Clicker Training for Horse and Handler

Clicker Training for Horse and Handler

EquuSynced strongly believes in clicker training for horses. Ari has been experimenting with clicker training for over a year and has enjoyed success unattainable with traditional methods. In clicker training, your horse first learns to associate the sound of a mechanical click (or another sound, like snapping) with a food reward. The click is then used to pin point desired behavior in your horse and your horse is rewarded for that behavior. Clicker training revitalizes your horse’s curiosity and desire to explore and problem solve.

Ari originally applied clicker training in “problem areas” with horses, but has now diversified her application of clicker training to her day to day work with horses. She has applied clicker training in the following areas:

Ciara under saddle

Ciara confident under saddle with clicker training gear in hand

  • gaining confidence with feet being handled and trimmed
  • first time saddling
  • first time riding
  • gaining confidence under saddle at all gaits
  • gaining confidence on trail rides
  • motivation to go forward and return to the handler
  • trailer loading
  • trust building through obstacles

If you’re interested in clicker training and would like to come and see the method demonstrated, Ari is

happy to schedule demonstrations with her own horses, or to come and introduce clicker training to you and your horse.

History of Clicker Training

Clicker training has been in use since the mid 1900s, but it didn’t really catch on until the 1980s and 1990s, particularly for training dogs and wild animals. Clicker training operates on the principles of operant conditioning, originally discussed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. Operant conditioning is a type of training where behavior is encouraged or discouraged by rewards and consequences. The key concepts of operant conditioning are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. The terms can be confusing, but we will simplify them and define them in terms of working with horses below:

Friday First Saddling

Friday’s first saddling thanks to clicker training!

  1. Positive reinforcement: something “pleasant” is added when the desired behavior occurs (clicker training)
  2. Negative reinforcement: something “unpleasant” is removed when the desired behavior occurs (traditional pressure and release training)
  3. Positive punishment: something “unpleasant” is added when an undesired behavior occurs (a correction)
  4. Negative punishment: something “pleasant” is removed when an undesired behavior occurs (taking feed away because a horse is pawing)
Tiki first trail ride

Tiki’s first trail ride thanks to clicker training!

Clicker training capitalizes on positive reinforcement. It promptly and precisely pin points desired behavior and gives your horse incentive to repeat the desired behavior, resulting in speedy learning. Clicker training helps keep a horse in the parasympathetic nervous system function (a relaxed state that amplifies learning) as well as developing a horse’s “seeking system.” A horse’s seeking system is their curiosity, their desire to explore and their desire to problem solve. For more on the seeking system and how clicker training helps develop your horse’s seeking system please read The Seeking System by Mary Kitzmiller.