EQUINE CLICKER TRAINING.....
using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people
When I first wrote this section, there were very few clicker resources (especially for horses) out there so I listed them all. Now that there are more resources, I had to decide whether to make the list more restricted or let it be a list of all clicker resources out there. When I first started clicker training, I read everything I could find. This included a lot of dog training books and I found they were very helpful in explaining both the theory and the practical application of clicker training. For a long time, I listed all these books here.
But now that there are more horse resources available, I have taken most of the dog books off this list. I believe horse people can learn a lot about clicker training from dog books, and I still read them myself, but I don't think they need to be listed here. Those dog books that are included here are listed because I think the trainer's insight, philosophy or understanding of training makes them worth reading, regardless of what kind of animal you are training.
In addition to removing most of the dog books, I also decided that I would only list those books that were consistent with my own training methods. There are some significant differences in how different trainers train and maintain behavior, so reading books that present many different approaches can be confusing for novices. I have been strongly influenced by Alexandra Kurland and the Clicker Expo faculty (Kathy Sdao, Ken Ramirez, Karen Pryor, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Morten Egtvedt and Cecilie Koste, Steve and Jen White, and Joan Orr). Because this web site has a lot of "how-to" information and this list is my own personal recommendations, I decided that it made more sense to only list those resources that I have found useful and consistent with what I have been taught about clicker training. Every trainer has their own variations on how they do things, but the resources I have listed are compatible with each other and a new trainer should be able to go from one to another without encountering major differences in the basic procedure or interpretation of the science behind clicker training.
More experienced trainers can get new ideas or just a different perspective from reading other books that I have not chosen to list here. I encourage people to read books about clicker training different kinds of animals and for different jobs. Sometimes reading about using clicker training from a different perspective can promote more creative thinking or sometimes it can just help with understanding that the basic principles of clicker training apply to all animals and all training situations.
I have divided this page up into two sections. The first part is recommended resources. The second part is "Katie's Bookshelf" which is a look at what I am reading. Usually I only list clicker and horse related books in "Katie's bookshelf", but if I read something else that relates to clicker training or horses, I might list that too. I am always looking for good books to read, so if you have a suggestion, let me know. And if you have a question about a clicker training book that is not listed here, feel free to email me and ask about that too.
Clicker Training Resources
Specific to Horses
Clicker Training for Your Horse Alexandra Kurland. This is Alex's original clicker book and is still the best introduction to clicker training for horses that I have read. This is a book that I reread on a regular basis. As I become more experienced, I pick up more details.
The Click that Teaches: A Step-by-Step Guide in Pictures by Alexandra Kurland. This book and has a progression of exercises to teach clicker training basics and more complicated behaviors to your horse.
The Click that Teaches Video Series by Alexandra Kurland. Videos demonstrating the lessons in the Clicker Training and Step-by-Step books. If you can't find someone to come demonstrate Alex's work, these will be very helpful.
Riding with the Clicker by Alexandra Kurland. This is the book on how to carry your clicker groundwork over into your riding. It builds on many of the exercises in the Step-by-step book and shows how to teach an inverted, stiff and tense horse into a soft, willing and confident riding partner.
Clicker Training: Colt Starting the Natural Horse by Leslie Pavlich. If you are new to clicker training or new to horses and want a step by step guide to starting your young horse with clicker training, you might find this book useful. Leslie has started over 50 young horses and she has carefully recorded each step from some basic liberty work, to handling and grooming, introducing tack and leading skills and early rides. The book has a definite Natural Horsemanship flavor but you don't need to know a lot about Natural Horsemanship to follow her instructions. She does have a section in the beginning on the basics of clicker training and her philosophy but if you want to know more about the science behind clicker training, you will want to find some additional reading.
Getting to Yes: Clicker Training for Improved Horsemanship by Sharon Foley. Sharon is a dressage instructor who has also spent time with Harry Whitney and this book shows she adds clicker training to her training program through a system of progressive exercises to create a light, soft and happy horse. She has sections on the basics of clicker training, horse behavior, safety and manners, liberty work, learning to follow a feel, longeing, in-hand work and starting to ride. I really appreciated her section on common clicker training misconceptions. If you are new to clicker training and having trouble explaining it to your friends, or responding to their questions, this section will give you some useful information to clear up any misconceptions.
