Sunday, June 13, 2010

Clicker training lesson

One of the ladies I met at the clicker training clinic gives lessons so I asked her to come out yesterday morning to work with Gwen and me. Her name is Kate; here she is at the clinic with a 5 year old gelding that she picked up after he was abandoned at a boarding barn.
I like this picture because you can tell that she's smiling, which is pretty good since that gelding was being a bit of a handful. Kate and one of her other horses, Lucky, have been so successful with clicker training that they've been featured in at least one Alexandra Kurland book. Kate told me Lucky's story and there were a lot of parallels to my time with Gwen. Lucky was half-wild, aggressive and completely unruly under saddle. In fact he tossed her off the first time she rode him and broke her ankle. Now Lucky is a shining example of how well-behaved and cooperative a clicker trained horse can be. Between her success with her difficult horse and her cheery disposition, I knew that she was just the person I needed to help me with Gwen.

We worked on leading first, adding in some backing before I gave her a treat to make Gwen concentrate on her balance (and stop surging ahead of me after I stopped). We did a little fine-tuning of my rope mechanics, mainly to make sure I didn't put more tension on the rope than I needed. I have been unconsciously holding onto the rope under the snap, putting weight on the rope that Gwen could learn to ignore, making it harder to get her to respond to the lightest cues. We finished up with Kate giving me pointers on how to build duration with Gwen's head lowering.

For me the best part of the lesson was seeing my one-person mare working so nicely with Kate when she took the lead to do demonstrations. Kate was also quite impressed with how soft Gwen was being and how smart she is. That made me feel really good about all the hard work we've put in together. We're going to try to meet up bi-weekly from now on, doing more with leading and eventually adding in lateral work. Kate has also agreed to be my ground person when I try to start Gwen under saddle again in a few months. Whoohoo!

Today I lunged Coriander for the first time since March. The gimpy foot held up! I'm starting him out nice and easy again, 8 minutes of walking and 2 minutes of trotting. I want to try getting into the saddle again in a week or two and I want to make sure he's gotten any naughtiness out first. Poor boy is mega stiff going to the right, he actually threw in a buck going in that direction. I see circles in his future.

After I brought him in I took Gwen out to practice what we'd done with Kate. Note to self: When working with Gwen after taking her brother out, begin with head lowering. I tried it the other way and she was way too worked up for it. She did eventually calm down and started automatically backing up when I put the treat out, good for her!

Plan for tomorrow: more of the same. Plus, physical therapy for me starts tomorrow, I'm dying to get the range of motion back in my ankle.


  1. Sounds like great work! I wish I had a CT in my area that did horses. I would love a lesson.

  2. Hi Golden, I bet Alex could recommend someone in your area. You could try to send her an email through her site. It might take a while to get a response since she travels a lot but it's worth a try.

  3. Golden- you could also sign up for this group:, and post that you're looking for a teacher.

  4. Yay, Gwen! Congratulations to the both of you. It's terrific that Kate will be your ground person, too, when you start Gwen under saddle. It's all falling into place. :-)

    I have my fingers crossed that you will be riding Coriander sooner rather than later!

  5. Hi Wolfie, I'm hoping to be able to ride in a week but that may just be wishful thinking. Physical therapy better go well today.

  6. Thanks great advise! Maybe there will be some Winnipeg folks in the group. I will do that!