WP has a Photo Challenge with the theme ‘symbol‘.
For me the clicker became an important symbol. It represents force-free horse training, friendship, fun and a life time of learning. Let me explain.
The clicker represents positive reinforcement: training behaviour by adding an appetitive to the horse in order to reinforce behaviour. There is no force or coercion in positive reinforcement training.
When I started to use positive reinforcement I had to learn about what my horse likes and dislikes.
Positive reinforcement is a way to give my horse a choice in training and therefor it gives her a voice. For me friendship is not only listening to my horse but also acting on the information she is giving me. Friendship means that I sometimes have to change my approach if my horse doesn’t like it, can’t (physically) do it or won’t do what I ask for whatever reason. For me, the clicker symbolizes this.
Learning new skills, exploring new ways has always been fun to me. The clicker represents also the fun the horse displays when he figures out what the training question is. The eagerness my horse shows in working with me: always coming to the gate in the pasture as soon as she sees me and the soft loving nicker to greet me.
Life long learning
Switching from traditional and natural horsemanship methods to positive reinforcement forced me to develop new skills so I could communicate clearly what I want from my horse.
I had to learn to listen better to my horse and I had to develop my observational skills in order to pinpoint (click) the desired behaviour. I had to figure out what motivates my horse in order to reinforce the behaviour I am teaching her. I studied the learning theory and learning curve of animals intensively. Something I probably wouldn’t have done tothis degree if force was still my go-to method in training and riding horses.
The road to positive reinforcement has been (and still is) an exciting journey for me. I am still fascinated every day by how learning actually works in horses and how we humans can influence it. It is a life long journey with fabulous views!
What represents a clicker for you?
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