First Forays into Clicker Training – Q&A

Posted in: Clicker Training, Equine Training, Positive Reinforcement Training, Q & A Section, The Academy of Positive Horsemanship


Hi group! I spent many years working with horses (old school training), then switched to dogs about 20 years ago. I’m pretty much obsessed with clicker training, and I’m looking forward to my first chicken camp next week.

I would love to get some suggestions from you about how to approach my first clicker training experience with horses. My good friend has several horses, and her mom rescued an older horse (he’s retired and mainly hangs out in a pasture all day).

We are all excited about the idea of me doing some clicker training with him, mainly for enrichment and selfishly, I’ve been eager to clicker train a horse!

Anyhow, he could be a bit better about picking up his feet, and a couple other things, but he’s apparently very calm and stable with no behavior problems or fears.

Any helpful ideas for me? Any first time mistakes to avoid? Suggestions for food? Simple things to try to introduce him to clicker training?

His owner is older, and has some physical limitations, so I was thinking about teaching him to lower his head into the halter to make it easier for her to put on, working on picking up his feet a little better so it’s easier for her, and perhaps some station training?

I’ve heard a lot of concern about clicker training making horses mouthy and dangerous (I disagree, I’m sure if it’s done correctly that won’t happen). I don’t want to cause any problems accidentally, so is there anything I should avoid doing?

Also, how do you work with the mugging issue? That’s one of the first things I work on with a puppy, does it differ much with a horse? Does anyone have any tips for working through this issue right away to make sure I don’t create a problem?

Any ideas, videos, tips, suggestions, articles, etc. that you have would be much appreciated!


Hi and welcome! That is a lot of questions! But all very valuable ones 🙂 I think many of us equine clicker trainers fell into the trap of overlooking emotional arousal when working with horses and therefore had to go back and ‘start again’ in a different way. As I explain in one of my tutorial lectures:

“Food is an incredible motivator and being as grass doesn’t run away from horses, they aren’t very genetically prepared to handle frustrations when trying to figure out how to gain their food rewards.”

As such, it’s very important to study the science behind it as well as explore equine ethology and even the modern research into mammal emotions (affective neuroscience) in order to become an effective equine rewards-based trainer. There is a lot to learn so as to avoid frustrated, aroused and anxious horses.

It is the most incredible and effective means of communicating and training horses though when done well, but the foundations need to be introduced well, carefully and uniquely tailored to the individual horse in question.

I have 5 hours of video lectures/tutorials included within my foundation lessons available to Members of The Academy, covering everything from bridge conditioning and bridge signals, emotional/impulse control and arousal, differential reinforcement techniques, as well as early behaviours to teach and so so much more which I believe are all absolutely crucial for anyone wishing to explore training this way to have a good understanding of before beginning. As Janet says, it’s simple but not easy to do it well and it’s impossible to do it well without this understanding.

So your questions are very valid indeed, and I think its brilliant how you are so focused on avoiding potential issues from the very beginning, however, I can’t give you all the information you require in one short post here on FB 😉 That’s the exact reason I created my online learning resource so I could share all that detailed information with people, just like you, who really do want to embrace this phenomenal way of training and understand how to achieve it with horses.

I also run a 12 week online course covering everything from learning theory to emotions and how to use modern, evidence based protocols for dealing with emotional reaction in equines (SD&CC). The course is purely equine focused, littered with video footage of real horses and real training all the way through. A few of the students who are currently doing this course are on here, so I am sure they will happily give you some first hand feedback about the course.

Click here to learn more about the online course

I also wrote a blog recently, which will probably be of interest to you – click here to read the blog

I wish you the best of luck in your journey, Jo