This is the story of my quest to train my three Dales Ponies for classical dressage, primarily by using Alexandra Kurland's clicker training methods, with a touch of others such as Philippe Karl and Anja Beran thrown in. I turned to clicker training because I had come up against some issues that I didn't know how to fix and because I wanted to inspire them to become enthusiatic partners. Bella and Jack are all my own work and have never been ridden by anyone else.

Bella, Grace and Jack

Bella aged 6

Bella aged 6

Treat Delivery

Jack aged 7


Thursday, 5 February 2009

Is Clicker Training Unique?

I think it's quite hard for someone who hasn't met a clicker trained horse to believe the effect it has on the horse.

I think you need to see an experienced clicker horse to appreciate just how different an experience it is, from the horse's point of view. Their eyes SHINE with pride and enthusiasm. They become addicted to it - they just can't get enough of it. They'd much rather play with you than with their equine friends and the most difficult part of it is to find a way to end sessions without the horse viewing you ending work as a punishment, because they want to go on forever. If they ever did want to stop then I'd know there was something wrong and I'd have the thermometer out and the vet on stand by!

If I'm going to use my horse's body for athletic effort then I want it to be with his full consent, and for him to enjoy it as much as I do. I find with Clicker Training that the horse actually enjoys it at least as much as I do, and often more than me, because I'm always ready to stop before they are!


  1. This is so true,I must quote something I read somewhere else,'He's now standing very still,very close to me with his inner self all connected to mine and we just enjoy being so close for a little while'

    Thats what I am now feeling, and I know its what you are getting too!

    I have been trying to teach her shoulder in, and guess what I got when i brought her in today, all the way up the lane, made me laugh outloud, and I remembered your post about Bella.

    If we carry on like this my shy little mare is going to be an exhibitionist to rival her husband

    Even if I got nothing more out of this journey it would be well worh while. Gosh I cant wait for Spring, we are all going to have such fun.

    Keep wondering how charlotte is fairing she hopefully will in recovery by now!

  2. Yes you are right. But did you not experience this before the CT?

  3. Not nearly so quickly, I get it from Seamus who is the most gentle snogger ever,but Soph's was quite content to just 'be a horse', dont forget she was quite a baby. when I first got her, and Welshie's take a long time to grow up

  4. As Janette says, the difference for me is that you develop the sort of deep conection and understanding between you that took me years before I found CT. That quote Janette found above is spot on - complete trust, acceptance and closeness between human and horse - a genuine meeting of minds.

    I thought I had developed great relationships eventually with my former horses, especially with Ben who was my solemate, but I wish that they could have experienced clicker training too. They would have loved it so much.

    It's not even just that it makes horses listen to you and want to work but they set out to impress you and show you what they can do at every possible opportunity. Like an eager child they keep saying "watch me, look what I can do, are you watching, look, look..." and when you show them how impressed you are it makes them so proud of themselves and eager to show you more - like Sophie and her shoulder in. They want to put effort into everything and do it all to the best of their ability.

    I know it's not the only road to Rome but you know what it's like when you feel as though you've found something magical; you just want to share it with anyone who'll listen.

  5. Yes we are just old clicker junkies,( makes us sound like addicts with badly fitting dentures, which when I think about it is almost true in my case!

  6. LOL ^-^ Janette you are a SCREAM ... thanks for making me laught early in the morning !

  7. Check out some of the videos on the ClickRyder blog:

  8. Thanks IceRyder,

    Its allways lovely to see new videos,especially on a cold day like today.

    I do have reservations on the vid of the piebald cob,It may be just me,but I hate cross ties, and then to be vacuumed as well,I know our two would hate that.

    Surely, one of the first lessons you teach is to tie calmly and without hassel?

  9. Janette,
    I think cross ties are somthing of a cultural divide - the barns Charlotte and i visited in October all used them - and they were clicker training people.
    Ad I just googled horse vacuum
    I have heard of them over here

  10. Thank you very much, IceRyder. I especially love the video of Marvin - he looks like such a character.

    I also had a look at the 'Educating Bo' blog that's listed on ClickRyder. I was very interested in what she said about finding that once she's taught Bo something on one side it seems to transfer over to the other side almost automatically. That has been my experience too using clicker training. Perhaps that's another way that clicker training is unique.

    Has everyone else found thia - that, having taught the horse something on one rein or from one side, you don't have to start again from scratch when you change reins or the side of the horse you are on?

  11. Hi All,

    Cross ties... I don't use them. I think they're too confining, but I understand that at some places, they could be for safety in some cases.

    The videos on the blog are from all over the world, not necessarily me or mine. Many are from the members of the ClickRyder discussion list.

    About the brain... I think that horses *used* to be considered one-sided in regard to the brain (i.e. having to learn everything on each side), but I don't think that's true; at least not nowadays.

    Maybe that was an old paradigm, and we are operating in a new paradigm now.

    The horse's brain transfers information between each side as easily as ours does. Perhaps there is a *vision* situation that makes things a little different, but for the most part, if we teach them to learn, and they catch on to "learning how to learn", and enjoy it, we have an extraordinarily smart horse!

    I also think that when we *view* the horse differently (i.e. as a partner versus someone we must dominate, or as someone who is a dullard and needs to be controlled), our expectations are different.

    We can now see him as a *thinking* being who we are now able to communicate with.

  12. Thanks for a very interesting post.I do agree that the vision thing is independent,hence spooks when one reverses a perfectly well known ride. Iguess that has a lot to do with where the eyes are set in the head to aid the vision of a prey animal.

    I have never understood how people can think of horses as 'stupid or dull'. when they are the most stunning, sentient beings,who take my breath away
    with their beauty.



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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!