I can't remember if I've posted on this thread already, but I know I've talked about clicker training on other threads and will get up on my soapbox to talk about it here. Sorry for being so repetitive, but this is something I'm passionate about and I hate seeing it go misunderstood to the point of being completely stomped on.
The basic truth is that ALL ANIMALS LEARN THINGS THE SAME WAY. THIS IS A FACT. YES, EVEN YOUR HORSE LEARNS THINGS THIS WAY. NO ANIMAL (NOT EVEN YOUR HORSE) IS ABSOLVED OF THE LEARNING THEORY. The four quadrants of the learning theory are positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, negative punishment. It doesn't matter if we're working with other humans, horses, dogs, or goldfish - the same theories apply. How you choose to apply these theories (and which ones you choose to apply) is up to you. For me, I prefer to use positive reinforcement and negative punishment wherever possible. Only in extreme cases would I use negative reinforcement (very rare) or positive punishment (almost never).
Can you teach an animal (dog, horse, dolphin, etc.) without a clicker? Of course. Can they learn faster, without fear of punishment, and be motivated to learn more things with a clicker? YES.
Clicker training can be applied to an absolute multitude of behaviours. Most people use it for dog tricks, and that's cool, but to be honest that's about 5% of the big picture. Next time you pull out your clicker, look at your dog (or horse) and see how keen they are to work once they see it. Now what if you could take that excitement and put it to use in other ways - such as basic manners, grooming, leading, etc.? The opportunities you have with a clicker are honestly...completely endless. I'm not saying that those who choose not to use clickers are doing their animals a disservice, or that your animals hate you, but only that you should open your eyes and minds to it. It's not witchcraft, it's not heresy, it's not being a pushover or a pez dispenser. It's making your animals excited to work with you, and seeing rapid and long-lasting results.
If I can turn an aggressive dog into a lover dog using a clicker, certainly horse people can teach their horses to like having their feet picked! And yes, you can train aggressive horses with a clicker in the exact same way that you would do it with a dog.
What people forget is that clicker training started with marine mammals and then was used for horses LONG before it ever caught on with dogs. You can't whip, kick, spur, etc. a dolphin, so what are you left with if you can't apply pressure? Think about how often you use pressure in your daily life with your horses and ask yourself...is there another way that I could do this?
My mantras are:
I want my dog/horse to work WITH me, not FOR me.
Training is something I do WITH my dog/horse, not TO my dog/horse.
Please - read Don't Shoot The Dog! By Karen Pryor (it's not about dogs) and learn more about it. Part of being responsible in this sport is knowing and understanding all aspects of training, and choosing the one that's right for you. Making blind assumptions about something you clearly do not understand is never helpful to anyone.
Here is a video of a horse who came to the present owner as a totally unpredictable bag of nerves. This horse was completely rehabilitated and trained using only force-free methods, including the clicker. I really encourage you to watch the whole thing.
Think about how these simple techniques can be applied to "real" horsemanship. Running a figure 8 around the chairs can be expanded into barrel racing, jumping over logs and jumps can be expanded into bigger jumps, the horse is learning to be less fearful of ordinary objects such as chairs and blankets through targeting (touching with the nose), the horse accepts grooming, and knows a multitude of really practical things. All that may look sweet and fun, but have a real purpose in life. Not to mention...how amazing is their relationship??? This is a horse who could not be touched! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CPi...layer_embedded