The following two books are not just about clicker training, but include clicker solutions to common problems.
What your Horse Wants You to Know by Gincy Self Bucklin. A look at horse behavior and how to solve problems with various techniques, including clicker training. A great resource for looking up specific issues such as biting, hard to catch etc...
How Your Horse Wants You to Ride by Gincy Self Bucklin. Similar to her previous book, this one looks at training issues under saddle and rider fixes.
Other (general, dog, other animal)
Advanced Clicker Training DVD set by Kathy Sdao. This is another weekend seminar by Kathy Sdao. It covers some more advanced topics and the dog exercise is about object discrimination. In the lecture part, she starts with a review of the basics and then moves on to more advanced topics such as cues and behavior chains. If you could only buy or watch one of these sets, you could probably start with this one as long as you had some clicker training experience.
Animal Training by Ken Ramirez. This is a big book and it has a lot of information that does not seem to apply directly to horses but I found that there were nuggets of useful information tucked in all over the place, so I read the whole thing. I think that as horse trainers who want to use clicker training, it is important for us to be aware of how trainers are using clicker training with other species. It makes it easier to have conversations and sometimes I can get good ideas from someone who is approaching training behavior from a different direction.
Click and Reward LLama videos by Jim and Amy Logan. These are a ton of fun and informative too. They will teach you about clicker training and inspire you to go out and teach your horse some fun things instead of just working on more traditional horse training.
Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Leslie wrote this book to describe the exercises she uses in her "Control Unleashed" classes which are classes for dogs that are easily excited, aroused, or distracted and find it difficult to work in a regular dog training class or in an area with high distractions. Her classes are set up to progressively challenge the dogs so that they can work in other situations or move on to more standard dog training classes or activities. She also teaches the owners some ways to help their dogs learn to calm down through various relaxation protocols. The book is set up as a guide to teaching a "control unleashed" class so it has suggested activities for each week to create a 7 week course.
I found out about the book on a dog list and was interested enough to read it to see if some of the things that worked with dogs could be applied to horses that are easily distracted and have a hard time focusing in certain situations. Rosie loves and feels the need to look at and keep track of everything around her which can sometimes make it difficult to keep her attention. There is a lot of good information in here. Some of the activities are set up to help dogs deal with the distractions of other dogs. I keep my horses at home and usually work alone so I did not try out those exercises although I think some of them could be easily modified to work with horses.
Culture Clash Jean Donaldson. This book will make you rethink everything you ever thought you knew about dogs, and other animals too. If you are new to clicker training and are still struggling with making the mental shift of training for positives, this is a great book to read.
Dont Shoot the Dog Karen Pryor: This is a must read for anyone interested in clicker training. It lays out the principles of operant conditioning, how to use it to teach and modify behaviors and how it is working all the time in the world around us.
Excel-erated Learning by Pam Reid. I wanted to learn more about how animals learn and some of the more scientific terminology that people use when describing training strategies and setups. This book was clear and easy to read while explaining about classical and operant conditioning, schedules of reinforcement, stimulus control, extinction, punishment, and common behavior problems (the book is geared to dog owners). If you want to become more fluent in some of the technical jargon or understand more about the science behind clicker training, then I would recommend this book.
I-Cue DVD set by Kathy Sdao. This DVD was taped during a weekend seminar that Kathy teaches on teaching and using cues. She shows how to add, modify or replace a cue as well as how to use cues to chain behaviors together and ways to test the strength of your cues.
Know Way, Know How DVD set by Kathy Sdao. It covers the science behind clicker training with lectures mixed in with some dog training. The dog training exercise is basic targeting and I think Kathy does a great job showing how important it is to get the rate of reinforcement up and get the dog excited about the game in these early training sessions. It is long (18 hours) but I found I could watch it in little sessions and easily pick up where I left off.
Lads before the Wind Karen Pryor: if you are interested in how trainers work in real life, this account of Karen's work with dolphins will interest you.
Learning and Behavior by Paul Chance. This is not a book about clicker training, but a textbook about the science behind clicker training. It covers much of the same material as Pam Reid's book, but in more detail. I found it helpful and it was actually a pretty interesting read. Don't be scared by the fact that it is a textbook. I picked this textbook because someone recommended it to me, but on one of her DVD's Kathy Sdao says that she collects old (and new?) animal behavior textbooks because there is a wealth of information in them from descriptions of research studies to historical information.
