Freedom from Fear

This morning I received an email from Jane Savoie about her Freedom from Fear DVD set which has just been released. I congratulate Jane on this achievement! I know Jane has made it her life’s work to help people have happier more enjoyable relationships with their horses and I want to support her work. To find out more about her program click here.

In her email she also included a link to a clip from the video. In the clip she demonstrates a little bit about how she uses clicker training to help train horses who are relaxed and obedient. Naturally, I applaud this effort since we are 100% on the same page about the value of that process. 🙂 Here’s a link to the clip. Or, watch it right now below!

Now those who know me might have some questions about how Jane has chosen to use the clicker. You’ll see that she clicks a lot and only rarely offers a treat along with it whereas I would nearly always give a treat with each click.

Her explanation is that if you are clicking for “Go” it would be confusing to have the horse stop for the treat. Actually, my own experience is that horses figure it out just fine. However, I don’t want this small criticism to mar what is an otherwise admirable effort to show people how to have a much more positive interactions with their horses. Good work, Jane!


  1. I really like that some big name trainers are endorsing clicker training, especially when many of their followers probably don’t use a clicker. In some sense, any press is good press, as I think many riders are still so opposed to using treats with horses and have never heard of clicker training with horses.

    That said, I worry about techniques such as clicking without a primary reinforcer. It probably can be used somewhat effectively if the trainer knows exactly what they’re doing, I worry more about those new to clicker training.

    I have several friends who are involved with the zoo community. For some keepers, once the animal understands the click they fade out the food. Then a month or so later, when the clicker no longer has any effect, they stop using it because that little plastic box no longer “works.”

    I find exercises like 300 pigeon pecks (which I just wrote about on my blog here:, are fun for the animal and a pretty quick way for building “go” and duration of go.

    I really like Jane Savoie. I’ve watched several of Jane’s older videos. Although they relied more on negative reinforcement than positive reinforcement, I like a lot of her techniques and exercises. She seems very fair to the horse, gives the horse ample opportunity to learn and has a good sense of when to release pressure.

    Mary H.

  2. Oh, how disappointing. Jane Savoie really doesn’t seem to understand clicker training.

    I was introduced to clicker training by a zookeeper friend and she was very emphatic that you always-without-fail give a treat after clicking. She told me “if you click and don’t treat, you have broken the trust.”

    I interviewed a “clicker trainer” a few months ago. As we were talking it became clear she did not understand clicker training. Her dog was mostly deaf and she used clicks to communicate, for instance, one click means come, two clicks means sit, etc. She also bristled when I asked about treats and asserted she never gave her dogs food treats.

    No wonder people get confused or think it’s a gimmick. Karen Pryor, in her recent book, says she never liked the name “clicker training” but that’s what stuck and here we are. I think people get too hung up on the clicker and forget about the positive reinforcement and operant conditioning aspects.

  3. Hi Guys,
    I do understand the concept behind clicking and treating every time, and do that when it’s practical.

    I was taught clicker training by a SeaWorld trainer. I was told that once the animal is bridge conditioned, the click only needs to be reinforced every 10 times or so.

    I have found this very helpful in cases where I’ve used the clicker to reward my horses for every step during piaffe or passage. I want to reward them to show them they’re on the right track, but I want them to keep going for 10-15 steps before I stop to feed.

    But you’re right. Training through reward is definitely the way to go!

    • Well this sure is a ‘hot’ topic that can inspire some passion! I have occasionally clicked two or three times before stopping to treat. But, that would be with a very click-savvy horse and, I admit, I wouldn’t do it as a matter of course. That’s me. I know that there are those, like Shawna Karrasch, who advocate clicking multiple times before treating. If the horses say it can work it can hardly be considered ‘wrong’. As always it is up to the trainer to correctly read the horse and be aware of any changes in the horse’s behavior that would suggest that we need to reevaluate our assumptions. Just because yesterday (or a minute ago) ten clicks per treat were sufficiently motivating doesn’t mean that it is motivating right now. It is up to us to adjust the presentation to fit the horse we have in front of us. Maybe we need to break the problem down into smaller chunks, maybe we need to consider that food is not reinforcing enough for the horse or maybe he needs a break. Rules are great as guidelines. Ultimately the horse tells us what is working and what isn’t.

  4. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that the treat isn’t the ONLY reward. There are other things that horses want. Sometimes (as with dogs) what’s wanted is something other than a treat—for example, a release can be “just what the doctor ordered” in some situations. I’ve seen people train extremely effectively using good timing of a release—and I am definitely someone who has NO problem delivering a chunk of carrot or apple when teaching my horse to do things. Whatever fits the need of the moment.

    I’ll bet that even if Jane Savoie isn’t delivering a munchable more than once every ten clicks, she is probably delivering something else that the horse wants at that moment.