In the photo above Boots is doing a belly crunch to target her withers to my hand.
I first learned about belly crunches from Alex Kurland’s work.
1. We began with the horse behind a low barrier. I stood nearby at neutral (zero intent) and watched casually, with click&treat for any upward or backward shift of weight.
2. I did this IN THE SAME SPOT for a minute or two once or twice a day. Usually as a ‘last thing’ at the end of a session and just before afternoon feeding time. Having ‘usual times’ seems to make the horse look forward to having ‘another go’.
3. Once we were getting a strong weight shift back, I began to sit down to bring the horse’s head a bit lower. Previously we had ignored head position as the horse was experimenting with different possibilities. Her head position lowered when I sat down because the treats were offered lower.
4. At some point, the crunches became a part of her personal repertoire because she would offer them if she wanted to initiate an interaction. I usually click&treat each such offer and it became one of our safe default behaviors that she could easily offer at will.
5. I’d never do more than about what is on this clip at one time.
6. From the Intrinzen group, I learned to ask for the crunches standing beside the horse’s shoulder, butt and behind. We already had such a long and strong history of reinforcement that she readily adjusted to my different positions.
In the video I am using fairly subtle body language to ask for each crunch. I put my arms down and stiffen my torso and lean slightly toward her.