Now teaching basic manners may sound boring, but clicker training turns these lessons into fun games. Your horse won't know he's having a "serious" work session. He'll think he's having a wonderful playtime with his person. Clicker training turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Teach these basic lessons, spend a little time with them, and you'll have a clicker super star!
Clicker training turns the ordinary
into the extraordinary.
So how should you use this web site?
In the next section you'll find a Step-By-Step training guide. This is not intended as a comprehensive tutorial. The books and DVDs will give you that. This guide will give you a quick overview of clicker training. It will give you the first steps to getting started, but please understand: clicker training is a very simple idea. If you like it - click and reinforce it. Sounds easy, doesn't it. And it is easy, except details matter. Little things such as how you deliver the food, the timing of reinforcers, how quickly or not you change criteria, all make a difference to your horse.
I want you to be successful with clicker training. It is my hope that you will find the same joy in your horses that I have come to know in mine. I have included a tremendous amount of information in this web site, but it is not a replacement for the books and the DVDs. Instead it is designed to accompany them. Taken together you will find that they create a comprehensive training guide that will teach you not just about clicker fundamentals but also about the feels-like-heaven balance that helps you create a dream horse.
So what is clicker training?
There is no one image that represents clicker training. Use it for fun. Use it for ground manners. Use it for trailer loading. Use it for foot care. Use it for medical care. Use it for starting young horses. Use it for socializing foals. Use it for rehabing abused horses. Use it for liberty training. Use it for riding. Use it for everything!
Use it! Enjoy it! Share it!
These video clips will show you some great others have been using clicker training.
Lottie is the highland pony featured on "The Click That Teaches: Lesson 10 Microshaping" DVD. In the DVD she was just learning the "pilates pose". Now she's a pro at it, and we've added a level of difficulty to it. Lottie is balancing on a mattress. This isn't done as a trick, but to help develop her balance and overall muscle tone even more. The extra bounce and wobble of the mattress means that Lottie has to work a little harder to maintain her balance as she shifts from one the collected engagement of the pilates pose to the full stretch of head lowering.
Advanced "Equine Pilates": Lottie on the mattress
You'll see this graphic at the bottom of many of the pages.
The horse on the left is my young horse Robin. He's a Cleveland Bay/thoroughbred cross. He's illustrating head lowering, one of the six foundation lessons of clicker training. Clicker training is great fun. It's easy to train all sorts of behaviors from tricks to high performance. But to stay safe and truly have a fun horse, all that "fancy" work needs to be built on a foundation of good manners and emotional control. That's what the head lowering represents.
The next horse, the grey appaloosa is Crackers. As I'm writing this in 2011 Crackers is now 28. I've known Crackers and his owner, Bob Viviano for 18 years. That's how long Crackers has been a clicker-trained horse!
Bob started out just wanting a little help with his riding. Crackers tended to rush his fences at shows, but he could be a little hard to get going in his home arena. We started Crackers out the way I introduce clicker training to most horses, we taught him to touch targets.
Robin as a three year old: turning the ordinary into the extraordinary!
Targeting turned into fetching, and from there we developed a whole series of fun tricks. We taught Crackers to dunk basketballs, to open mail boxes, even to paint. And Bob used the new skills he was learning under saddle to teach Crackers to line dance. Crackers truly became one of our clicker super stars.
Bob loved sharing Crackers with others. He took him to nursing homes, and to a summer camp for children with cancer. He used him during the Holidays to help raise money for the Salvation Army. Crackers has brought smiles to hundreds of people's faces. And he has helped them see horses in a new way, a intelligent partners working with us for the joy be give to one another.
Next in line are our two Icelandics, Sindri and Fengur. This is the image I used on the cover of the Step-By-Step in Pictures Guide to Clicker Training. I probably shouldn't have used this image because the resolution wasn't that good. It was taken in not the best lighting, and I pulled the image from video footage. And I wasn't using one of the modern high definition cameras. This was taken with an old camera that was still using VHS tape. That was the dark ages! But I have always liked this picture of the two horses mirroring each other in beautiful balance. It illustrates so beautifully what I mean when I say clicker training turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Lots of people pony horses, but here I am asking not just the horse I am riding to carry himself in good balance, with the help of the clicker, I have the second horse mirroring the same beautiful balance. How you teach this balance is the subject of the books and DVDs. It is not only wonderfully beautiful and feel like heaven to ride, but it also helps horses remain sound and comfortable in their bodies.
Robin is next followed at the end by Magic, a Tennessee walker. Again these images show off the beautiful balance of our clicker trained horses. And they are also illustrating the partnership and deep connection that clicker training helps us develop. Clicker training offers us clear communication which horses very much appreciate.
Magic is showing off his pilates pose. That's something you'll see throughout the DVD lesson, and it is a main focus of Lesson 10: Microshaping. With the clicker we can help horses become very body aware. The pilates pose activates the same muscles they need to carry a rider in good balance. It's part of the creative evolution of the clicker tool box.
I'll end this brief tour of our clicker horses by sharing a short video clip of Magic. When I first met them almost ten years ago, Debra was very afraid of Magic. He had bolted with her under saddle on more than one occasion so the trust was broken. Now she canters him bareback and bridleless out on her trails. Magic is one of the many horses who you will meet in the books and DVDs. He has become a teacher extraordinaire, and he is helping countless people discover the joy of clicker training.
We've been holding the Toutle WA clinics three times a year for almost ten years now, so I have gotten to know Magic well. But normally I am coaching Debra. I'm not working directly with Magic. So all the training that he knows is a result of Debra's good teaching.
When this video was taken, she had just finished up her lesson and I had stepped in for a play session with Magic. I had decided to ground drive him. Now Magic had never been ground driven before, but Debra had taught him all the building block pieces so he was ready for this lesson. Ground driving may not sound all that special. But watch the video. You'll see that something is missing! And you'll also see some more of that beautiful balance I've been talking about. Watch and enjoy!