I thought it was a good time to write about clothing for the clicker trainer. Winter is an especially trying time for us to find clothes that allow us to function well in the cold. Everyone knows how hard horse folk are to buy for and I hope to give you some suggestions for your clicker trainer friends that will earn you a click and a treat!
I drive my daughters crazy when I shop for clothes and they are with me. They tell me that I am obsessed with pockets. I hate to say this but it is true. As a clicker trainer I covet pockets on clothes, especially pockets that permit smooth, easy, food delivery. Pockets that do this are NOT easy to find and almost never found on clothing in the horse stores. I have taken to “thinking outside the tack shop” to find suitable clothing for clicker training. In this article, I will share with you what to look for in clicker attire and also offer some insights as to how to keep warm while training in the winter.
Let’s talk pockets first.
There are a lot of useless pockets out there, as far as being good for treat holding and delivery. Bad pockets hinder your ability to smoothly deliver treats or don’t hold enough treats to make it worthwhile or dump the treats out every time you bend over. In the pictures below are examples of good pockets. If you can’t get in and out of your pockets smoothly, you will cause your horse to become frustrated while you fumble about - this can lead to training problems! I love the sweatshirts with the kangaroo pocket on the front. It allows me to deliver treats with either hand and not worry about being out of treats in the pocket I needed them in. Look for a deep lip on the pocket so the treats stay in when you bend over. These pockets hold lots and lots of treats and are great to ride with as well.
Even better are the hoodies with these kinds of pockets that have zippers on them;
when you take them off over your head when you get to the house they don’t all fall out on the floor for the dogs! You can find these in snowboarding and ski shops. Yes, if you are over 30 and obviously not a snowboarder, you will get strange looks from the staff in these shops when you go in. Just pretend you are shopping for your son or nephew who is about your size. Actually, for winter wear, I get a size bigger for my hoodie so that it will fit over my other jackets, and I can have on lots of layers to stay warm.
You could probably also use a fishing vest in a size large enough to fit over all your winter layers. I use the vest in the summertime to train with as it has lots of pockets, but here again check out the ease of treat delivery as not all fishing vests are created equal! The pocket lining should be silky and smooth, otherwise the treats tend to catch on the fuzz - not so much in the kangaroo pocket style, but in the side pocket styles with the fuzzy polyester lining. I have found that you do need to think “outside the tack shop” when you want functional clothing that is also warm. I don’t think my horse cares if I am wearing an equestrian designer name jacket, so long as I can get into my pockets easily for the treats and am warm enough to play for a long time!
Gloves are just as hard to find.
Again, I look in the sporting good shops or the ski shops, but garden gloves from summer work well too in the winter if worn over a thin glove. I usually put one of those hot shot hand warmers between the garden glove and the thin glove on the backside of my hand as that is where the blood flows. The garden gloves (the rubber-palm type) keep my hands dry, which is important if your horse is a drooly treat-taker, and are thin enough to allow me to feel and pick out the treats from my pocket. You do not want gloves that are fuzzy as the treats catch on them and make getting the treat into your palm difficult.
Regular winter riding gloves I have found to be too bulky for much use. Fuzzy gloves are like the fuzzy pockets, the treats tend to stick to the fingers and not get to your palm for good delivery.
Some clicker trainers like to use a fanny pack as a treat holder. I find they are awkward and you are constantly zipping and unzipping them as they tend to invite noses in if left open and also dump readily if you bend over.
All of this is much more important if you have a “new to clicker training” horse. My ponies, who are old pros at clicker training, know that in the winter mom is a bit slower on the treat delivery but they know it is coming so no issues are caused.
Best wishes for the holiday season and a fabulous, positive new year