Natural Horsemanship vs Clicker Training

What I really liked about the Natural Horsemanship method I followed in the late nineties, was the step-by-step program I bought. It was very practical because it described the horse behaviour in advance: I could expect this, this and this. Fan-tas-tic! I just had to follow the steps and boom! “Friendship” and “Partnership” where delivered.

Step-by-step program
When things didn’t work out the way the book described you could look up “pitfalls” and read where you skipped a step and what you had to work on. Great. It worked. Best thing of all, I didn’t have to think for myself anymore. It was all in the levels. If it really didn’t work out “I was just not ready for the next level”.

A new way
The biggest struggle when I started clicker training in the late nineties was that there was no “method”, no step-by-step program to follow and few people to turn to for advice. There were only a few rules to follow: pinpoint the wanted behaviour with a bridge signal and let the bridge always be followed by a reward. The receiver determines the reward.

Not many experts available
The only source of knowledge that I had in the late nineties was an Yahoo email group. It was in English and this is not my first language, so that was a huge threshold to turn to for questions and advice. I was lucky to learn from someone who had followed a course about training sea mammals with positive reinforcement and that I had studied Learning theory during my bachelors in Animal Management. This made it much easier for me to understand the whole science behind positive reinforcement.

Outside the box
Not only did my clicker training journey come without a map and a clear road to follow, I had to learn to think outside the box. It was so completely different from all the things I had learned about _HippoLogic_thinkingOutOfTheBox_clickertraininghorses in the previous 25 years and at the same time it made so much sense emotionally: looking forward to earning a reward versus avoiding an aversive.

Times changed
I am glad to see that there is so much information available for passionate horse owners and riders who like to start training their horses with rewards. There are books, clinics and also a lot of instructors and horse trainers who are available all over the world. It is still a minority but who knows what happens in a few more years. Internet is one of the blessings in spreading information these days.

Sandra Poppema


3 thoughts on “Natural Horsemanship vs Clicker Training

  1. I think it is the supportive network of natural horsemanship that hooks people in to that type of training, and it is difficult for some to leave it all behind.
    I am so pleased that I didn’t do it for long and always was selective in what I did. Reward based training has opened so many doors in my horses behaviour – they offer so much more if you don’t constantly suppress their natural behaviour.


    • Thank you so much for your input. I agree, people should have a network of like-minded people to support them. That’s why I started a Happy Herd (in which the humans as well as the horses) really can be happy. Click here to see what it is about. Monthly meetings so everyone can meet in person and learn and share their ideas. And also can find an accountability partner if they want.

      I started it for people in the Vancouver, BC, Canada area and I am so delighted to see that people from Australia and the UK are already asking if they can set up something similar in their area. I encourage this, it would be a dream come true if all over the world people would unite in Happy Herds to promote positive reinforcement training. 🙂


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