Part 22 – Clicker Training – A Journey to Enlightenment

Really? A journey to enlightenment? Well….. read on!

Since the beginning of this year, I have been experiencing the depression/anxiety cycle, or rather, mainly the depression part of the cycle. As I have written previously in my blogs, particularly in my early posts, I have lived with depression for as long as I can remember.

Just over 20 years ago, I finally sought professional help…. and during that long therapy I discovered how much I loved horses! This led to my present situation of now having four horses and taking the long journey to positive reinforcement. There is a lot more I could say, in fact there is a book or two in my head, waiting to be written! But for now, I am just giving you a brief background!

In the past 20 years, great advances have been made in understanding the brain, and therefore, depression is more widely understood. However much of it remains a mystery. I imagine in another 20 years, so much more will be understood, there will be better treatments, and better ways to manage it.

I don’t need to tell you the details – you can google depression and then wade through the millions of articles.

For about the last 10 years I have been on medication. I really tried to avoid it, as I thought I had to figure it out for myself. I’d had very successful therapy, and I was able to keep it at bay for some time – but it would return no matter how hard I tried. My doctor talked me into trying medication and I’m so glad he did. It has made all the difference…..

BUT….

I seem to have a clear run for 5 to 6 years…. and then the medication wears off…. I’m in one of those cycles now. I don’t mess around now. I work with my GP and my psychologist to keep myself on track.

Just for interest, here is a link to quotes about depression – I can relate to almost all of them! https://www.psycom.net/depression-what-depression-feels-like

So, this is where I find myself, and as always, I think about how depression must feel in horses and what similarities there are between horses and humans.

My first thought is judgement. Depression is still very misunderstood. Many people with the condition do not understand it themselves and do not have supportive, educated people that they can reach out to. Now – think of the horses. Yes – depression in horses is a real thing https://horseandrider.com/horse-health-care/depressed-horse

I have seen many a depressed horse. When Magnum and Danny came here, they both had depression, even though they displayed different behaviours. Here are some comparison photos. Pull down the arrows to compare.

I

I was guilty of judging my horses back then. I labelled them. I didn’t understand that what I was doing to them – others were doing to me! They were judging my false, broken self – just as I was judging the horses. I thought of Danny as not the sharpest tool in the shed. I would joke that he was missing a few brain cells. In truth, he was indeed!… his brain was so muddled, in such a fog from his early life, that it must have taken him great effort just to live in this world. I know well the feeling of brain fog, yet at the time I couldn’t relate it to my experience.

I know better now. I see our similarities. And now I have seen the real Danny – without the mask of depression.

It would be easy for me to say clicker training changed everything. That would be nice and simple. Let’s say it started him on the road to recovery. It’s been a slow road – I’m talking years….. Why has it taken years? Well…….

What I discovered, is that it has taken me years to truly change my mindset about horses…… and while I still used positive reinforcement and he had a nice time, underlying that was my thoughts – and my judgements about him.

Really, I should have been judging myself! You see, Danny knew that I still didn’t really see him. How could he move out of his long term depression just by me using positive reinforcement as a training method? In the deeper recesses of my mind, I still thought of him as ‘lesser’. I wouldn’t have admitted that before….

So this is where I get to why this subject is in this current category … remember it’s titled – ‘What Does It Mean To Be A Clicker Trainer?’

Being a clicker trainer sets you on the path to changing your long held mindset about horses. You may not even be aware of your own narrow view. When we change our mindset to accept our horses as equals, it allows them to come out of their veil of depression and enter into their full being – without judgement.

Their full being may not be what we perceive as perfect, but we accept them as they are. We can help them with behaviour to keep both us and them safe, and then we can just enjoy the horse in front of us.

In my opinion, clicker training is a spiritual experience – if you fully immerse into it, it can lead you to a full awakening. We come to realise that everything around us is equal and connected. It leads us to a different state of awareness – we see the small things – and the bigger picture.

This is what it means for me. I want to continue expanding on that.

Let’s see what happens!

Danny and I having a quiet moment!

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS STORY, PLEASE START AT THE BEGINNING HERE – Part 1 – An Introduction

PLEASE SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS

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