This is not uncommon as I too have experienced this with one of my horses. Every time I clicked for him touching the target he jumped back. He was a pony that had not had much handling so the clicker sound and introducing the target at the same time was too much for him. The sound of the click is something they usually have not heard and when combined with an object it can really get their flight response going.
Getting Past the Fear
For him to get past this I knew I had to break things down into smaller steps. There are several alternatives that you can do to help your horse get past the fear of the sound the clicker makes. There are also things you can do to help a horse that is fearful of the target which I will talk about in another blog post. Here are some things to consider that will help your horse get past this.
If your horse is fearful of the sound the clicker makes you can try the following:
- Muffle the sound by putting the clicker in your pocket
- Get a clicker that makes a quieter sound (yes they are out there)
- Make the sound with the click of your tongue
- You could snap your fingers
If your horse is worried about the sound this is the first place you would start before introducing the target. For instance have them in their stall and when they look your direction or say touch their feed bucket you could click then give them a treat. It won’t take long for your horse to understand what the click means. I highly recommend the first method of putting the clicker in your pocket. I start all of the horses I work with using a clicker and I have my students start out using a clicker because the sound is distinctive. When your horse gets past being afraid of the sound the clicker makes then move on to using a target.
Let me help you get started with clicker training your horse. I offer online classes from the privacy of your own home.