"He's surprised, did you see that?" I said, laughing, to the watching people. It's easy to startle a horse; but this was not alarm: this was just pure amazement. That expression told me two things: first, he thoroughly understood the game we were playing. Second, in his past experience, things usually just went on and on getting worse, not better. What I wanted to do was to pat Bad Bob (which at present he would probably hate) or throw my arms around his neck, or give him a month's supply of alfalfa pellets. What I did was smile, and pay him his treat. Poor thing. Maybe Festina Lente will turn out to be a better place for you.
Ann Edie is blind. And, like many blind people, she used a guide dog to help her get around. When her dog suddenly died, it was a very sad thing for Ann. Not only did she miss her special friend, but she also missed his help. What would she do?
She could use her white cane, of course. And she could get another guide dog. But dogs can work for only a few years. So she came up with a different idea: "What about a guide HORSE?"
Ah, summer! For weeks I haven't been able to get anyone on the phone, businesses don't answer their e-mail, professors are unreachable, my family is camping on the beach, and trainers I need to talk to are tracking down their ancestors in Iceland or bird watching in Belize or going fishing.
Everyone is playing. Play is a highly important part of life. I think it's also a highly important part of clicker training. No, I don't mean as a reward—following the click with a game of tug, say, rather than a treat. That's okay in its place; but that's not what I mean.
Alexandra Kurland has been teaching and training horses since the mid-1980s as a dressage specialist and an accredited Ttouch practitioner. She began clicker training in the early 1990s, recognizing the power of the method for improving performance and enhancing the relationship between people and their horses. Alexandra teaches the use of clicker training for all equine needs and sports, from providing a gentle, companionable personal riding horse to halter training foals, training advanced performance horses, and reforming difficult and unmanageable horses. She travels widely giving hands-on clicker training seminars in the US and internationally.
The article below is excerpt from On Behavior entitled "Pony's Choice." This selection comes from a speech, The President's Invited Scholar's Address, which I gave to the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 1992. I chose it as an example of how one could use operant conditioning techniques to develop abstract thinking—the weighing of alternatives—even in an animal not generally considered intelligent.