I had always been interested in clicker training. I grew up in
and had seen the marine mammals at the San Diego Zoo, and at Sea World, and had met Shawna Karrisch and her wonderful Rottweiller. Horse people I admired, like Beezie Madden, used CT to good ends. San Diego seemed like the perfect candidate for me to expand from interest to execution. I bought some CT videos, studied them, bought a little clicker at Petsmart, and off to the barn I went. Bryan
I tried it first on a couple of the more…er…normal horses. I called my friend Linda who was quite good at CT and she came and gave me a lesson It was interesting and very fun to watch the boys figure out the click treat connection and then to teach them to seek the reward. I loved it. Wonder and Zachy, the two boys we worked with, got the idea in about two and a half minutes. Cool! I thought. This is it! CT will be The Breakthrough Bryan has been waiting for!
Well, not exactly.
I had already learned to break things in to not just small but infinitesimal steps with B, so I decided to start with the most basic thing. Click, treat. That was it. No target, no trick, just click, treat, respond.
I started in the cross ties, where he felt safe. Right in front of his stall, no Barn In The Distance issue to distress him. Well within his potentially reachable comfort zone. Right?
I had some little alfalfa cookie things that would make my other horses willingly jump through fire. I held one out to
to get his interest. B! Treat! Bryan
(insert picture of blank faced horse here)
Bry—annn! Treat! Here ya go, buddy!
(insert picture of Abby rubbing treat on
’s lips) Bryan
C’mon B! Yum yum!
(insert picture of Abby sticking treat in the side of
’s mouth) Bryan
(insert picture of horse standing there, little alfalfa cookie sticking out the side of his mouth)
(Insert picture of Abby “Waaaaah!!”)
So what the heck? How do you clicker train a horse that is not treat motivated? Not only not treat motivated, but TREAT UNAWARE?!
By this time, every ‘failure’ with B was a personal affront. By now, every plan A had morphed in to Plan D, or G, or R. So now what? I realized I had to break things down even further. Now the goal was to try to find something that
so liked that he would notice when he was being offered one. And not only notice, but want one, and maybe even learn to notice an associated click. Bryan
Hey! I am nothing if not tenacious. I was going to reach
, and that was that. Bryan