Bursting a balloon is not an every-day thing a horse does. Teaching it requires a careful plan of ‘thin slices’ that allows the horse to master the task being continually successful and so remaining motivated to try again.
What is Thin-Slicing?
When we want to teach our horse something, the first thing we need is a PLAN. A plan written down has the advantage that we can look back on it. As we get feedback from the horse and our own actions, we can go back and tweak our original plan. Or we can throw it out and start again.
One way to create a plan is to:
- Visualize the finished task.
- Experiment gently to see what the horse can already offer in relation to the desired task.
- Brainstorm all the individual specific actions the horse needs to be able to do to complete the whole task.
- Put the actions from 2. above into an order that seems logical. Each specific action will have one or more ‘click points’ where we click&treat. This allows the horse to pro-actively seek the hot ‘click point’ of the moment and makes training fun for everyone involved. This is the thin-slicing part.
- Decide how we might teach each specific action (by free-shaping, guided shaping, using a nose or foot target, or even modeling for the horse what we would like him to do).
- Organize environmental props that make each part of the task easier for the horse to learn (e.g., rails, markers, barriers, lane-ways, corners).
- Start with the first slice of your plan, watching for feedback to see what is working and what needs rethinking and tweaking [or starting over with a new idea 🙂 ].
- Gradually chain the slices of the task together until the horse knows the pattern and willingly carries out the whole task with one ‘click point’ at the end.
My book, How to Create Good Horse Training Plans covers this topic in great detail. (See the BOOKS link at the top.)
The video clip link below is a bit long (9 min) but it demonstrates all the parts of a PLAN and it uses various teaching methods to get to the final successful outcome.
Clip: Thin-slicing the Water Obstacle