Monday, December 13, 2010

34. Targeting Level 4

Goal: Horse nose targets 5 objects common to the horse's environment with 2 cues each (the object and a cue)

Choose each object carefully for safety (no sharp edges, horse cannot damage it etc), variety of materials (wood, plastic, metal etc) and accessibility.

Some examples include:
*water trough
*hay bale
*barn wall
*angled beam in his stall
*food bucket
*mounting steps
*lawn chair
*paddock gate
* fence post
*recreational ball etc

Stand near the object with the horse nearby. We will use a water trough for this example. Do a few nose targets of the stick target you used in level 2 to give your horse the idea of the behavior you are looking for. Now use the stick to point at and touch the trough at a height that easy for him to reach. C/t only if he touches the end of the stick where it touches the object. Fade the target stick once he repeatedly touches the trough. He should understand that the trough is the object you want him to target.
 Use the target stick to help direct him to touch (explore) other parts of the trough (top, side, bottom, other end etc).
You can also use your hand to point to the object (if you have taught him to safely target your hand). 

Your eyes can be used to target the trough as well. This may take longer. Look at your horse's eye, then at the trough. Do not actually cue him to ‘touch’ when he is in shaping mode. C/t your horse for looking, sniffing or touching any part of the trough. Select for only nose touches, not bites. When he is consistently offering a nose touch to the object, add the cue. 

Choose another object and repeat. He will catch on more quickly each time you do this with a new object.

Repeat for 5 common objects. Choose objects at various levels-on the ground, at chest height, above his head, and to each side.

Now take it to other parts of your horse’s living area and target other objects.

Test him at the beginning of a training session on a new day with all the objects you have practiced on by leading him to each one and cueing a touch. He passes if he reaches out and touches each object the first time you cue it.

The point of this exercise is to help your horse learn how to target objects that you indicate. You can later use this to help him overcome fears of novel objects that may induce fear. Targeting gives him control of his behavior and also gives him a focal point to remove the fear. The process to teach him to target new object is also the beginning steps for shaping his interaction with other objects. For example, this is the first steps of learning to push a ball with his nose, or carry an object for you.

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