Clicker training is a horse training that encourages positive behavior with the help of a clicker. Since horses are food motivated, you can use treats like carrots, peppermint or apple so you can bribe them with this whenever they display good behavior. As for the training, the Clicker clicks when the horse performs a behavior that you like, signaling a treat or reward. This way, you can specify which actions are desirable to you.
If you want to give your horse a clicker training, then do the following:
- Prepare a clicker and a bag of treats like carrots. Carrots should be sliced thinly and not bigger than a penny. Go to her stall but remain outside. Or if she is inside a fence, you can do this over the fence. Show her the clicker, then the bag of treats. But don’t give her one yet.
- Click the clicker, then give her a treat. Click again, then treat. Do not forget to click before you give her a treat. This is to make her realize that after a click, a treat will follow. Keep doing this until it seems as if she is waiting for the clicker and not the treat. After she has associated the treat with the clicker, she has just become a monster for treats. So all you have to do is to make her realize that there is a price for every treat.
- Click on desirable actions. You can now start associating the click and treat with actions. If the horse does anything that may harm you, do not click. But when she steps backward, click the clicker then give her a treat. When she moves forward give it a click and then treat. If she stops straining, click and treat. This way, she will learn which actions can earn her treats.
- Teach the horse to seek out an item. Hold an object in front of the horse. Make sure she can see it and she can touch it with her nose. When you place it near her and she touches it, say a cue word, for example, “target”. Then click and treat. Move the item to her left, right or above her and whenever she touches it with her nose out of curiosity, say “target”, then click and treat. Keep on doing this until the horse realizes that whenever she touches the target she gets a treat. Eventually you can command the horse to hunt for an item as long as you show her a sample.
- Teach the horse more cue words. You can teach a horse other actions like backing up or moving forward. For example, if you want her to learn how to back up, walk up to the horse’s right, place your palm to her chest and push. If she steps back, say a cue word like “back”, click then treat. You need to apply pressure for her to back up, and whenever she backs up, repeat the cue word, then click and treat. Later on she will be able to associate the pressure, to the “back”, the click and most of all, the treat. Then try saying the cue word without the pressure. You will be amazed that she can back up if you say so.
- Train the horse somewhere else. You can start teaching her other things with clicker, but it is better if you do it in a bigger place. That way you can also teach her not to be afraid of unfamiliar areas. You can teach her to focus only on you, the treat bag and the click. By now, the horse should be aware that the training starts by standing still.
- Reward her, big time. After each session, give one last click then an apple, peppermint or handful of carrots. Don’t forget to praise her. Next time she will love to do training with you.
The disadvantage of clicker training is that the horse becomes a monster for treats. However, you can use this to your advantage too, by setting rules for the horse – that she can have treats only when you are pleased with her behavior.