Seeing the Future

Timing is everything in shaping behavior, and good timing depends on good observation skills. We have learned about micro-shaping, catching very small muscle movements, in previous Kurland Sessions. But what if the movements all happen so quickly you can hardly see them? Videotaping the moving animal in slow motion is an excellent way to train the eye. By slowing the action down, you can see small moves that come before the move you’ll click. In Kurland parlance, you’ll see “the thing that comes before the thing that comes before.”

Observing a sequence of movements in slow motion allows you anticipate your goal behavior in real life, and click soon enough to catch what you really want. Learning to see details in movement gives you more raw material for shaping all species, no matter what skill or behavior you seek.

Precise timing can also be extremely useful dealing with anxious, fearful, or excitable animals. Alexandra Kurland shows ”before and after” examples, like the difference between clicking stepping in a restless horse as the foot hits the ground and as the foot lifts in the air. Clicking the stopped foot increases anxiety and forward movements as the next leg comes into motion. Clicking the raised foot during the move allows the horse to relax and calm down enough to stop. Observation of a small shoulder movement that precedes lifting the foot provides the cue necessary for this precision clicking.

This Session will include video examples of difficult-to-observe clickable moments, with suggestions for using the camera to improve and facilitate your own understanding of clicker timing, especially during rapid movement and advanced work.

Alexandra Kurland

Alexandra Kurland began her instructional career as a dressage rider and teacher and as an accredited TTouch Practitioner. In 1998 she launched the rapidly growing field of clicker training for horses with the publication of her first book, Clicker Training for Your Horse. Alexandra teaches clicker training geared to any horse need or sport—including developing a gentle and companionable riding horse, halter training foals, training advanced performance horses, and reforming difficult and unmanageable horses. She travels widely, giving clicker training seminars in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. Several years ago, Alexandra trained a miniature horse, Panda, to serve as the guide animal for a blind owner.

A graduate of Cornell University, Alexandra has written The Click That Teaches: A Step–By–Step Guide in Pictures and has also produced The Click That Teaches DVD lesson series and is presently at work on new books and videos.