Frequently Asked Questions about Clicker Training Horses

This is the very first Clicker Training session with the 6yo palomino gelding called "Chips". We start with the horse behind a fence for safety while we teach them to keep their head away from the food and to take food rewards gently. We want...

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.

How will clicker training fit into my existing training program? Perfectly! Most natural, traditional and classical horse training methods are based on negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is about removing a pressure when the horse responds correctly. For example, when riding we ask a horse to go forwards by applying a light pressure to the horse’s belly with our legs. We squeeze the horse with our legs and gradually increase the pressure with our legs until the horse steps forwards. When the horse steps forwards we release the pressure of our legs.

 Dopamine, oxytocin and clicker training? Clicker training uses the reward circuitry in the horse’s brain. This causes an increase in the levels of dopamine and oxytocin in the horse’s system. These are neurochemicals that are responsible for making a horse feel good. As a side effect of training with positive reinforcement we actually end up increasing the neurochemicals that make a horse feel good.

My horse is not really interested in food rewards, will clicker training work? Yes! Some horses will appear to not be interested in food rewards in the beginning. They might take one or two treats and then seem like they are full or not interested in the food or even spit it out. These horses will end up keen and enthusiastic about clicker training within a few short sessions.

 Can you use clicker training while riding? Yes! It is easy to incorporate clicker training into ridden work. Using clicker training while riding will help the horse become very calm, motivated, obedient and responsive. It will also really help with teaching the horse advanced performance work such as dressage, jumping, western riding or reining.

Clicker training can be used to teach your horse almost anything! Clicker training can be used for:
  • Groundwork, handling, leading, in hand work.
  • Teach the horse to have their feet and legs handled safely.
  • Bombproofing, desensitizing the horse to scary objects, tarps, clippers, hosing, standing still for plaiting etc.
  • Loading and unloading in floats and horse trucks.
  • Teaching the horse to accept injections, wormers or allow you to treat an injury or apply medication.