This series of lessons, showing you how to use the foundation lessons of Alexandra Kurland’s clicker training, though they appear very simple, were very carefully designed. If you progress systematically through them, you will see amazing results from your horse and reap unexpected benefits to your relationship.
Each lesson presented will explain another section of the “polite horse” rule book to your horse. The lessons will also address a whole host of issues such as barging, pushing into you with their shoulders, rearing, biting and shying to mention a few.
Now, I know you’re going to be eager to go out and try this with your horse but, before that happens, we’re going to begin by perfecting the basic mechanical skills you will need to be a great clicker trainer.
We start by having people work on these lessons with other people. This approach makes Alexandra Kurland’s work very innovative and ingenious. We get to practice the skills we’ll need BEFORE we try things out on our horse AND we get to experience the training from the horse’s perspective.
Working with a human partner gives us “English language” feedback rather than “horse language” feedback, so that we can perfect our lessons much faster, and all without frustrating our horses while we ourselves are trying to learn.
We will begin with food delivery, seeing as it is at the heart of clicker training. The equipment needed for this lesson is your tongue (we do tongue clicks rather than use a clicker) and a pouch or pocket for holding treats (please see my blog on clicker clothing as pockets are VERY important), and some treats. You will also need a friend to help you out by pretending to be “the horse.” (I have found that humans work better for chocolate.) You are going to practice using a friend as “your horse.” Have your friend hold her hands together out in front of her body. Her hands represent your horse’s “head.”
As in all of the training we do in clicker training, we will chunk the lesson down into small bits so we can be successful.
We will start without the ‘clicker.’ While standing on the left side of the “horse” practice reaching into your pouch or pocket and delivering a treat. This action should be smooth and deliberate. You will be delivering the food with your left hand when on the left side (and yes you need to practice delivery on the right side with your right hand too!).
Once this is fluid (you may need to change where your pouch is or to a different jacket if it is too hard to get the treat out as not all pockets are good for food delivery) you will add the clicker to the exercise.
Practice making the click marker sound with your tongue. This is done by placing your tongue onto the roof of your mouth and bringing it quickly back to where it belongs. You may need to have your mouth open in the beginning until you get the hang of it. Each part of the ‘click and treat’ delivery is a discreet step.
Now, you will practice clicking with your tongue THEN reaching into your pouch with your left hand bring your hand up to your shoulder and THEN delivering the treat AWAY from your body.
Present the treat, where you would like your “perfect” horse’s head to be. This series of actions needs to be fluid and should not feel rushed or clumsy. You should be able to do this on both sides of the horse equally well.
Below is a short video showing this sequence.
Practice this and perhaps video yourself and compare to make sure it is click, then reach for treat and present treat smoothly where you want your horse’s head to be!
Next step next week!