Monday, December 13, 2010

31. Haltering Level 4

Goal: Horse eagerly nose targets halter 15 feet away, with 2 cues (the halter is one of them)

This is simply adding distance to Haltering Level 1. The horse does not wear the halter, yet. You are working only on distance, then fun!

Add Distance
When your horse has passed level 1, you can train this behavior if you want, but it’s ideal to wait to finish level 2 & 3 as this presents the halter as part of a ‘catch the halter’ game that is fun to play. This way, he will already know what it is and how it is worn and be comfortable when he hurries to you to target it.

Present the halter in front of you and off to one side of your horse and do 5 c/t. Next, place it just far enough away that he has to stretch his neck to touch it. After 5 successful tries at that, add just enough more distance that he has to take a small step to reach it. You want to show him that he can move towards the halter to earn his reward. Repeat x5 and add another short distance so the horse must take one small step towards you to touch the halter.

From here it’s easy to add distance in one step increments. Start with you stepping straight back and the horse moving forwards toward you. Next present the halter to one side of the horse, then the other. Above and below eye line. One side of you, then the other. Present the halter so your horse has to turn slightly as he moves towards it to touch it. Ask him turn the other way. Make it a game.

Start with your horse at a standstill and start moving just slightly ahead of him so he has to hurry to follow and catch up with the halter. Try a straight line, then a wide circle. How about a serpentine line (a series of half circles)? Ask him to follow you through a line of cones or barrels spaced 15 to 20 feet apart. (start with just one or two and add more as he is successful.) What else can you do to really reinforce the idea of coming to the harness?

Have fun with this step! Just make sure that he is able to contact the harness with each move so he can remain successful and ‘in the game’. Stop before he gets bored.

Adding Cues
The presence of the halter itself is one cue for him to know to target the halter, and you can use the other (verbal or hand signal) one you’ve already trained if you wish.

Start holding up the halter just before you use another cue. Later drop the other cue so holding it up becomes a visual cue to target it. Move it down into targeting position before he approaches you. This will get him ready for seeing the halter from across a field and not being able to hear a verbal cue due to wind, traffic etc.

Again, take the time to thoroughly train this step and you have continued building the foundation for a horse that comes to you willingly from a distance to put on his halter, with the harness itself being the cue.

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