EQUINE CLICKER TRAINING.....
using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people
Thank you, Mr. Rogers
This was originally posted March 29, 2003 on the clickryder list (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I was sitting reading the newspaper this morning and there was an editorial about Mr. Rogers. As most of you probably know, Mr. Rogers died recently and there have been a lot of tributes to him for his work on children's television. I, myself, have fond memories of watching him as a child, and my children have watched him some too. Anyways, what the writer said was that she was tired of all the talk about who would replace him, not on television, but as someone who we could look to for guidance to teach us to how to be kind and gentle. She was upset because Mr. Rogers' whole message had been that each one of us is special, and it was not for just for us to appreciate people who were kind and gentle, but to be kind and gentle.
So what does this have to do with clicker training? Well, I attended the Groton clinic (which was truly awesome, just to make you all even more envious!) and Alex asked the attendees to come up with some thoughts on clicker training to share with people she met at Equine Affair. She was looking for ways of explaining clicker training to people who enquired about it. And she was looking for ways to explain how special and different clicker training truly was.
We threw around a lot of great ideas about improved communication, motivating the horse, teaching horses how to learn, building relationships, thinking in positives, and improving our own training skills. I could make a long list of similar benefits and they are all wonderful and worthwhile things.
But this little editorial really got me thinking. In some ways for me, clicker training has been about the power of an average person to change a horse's life. And I don't mean just by being kind and nice to the horse, although that is part of it. I mean that clicker training empowers us. It shows us that each and every one of us is special and capable and has the ability to teach our horses. We don't have to rely on finding a qualified professional to train our horses. With clicker training, we can take our time and break things down into little pieces and build things at our own speed. It doesn't mean we might not need guidance from other horse professionals, but I think it gives us the confidence to say "yes, I can do that." It gives us the freedom to work at our own speed and in our own way to achieve a desired result.
And...speaking of everyone being special, I think this applies to the horses too. Years ago, I remember reading an article by Alex and she said something I have always remembered. I can't quote it directly but she said that everyone dreams of finding that special horse and that with clicker training, your dream horse could be the horse that was already in your backyard. If I think of all the stories on this list, I think many of us can agree with that. I read every day about horses who had an owner who loved them enough to chip away at whatever problems they encountered. Owners who found the special horse inside. And also about owners who had an unexceptional horse, and found that he or she blossomed with clicker training into the kind of horse they never could have imagined.
Hmm..I think I might be getting too mushy here and I'm sure you all get the idea, so I'm off to hug my special horses and go to bed.