Tell me about Clicker Training


Cantering cabbage!
May 18, 2009
Hi all,
Having seen alot of threads mention clicker training and been advised by my RI to try it with my lad, can someone please enlighten me? I understand the concept but am a wee bit worried that Oscar will start mugging me for treats if we try it, all advice greatfully recieved and will be much appreciated.

Flipo's Mum

Heavy owner of a Heavy
Aug 17, 2009
Perthshire, Scotland
Eeek, there are a few more experienced folk on here than me so I'll just bump this thread by giving my view of it and why and when I use clicker. Hopefully some more knowledgeable peeps will add their wisdom.
I was an inexperienced horse owner (and still am lol!) who didn't really bond with my horse. He's not totally driven by his stomach but he is an energy saver so I need to find a good incentive to get him to do things. Most of the time he wants an easy quiet and pain free life....don't we all!
We had/have a few issues - mounting being the prime example but also him being spooky and unconfident, unresponsive to my groundwork, etc.
I explored some nh type stuff and would now say I pick and choose and do what I want with that but the clicker is incorporated into what I want to achieve. A mix and match sort of approach. What I'm saying is that I'm not totally clicker dependent but I think it's taught me more about timing and thus I've now been able to use approach and retreat, pressure and release, all more successfully than before.

If you're psychological at all, clicker is reliant upon operant conditioning. Achieving a desired response by shaping existing behaviour with positive reinforcement. Basically taking the basic building blocks a horse presents us with, and just encouraging them little by little in the right direction of what we want them to do by reward.
Before you start anything you should really have a read of any book by Alexandra Kurland, or there's a few websites which explain more. The first thing the horse needs to learn is the link between a behaviour, the click and then the treat. The click, when given in a timely fashion, develops as a clear signal to the horse that he has done a good thing, and that is then rewarded with a treat. Using a simple target, getting them to touch it with their nose by placing it in close proximity where they are liable to try to touch it, is a good place to start. Then move it around once he gets the link.
The mugging thing can actually be trained out of them - you simply have to encourage them to turn their head away, click and then reward. (simply, but a mistake I made was not to train this very well! My horse didn't really mug me as such, but he does look to me for the treat and wasn't really paying attention to the task at hand. Ive had to go back a step or two to retrain this and I'm still working on it :redface:)
I think it can be good for horses as they realise they can exert some perceived control over their situation and they show an active interest. It gets their brains working. I don't use it for everything, but can see its advantages.
Sorry for the wittering, hope this helps!


New Member
Sep 16, 2009
West Yorkshire
I also recommend the Alexandra Kurland book, it explains really simply how to get started with CT.

I was worried about mugging at first too. Ginger is a very greedy horse and doesn't get treats out of the hand at all as he is a complete brat with them and can be pushy and nippy. However with clicker training, I trained him right from the start with giving him a clear signal when we are about to start training (I show him the bag of treats and say "clicker time") and a clear signal when we have finished (show him both my hands, let him sniff them, and say "clicker finished"). He took no time at all to learn this and has never, ever tried to mug inbetween sessions.

The key with CT is the timing, it's all about the timing. The click has to be given the instant the required behaviour is achieved- as you are teaching your horse that particular thing. Leave it a second too late and you might have just taught your horse something completely different!

I don't have playtime sessions with CT anymore as Ginger gets VERY excited about it (if you read Ben Hart's book you will see that some horses get quite sexually aroused by CT- I have one of them!), however I do use it as a tool if there is something specific I want to achieve. It is excellent and we have overcome several issues using CT.

It's easy and it's fun, and a great way to motivate the horse. Definitely worth a try if you are thinking about it.


New Member
Jan 4, 2006
I second the AK book as a good place to start and she has lots of nice pictures to make it interesting.

There are some newer authors who are into even more positive reinforcement (AK uses some negative in her training) but in all honesty I havn't seen in the new books such a good step by step guide like the AK book has.

A good website to look at is one by Hannah Dawson.

This video that she made is particular good at demystifying the 'mugging' worry with clicker training.

Either way, it is hard to get this wrong and your horse will love it :)
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