Using Clicker Training for Your Horse

As riders, we tend to concentrate mainly on our horse?s behavior while we are in the saddle.? However, spending time with your horse on the ground is essential for bonding and allowing your horse to respect you once you are up in the saddle.? Clicker training has emerged as a technique for successfully training many animals, including dogs, cats, and also marine mammals.? Clicker training can be very successful when working with horses as well, and teaching your horse to understand the clicker can be very helpful for teaching him all kinds of fun and useful things.

Clicker training works by allowing the animal to associate the clicker with praise.? This allows you, as the trainer, to immediately praise desired behavior simply by pressing the clicker and making the clicking noise.? This is preferred to handing out treats or giving a neck rub or verbal praise because it allows for an immediate reward of the good behavior.? Too often we are delayed in praising the behavior we desired because we are fishing treats out of our pocket or are transferring off the lead rope to give a good neck massage.

The first thing to do when starting to clicker train is to get the horse to understand that the clicker means yes.? You can do this by making the clicking noise, and then following it up with a treat.? Since you will be treating the horse often in this stage of training, try using relatively small, healthy treats that won?t upset his tummy.? Follow this pattern of clicking and treating for about ten or twelve times, then end the session.? Clicker training is best accomplished in small sessions several times per day.? It likely won?t take him long to figure out that the click means that food is on its way, depending on how social and food-oriented he is.? This will make him want to work for the click in future sessions.

Once your horse understands what the click means, you can use this tool to teach pretty much any desired behavior.? Just remember to keep your sessions short, end on a good note, and don?t forget to be patient with your horse.

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