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God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses.
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R. B Cunningham Graham

LATEST THOUGHTS

Clicker Works like magic,


I remember years ago and I am talking maybe 12-13 years ago, doing a demonstration in which I used some clicker training with a pony. The venue was a rescue centre, proceeds were going to them as a good cause. 

I said “we are going to see some equine learning, we are going to use Clicker Training to see how fast equines can learn. However, I am not going to teach you about CT and don’t ask to buy a clicker, we won’t sell you one tonight because you will go home and start clicking and you won’t know what you are doing.” At this stage I was using one click one reward. This lovely pony came in and within a couple of short sessions 3-4 minutes each he is targeting the cone, second half he comes in belly full of hay, late at night and within couple of short sessions is passing the cone to me having learnt to pick it up. 

I got lucky in terms of the demo he made me and CT look like a magic tool everyone was looking for. At the end of the demo, 20 people came up and asked can I buy a clicker. 

Looking back now I realise the seductiveness of the image I and that pony created. Who wouldn’t want that, and in terms of marketing and financial reward, selling that image would have been easy and very lucrative. We did buy a box of clickers from America all logo’d up, but I guess you don’t get rich on a 50p mark up. But at least we did it first.

You see I have been there, I do understand the seductive power of CT or for that matter any method can create, the ability to make the viewer feel “I want that.” Selling the positive magic would have been easy, I guess and in the years that followed that’s what I think has happened. When it works, when you get the right combination of trainer skill, horse personality, environment and behavioural motivation then the learning is fast, enthusiastic and very very appealing. 

But is this real, well in part yes, when it works it works well. I remember teaching a 14 year old stock horse in Australia to pick up a cone and pass it to me, ( because I could, sorry Chester) when I went back four months later I thought, I wonder if he’ll remember, placing the cone on the floor between us I waited , he looked at me, looked at the cone, reached down picked it up passed it to me first time no errors. Wow this stuff really sticks. It is easy to be seduced if you want to be and who doesn’t want the beautiful positive approach to training, with a horse trotting up the field nickering to greet the arrival of the vending machine, sorry I mean loving owner. I so desperately wanted it to work, I wanted to be a positive trainer, encouraging others to be positive. 

However, as people started using CT, they started asking questions, how do I get rid of the clicker? My horse stops dead as soon as he hears the click, how do I keep him walking? Once he hears the click he pulls his foot away, how do I stop that? My gelding gets a bit excited when I use CT why and how do I stop it? I had answers of course and they worked, but why were there so many questions? Was this really as easy as it appeared? These questions started me thinking and exploring CT more which is where I will go with my next CT rambling?

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