Target Training for Scottie

target training Scottie
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Scottie is now in his last week of rest before we have another look at him and come up with a plan. But while scrolling through my Instagram feed yesterday I stumbled across a few Clicker Training posts with horses. These posts were teaching their horses various tricks.

Mental Workout

This got me thinking, while Scottie doesn’t need to know lots of tricks, he does need something to keep his brain busy. I know for a fact that if he is turned out regularly, he doesn’t need regular exercise, but he does need something to get him thinking. Which is why I have always tried to find time to do some interesting ground work and introduce him to scary things in a safe way.

In the past I have talked about how I thought clicker and target training might be good for getting Scottie to do his stretches. So yesterday I finally decided to give it a go!

Getting Started

Picking a Noise

I don’t have a clicker, so my first step was to pick a noise to use in Scottie’s clicker training. I wanted it to be something I don’t use at other times so that it was obvious to Scottie when he has done it. But it also had to be something easy to keep consistent. So I decided to go for a kiss noise.

Introducing the Noise

Now there are lots of different ways to introduce it. Such as introducing the noise and associating it with a treat before asking the horse to do anything. But Scottie is fairly nosy and picks things up quickly. So I decided to jump straight into the noise with the target.

Creating a Target

For my target, I put a small fabric bag over the end of a whip I don’t use very often. But a target can be anything really, as long as it isn’t so scary you are going to struggle to get your horse to touch it in the first place!

Starting Target Training

I filled my pocket with half a cup of balancer from Scottie’s dinner and since it was raining, headed to his stable with my new target. I stood in the corner and presented Scottie with the target, holding it in his eyeline. Luckily, he is incredibly nosy so he quickly investigated the bag and as soon as he touched the bag with his nose, I made the noise, removed the target and presented him with a handful of treats.

I then repeated this over and over. Once Scottie started to understand the idea of the game, I started moving the target around, holding it higher and lower and on different sides of my body. Towards the end of the session, he was going for the bag straight away on most goes. But I did find that if the target was on my left or if it was too high or far away, Scottie would take longer to touch the target. Instead touching the stick and me. But overall I think he got the idea.

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Today I had a go at target training Scottie with clicker training. This is mainly because he is still out of work, bored and driving me insane! So I wanted to give him something to think about. But I also thought that target training could also come in handy for getting him to do carrot stretches. And I heard some people use it as a way to get them to touch scary objects, making them braver. So maybe it will be good for him too! I don't own a clicker, but I used a kiss noise. This is something I don't use around him already. But if clicker training goes well, I could use it to let him know when he has done something right when I make the noise. Just early days but he seems to be getting it! And it was something fun to do this evening. #equestrianbloggers #blogger #horsesofinstagram #thoroughbred #chestnutgelding #racehorseretraining #equestrian #clickertraining #targettraining

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Building on This

This morning before changing Scottie’s boots and turning him out, I presented him with the target twice and he went straight for it each time, so was rewarded with the kiss and a treat. After this he was also good as gold going out to the field for the first time in weeks! So it does seem to be helping him.

I am going to try and spend a little bit of time every day for the rest of the week working on his target training. As not only is it something nice to do together, but it is also giving him something to think about until we know what our next plan is work wise.

If any of you have any tips or tricks to include in target training I would love to hear them!

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