Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Benefits of Clicker Training

I was riding Cole in the arena the other night, and a really nice boarder at our barn brought her horse in to lounge. She has a sweet Paint mare, that I have never seen truly misbehave, but her owner is afraid to ride her. She needs to lounge her a lot before she will ride her, and with her busy work schedule, she usually doesn’t have the time to both lounge and ride. As we all know, fear isn’t logical, and it certainly isn’t in this case.

I thought that demonstration of the usefulness of clicker training might help her. I told her that she would be less worried if she knew that, whatever she was doing, all she had to do was say “whoa,” and her mare would stop. I trotted down the wall, said “whoa,” and Cole instantly stopped. I clicked and treated him. I also explained that I don’t need to treat him every single time at this point. I just click him now and then to keep him sharp.

I then told her how he will stand until I tell him to move off—explaining how convenient this is if you are on trail and a dozen motorcycles come flying down the road. Instead of worrying if Cole will be frightened by them, I ask him to stop and stand until they pass. Since he is hoping for a click, he is more focused on me then the traffic. He has never spooked at something when I do this.

I then told her how he stands perfectly for mounting, listens to me about when to change gaits instead of following the horse ahead of him, and if he starts to get excited, I can just wiggle a rein, his head goes down and he is listening to me, again.

Then, I dismounted and showed her how he will do the same thing when I lead him if I point the whip handle towards the ground. He will keep his head down the whole time the whip is down, as if there is a rope going from the whip to his bit. (I should have shown her how he does it when we trot in hand, too.)

I didn’t think she was convinced, yet, so I got back on and started trotting him. I threw the reins down on his neck, lifted my arms in the air for a few strides and said, “whoa.” Of course he stopped. She gasped, but it turns out that she was amazed that he kept his frame in perfect self carriage with, if anything, more impulsion than when I was holding the reins. I thought about it, and got pretty amazed myself. I had to do it again to see if he would repeat his performance. This time, I trotted longer without the riens before asking him to stop. He did even better.

Still, my friend didn’t seem convinced that clicker training can do awesome things. I then tried one more thing. I told her, “Let’s say you are out on the trail and you drop something.” I then threw my whip to the ground.

Cole immediately stopped, reached down and picked the whip up. I took it out of his mouth, clicked and treated him.

She started laughing uproariously—she was so amazed. I think his trick won her over. Funny thing is, it is just a trick. All those other things are wonderful things that make him a safer horse—consequently making a more confident rider—just what my friend needs. Chances are, if I dropped something on the trail, he would reach down and probably start to graze!


achieve1dream said...

Aww this post brought a tear to my eye. Cole is such a wonderful boy and I love clicker training! I think you did a fantastic job showing her how great clicker training is. I think it would be so great if she tried it. I'm betting it would give her a lot of confidence. And it wouldn't matter if she could only come out once a week because when they learn things with clicker it's almost like they never forget it, because they aren't being forced to do something, they are having to think about it and find the answer for themselves. :D I sure hope you convinced her to try it. That would be so cool.

I find it very, very interesting that he held his frame with no reins into the halt. That is so awesome! I want to do all of this at liberty with Chrome so I love to hear that Cole is doing it all on his own. :) Have you checked out this site I really like it.

Emme said...

Okay- lady!!! Where the heck are you? All good on your neighborhood?

Judi said...

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Laura said...

Thanks for the comment, I'm looking at your clicker training posts now! I think it's a really interesting thing and would love to start doing it with my horse!