Clicker Training to Build Communication
Clicker training is a very powerful communication tool. Clicker trained horses are eager to "work" because they love playing "the game". My horses whinny at the sight of their tack! Having this kind of mutual understanding and willingness from the horse makes both horse and handler much more relaxed and confident. Clicker training is also an excellent way to desensitize your horse to spooky objects.
Clicker training has been used for the last few decades in dog training, but only in the last decade or so has begun growing in popularity among horse owners. Sea World trainers use the same method of positive reinforcement training, only their event marker is a whistle. The principle behind clicker training is by "marking" the instant your horse does something you want by clicking a little plastic box to mark the precise moment. With such precision, you will hone your training skills and develop timing you never imagined you were capable of. The "click" is then followed by a reward, such as a small bit of grain. Later, the rewards can become "good boys" or scratches. Many people fear this will cause their horses to bite or become rude. Actually, the opposite is true. By using the clicker you can "click" your horse the moment he gives you space - you click and reward him and he quickly learns that "away" is a much better place to be.
With this method, any of us can easily train our horses to do things we never dreamed possible. It seems to awaken that trainer in all of us. It works very well "piggy backed" onto other methods such as Lyons and Parelli or whatever method you are comfortable with. You just choose those "yes" moments you want to mark with a "click". Your horse will work hard to repeat those moments.
Most horses can be trained to touch a cone with their nose in the first 15 or 20 minute session. I, personally, use this method with ALL my training and have started my own colt and taught him awesome tricks, including country line dancing, playing the piano, yes and no, leading at liberty, just to name a few - all with positive reinforcement - NO lunging or round penning. And I am NOT a professional horse trainer.
Trainers, such as Alexandra Kurland, are pioneers in equine clicker training and have paved the way for the rest of us in their books such as "A Step-By-Step Guide in Pictures" which is an excellent book to get started in clicker training.
WARNING: CLICKER TRAINING CAN BE ADDICTIVE!
Most people who start clicker training their horses become addicted and use it on their dogs, cats and family members!
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