Cecelia Clark

When Everything Clicks

Clicker training delivers as Florida farrier trims a pair of reluctant ponies

LEARNING EXPERIENCE. Cecelia Clark says clicker training not only teaches the horse the behavior she expects, it also helps teach horse owners what that behavior is. One of the two handlers with her did the clicking, while the other provided the treats. Doing so helped them learn when the pony was relaxed.

Clicker training is a great tool to add to your bag of horseshoeing tricks. Psychologists call this method of training operant conditioning. The method is based entirely on positive reinforcement and the use of a sound as a bridge between the behavior you want from a horse or pony and a reward.

Dolphin trainers use this method with a whistle to modify behavior instead of using the “clicker” favored by dog and horse trainers. This distinct sound marks the desired behavior the trainer wants from the animal.

I use two kinds of clickers. One is the professional dog clicker that makes a very loud sound. The other is a party-favor clicker I once used when I couldn’t find the professional model. The party favor is a bit too quiet, but it does work. (You can even use the click of a ball-point pen softly retracting for sensitive animals, especially dogs.) 

Pony Clicker Training

The animals I am discussing in this particular instance are Florida Cracker ponies. One is a 13-hand, 6-year-old mare with limited training. She is reactive but controllable if you have a lot of time and tact. She always kicks hard with her off hind leg…

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