It is time to play with your human “horse” again for the next part of food delivery. This next step is one that helps develop space management of your horse by using food delivery.

We are going to add in the next step of turning into your human “horse” as you deliver the treat and unfolding your arm towards her shoulder. This will cause your “horse” to move backwards to get the treat. It may take a couple times for your human “horse” to figure out she now needs to move her feet to get the treat. Remember it is about directing your energy too!

It is the stepping into your horse and unfolding your arm into her shoulder that will send the energy needed to encourage her to move back. Why is this step important? When your horse moves back out of your space to get her treat, she helps develop the polite, safe manners we expect to see in our clicker trained horses.

You’ll practice this with your human partner until you have things working smoothly. The following two You Tube videos will show this both with the ‘human’ and real horse.

When you feel confident in this last step you are ready to get your real horse.

When your horse is solid in his targeting you can add in your new food delivery step so that you are turning into him and delivering the food so that he is backing out of your space to get the food. Present the food where you would like him to be.

Once again do a round of 20 treats. Hold the target out to him, click as he touches it, now step into him unfolding your arm and sending your energy towards him and deliver the food so that he is backing out of your space to get the treat. Repeat for several more trials and remember in between trials to take a moment and look at how things went and make small changes if needed.

Why is this final step in the food delivery important? The most obvious reason is that it teaches your horse to move back out of your space in order to receive his treat. If you do this consistently (consistency is the basis of ALL good training) your horse will begin to automatically step back after hearing the click. The food delivery will have helped him understand your body language. You won’t have to “get tough” with him. He’ll back up easily from a light request. Not only does this create a very polite horse, it also sets him up beautifully for the weight shifts you need for advanced performance work.

Now I know there are those of you out there thinking…ok so now I can get my horse to target his nose to an object I hold what? Well folks it is time to think outside the box ‘stall’. Get creative! How can you use this new found skill to assist you with other behaviours?

For a couple of really fun and practical targeting behaviours have a look at these two videos.

Blessing targeting on her mat waiting for dinner:

Thunder getting a dropped glove:

Can you begin to think outside the box “stall” and see all the useful and fun ways you can use your targeting skills? Here are a couple of pictures to help you begin thinking outside the box “stall”.

Thunder playing b-ball (left) and picking up a dropped glove (right).

Thunder playing b-ball (left) and picking up a dropped glove (right).

A follower of my blog asked about deworming so thought I’d add that in here as it is targeting!

How to use targeting to get deworming to be ‘fun’

How do I start? If your horse is targeting skills are solid (this means he will touch the target whenever and wherever it is presented) you are ready to start working on your deworming dilemma.

You will need an old worming syringe or a syringe that looks like one. Fill it with applesauce and make sure there is a little bit on the outside too. Place your horse in his stall, just like when you were teaching the targeting behaviour before.

Present the old target and make sure he is still targeting consistently. When you are sure he is on track, present the syringe in the same manner. You may get the same solid target touch (wonderful…click, treat and make a big fuss) but you might get a ‘whoa Mom what the hey’ kind of reaction if the syringe is a really poisoned cue. If so this is not a big issue. You just have to drop the criteria back a bit. So think back to when he was learning to target…you would click and treat, if he was very hesitant, for just getting close to touching it to build confidence. You can do this and work your way gradually back to a solid touch of the syringe. Or you can try and alternate the old target with the new. The main thing here is not to force the issue. Try and train in short five-minute or shorter sessions. This can be done while cleaning stalls or even grooming. Just slip it into the routine that you are doing anyway. Don’t make a big deal of it.

As your horse gets more confident in touching the syringe withhold the click for just a very short time – this will encourage the horse to try harder and building this in small steps will eventually lead to him putting his lips around the syringe. You may also choose instead to have him target the side of his lips to the syringe and have him slip the syringe the corner of his mouth if you prefer. Train it the way you want it to go. Simply continue to click and treat, resist the urge to get it done!

You will be much more successful in your training if you split the task into small steps and are not goal oriented, something that is very hard for humans to do. Eventually he will hold the syringe in his mouth. Click and treat and the next time if he feels comfortable doing this click and gently squirt a bit of apple sauce when the syringe is in his mouth, using the applesauce as the treat after the click for the syringe in his mouth . It won’t take long till he is actively seeking the syringe. Build duration of the syringe in his mouth slowly and retreat to less behaviour if he gets a bit hesitant again. Remember to keep the sessions short and frequent. Then introduce apple sauce mixed with something that doesn’t taste so good, eventually working up to a mix of apple  sauce and wormer and then wormer. Also remember that a few days training (really only a couple hours probably in all) in the big picture is well worth a solid behaviour and a horse that is easy to worm.

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