I've been experimenting with some clicker training with one of my horses. I stayed away from this method for a long time because I want my horses to be obedient because I asked them to, not because they know I have a treat in my pocket. I still feel that way, but decided to give it a try with Wilson. He's a sweet boy, but he isn't great at connecting the dots to figure out what I want. In addition, he gets a little flustered and frustrated when he doesn't understand what is expected of him. I thought this would be an effective way to provide him with better feedback to help him learn.
So far, we've done two sessions, and we both like it! We started our first session introducing the concept. When his head was straight ahead, he got a click and a treat. He doesn't get treats very often so was offering his Flehmen response "smile" frequently. I went ahead and gave it a cue... and... Viola!! He had learned his first trick. It was almost too easy. Next we worked on targeting (touching with his nose) a tennis ball stuck on the end of my whip. It was interesting watching his learning process. He had a few good touch, click, treat repetitions, but then he had to check the limits. He touched the stick, the handle, my hand, my pocket, and then he just stopped and looked at me for a minute.... And then he bit the ball. He had made the connection. Ball= good. Everything else= no cookie.
Our second session was much the same, and I was able to add the "touch" cue to the target work. We worked on touching a cone and targeting the ball in different places.
I'm excited to add a new method to my bag of tricks. I hope to use the clicker to train showmanship maneuvers and some stretching and strengthening exercises like belly lifts.