On Behavior Karen Pryor. This is a book of Essays and Research, mostly from Karen's work with Dolphins. It includes topics such as the Creative Dolphin and other fun training experiments.
The other end of the Leash Patricia McConnell. Along with Culture Clash, this is another great book to help change your mental approach to dog training and animal training in general.
Teaching Dogs, Teaching People by Dani Weinberg. Of all the books I read this winter, this was one of my favorites. I read it in one sitting while stuck at a horse show and highly recommend it to anyone whether they are teaching, interested in teaching or just learning. It gave me some insight into teaching from the trainer's point of view and it gave me some good tools to keep my own training fresh and keep the enthusiasm. The book is divided into sections on students, how to reach them, common misconceptions and assumptions they might have, and how to decide what you want them to learn (the bigger picture beyond teaching the dog to sit). In the section on instructors, she writes about such basic things as setting up a good training place and structuring classes but also covers her toolkit for maintaining self-esteem. If there was one thing I got out of this book, it was that teaching is very rewarding but also very hard and as an instructor, you have to look out for yourself so that you can do the best for your students.
The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training by Gail Tamases Fisher. If you are coming from the traditional horse world, and struggling with making the change to a more positive reinforcement oriented mindset, then this is the book for you. In addition to being full of practical information about how to clicker train your crossover dog (a crossover dog is one that was started with traditional force based training), you will learn how to make the switch in your own training methods and philosophy.
This section is called "Katie's Bookshelf" as it is consists of a listing of those books that I have found really helpful in my journey into clicker training and dressage. I am primarily a dressage rider so many of them lean in that direction, but I read about other horse topics too. I am always looking for good books that are compatible with the clicker philosophy. If you have some suggestions, please send me the title and author of the book and a short description of it or why it was helpful to you and I will take a look at it. I would like to have a section on videos too. Please note that my intention is not to review or critique books and videos. It is more to provide some information about content and flavor so you can choose a book that might be right for you.
Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin: if you are interested in animal behavior and trying to understand why animals react to things so differently than people, then you will find this book enjoyable. It is easy to read and packed with references to lots of scientific studies on animal behavior combined with the author's own experiences. I'm not sure I believe everything she says, but it was fascinating reading and definitely thought provoking.
Dancing with your Dark Horse by Chris Irwin. Chris Irwin is always an interesting read. This book is about the changes in his life after a negative encounter with a difficult horse and how he had to re-evaluate what he was doing and where he was going. I think he is tackling a difficult problem for horse people which is what to do when our emotions and egos get tied up in horse training. This book reminds me of Linda Kohanov's books (The Tao of Equus and Riding Between the Worlds) because it is about how horses can change us, heal us and make us better people. I found this book thought-provoking and while I am not sure I agree with everything, I thought he had some great insights. I liked his description of riding and training as being a spiral process where it seems like we are going in circles but we are really just revisiting common themes and adding new layers and details.
Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care by Jaime Jackson. Learn about how your horse's hooves are supposed to work and their basic anatomy and function. Learn about the natural hoof in wild horses and how trimming and shoeing techniques can interfere with the natural functioning of your horses feet.
Making Natural Hoof Care work for You by Pete Ramey. Even if you are not interested in trimming your own horse's feet, this is a great book to teach you about hoof anatomy and how to recognize a good trim and problems in your horse's feet.
My horses, my teachers by Alois Podhajsky. This is not a techical training book, but more an account of the different horses he has worked with. I found it an enjoyable and easy read and he is really a wonderful trainer. He uses many of the same strategies as clicker trainers and I picked up lots of little tips from reading the book.
Of Life and Horses by Ann Nyberg Bradley. This is a book about the author's experiences with training horses and learning to work with them to create a positive relationship. I think anyone would enjoy this book, but for those of you new to clicker training who are coming from a traditional "make them do it" background, I thought this was a great book to help make the mental shift that needs to happen before you can really use clicker training optimally.
The Parrot's Lament by Eugene Linden. A collection of stories about animal intelligence and creativity.
