Horse in field with Blue Cross team member

How to introduce clicker training to your horse

You may have heard of clicker training when it comes to dogs, but it’s also a great, positive way to train horses too.

The great thing about clicker training is that it can be carried out alongside your current training to improve results. This will make communication between you and your horse much clearer.

What you’ll need

  • Clicker with a wrist strap
  • Treats
  • Bum bag to place the treats in and to keep your hands free

Sessions need to be no longer that 10 minutes and be sure to feed your horse away from your bum bag, so they can’t steal any treats.

How to start clicker training your horse

The best way to ease your horse into clicker training is to first teach them how to behave during training.

It's important to teach your horse not to nudge or sniff at the bum bag for treats and ask them instead, to politely look straight ahead and wait for the food to come to them. This will help your horse to understand that the clicker is used for training and isn't just associated with food.

Step one: Begin by standing to one side of your horse so that you can easily move out of the way

Step two: Grab a treat from your bum bag and hold it in your hand

Step three: Every time your horse tries to get the treat from your hand, ignore them and make sure they don’t get the treat

Step four: As soon as your horse gives up and looks away, click using your clicker and instantly give them a treat

Step five: Repeat this exercise, switching sides of your horse so they understand that you want them to let the food come to them, not that you just want them to look straight when you stand on a certain side of them

Tip: When feeding your horse, make sure your palm is flat with your fingers together so that your horse can’t accidentally nip you when they take the treat

How to continue clicker training

Once your horse understands the basics of clicker training, you can begin to introduce the clicker to your normal training routine.

This will take some careful thought about what you want to teach your horse and you’ll need to break down the training step by step. 

For instance, if you want your horse to turn in a circle, you may wish to:

  • click and reward your horse when they start to turn their head in the direction you want them to
  • followed by clicking and rewarding when more of their body turns
  • continue in this way until they complete a full circle and fully understand the command
  • once they fully understand what you’re asking of them, you can add a vocal cue for them to recognise the command and respond
— Page last updated 09/12/2019