What Everyone Ought To Know About Clicker Training

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
  • moti­vates
  • 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.