03 Feb Targeting and clicker training a horse while riding – new objects and the scary end of the arena
Does your horse spook at new objects in the arena? Does your horse get worried in one corner of the arena or down one end of the arena?
Watch how I use clicker training with this young warmblood horse Joey.
He is worried about some blue jumping blocks that were placed at one end of the arena. So I click and reward each step towards the blocks, then we do lots of repetitions of targeting the blocks from a verbal cue “touch”.
We also then do some targeting of the arena mirrors and the letters around the arena. Afterwards Joey is relaxed near the blocks and mirrors and can happily trot past and do his warm up finding rhythm, suppleness and stretching long and low we then do some trot poles.
Targeting really makes it so much easier to teach a horse to be confident and relaxed. The old technique used to be use your inside leg as you go past the scary object so the horse doesn’t spook, or put them in shoulder in past the scary object or down the scary end of the arena. Now we have a really fun way to teach the horse that these things are really cool and if you go towards them or touch them you will get treats! Afterwards Joey was actually drifting towards the blocks in the trot, lol.
You can use the same method of targeting objects out on a trail ride. Any time the horse gets worried about something you can say “touch” and then they know its the fun touching game. Touch the monster and get a click and treat. Initially you click and reward any step towards the monster….then gradually the horse gets more confident and you could progress to touching the object. Only get them to touch something that is safe. For example you would not get them to actually touch a dog out on a trail ride but you could click and reward the horse for stepping towards the dog.
It is really important that you have first taught the horse targeting from the ground first and that you have progressed to adding a verbal cue “touch” so that you can then ask for the behaviour under saddle.