Clicker training horses is a perfect method for people who are looking for a training system that stimulates their horse's interest whilst retaining their personality. It does not involve any type of dominance but instead rewards the horse for behaviour that is wanted which in turn encourages more good behaviour. It helps you build clear communication with your horse without the use of whips or force.
I initially did some clicker training with my own horses as a way of solving specific problems such as picking up hooves. I found it to be a fantastic way of letting the horse know when they are doing the right thing and was impressed by it's simplicity. However, it was only recently, after attending a clicker training horses clinic that I realized the full potential of this method and how it could be applied to riding.
Because the method allows you to instantly tell the horse (by making a clicking sound) when it is doing the right thing it means that you are able to reward the smallest try. Once the horse realizes that the click means "YES!" then they start to think about how they can make you say "YES!" again because they know that after every "YES!" they get a treat. This makes this method incredibly powerful as you start to develop a horse who is thinking for himself and trying to do things to please you.
From that point on it is just pure fun as you are then able to capture all the good stuff that your horse starts to offer and training progresses so smoothly. For example, my young horse Monty tends to have a very high head carriage when being lunged. I tried many things over the last few years to try to encourage him to move in a more rounded outline on his own, including the use of bowling reins but no matter what I did he just resorted back to a high head position. Using clicker training I was able to get him to willingly lower his head and round his back in just two sessions! And once he realised how much more comfortable it is to move in a rounded outline he is now more than willing to maintain it.
Another horse that I have, Sparky (he's the one in the photos on this page), was a very off-ish type when I got him. He was difficult to catch and whilst he would do everything I asked once I caught him, he was always very reluctant. Since starting clicker training with him I now have a horse who LOVES to be with me and will bang on the door to come into the riding arena to work! He has found that being with a human can actually be fun and he is SO switched on to everything I ask - a definite clicker star in the making. It is so wonderful to now have a horse whose personality is shining through, instead of just a compliant robot.
The clinic I attended was with Alexandra Kurland who is the pioneer of clicker training for horses. I highly recommend her clinics but you can also purchase her range of clicker training dvds and books that take you right from the very first lesson of introducing your horse to the clicker with basic clicker training right through to performing high school moves such as lateral flexions, shoulder-in and haunches-in. See link below for more info.
For more background information about Clicker Training Horses visit Alexandra's website: www.theclickercenter.com