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Good teachers protect their students from their own influence.
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I get that loving feeling!

Ok, some lovely stories of success and clicker training working for people. Let me be clear, I like clicker training, I love positive reinforcement and I wrote the book not to put people off but to give people the best chance of success, because as I have said, right horse, donkey, mule, right training, right task, right environment, right time and it is a great tool. When it works its great and if it works for you and one or both of your horses it is a great tool, no two ways about it. Positive reinforcement really can help the trainer to focus on the glass being half full and improving their timing and small steps, but it doesn’t have to be clicker training to do that. 

I get to see lots of equines, which I guess allows me to have a wider perspective of the results of CT. And it has to be said licker training is no different from any other training method. When it is working it the best thing since sliced bread, you have found the holy grail, you have got more of the relationship you want. But when it goes wrong it is the method that is wrong. Strange thing is that when a method leads us astray, we keep trying for a while with the same method in the hope that the tools that got us into trouble will get us out. This is quite normal human behaviour and animal behaviour too. ( for those who have worked with me think vending machine) If something stops working we generally try harder to do what has worked in the past, (more of the same tools) before we change. 

Einstein said, you can never get out of trouble with the same thinking that got you into trouble, or words to that effect. Problem is with CT is that we so desperately want it to work because of our commitment to positive training and our desire to find that lovely relationship again, that we can continue way beyond what is sensible or ethical. So if I brought a new type of training head collar called a “ be gentle nicely training halter” and my horse started to head sake when it wore it, would I carry on using it, what if when the horse saw the halter they pinned their ears back and pulled ugly faces, what about if the head collar caused my horse to start getting aroused and frustrated, would I keep using it then? If I had to train my horse to have a “happy face” to remove the fact it had a “grumpy face” during training with my halter would that be right? 

Well on an individual level it depends I guess on our knowledge, principles and empathy for the horse, but more importantly on our self awareness. You see surely, to do what is best for my horse I must listen to them and know that sometimes what I want and what they need are different things. For years some people have been creating great relationships with horses and not a clicker insight, so how come it is so needed now to enhance our relationship and help our horses feel more motivated and enthused? Is it just that we have learnt more and empathise more and therefore are looking far more than ever before for help in making a great relationship, no bad thing. Or are we attracted to the positive short cut to connection? 

As some people have said they use it a little here and there, they use it not so well and get away with it, but how would you feel about CT if it had damaged your horses relationship? Would you use a car mechanic that did his best, but might make a few mistakes with your brakes, would you take your horse to a trainer that said “I am not really sure what I am doing and I know I will make some mistakes with your horse, lets just hope that there not to bigger a mistake, hey! “ 

I guess what I am asking is does clicker training appeal most to the human or the horse? 
I hear people saying come on ben, its positive isn’t that enough, people have got to learn and make mistakes, no ones perfect. We all learn make mistakes for sure, most people are happy to learn stuff, but just being positive doesn’t qualify CT for the ethics award for horse training methods.

You see it is the animal’s perception not the trainer intention that will determine if something is positive or negative. So as an example do you like money or at least the things money can get you, do you work so you can get paid? So money tokens are positive right and therefore any work to gain money tokens must also by association be positive? What a pity it is not that easy, so many people working for the positive reinforcement of money, hating their jobs and work, hating being a slave to money having to work to pay the bills. Oh and what about those people for who money in not a primary reinforcer, do they work well for money? 

If you close your eyes for a moment and stop thinking while you ponder the following question, is it possible that clicker training is the best answer for every horse in every situation with any owner? What did you hear? 

We have reached the crazy situation where a marker signal, the click, is still being used months after the behaviour has been learnt. Imagine a toddler learning to walk, so much praise, clapping, smiles and positive comments for every effort, every mistake and fall, the praise keeps coming, until that is they can walk. Not many mothers, going, “well done, brilliant, good job” in that over excited and enthusiastic manner every time their 9 year old child comes walking towards them.

Nice for the boss or your loved one to offer some praise for a piece of good work, nice genuine praise how lovely, now imagine every day that same person coming up and giving you that same praise, for the same piece of work for weeks or even months. How would you feel? Would that praise have the same value.

The use of Ct surely has to be for the benefit of the horse and like any training aid if is doesn’t help the horse then we shouldn’t be using it. Of course it is all right to learn and mistakes are inevitable, but study first, research first, think first, monitor, feedback, check adjust, stop if it is not turning out like you want. If it works great, us it, monitor feed back question and move on its just a training aid a tool.

Next time I will talk about why I teach CT last.

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