Lifelong learning

Sometimes people write to me privately, via email. It might be to ask a question they aren’t comfortable asking on one of the public forums I participate in. Or, it could be that they read my book and want to say that they found it helpful. I’ll admit that those do make my day! And, some times the writer feels the need to write to inform me about how wrong I am on points A, B, and C. The latter aren’t frequent but when they arrive they usually cover the same ground all based on the same mis-understandings about what I do. I received one of that type just the other day.

Because I am a dressage rider people seem to think that my use of clicker training is to by-pass the classical process. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is important to state clearly that nothing could be further from the truth–in my world. Clicker training is a method by which we can reinforce behaviors. It doesn’t tell us what to train or the steps to use to get to the end goal. Those choices need to be made by the trainer and they need to be customized for the horse at hand. So the choices that I make may be very different from those made by someone with different goals and experiences. In other words, there may well be someone out there who does want to use clicker training to by-pass the classical training process, but that is not me. My choices will be based on what I’ve learned about the best of horsemanship and the classical process.

My goal is to achieve the result of a horse who is calm, focused, relaxed, freely forward, balanced, and supple in all that we do. I know too much about how little it can take for a rider to interfere with those goals by being unbalanced and stiff. Rather than try to train the horse to ignore these rider errors I will teach the rider to become ‘easy to carry’ by being calm, focused, balanced, and supple herself. In other words, the classical requirement for the rider to come to the training with an independent seat still applies. Any clicker training which might be applied to the situation is on top of all that.

Yes, clicker training is ‘easy’ to do and ‘anyone’ can do it. But the quality of the results will always be directly proportional to the trainer’s experience with the end game–the trainer’s vision of the results. If the vision is flawed or incomplete well then so will be the results. This goes for everyone, me included. Which is why I’m continually pushing myself to learn more. The journey is truly never ending! And that is probably why I love it so much. 🙂