equine clicker training

using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


This page contains links to longer articles I’ve written over the years. If you are looking for a specific topic, you may also want to check the ARCHIVES or BLOG pages for the list of published blogs.

I’ve organized this page by sections. The sections are:

  • clicker basics
  • foundation lessons
  • general topics
  • “how to” articles
  • more advanced topics
  • riding
  • operant conditioning in theory and practice
  • ClickerExpo notes
  • Art and Science of Animal Training (ASAT/ORCA) notes
  • Alexandra Kurland clinic notes
  • Single rein riding notes


The topics in these articles are covered in much greater detail in my book, Teaching Horses with Positive Reinforcement, which is available in both kindle and paperback format from Amazon.

What is Equine Clicker Training and How Do You Apply it to Horses? If you are new to clicker training, this is the first article you should read. It gives a brief overview of the science behind clicker training and a description of the 6 ways clicker trainers get behavior. (WP version)

Frequently Asked Questions – The answers to some common questions that new clicker trainers often ask.  I cover topics such as what to use for treats, where to put them, how to use clicker training under saddle, polite treat taking and more. (WP version)

Getting Started – How do you actually get started with clicker training?  A description of five common ways to introduce the clicker and get started.  This article is a very general overview.

What is targeting and why should you teach it? What is a target? What you can you do with targeting?
This handout lists types and uses for targeting, which is one of the most useful behaviors and training strategies used by clicker trainers.

Training a Behavior From Start to Finish – A general overview of the steps from getting the behavior to having a finished behavior on cue. This article explains when clicker trainers add cues and a bit about stimulus control.

Stages of Clicker Training by Elaine Elmer – Elaine has clicker trained a lot of different horses and noticed some consistent patterns in their behavior as they start to understand how to earn reinforcement. This article describes how horses progress from the “All you can eat food bar stage” that is common with novice horses, to the “eureka” stage that leads to more advanced work.

Improve Your Clicker Training Skills – even when you can’t get out and train your horse. Suggestions for ways to supplement your clicker training time with other activities that will make you a better clicker trainer.  A good list for things to do in the winter if you can’t get out and train.


The six Alexandra Kurland foundation lessons are targeting, head down, backing, happy faces, mat work, and grown-ups. 

Foundation Lessons: Ideas for how to improve and expand on basic head lowering: A list of more advanced exercises or variations on head lowering that you can use to improve your horse’s head lowering skills. (Nov 2012) 

Foundation lessons: Ideas for how to improve or expand on basic mat work: A list of basic and advanced exercises or variations on mat work that you can use to teach your horse some practical skills and improve his understanding of cues and shaping.  (Nov 2012)

Ears Forward or Happy Faces: A story, some strategies, and tips – Do you have a grumpy horse? Are you interested in teaching ears forward but not sure how to do it? Are you wondering if it will make any difference? This article documents how I trained Rosie to put her ears forward and how it changed our relationship

Mat exercises and the value of mat work by Margaret Leach – Mat work can be invaluable for teaching horses to stand still and sending them to a location. But it can be used for much more. Margaret describes how she has used mat work in her training and has created a chart showing how mat work can be used to teach everything from ground tying to liberty work.

Mat work and its Applications – An article I wrote for a magazine about training basic matwork and then how you could use those skills to train other behaviors. (Feb 2010)


Arlene Colon on Biting Horses.  Why do horses bite?  How can we encourage better manners through clicker training?  Arlene shares what worked for her when she was having trouble with her horse nipping during training.

Communication: The Nudge  – When Stella arrived at my farm, she was anxious about life in general and was very quick to get defensive when she didn’t know what was going to happen. As I worked with her, she learned better ways of communicating with me. This article offers some insight into how we interpret what our horses do.

Foals: Clicker Training Foals to Halter and Lead by Barbara Ray – Do you have a new foal you would like to start with clicker training? Barbara has many years of experience teaching foals basic handling skills in a gentle and positive way. She explains how to teach your foal about pressure and release and how to follow your feel.