Training: educating green and young horses,
these books show methods that are compatible with clicker training
Bringing up Baby by John Lyons. A good set of exercises and lesson plans for working with your weanling. His exercises combine really well with clicker training.
Right from the Start Michael Schaffer - Most dressage books start with the horse at a certain point and progress along from there. This book is about how to get your horse to that point, so it is really about what happens before you do "dressage." He shows how to start to educate the horse about the bit and the reins and explains a lot of things about balance and how horses learn to carry themselves as well as how horse learn. I recommend this book for people who are trying to understand that dressage is about more than getting a horse to put its head down and do certain movements or for anyone who has never started a horse on their own. Most of his exercises can be broken down into smaller pieces and taught with clicker training. He does use different rein mechanics than Alex and there are some other differences, but overall, I think it is helpful.
Lessons in Lightness - Mark Russell - This is another book that I use as a regular reference. It has very clear exercises that show how to educate a green horse and help him/her learn to work in balance and lightness. It is very compatible with Alex's riding book and work.
True Horsemanship through Feel Bill Dorrance. If you have a young horse or want some groundwork exercises to improve your feel, this book is very helpful. It contains a series of exercises to teach your horse to respond better to the lead or reins and to teach you to recognize when the horse is trying to respond.
Dressage in Lightness Sylvia Loch. I recommend all of Sylvia Loch's books if you are interested in dressage and classical riding. She has a very clear and articulate writer and explains how your weight and aids affect the horse. She emphasizes how to set the horse up to succeed by preparing for each movement. She has several other books and a series of videos, all of which I would recommend.
Ten Golden Rules - Bruce Nock: Want to improve your basic understanding of training and why horses react as they do? This is a great book for improving your training skills and basic horse handling. It is not a clicker training book, but many of his rules are the same principles used in clicker training.
For the Rider (Rider Biomechanics)
Ride from Within by James Shaw: Alexandra Kurland uses a lot of his exercises in her clinics to teach riders to access parts of their bodies and to teach them how to move their bodies in fluid and powerful ways.
Simplify Your Riding - Wendy Murdoch: Wendy emphasizes riding in an effective position and learning to use timing and feel to communicate better with your horse. She explains how to check your own position and how the horse moves in different gaits and from one gait to another. Understanding the mechanics of your own position and how your horse moves can help set you both up for success.
Other Horse Resources
If you are working with Alexandra Kurland, you might find these interesting as she has been influenced by Bettina Drummond and the French Classical School.
Work in Hand I: a video by Bettina Drummond. Alexandra Kurland studies with Bettina Drummond and a lot of her groundwork comes from her work with Bettina. I found this video helpful in expanding my ideas for what to do with groundwork and what Alex was working toward.
Work in Hand II: by Betttina Drummond: second in the video series. This one focuses on more advanced work such as piaffe and airs above the ground. I enjoyed watching it and learned a few things about more advanced work. I think it is worth watching even if you never intend to train to that level.
Another Horsemanship by J.C. Racinet. A good explanation of the French School of dressage and how he trains horses. I read both of J.C. Racinet's books when I was first studying with Alexandra Kurland and found that they offered a different look at dressage and how we teach horses to balance than what I had been previously taught. They gave me more insight into the basis of some of her training methods, not because she uses the same methods as Racinet, but because some of her work with Bettina Drummond comes out of the same tradition of French Dressage.
Racinet Explains Baucher by J.C. Racinet. More on the French School with an emphasis on how he interprets the work of Baucher.
NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)
Its Not Just about the Ribbons Jane Savoie. Practical ways to use your mind to help your riding
Schooling Problems solved with NLP Wendy Jago. What is NLP? Wendy Jago writes " The way people make sense of their experiences and the way this 'sense' is held in the 'languages' of the mind and body." She teaches strategies to help program your mind to correct riding problems in position and mental focus.
Solo Schooling Wendy Jago. This is a great book for people who ride alone most of the time. She has lots of examples of ways she has helped students overcome riding problems by using NLP. This is the second book in her series.
Journal of a Student
Taking up the Reins Priscilla Endicott (I really enjoyed this book as an account of what it is like to be a new student again, even after riding for many years. I could really relate it to trying to reprogram my horse habits as a clicker trainer).