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I love seeing a new title on horse clicker training! There is so much you can do with horses using a little positive reinforcement. It's probably the most under appreciated method in the equine world.
Photos are nice and the book is full-color. At 300 pages there is a lot of content.
It does try to cover basics, some common groundwork issues, and under saddle.
The thing I like about clicker training is that it's based on logical, repeatable science. So, logic-lover than I am, I was a little bothered by a few unclear parts of the book that bordered on being incorrect or confusing.
A few examples:
-- A target is NOT a lure. A lure is the reinforce, eg. a carrot in the hand. A target is an object you've associated with a behavior alread, eg. some object that you've trained to have a value/association triggering the 'touch' behavior. There is a whole lot more done with lures in dog training, so if you want to understand lures vs targeting check out some of the dog clickertraining sites.
-- It's confusing to say an "aid is a guide" in the aids section. In the glossary: "aids can be differentiated from cues in that when one speaks of cues, one expects a correlation between one cue and one well defined response." I don't know what she means by that, but it doesn't make any sense. An aid is a horse-logical cue. For example by pulling a horse's head to the left (left rein aid), it's natural for the horse to turn his neck and then whole body left. A cue can be *anything* horse logical or not. You could yell "spaghetti" and he'd turn his head to the left -- that would be a cue. (Hope that makes better sense?) I suggest people google "cues versus aids" online and you'll find lots of great articles explaining this important difference.
- Author says a half-pass cannot be cued which is incorrect. Watch some of the unmounted horse freestyle videos for examples of complex actions that are put on cue. Go to YouTube & search for freestyles.
- in Ch 8 leading is explained as the horse targeting the human. That is incorrect : the "target" behavior is defined by 'animal touches object'. But when you lead you *don't* want him bumping into you all the time. A better leading exercise is another author's "Why Would You Leave Me" exercise (Alexandra Kurland). You could start leading by holding a target and asking him to touch it while he walks alongside, but that's not how author explains the exercise.
- In Ch 10 about lounging: she suggests using a lead rope. Take a 10 or 15' lead rope, subtract a few feet out to hold onto, and now your circle is about 16-25 feet in diameter. That's really too small to effectively work in all gaits. In some sections she is running alongside of the horse on a smaller circle. Perhaps ground driving would be a better way to do this exercise?
I don't agree with insisting people use pressure to teach leading (backing up, etc). You can if you want to, but the whole BEAUTY of clicker training is you don't need to! Horses are smarter than we give them credit for; they can cue off our body langauge. It's so liberating to free myself from having to lift or tug the lead rope. I can walk along with my horse on 100% *slack* rope. He moves forward when I move, not because I applied pressure to a rope. When I step back, he steps back. If lead rope vanishes, he still follows and backs up. Clicker training is far more powerful than people give it credit for.
I'm also concerned that there isn't enough in the way of safety/horse handling. For example there isn't any explanation of what to do if a horse kicks. How do you know if it's an aggressive kick, an accidental kick with flies in the way, or a misunderstanding when someone cued for foot lifting in a clumsy way? When a horse gets frustrated, people may not realize the horse may get a little excited. Some horses may already have bad habits from before, and in a fit of frustration he may pin his ears or in a few rare cases threaten to rear. When delivering the food reward, how does one avoid being nipped by a horse who has never been taught manners? If this book is geared towards novices who haven't mastered horse language/feel yet, how will they know when to work behind protective contact (eg a stall door)? Please -- safety first!
Sorry to be nit-picky. It's just that there are so few books about this topic. A curious person may only pick up one book, and if they are given confusing information they may not give clicker training a second chance.
There are many books on riding, but good books about groundwork are less plentiful. Getting to Yes is such a book. Sharon Foley explains the scientific background for clicker training, describes how to get started, and goes on to give detailed advice on how to prepare a horse for riding. She has a flair for explaining things in a clear way which makes her instructions easy to follow, even for us who haven't had much experience in horse training.
The author's aim is a fine dressage horse, but her method is applicable for all horses. I for one prefer trail riding, but even ambling through the woods I sure would like my horse to be light, soft, and responsive. After reading Getting to Yes, I feel - for the first time ever - that I actually might be able to develop these qualities in my horse. Not because this one book instantly turned me into a good trainer, far from it, but because the text is so inspiring and helps me understand what steps to take, in what order.
At first I thumbed through looking for particular information, which I couldn't really find. Then I tried to read it cover to cover and was dissapointed. I had trouble following her definitions and explanations and couldn't get past the first two chapters. I have never finished it and feel disillusioned. I would recommend both Alexandra Kurland and Karen Pryor's books over this book.
It clearly explains the need to learn the basics first before moving on.
A worthwhile read for anyone seriously interested in forming that special bond with your horse and having him try his best for you.
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