Food for Thought – “On Babies and Horses” and “You Get What You Click” – 2 short articles.

Happy New Year 2009  – An update I posted in January 2009 describing what I had been doing with my own horses. 

Head Shy?   – A little exploration on how horses feel about us touching their heads and what we can do about it.

Lunging or Liberty work with cones – Most of us use cones to mark places for the rider or handler, but how about teaching your horse to respond to the placement of cones?  Here is the story of how I started using cones in round pen work and ended up being able to use cone gates to exercise my horse at liberty in an assortment of patterns and at different gaits.

Measuring our Progress  by Melissa M. – What can you do in a year with a horse that isn’t ready to ride? Melissa looks back at all the things she has taught her mare Ruby. A great resource for those of you with young horses to show how all those little training sessions add up.

Stella: working with a rescue pony – An introduction and overview of training the latest member of the Bartlett herd. Stella came from a rescue and needed some training.

Rehabilitation: Using clicker training for neurological rehabilitation of a horse by Margaret Leach  – We all know that clicker training is great for working through aggression and fear issues and for teaching fun new skills, but what about using it to help a horse overcome a serious medical problem. Margaret’s mare Serena suffered a severe neurological problem, so severe that she could barely walk in a straight line. Here is the story of her illness and how Margaret used clicker training to help Serena relearn how to organize her own body to become rideable again.

Water crossing: A case study by Cindy Martin. Do you have a horse that doesn’t like crossing water? Cindy describes how she helped one horse get over his fear.

Winter exercises or what to do when you can’t ride – It is 10 degrees and you are stuck in the barn with the use of a stall and 30 feet of aisle. What do you do? Well, there’s a lot. Here are some ideas for things to teach, ranging from fun tricks to improving behavior for worming, bridling, shots etc.. This is mostly a list of ideas with some instructions for selected items.  I will add more instructions as I have time. Another resource for training ideas is my A to Z blog series which starts here.

Zan’s story – This is the somewhat humorous account of Rosie’s foal from birth to 18 months. There is some training information mixed in, but these articles were not intended to be used as detailed instructions.


How to teach your horse to bow on one knee

How to teach your horse to fetch

Flag training by Sandra Poppema


The topics in these articles are covered in much greater detail in my book, Teaching Horses with Positive Reinforcement, which is available in both kindle and paperback format from Amazon.

Duration: what is it? How do I get more of it? What is duration?  How can I train a horse to continue to keep doing the same behavior for longer periods of time between reinforcers?  This article has strategies and tips for starting to work on extending behaviors for longer periods of time. (2021)

How to Interpret and Manage Energy, Excitement and Tension – Some thoughts on how to handle energy and emotions in our horses.  If you feel like your training is being controlled by your horse’s mental state and energy level, this article may give you some ideas for addressing that. (March 2007)

Strategic Food Delivery  – There’s more to food delivery than just feeding the horse where he is standing.  Learn how to use food delivery to help shape behavior, reinforce positions, create resets and more.  March 2014.

Should you click offered behaviors? A look at stimulus control – Clicker trained horses love to offer behaviors and we love their enthusiasm, but what do we need to consider when deciding whether or not to click? Is it possible to click offered behaviors without losing all stimulus control?  Here is a look at how offered behavior fits into the structure of training and how to decide whether or not to click. (April 2007) 

Taking Clicker Training From the Classroom to “Real Life”  – This article explains how to make the transition from teaching a behavior in isolation to using a behavior as part of their horse’s repertoire.  It is great for anyone who knows how to teach individual behaviors during training sessions, but needs help integrating them into “real life.” (February 2014).


Getting Started with Riding: Handling and Delivering Food – Answers to some common questions about feeding from the saddle as well as information about how to prepare your horse so he is comfortable taking food from someone in the saddle.

