be done with horses as well, but perhaps they are just a little slower ;-). Clicker training works with the same principles: dividing a task into the smallest possible steps; start with the first step, click and treat, then the second etc. etc. until the series of steps is complete and your horse performs the action you had in mind. Then you only have to click and treat at the end of the complete action.

    Videos like this are food for thought and inspiration, thanks!

  2. After posting I realized that clicker training is ofcourse not the method you can use in your project, because you would need food, which I assume you don’t want to use (or am I wrong? Is food a tool or isn’t it?). So here’s another thought:
    Without the use of food you would have to find out what your horse really likes and use that as a treat. I once taught a few months old filly to accept a halter with clicker training, but without food rewards because she didn’t understand that. She had grown scared of the halter because she had endured a lot of medical treatment, which she had begun to associate with the halter. So I found out her favourite scratching spot and used that as the ‘treat’ after the click. It worked like magic!

    • I actually am going to use food, and whatever other positive reinforcement I can think of. I aim to be like a horse in this project, and they will claim food or share food, they just don’t use whips or ropes in the process. 😉

  3. Elsa, A very pertinent video; I always enjoy your side views of interfolk communication. Jim Burton used a simple technique to train a ‘green’ horse to harness; he would tether it at a near corner of the field, hitch an experienced horse to the plow, and then do a normal morning’s plow, talking to the harnessed horse, singing to it and having fun. Ever time they plowed around near the green horse, Jim would watch and the moment that horse tried to follow along—’join in the fun’—Jim would untether and let it walk along with them. He had thirty horses at a time and traded out six experienced teams over the years. M 😉

  4. I love this vidio, I’ve seen it before and it’s amazing. I know what I have to learn is to be more playful, Sonny already is!

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