The First Steps.
Has your horse ever been hand fed? If not, then this is where you may wish to start. But safety first! Put your horse into a stable or behind a gate or other protective barrier. Use a clicker in one hand and, as you present a small amount of food in the other hand, click.
Be careful to stand well back and use an outstretched flat hand so that your horse cannot mug you for food.
It’s a good idea to start with small chunks of food – such as apples or carrots about ½” or 12mm square. The horse will find it easier to take a single chunk, rather than a small amount of grain. Trying to get the last grain or nut can occasionally lead to nipping with a horse that is new to clicker training. As your horse becomes
more clicker savvy, you can feed other treats more easily.
You can use any handy safe item as a target – a brush, cone, bucket lid, etc.
Present the target in a position where the horse can easily touch it – almost can’t avoid touching it.
This sounds (and is) very simple but it is worth practising with a friend before going to the horse. You need to hold the clicker in say, your left hand, present the target with say, your right hand, ‘click’ as the horse makes contact, then quickly withdraw the target (put it into your other hand and out of sight) and feed your treat. Another hand would be useful but as we are limited to two hands, it takes a little practise to get this smooth. The smoother it goes, the better for your horse and the more quickly they will ‘get it’.
As you repeat the targeting you will see the ‘lightbulb’ moment in your horse….. the
moment when they think “ hmmmm….. if I touch this thing, I can train my human to give me treats! ”
You’re on your way to having a clicker superstar!