I always carry a pocketful of small horse treats with me whenever I'm at the barn, just in case a targeting opportunity presents itself. I prefer to do this work if possible with the horse loose or at least unconstrained. This morning, I was out with my can of florescent orange spray paint surveying fences and marking posts and boards that need replacement. As I walked down the long aisle back to the barn, Dawn was near the fence line of her turnout. Targeting opportunity! I took the silvery spray can with its bright orange cap up to the fence and shook it - you know that odd sound the balls inside the can make. Dawn was alarmed and retreated a few steps. I placed the can on top of a fencepost and waited. She crept closer - I clicked and treated. When she got within an arm's-length, I held the can out towards her. I rewarded a stretch towards the can with a click and treat. Finally she was touching it with her nose - bingo! Then I shook it again; she retreated a few steps but came back. Shortly she was able to come very close to it right after I shook it. At that point I ran out of treats and fed her come plucked grass.
I'm hoping to teach her that when I'm with her, on the ground or when riding, and we encounter something scary, that she can trust me and my judgment about it. I'm not trying to desensitize her to specific objects, but to get her to think differently about things she encounters. We're not there yet, but every chance I have to reinforce that she can not be so worried about scary things, and can in fact be rewarded when she's with me for approaching them, the closer we get to our goal.