Fun with a clicker

I go down to the lake armed with a clicker, carrot slices and a stack of incredibly bright green plastic cones, purchased from a sports shop. Ben is dozing, Rosie come up. I present a cone. This may be different to the yellow ball I have used before but Rosie knows exactly what to do. She targets it and soon she is following me as I hold the cone. Ben approaches. Despite the treats being earned by Rosie he does not attempt to drive her away but stands at a distance and waits.

Ben’s turn. He looks at the bright green cone. This is new. This is suspicious. This must be checked out. He puts his nose to it and laying a large nostril on the top, sniffs it. I click this touch of the cone. A mistake. Ben was not targeting, which he has done in the past by stretching his lips to the ball. So for the next few turns he sticks his nostril onto the cone until I manage to shape him back to targeting it. I am laughing; my mistake Ben, but you do look funny. It all feels light-hearted, a game. Ben is taking the treats gently from my hand, his eyes are bright and he is alert and focused on what I am asking him to do, not on the treats.

I put a cone on the ground away from him. He walks over to it. I put it further away, up on a rock, by a bush, to the side. He goes for it each time. I put out two, he touches both. I put out three, he knocks over each one. I put three in a semi-circle around him, he goes for each in turn. I put out a fourth. Too much. He stops. He starts to nibble some grass. I sense some confusion. I lift up one cone again. He touches it with his nose.

I move away. Ben comes up. Now I move to the side and Ben circles around me, stepping under with a soft, bent body, no clicker, no treats. I move to the other side, Ben mirrors my movement. We are matched, moving in a grave, courtly minuet, a stately dance movement in a wild field by a lake. Clicker forgotten now, we are united, horse and human leading each other in moments of magic. It ends when I lose that immersion in the present. Self-awareness comes in and I have broken the spell.

I have had many such moments with Rosie, but coming from my reluctant, often suspicous Ben, it is magic indeed.

I will never be an Imke Spilker or a Klaus Hempfling who seem (in their different ways) to intuitively move with their horses knowing how to respond from moment to moment, but if a clicker can lead me to unity like this, I want more.



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7 responses to “Fun with a clicker

  1. June

    That sounds like a wonderful time. I really think horses are curious about us and, just like we would like to learn how to communicate better with them, they’d like to learn more about how to communicate with us. A bit like E.T. And the clicker provides an avenue.

  2. A magical day with Ben! This whole experience sounds terrific.

  3. Pingback: Further thoughts on clicker training 2 | Ponies at Home