Monday, March 29, 2010

Impromptu Targeting

One thing Dawn and I are working on is her spookiness and tendency to bolt when alarmed. I've taught her to target with her nose, using a cone, a tongue click and treats, and we're now applying that training to many objects.

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.

18 comments:

  1. Targeting is a great way to build confidence. I am trying to find this paper I saw a while ago about targeting reducing fear but I guess it is too early for critical thinking for me! :)

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  2. Brave Dawn! I like reading about your work with her to help her with fears & spooking/bolting. I have noticed some success with Mosco & his same issues now that we've started doing targeting type work. It's not that he isn't still afraid, but he doesn't completely lose his mind anymore, which is a major improvement!

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  3. That is awesome! I am doing something similar with Kinsey. If you want some cheap "scary" objects, head out to the dollar store. Ton of stuff to there and it is only a buck!

    I am also doing some Linda Tellington Jones work with Kinsey for her spookiness. I'll let ya know how that works too.

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  4. Patience is a virtue when it comes to these sensitive ones. Good for you to work so slowly and consistently to build her trust.

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  5. I should try some of that with Beautiful--she's also very sensitive.

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  6. Sounds like an interesting training tool . And effective .Is sthis part of the clicker training regime?

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  7. I do this kind of thing almost constantly -- I'm always introducing Panama to new objects. I don't do clicker training, but he is pretty curious and almost always sniffs and touches an object with his nose when I show it to him.

    The other day I was throwing away an empty Kleenex box from my car. Panama was in the cross ties next to the trash can, so I waved it a little. He tensed up, so I let him sniff it, waved it some more, rubbed it on his back and sides, let him sniff it again. Lots of praise, Kleenex box went in the trash. A quickie drive-by desensitization.

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  8. What a fabulous idea! I might be trying that with Izzy. Thanks.

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  9. This really has helped me with Cibolo, but I was surprised at how well the Ttouches worked on our windy day.

    I plan on taking cibolo out to a place where he'll get a pile of carrots for just getting there. Like a treasure hunt.

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  10. Once again, some great success instilling some confidence in Dawn and her confidence in you.

    Need to do some more things like that with my Boys, although Chance would probably eat the can....*G*

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  11. That sounds like a great way to desensitize a horse to scary objects. I've got to read up on this targeting and put it to use with some of my guys. She's getting to be a very brave girl.

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  12. Oou, Kate... nice opportunity there with Dawn!
    I have not heard of this before...I am going to be riding Cazi Mustang more and boy does he bolt about...is there some more reading somewhere or can you post more on this Targeting?
    And...since the Elk thing..Wa mare is jumpity.
    Thanks,
    KK

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  13. fernvalley - I do use clicker (mostly using my tongue for the click) for this sort of scary object work.

    Grey Horse - I recommend Alexandra Kurland's book The Click That Teaches - very clear explanations and pictures.

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  14. KK - see above reply to Grey Horse

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  15. I think your plan will eventually work. That's one of the approaches I've been using with Dixie for over a year now, and she's noticeably less spooky and more willing to look at new things.

    Love the new header :)

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  16. I have to get that book..I'm sure Laz would LOVE the mental challenges like this and should prove him to be a more steady boy when I can climb back on him in a year or so..or less?!

    How do you prevent the TB who comes RUNNING to you when they are scared..my fear is getting trampled by him in his "I'm scared" side spook when I'm on the ground by him...would clicker training help with this?

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  17. Kristen Eleni - I think if the horse tends to run into you when he spooks, the best work is basic leading work so that the horse learns to always, always stay out of whatever space you define consistently as yours. I also like the horse to always at least have some of his attention on me when I'm on the ground nearby - the various leading exercises I've done with Dawn all help with this.

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