Using A Marker – Clickers and Clucking
We use a Marker (a word or sound) to tell our horses the INSTANT they do the right thing.
A Marker tells our horses, “you did that right, and a reward is coming.”
Using a Marker makes it a LOT easier for horses to learn new things. They know the exact behavior that is correct without having to guess.
However, the Marker needs to be very distinct; otherwise, the horse will confuse it with other sounds.
Many dog and zoo animal trainers use a mechanical clicker. It produces the same sound each time, so it doesn’t matter if several people train the animal. It is also very different from any other sounds the animal may hear.
Many trainers believe that this makes the mechanical clicker very effective as a training tool and easier for the animal to understand.
However, I (and many other trainers) don’t use a mechanical clicker because we are constantly losing them 🙂 and we would have to carry this extra equipment.
Instead, we use a word or sound as a Marker.
If you decide not to use a mechanical clicker, it is essential that the sound or word you use as a Marker is not used at any other time.
Words like ‘good’ or ‘yes’ shouldn’t be used unless you can be sure that you will only use them during training and that you will always be able to follow those words with a reward.
You will also need to say the word the same way and tone each time. Otherwise, the word won’t be as effective and may confuse your horse.
For a Marker, I click my tongue (just a single sound). I can reproduce the same sound reliably. Because it is only me training my horses, they understand what it means – even if there is a slight variation in the sound each time I do it.
However, I need to be careful that I use a different sound to ask my horses to increase their pace. For this, I use several clucks in a row (listen to the audio below for examples of the sound I use as a Marker vs the sound I use to ask my horse to increase their pace).
As long as the sound you use for a Marker is different from any other word or sound you use, you can use just about anything as a Marker.
Just make sure you reserve this very special training tool to Mark the behavior you want and always follow with a reward.
CLUCKING AND CLICKING AUDIO:
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