An easy way to teach parking with duration is to use mats as foot targets. Mats can be anything safe for the horse to put his feet on. My horses were especially fond of a small piece of foam mattress.
The series of video clips in this post begin with introducing a horse to mats, and go on to explore building duration on the mat and using mats as destinations.
- Horse understands the basics of clicker work.
- Handler can consistently time the click/marker sound to the desired action.
ENVIRONMENT & MATERIALS:
- A work area where the horse is relaxed and confident.
- Horse is not hungry.
- Ideally, the horse can see his buddies, but they can’t interfere.
- Halter and lead (with no pressure on lead) if you don’t have a space where the horse can be at liberty.
- One mat to begin with, then a variety of different mats.
- To encourage the horse to explore an object and make up his own mind that it is harmless.
- To encourage the horse to see a mat as a desirable spot because standing on it always results in a click&treat.
- To build duration stayed relaxed standing on a mat.
- Lay out a mat well away from the horse while the horse is watching.
- Stand back and observe the horse’s responses.
- Click & walk to the horse to deliver the treat if: a) he looks at the mat. b) he steps toward the mat. c) he sniffs the mat. d) he touches the mat with a foot. e) he paws at the mat, click the moment he stops pawing OR at the moment he first touches the mat, them ask him to move forward or back from the mat to avoid pawing becoming part of what he things he has to do.
- Once he has put a foot on the mat, move the horse or pick up the mat and toss it away, and go back to observing, repeating 3 above.
- If the horse shows little interest in the mat, put a treat he really likes on it and show him it is there.
- If you are working alone, it may be easier to have two mats and as he eats the treat on one mat, you can be putting another treat on the other mat.
- #6 HorseGym with Boots demonstrates introducing the mat target after a quick revision about nose targets.
Once the horse confidently heads over to put his feet on a mat as soon as we set one out, we can begin to build duration staying on the mat. #8 HorseGym with Boots looks at building duration.
Once the horse loves going to mats due to a strong history of reward reinforcement, we can use mats as parking spots for things like waiting tied up, grooming, foot care, vet care.
I’ve found that carpet stores are happy to give away their old carpet sample books. They are amused when I tell them what I want them for.
#14 HorseGym with Boots is the very first introduction of a young horse to the idea of stepping on something and it was also new for the young handler.
The following videos look at generalizing mats to a variety of situations.
#9 HorseGym with Boots looks at putting mats ‘on cue’ or ‘on signal’.
#10 HorseGym with Boots looks at mats in different places and using different kinds of mats.
#11 HorseGym with Boots looks at more generalization with a ‘Mat-a-thon’.
#15 HorseGym with Boots looks at the horse staying parked at a distance.
#18 HorseGym with Boots looks at the horse staying parked while the handler goes out of sight.