One interesting thing that has come up with doing target training has been the focus of the horse. Even after just a couple of days of targeting and clicking in very short sessions, all three of my horses were so much more focused on me. I think the click + treat is part of it, but there is also a mindset of when a human is around there might be a puzzle to solve. All of my horses were fed treats before, Jet even learned to “smile” on cue for a treat, but by doing many short (usually 5 minute)sessions with the target, clicker, and various exercises their level of attention is through the roof.
What is even more interesting is that I am so much more aware of when I lose their focus. Having their attention, deciding when to click, and shaping behaviors has improved my focus on the horse as well. Sort of in a feedback loop maybe? I think this is what the most talented natural horsemanship trainers like Warwick Schiller do. They approach and retreat using a form of CAT-H staying way under threshold but they themselves have such a fine grasp of their own and the horse’s focus that they can make the magic happen. For me, having the target and the clicker makes things more concrete so a little easier to get the timing down. The natural horsemanship way obviously uses pressure to shape behavior so is R- and clicker/target training uses the click and rewards so is R+ but both have so much to do with focus. Many roads lead to Rome I guess.
Anyway, I’m loving the target training using a clicker and am starting to incorporate it under saddle. Mostly for spook training and touching various things with their noses under saddle, but I think I will gradually move to the clicker more and more under saddle. The power of withholding the click and then marking the moment is pretty amazing.
Tell me about something new you have learned recently that has helped your horsemanship journey.