Teaching a Horse to Target

All this talk of attraction and why targeting works so well and I haven’t explained how to target. The process is a weird combination of being technical and observant. There are a few rules for the human to follow, but the rest is simply watching your horse to gauge his interest. For me, the moment is absolutely magical when I see a horse’s eyes widen, his ears perk forward and I feel him say, This is great game. I know how to play it and I’m good at it. Let’s play again! Continue reading

Dialogue with Dante: Practical Play

After our fifth lesson with Dante, Barb sent me a quick email update:

Hi Cheryl,
Just wanted to give you a quick update about Dante.  He is such a sweetie.  I’ve been working with a target stick over head and head down when Larry started the big scary diesel tractor with the bush hog going right in front of him.  He was scared but he touched the target anyway!  Yea!!!!

But today was so neat.  I followed your suggestion and put a sock soaked in molasses on his ball.  Continue reading

The Beauty of Interaction

After I wrote about the bilingual nature of horses and their ability to speak and respond to both pressure and attraction, I realized another facet. It appears that pressure-based communications are reactive and attraction-based communications are interactive.

When a trainer uses pressure-release techniques, they are counting on the fact that the horse will have a reaction. Continue reading

Natural Born Targeters

In a nutshell, everything I do with my horses is summed up by three, very scientific words:

What Feels Better?

At the heart of that phrase are two other important words. Association and motivation. For instance, if my horses associate me with something that feels good, they’ll be more motivated to pay attention to me, to be with me, to trust me. If they associate me with something that feels bad, you can bet I’ll see all sorts of things that make me feel bad. Like the hind end of a horse as it runs away from me, or the pinning of ears, or the flying of hooves, or the throwing of me off its back. Continue reading