Magic Mustang Tamer

Task 07: Follow in stall to target fingers

Task 7 is something most horses were able to do in Task 4, but for those horses who weren’t safe to be in the pen with, in Task 7 we finally deal with that issue. Most horses will simply test out of Task 7, but it’s good to use the opportunity to teach the horse it’s name and to come when asked to target.

Task 7 Subtask 1 Look at trainer when animal’s name is called with 1-3sec latency

Objective: We need to be able to get the horses attention. This exercise will teach the animal to respond to its name being called by looking at the caller.

The Set-Up: Train in a low distraction area on a quiet day because you are asking the animal to tune in to verbal commands. Don’t be fooled by the donkey’s large ear, they don’t listen very well. This task requires two trainers.

Prerequisite Training: The animal should be responsive to the bridge (T1.3) and relaxed about people being near.

Protocol: When the animal is not looking at you, say the animal’s name and feed immediately. Don’t wait for it to look at first; the name is going to acquire reinforcing properties for the moment. When the animal is starting to turn its head when called, then move slightly farther apart and start bridging as the animal turns its neck in the correct direction. If the animal turns its head on the first call, feed 3 bites; if it waits to be called twice, feed it 2 bites; if it waits to be called three times, feed one bite. Repeat on that side until the animal is turning its head immediately and earning 3 bites every time.

QC: When the animal immediately looks when called by ether trainer, this task is complete

What ifs:

  • What if the animal tries to get in the bag, pushes on you, bites you, etc.? Train through the fence, starting with the trainers very close to each other. If the animal is mugging you, you have been reinforcing mugging. Most people do this out of ignorance, just feeding the animal for it being cute and friendly. PLEASE ask your animal to earn treats, not just expect them.

Task 7 Subtask 2 Follow to touch finger target with 1-3sec latency *

Objective: The animal will follow the trainers to touch the target with its nose or jaw.

The Set-Up: You enter the stall or home paddock doing basic targeting practice at the head end of the animal. Start in the gateway if you are uncertain that the animal can remain calm with you in the pen. When you can stand in the same pen and practice targeting with a calm animal, you are ready to training it to follow you.

Prerequisite Training: The animal must know how to target the face (T4) and to turn its head when its name is called (T7.1). The animal must be comfortable about people on both sides of its body (T3).

Protocol: Trainers take turns saying the animal’s name and offering it a target. When the animal touches the target, bridge and feed. The other trainer should move far enough from the animal that it has to take one step to reach the target. Repeat. Try to not be strictly predictable about which trainer will call them next.  Use differential reinforcement for low latency responses as outlined in T7.1. Occasionally call out a different name and then the opposite trainer should immediately offer the correct name before the animal has time to make an incorrect response. When you can easily get one step, ask for two steps, etc. Continue this until the animal will walk around following you.

What ifs:

  • What if my horse doesn’t follow? Make the horse stretch to target. Then build from the stretch to the step. The other way to deal with this problem is to just walk farther away from the horse and try again. The horse might not be motivated, if that is the case leave the session until later. Check that your body language isn’t giving a mixed signal to the horse. You can also go back outside the panel and get the horse moving along the panel again.
  • What if my horse gets scared? Get back out of the pen and work at moving along the panels with a high rate of reinforcement for a few days.
  • What if my horse is aggressive towards me? Get out of the pen and work through the panels. Review Task 2 and Task 3.