Targeting body parts is fun to do when we are short on time or it’s too hot, wet, cold, or muddy to be out and about, which is often the case in January.
I’ve started with targeting chin to hand, because it is probably the easiest one to establish the IDEA of targeting a body part to our hand. It gives us a simple task to practice good timing of the click, plus consistent treat-delivery that keeps or returns the horse’s head to facing forward.
- Horse confidently touches his nose to a variety of different targets held in a variety of positions. In other words, he seeks out the target.
- Horse confidently touches his nose to our outstretched fist in a variety of positions and with us standing beside him or in front of him.
- Handler has developed a clear ‘zero intent’ body language stance. (See Related Resources 1.)
- Horse understands the handler’s ‘zero intent’ position, by remaining calmly facing forward for several seconds, rather than turning toward the treat pouch or pocket when the handler stands beside the horse’s neck. There are training plans for these prerequisite skills in my book: “How to Begin Equine Clicker Training” (See the link to BOOKS at the top of the screen).
I have to presume that everyone is already familiar with the basics of clicker training, since the new shaping plans I share here build on those basics. If you are not familiar, the information in the book is a great place to start.
- Horse is not hungry, so he can focus on what we are teaching, rather than the treats.
- Horse at liberty in an area he finds comfortable.
- Ideally, herd mates in view but not able to interfere.
- The horse willingly moves his chin to touch our hand held toward his chest from his chin.
- The handler becomes more confident with slipping into and out of a ‘zero intent’ posture. (See Related Resources 1 at the end of this post.)
- Play with this in very short sessions. Stop when it feels good. Sessions can be before or between other things that you are doing.
- Have the short sessions as frequent as possible. Every day is good, twice a day is even better.
- Stick with one body part until you and horse are totally ho-hum with it.
- When you are ready to introduce a second body part, the PROCESS is exactly the same as the one outlined below for the chin.
- To introduce another body part, begin each session with the one(s) you have already taught, then suggest the new spot by touching it: click&treat, and progress through the same thin-sliced process.
- Touch the flat palm of your hand to the horse’s chin; click&treat.
- Repeat several times so the horse can make the connection between the ‘touch’ and the click&treat.
- Hold your hand a tiny distance back from the chin (toward the horse’s chest) and wait for the horse to close the distance so he touches your hand: click the instant you feel the touch & treat plus celebrate largely (happy praise and a triple treat or jackpot).
- If you do slice 3 above, and the horse does not make the connection, resume with slice 2.
- Once the horse is making the connection over a tiny distance, gradually increase the distance one millimeter at a time.
- Early on in your teaching program, start each new session with a touch to the chin, to remind the horse about which task you are doing.
- Once the horse clearly understands the task, take up the ‘zero intent’ position between repeats, to build a bit of ‘wait duration’ between your requests. Build up the ‘wait time’ in one second increments.
- Some horses will develop a little signal to tell you when they have finished chewing and are ready for a repeat. (See Related Resource 6.) Watch out for these and value them by doing a repeat. Boots illustrates this in the video clip.
We can use how the chin (lower lip) feels to our touch to estimate the horse’s relaxation level. It’s easier to feel the chin (lower lip) tension than to see it when we are actively doing things with the horse.
While interacting with the horse, occasionally pause and feel his chin (lower lip). A soft, floppy lower lip suggests a horse relaxed about what is going on.
With increasing anxiety, the lip tightens, so it might be:
- Very Loose
- Moderately loose
- A little bit tight
- Quite tight
- Very hard indeed.
Likewise, as anxiety reduces and relaxation returns, a tight lip will loosen up.
Add Pics of chin
- Blog: ‘Zero Intent’ and ‘Intent’: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5RO
- Blog: Target Shoulder to Hand: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5SH
- Blog: Target Hindquarters to our Hand: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5Tk
- Blog: Target Flexions: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5Ty
- Blog: Seeking the Horse’s Consent Signals: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5RV