Never say Never!

There are many excellent rider/trainers out there who are getting great results who don’t know the first thing about clicker training.  In fact, most experienced trainers who have seen some clicker training think of it as a ‘gimmick’ to be avoided.  Although I disagree with this sentiment, I won’t ask you to change a training approach that is already working very well.  However, sometimes a special situation requires some out of the box thinking.

Consider Clicker Training for Stall Rest

Even if you would never consider clicker training under normal circumstances you may one day find yourself with a horse who is confined to stall rest and hand walking.  The unique challenge with this scenario is you somehow have to walk the horse without allowing him to re-injure himself.  Many people resort to ACE to take the edge off.  I would like to suggest an alternative.

Use this stall rest time productively.  Teach the horse some useful ‘tricks’ using clicker training.  The first obvious advantage is it keeps the horse’s mind occupied during the confinement period.  The less obvious advantage is, it is remarkable how ‘tiring’ this mental work is.  This will come in handy when the vet gives the OK to start to foray out of the stall for short walks .

Ground Handling Success

I had a client who asked me to help her with a problem with leading her horse – a then 5 year old, 17h, Dutch Warmblood gelding.  While leading she needed to keep a very close hold on the horse because as soon as you let the lead rope be loose, he reared up and tried to take off.  As such she was unable to trot the horse in hand for a veterinary exam.    I agreed to help but only under the condition that I could introduce him to clicker training.  The short story there is a few weeks later, when he needed to be trotted in hand for the vet, he did so with flying colors.

Eliminate Bucking Under Saddle

Often under saddle bucking is due to the horse’s frustration and associated tension.  One day, I was to have a ‘clicker’ lesson with the aforementioned young Dutch WB and his owner.  She wanted to do the lesson after her riding lesson to ensure that he’d be a little tired out for the the lesson.  I had been working with this horse enough to know that wasn’t going to be necessary so I recommended the opposite – do the clicker work first as a warm up to the riding.  What surprised and delighted her was how engaged in the groundwork (which by now had evolved from basic leading to light longe work) the horse was.  Even surrounded by a lot of activity in the arena he was calm and focused.  After 45 minutes of pretty ‘light’ work (which never involved any bucking, bolting, rearing, or careening as it used to) he stood, relaxed with one foot cocked as his owner and I chatted.  Eventually we would work together taking the success on the ground to further success under saddle – essentially restarting him on mounting, forward aids and basic steering which stuck with him in his dressage training for years to come.

Consider using clicker training as a means to ensure a horse’s health and soundness (not to mention human safety) while recovering from an injury or to solve some.

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