Part 14 – Clicker Training…… But It’s Cheating!

Now, I want to go back to the day I saw that table full of clickers….. it looked gimmicky because I didn’t understand what it was about. I judged it very quickly!

Then I saw Georgia Bruce doing a demonstration – that is certainly the way to go. But if we think hard about it, what is it that people see that they really like. If I just saw tricks I would think ‘wow’, but I would also think that was beyond me. Sometimes too much of a wow is a turnoff.

It was the fun vibe that got me in. There was laughter – and there was equality between Georgia and her horse…. that’s what I liked!

But many people think feeding a horse treats is cheating – however they see moving a whip or rope in the horses direction as acceptable. I was one of those people many years ago. So – the question….. what are we cheating on? Is horse training a test?

When I first saw the famous Kert, I was so disappointed that he had his assistants madly chopping carrots. He fed the horse carrots – but also used the whip and rope…. but it was the carrots that disappointed me. I had already dabbled in clicker training, so did I still think it was cheating?

How are we cheating? I think – we want our horse to like us – we don’t want it to be for the food. Somehow we think if we show strength, assertiveness etc. our horse will like us. We think we are creating a spoilt brat if we just feed them.

This is one of the stumbling blocks to taking up clicker training. It is a mindset that needs to be changed. If we study how behaviour works, we can soon understand why reinforcers (food for the horse) works.


I’ve just had a morning tea conversation with Doug about this – this is of course part of the cultural fog. I went back to what I remembered about Kert. I’d travelled to see a famous horse master and was disappointed about the carrots he was using…… but not about the whip?

I want to dig a bit deeper here …… not about what he was doing – which was selling the image of being all powerful and magical – but about my reaction. My disappointment wasn’t that it was cheating to use carrots – as I had already dabbled in clicker training – it was that it made him seem ”ordinary”. He was doing exactly what I was doing a couple of weeks previously. I wanted him to be out of the ordinary! That was the image he had sold!

I was so strongly wired in my beliefs that there were other people who held all the secrets. I was sold that lie from a young age and I had certainly been sold it in the horse world. There are plenty of clinicians, like Kert, who never want you to succeed. They want to retain a magical air – but once you study behaviour and learning theory, it all makes sense.

The history of clicker training and animal behaviour is available online – just google it! You can wind your way through articles. It has been available for some time – certainly for the past 20 years! It’s out there for all to find and is backed by science.

This moment with Magnum below only came about because of that scientific work. It may seem clinical – but this is one of the results it has produced. The true heroes in the horse world are the ones who have worked over the last half century or more to study animal behaviour and apply what they saw to help humans and animals coexist in a better way!

The only expert I ever needed was you!!!

Now it sounds like I am being clinical…. but this is my theory…… Once you have learnt this way to train horses, THEN the magic starts! I’m both a follower of science and a believer in magic. I communicate with horses, but I use the best theories we have available to train them. The two seemingly opposite ideas combine beautifully.

Clicker training is NOT cheating! It is the link between the horses’ world and ours! And when you have that link it provides a gateway to magic!

Until next time!!



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