When most people hear clicker training, two things come to mind. Either teaching your horse to do tricks or some twisted impression of a crazy lady feeding her horse for random movements. Years ago, even I had heard of “clicker training” and had even read some material. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed to quality training with it. What I failed to realize was the TRUE principles behind it. Why one would actually use it? Now, years later, I use a clicker every day that I ride and train. The clear distinct sound of the clicker is the best known marker*.
Clicker training is based on the scientific principles of operant conditioning and specifically, positive reinforcement. These are the same principles we use here at Reflections From The Saddle. We call it
Reward Based Training
We don’t want people to get confused about what we are trying to teach. It’s all about learning a way to say “YES” to your horse. We use rewards when training to ride and specifically to ride dressage.
The most important take home message is that we teach and advocate a better relationship with your horse because you are a better trainer. The tool we use to make a rider a better trainer is Reward Based Training. Once you learn the principles behind the actions, you will wonder why you never knew this before. You will become a more caring, patient and effective trainer and you and your horse will enjoy the process. I promise.
Why Reward Based Training Works
Positive reinforcement is the addition of a reward after a desired behavior in order to increase the chances of that behavior happening again. Even more importantly, it teaches horse owners, riders, trainer and handlers how horses learn and how to break complex training ideas into small steps that are easily taught to and understood by the horse. As said earlier, it is based on operant conditioning and is an excellent training tool. It can be used when shaping behaviors, developing behavioral chains and counter-conditioning. The following characteristics make it a great way to train any animal.
- fast learning
- pinpoints exact behavior
- fun to learn, fun to teach
- creates a bond and mutual respect
- encourages curiosity and friendliness
- alleviates fear
- recognizes the intelligence of the horse
- gives the animal control over its circumstances
- systematic for training and problem solving
- concentrates on what is right
- honors the horses spirit
Once you understand the why and how of using markers and rewards, you can begin mixing it up and putting your own unique twist to it. You won’t have to be a “clicker trainer”. You will just be a better trainer.
Keep reading our additional posts to learn how to use the clicker and reward based training with your horse. Or better yet, sign up for one of our classes.
*Definition: A marker is a signal to tell the horse a reward is coming. Since we can’t always deliver a reward in the instant the horse does what we ask, the marker allows us to mark the behavior then give the reward without the horse getting confused.