Educational Foundation for Equine Clicker Trainers






Dolores Arste

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am an avid Competitive Trail rider. I've completed several  100-mile rides with my Morgan stallion, Lance. Along with my husband, I also train and breed Racing Siberian Sled dogs, Breed champion Schipperke dogs. And, I was a Professional Show Dog Handler of many breeds for 20 years. I am now an American Kennel Club Show Dog Judge. At one point I had 65 dogs at my facility, so it would be fair to say my interest in training goes well beyond the normal pet owner. Perhaps that's why fate saw fit to send me a horse like Cadbury!

I was first introduced to clicker training when Cadbury was a boisterous 2 year old, biting and rearing into my space and scaring me half silly. Lance, a Morgan Stallion and Harvey, Cadbury's younger, brother are polite and sweet. All my horses love clicker training and will offer anyone who comes near a quick "heads down".

Cadbury was born here on the farm. He was different from most horses right from the start. He was independent and athletic and bold on the outside but frightened on the inside. A difficult combination. Through clicker training we have learned to be friends and trust one another. And, he has learned how to control his emotions.

There are many new folks who visit that haven't read the
infamous Cadbury saga.

Here are a few snippets to tell you who he was and who he's become.  This is not the Cadbury of today; soft, sweet, beautiful and full of try.

Please feel free to search on "Cadbury" in the archives of the Clickryder Yahoo group email list:

--> Less than an hour old, Cadbury surveyed his surroundings like a young prince. He barely came near to his mother who was nickering softly to him. It started to drizzle, a cold early April rain. "Better take them inside," I thought, "to the warm foaling stall all ready and bedded with fresh straw." "I'll just lead Cherry," I said confidently to my husband, "and the foal will follow." This was to be the first of many things Cadbury would disagree with. <--

--> Cadbury still only a few hours old and simply would not follow mom. In fact, he drifted off in the opposite direction. My husband and I had to half lead and half carry Cadbury to the stall while mom dutifully followed along behind! It was, after all April Fool's Day.<--

--> We should have known then that we were in for some difficult times. Cadbury grew up obstreperous and mouthy. He approached everything fearlessly and everything went into his mouth. He would grab your coat, your hat, and sticks. Tarps, ha! No need to desensitize this one. He feared nothing. <--

--> He chased his mom frequently from her food bucket. Poor mom. She simply did not know how to deal with this fellow. By nine months Cadbury was boldly charging into his stall at feeding time demanding to be fed first. We decided then to geld him to try and subdue some of his boisterous hormones.<--

--> He was just as mouthy and just as determined to do things his way. He would rear within feet of my space. He would barge through doorways often knocking me down. Everything was a test of wills with Cadbury. He would pull his feet away from the farrier. Nothing was easy. Nothing was, "Let's do this together." Even with the other horses, Cadbury stood off by himself. He didn't try to be part of the herd. He was frustrating to be around and I found myself angry with him more often then not <--

--> At two and a half years old, I took Cadbury to the round pen. One important aspect of round pen training is to get the feet to move. Well, Cadbury had no intention of moving off. Since it seemed to be imperative to get him moving away, I tried the lunge whip. I'd gently swing, he'd turn his hind end and level both hind feet my way. In a very short time I knew I was over my head. <--

--> So, on my quest, I went to other clinics. Cad was still not very good in the round pen. How was I to motivate but not scare him into moving? The assistant came in and brought the flag. Just a dressage type whip with a bag on it. She ran across the ring (not at Cad but the space behind Cad). "Hmmm..." said Cadbury with a look that told his thoughts: "I'll turn and think about kicking you. Nah! I'll just move away "at a walk".Before clicker training Cadbury would have launched a kick for just for good measure. "He needs to get in touch with his flight instinct" the clinician said and brought in another more flighty horse. She didn't know Cad doesn't have a flight instinct - never did.... She ran across the ring snapping the plastic bag in the air. "Hmmm" said Cad, "perhaps I'll turn and think about kicking you. Nah! It's not worth the effort. I'll just amble over here to check out this manure pile." <--

--> The clinician used a different approach. She put another horse in the pen with Cadbury. When she flagged that horse with the whip, it took off at a gallop. In response Cad offered a canter depart and maybe three steps. I realized at that very moment that those few steps were exactly what I wanted. Again, I thought what a great opportunity to click and reward that try. <--

--> There is, in my mind, a very big difference in moving off from the need to flee and that of moving off with purpose and understanding. The quiet understanding of the horse sets up the ability to respond with a confidence and with a quality that you only achieve when there is no measure of fear. This is what I look for in my horses <--

--> People often compare horses to toddlers. But with Cadbury, before I began using the clicker, he was more like dealing with a sullen teenager. Whatever I wanted, he didn't. That's how our training felt. <--

--> We had to carry him to the barn. He always thought he should be in your lap. We never hand fed him. He always thought he should be in your face. We shooed him away. He looked hurt. Is this where we started the problem? I worked with him. I taught him to tie, I taught him to lead. He did all this, except. Except, he always needed something in his mouth. And, he always wanted things to go his way. The lead rope, your shirt, didn't matter. He'd carry sticks. Is this where we started the problem? I taught him not to be afraid of tarps, saddles and all the other things a horse should know. He always had to have something in his mouth. It didn't matter what. When he was two, he sort of walked over you when it was feeding time. It'll go away folks said. It didn't. <--

--> "Let's saddle him" the clinician said. I'm not sure why this came about. Poor Emily! He had everything in his mouth especially that really nice leather cinch strap. "Get that out of his mouth" said the clinician and came in to flag him around. Cad leaves at a slow canter keeping the cinch in his mouth the whole way. "The nerve of him" said the clinician "Yep, That's Cad".<--

Cadbury, who now canters-in-hand and will rest his head on your shoulder mouth closed, thank you for all that you have been and for who you are now.