THE SEVEN PILLARS OF EXCELLENCE
Alexandra Kurland -July 2003
Many training programs have their students progress through a series of levels
towards a performance standard of excellence. Dressage, for example has the
rider progress through training level, levels 1-4 to the FEI level tests.
Parelli has his Level's program, and there are many other examples, as well.
I propose a different model for the development of clicker training, one
that offers instead areas of specialization and a broad curriculum for people
to study. Instructors should have a general knowledge of the entire curriculum,
but they are also encouraged to develop expertise in specific areas.
This approach has many advantages. First, it allows someone who may have
tremendous knowledge in a narrow niche to make a valuable contribution to
clicker training, without feeling that she has to be an expert in all aspects
For example, a breeder may be very experienced handling foals
and developing mannerly youngsters, but have very limited riding skills. If a
horse owner is specifically interested in applying clicker training to the
handling of young horses, they would be well advised to contact this person.
But if their interest is in using the clicker to teach a reining spin, they
might be better advised to contact somebody with more of a riding background.
The foal specialist would certainly be able to give them general
clicker-training guidance, but the reining-horse specialist could take them
further in applying it to riding.
I do not expect people to become experts in each and every field. For
example, I have had very little experience with mustangs. There are a number of
trainers who specialize in mustangs who would be much more qualified than I to
give a "Clicker Training the Wild Mustang" clinic. That doesn't mean that I
wouldn't have things to share with the owner of a mustang, but I might choose
to refer them to a mustang specialist.
By creating areas of specialization I hope to create a network of experts.
We'll know who within the clicker community we can refer people to for specific
issues. Who has experience working with aggressive horses; who has been
studying foot care or saddle fit; who is particularly good starting young
And as people specialize and focus on specific aspects of clicker training
and horsemanship, they will become valuable resources for the rest of us. My
hope is that we will have annual conferences with presentations covering each
specialized field. Thus over time each member of the group will gain access to
information in every field. We will all develop a much deeper knowledge base
in every aspect of clicker training and horsemanship in general. And we will
have within our group a network of knowledgeable trainers to learn from.
Clicker training instructors will emerge from this process who have a solid
knowledge of clicker basics plus the area(s) of interest in which they
specialize. This web site will serve as a central hub connecting these
trainers with the rest of the clicker community.
Once people have a solid foundation in clicker basics, they will have the
background to explore the areas of specialization proposed in The Seven Pillars
of Excellence program.
The Seven Pillars are:
1) The Science and History of Clicker Training
2.) Foals, Young Horses and Colt Starting: Foal Handling and Management;
Broodmare Care; Pre-riding ground preparation; Starting young horses under
3.) "Special Needs" Horses: Mustangs; Aggressive horses; Abused horses;
Physically disabled horses.
4.) Clicker Training and the Performance Horse: Includes Trick Training;
Liberty Work; Work In-hand; Driving; and All Riding Disciplines.
5.) "Clicker Training And . . .": Clicker training as a piggy back tool: Clicker training and Natural Horsemanship; and TTEAM; and Centered Riding; and
John Lyons’ Conditioned Response Training; etc.
6.) Clicker Training and Horse Management: Foot care; Saddle fit; Nutrition;
Body work; Basic first aid and Veterinary care
7.) Teaching Clicker Training: Includes training for the people: NLP;
Feldenkrais; Alexander Work; Tai Chi; Yoga; new developments in teaching
techniques; public speaking; writing; how to give clinics, demos, and trade
The Seven Pillars of Excellence are intended to create an ever-expanding
knowledge base for clicker training, to draw expertise from many fields into
the clicker community, and to create a network of knowledgeable, caring, highly