Getting Started with Riding: Common Questions  – A follow-up to the previous article on handling food.  This one covers topics related to stopping for food, clicking behavior and how to work toward more advanced training.


Operant conditioning: An introduction for clicker trainers. This article is taken directly from chapter 3 of my book and describes the four quadrants of operant conditioning and how they are used by clicker trainers. It contains an explanation of the terminology mixed with some real life examples. If you wonder if clicker training is all positive reinforcement or how to integrate clicker training into an existing program, this article should give you some answers.  (2018). 

How to use Negative Reinforcement as a clicker trainer This is the second in a series of articles on the more theoretical side of clicker training.  I suggest you read the 4 quadrants article first if you are not familiar with the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning.  (May 2009). 

Thinking Outside the Box:  Tips on capturing, shaping and getting your horse to offer behavior using R+.  This is the third and final article in the series on clicker training and operant conditioning (Feb 2009). Note: I debated about whether or not to update this article in 2021, but I’ve decided to leave it alone. It still contains a lot of valuable information and is a snapshot of the state of R+ training in 2009. If you want more recent tips on training using R+ alone, you can find those in the alphabet blogs.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation: A few notes from Inge Teblick’s Theory of Fun course where she talks about the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.


Clicker Expo is a 3 day teaching and training workshop put on by Karen Pryor’s clicker training organization.   The event usually happens twice a year, once on the west coast (usually in January) and once on the east coast/midwest (usually in March).  For more information on Clicker Expo for this year, visit Karen’s web site which is www.clickertraining.com

 I have been lucky enough to attend a number of Clicker Expos and each time I wrote up a report on what I learned.  The reports are intended to provide some information about what is new in clicker training as well as share some information that I found useful. My goal is not usually to explain something in its entirety, but to provide some food for thought and let people know about the faculty and what they do, as the faculty are a useful resource. Many of them have books and DVDs available.

ClickerExpo 2007 – This is a general report about sessions on targeting, modifier cues, tai-chi rope handling, using research as a clicker trainer, common “speed bumps” encountered in learning clicker training and advanced training tools.

ClickerExpo 2008 – I attended sessions on conditioning secondary reinforcers, backchaining, cue control, poisoned cues, broken clicks, TAGteach and guide dogs.

Taking ClickerExpo Back to the Horses  – This was written a few months after Clicker Expo 2008 and shares how I tried to apply what I learned at Clicker Expo to my own work with my horses.

ClickerExpo 2009 – Topics include using non-food reinforcers, obedience, broken clicks/reinforcer delivery, neuroscience of clicker training, puppies, freestyle with dogs, fine tuning your skills (mechanics and food delivery), backchaining, and developing training plans.

ClickerExpo 2010 – I didn’t write this one up as individual sessions, but the report deals with the elements of clicker training (the marker signal, food delivery, reinforcement and training strategies.

ClickerExpo 2011 – Topics include aggression, anticipation, microshaping, using play to teach self control and super skills (Kay Laurence), working with vets, behavior chains, generalization, and improving your observation skills.

Ken Ramirez Seminar:  July 2012  – I attended a two day seminar with Ken Ramirez and shared some of what I learned on facebook.  This article is a collection of those notes.  Ken Ramirez is on the Clicker Expo faculty so some of the material is similar to or complements that in the Clicker Expo notes, which is why I listed this article here.

ClickerExpo 2013  – Topics include myths, missteps and mantras, connected walking, cues and context, respodent vs. operant conditioning, negative reinforcement, teaching, and Dr. Susan Friedman.

ClickerExpo 2014  – Topics include extinction, resurgence, aggression in puppies, combining classical and operant conditioning, default behaviors, practicing, strategic food delivery, fine slicing, performance prep (foundation behaviors), using reinforcement to get rid of unwanted behavior and training for its own sake (not for performance goals).

