All good training begins with a solid foundation. Just like building a house, if the foundation isn’t solid there will be issues with the structure later on and you will have to either put Band-Aid solutions in place to ‘fix’ the issues or start all over again if the house begins to fall apart.
Many people turn to clicker training because they are having issues and have either exhausted all the other options or are not wanting to try the other options because they just don’t feel right for them. Clicker training can help you deal with ‘relationship’ and other issues, but before we tackle those we need to rebuild the foundation. If we just go in and use clicker training for the issues, we are not fixing the root cause of the problems.
So, we are not going to deal directly with the hard to catch issue, the won’t load issue or the hard to bridle horse. We are not going to start with solving problems already, as this is not the place to start, and may end up with you deciding that clicker training is just another method that doesn’t work.
Instead, we are going to start fresh with the relationship by teaching some behaviours that are new. We will get to dealing with the reasons you perhaps came to look at clicker training, but not just yet.
Alexandra Kurland’s foundation lessons are THE place to start.
There are six foundation lessons that when worked through will provide you with a solid foundation for dealing with those ‘issues’ you are hoping to solve. The foundation lessons teach both of you the rules of the clicker game and will keep everyone safe.
So, what are the foundation lessons? They are targeting, grown-ups are talking, standing on a mat, head down, backing in a square and happy faces.
Working through these lessons increases the communication between you and your horse, improving the relationship and allowing the problems to be identified and dealt with successfully.
The handler will also develop the mechanical skills necessary to communicate more effectively, a HUGE step in the solving and preventing issues.
Targeting is where we start, as it is novel, involves the horse’s curiosity and usually hasn’t been trained before, so both of you can have a fresh start. If your horse is pushy or muggy you can and should teach the lesson with protective contact. All that is needed is a barrier to help him learn about the rules of this game while keeping everyone safe. When people feel unsafe and fearful they tend to get reactive, which is something we do not want. In clicker training, we like to operate under threshold so that neither horse nor handler feels over pressured.
Foundation lessons like targeting and head down help with biting and mugging, while other foundation lessons like backing in a square and mat work can help with barging, for example.
These six simple lessons teach both partners in the relationship about cues and stimulus control. Once this is established, your relationship and what you can train becomes unlimited. Just look at what they can get killer whales to do without force, fear or punishment. Over the next few weeks, I will lead you through each of the foundation lessons and get you started on your way to your dream horse behaviours.I do hope you will join me.
Think it, Dream it, Do it with clicker training.
Next week we will start building the food delivery mechanics so necessary to succeed. Be prepared for a surprise!