Clicker training has become quite popular in dog training in recent years, and with good reason. It is a system of training based on science and learning theory. Unfortunantly, it hasn't caught on with many horse owners yet.
Clicker training involves training through positive reinforcement, meaning when the horse does the correct “behavior” he is reinforced or rewarded by something good – such as food. The clicker serves as a “marker” or a “bridge signal” telling the horse “that's right!” at precisely the moment he does the right thing. With just a little bit of conditioning the horse learns to equate the click with food, and this is exactly what I focus on in this video – I have been using positive reinforcement training for some time (see this post Using Treats in Training), but I had always used the word “good” instead of the clicker. It works the same, but I am finding that the clicker has an advantage in some cases because it is a very unique and distinctive sound.
I don't use only clicker training when I work with my horses, but I have found that it is a very useful tool or training skill to have. It is fun for the horse and puts them in a completely different state of mind than many traditional methods because the horse is actively searching for the right answer and knows he will get a reward when he finds it – so there is real motivation for the horse to figure out what I want. I am still honing my skills in this method, but I highly recommend these two books by Karen Pryor and you can read my reviews on them with the links below.
Watch the video and then it's your turn – have you used clicker training on your horse (or another animal)? When did you use this method?