Reward Ends, Then What – These are my notes on Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh’s talk on the importance of what happens after the reward. This lecture was given at Clicker Expo 2015 but I viewed it as a Clicker Expo video session.


The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2012. In March 2012, I attended this one day conference and this articles has my notes and comments on the material presented.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2013.  This year’s conference was on February 2 and the speakers included Dr. Susan Schneider, Bob Bailey, Phung Luu, Steve White, Alexandra Kurland, Kay Laurence and Ken Ramirez.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2014.  This year’s conference was on March 22, 2014. The speakers were Dr. Jaak Panksepp, Bob Bailey, Phung Luu, Steve White, Alexandra Kurland, Kay Laurence and Ken Ramirez.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2015.  This year’s conference was on March 14, 2015. The speakers were Dr. Stanley Weiss, Bob Bailey, Phung Luu, Steve Aibel and Al Kordowski, Steve White, Alexandra Kurland and Ken Ramirez.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2016.  This link takes you to the first of several conference reports for 2016. You can also find them through the BLOG and ARTICLES pages. The speakers were Dr. Iver Iversen, Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Dr. Joe Layng, Kay Laurence, Mary Hunter, Steve Aibel, Steve White, Alexandra Kurland and Ken Ramirez.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2017.  This link takes you to the first of several conference reports for 2017. You can also find them through the BLOG and ARTICLES pages.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2018. This link takes you to the first of several conference reports for 2018. You can also find the reports through their listings on the BLOG and ARCHIVES pages.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2019. This link takes you to the first of several conference reports for 2019. You can also find the reports through their listings on the BLOG and ARCHIVES pages.

The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference 2020. This link takes you to the first of several conference reports for 2020. You can also find the reports through their listings on the BLOG and ARCHIVES pages. Due to time constraints I didn’t write blogs for all the presentations.

.ALEXANDRA KURLAND (Articles about her work)

Clinic Reports

About Clinics  – Clinics are important.  They provide feedback, inspiration, networking, and good visuals for Alexandra Kurland’s exercises.  If that is not reason enough for you to think of attending a clinic, you can read here why I attend clinics.

Clinic Reports from 2006-2008 – These were written mostly by me and are from the advanced clinics in Groton, NY plus a few others.

Alexandra Kurland on Connections and Micro-riding.  – Micro-riding was the clinic theme for 2008.  If you read the clinic reports from that year, they reference these posts of Alex’s which she has given me permission to include here.

Loopy Training -,Instead of writing regular clinic reports in 2009, I wrote this post in the fall describing Loopy Training which was the theme of the 2009 clinics.

Alexandra Kurland Advanced Clinic: Toutle, Washington, October 2010  – In 2010, I decided to attend the advanced clinic in Toutle, Washington instead of going to Groton as usual.  I wrote this clinic report to share what I learned from that experience.

Alexandra Kurland Advanced Clinic: Groton, NY, May 2011– I posted these notes on Facebook instead of writing a formal report.  I have collected them all here so it is easier to read.

Alexandra Kurland Advanced Clinic:  Groton, NY, August 2011 – I took Red to this clinic where we looked at Hip Shoulder Shoulder, neck ropes, energy, keeping the horse forward, and acting.

Alexandra Kurland Advanced Clinic: Groton NY, August 2012  – I posted some notes on Facebook instead of writing a formal report.  The notes cover topics such as food delivery, clicker compatible tools, and rope handling.

 Single Rein Riding

Connecting SRR (single rein riding) to traditional cues: moving the shoulders– An explanation of how to use single rein riding to teach your horse to turn while remaining balanced and light

Single Rein Riding: Practical applications and integration with work on two reins – A look at how I use single rein riding as both a teaching tool and as part of my every day riding. (September 2007, Katie Bartlett)

Alexandra Kurland’s Training Progression: Groundwork to riding  – A look at why the rope handling and single rein work are important, how you get from groundwork to riding and what you can incorporate along the way.