Targeting is when we get the horse to touch it’s nose on an object.
Targeting is a great way to get the horse used to scary things. It is also an important part of teaching the horse to really understand clicker training.
What do I need?
- A target (this can be any medium sized object that is light and easy to hold e.g witches hat, frisbee, lid off a supplement container, a hat or a ball)
- A clicker
- A horse
- A bag of treats
- A rope halter and lead.
How do I start?
For this exercise it can help to put your horse behind a stable door, fence or have them tied up, like you did when first teaching the horse to look away.
Stand facing your horse with the horse on the other side of a fence stable door or wall.
With your clicker in one hand and your lead rope and target in the other hand offer the target to your horse to smell. As soon as your horse reaches towards the target “click” then wait for your horse to look away and then give it a “treat”.
Offer the target to the horse again, as soon as the horse reaches toward the target “click”, “look away”, then “treat”.
Keep repeating until the horse is touching the target consistently, try to click when the horses nose and the target are touching, the timing is important because it tells the horse exactly what behaviour gets the “treat”.
Keep repeating the process until your horse is consistently touching the target straight away. Then try and keep up with your horse!! They will get very quick at the touch, treat game. Make sure you click, treat for every touch. Then you could try holding the target up higher and high so that they have to reach up higher to touch it.
When they get really good at touching the target you can then try moving the target down progressively closer to the ground. Eventually the horse will be able to touch the target when it is on the ground. Then you can start to add in the verbal cue “touch” and a visual cue of pointing to to the target just before the horse touches the target. You could also put the target on the ground gradually further away from the horse so that they have to walk further and further to touch the target.
Short frequent training sessions are the best method for teaching a new task. 5-10 minutes a couple of times a day will get you and your horse going well.
Targeting different objects
When the horse can target one object really well you should then repeat the process with several different targets. When starting with a new target, start from the very beginning as though the horse has never done targeting before. Once you have tried targeting with several different objects you will then be able to use your verbal cue “touch” and your visual cue pointing at the object to ask the horse to touch any object at all. Click/treat when they take a step towards the new object. Click/treat when they sniff the object. Click/treat when they touch the object.
Targeting while riding
You can then also do this when you are riding. If the horse sees something scary such as a letter box. Use your verbal cue “touch” then click and treat for any movement towards to object. Your your leg aids to encourage the horse to walk towards the object. Click and treat for any movement towards the object. Click and treat for walking towards the object. Click and treat for sniffing the object. Click and treat for touching the target. This is a fantastic way to get the horse used to lots of different things and it is a great way to teach the horse that different things are potential objects to touch instead of things to shy away from.