Some people are reluctant to start clicker training their horses. I understand that it can feel overwhelming to try out a whole and completely different training method. Especially in the beginning.
Maybe you think you have to change everything right away or stop riding for a while and ‘must’ go ‘back’ to groundwork only. Maybe you think your horse will turn into a biting monster if you start rewarding him with treats.
Maybe you feel pressured to change and are not allowed to use your own way anymore, while you are not even sure yourself what it can bring you and your horse.
Don’t be afraid to try out a new method. It might bring you and your horse something wonderful. If it doesn’t work, that’s OK, too.
1) Have fun
Teaching your horse a simple trick is a fun way to discover what clicker training aka reward-based training can do for you and your horse. Choose something that is safe. If your horse starts performing the new trick without the cue, because that is what he will try in the beginning, it is not dangerous. Flehmen (“smiling”), pushing a ball with his nose or shaking “no” are easy to start with. In the second stage of training you will teach him to respond to your cue.
Choose a trick that’s new to your horse, so you can start with a clean slate.
2) Keep it simple
Choose a simple behaviour or a behaviour your horse already has in his normal behaviour repertoire (like flehmen). Don’t start with a complex behaviour like trailer loading that has many building blocks if you break the end goal into little steps. Don’t start to re-train a bad habit and make it unnecessarily hard for you.
Take or watch a lesson live or on YouTube or read a book about clicker training. There are many good clicker training books for dog trainers available in the library. The basics of clicker training horses and dogs is the same. Some of the books are really thin and give you the enough knowledge to get started. Don’t expect to be an expert before you begin. Practise is the best experience. Keep your mind open.
4) Set it up for success
Don’t expect your horse or yourself to perform perfect in the beginning. Be gentle to yourself and your horse and keep in mind that you are not only learning a new trick but you’re also learning a whole new training method.
It takes time to master a skill, so reward yourself and your horse often. After all: clicker training is a reward-based training.
People will be asking questions:”How did you teach your horse to do that?”, “Wasn’t that difficult?” or “Can you show me?”
Wouldn’t that be awesome?