Clicker training and the competition horse?
The clicker is used to train a new behavior or improve an existing response. Once a behavior is established, reliable and on cue, the clicker and reward are phased out and only used again if you need to “tune up” the response to that cue. By the time your horse goes into a show ring or competition, the horse should have well established responses to all the cues you will need for that type of event. You won’t be actually “training” your horse in the show ring, the training should have been already done at home. The clicker is a training tool, just like a whip is a training tool. You are not allowed to use a whip in a grand prix dressage test at an international event but most riders use a whip in training. You also cannot ride with a clicker in competition events but the clicker is a great training tool that can help motivate your horse and improve their responses to your cues. Using a clicker produces much better results than using a whip. Competition is a great way to test your horse’s training. It allows you to find out if the horse can respond to your cues in a different environment with many distractions. Before going to a show you should ensure that the horse’s responses to your cues are well established and reliable in your home environment. You should then gradually increase the amount of distractions that the horse is trained with at home. For example will the horse still respond to you if there is balloons and a tarp tied to the side of the arena? When the horse can work well even with distractions at home, then you can take the horse out to various venues with more distractions. Eventually the horse will become equally obedient and responsive in any environment. If you prepare your horse in this way, by gradually exposing them to more different stimuli then you will create a horse that is capable of giving you their best performance in the show ring. Trainers of guide dogs call this part of the training “proof”, it is proof that the behavior is well established if the animal can perform it on cue at any time, in any situation, even with many distractions.