Seems winter is upon us, here in Alberta at least, and that means the daily chore for some of us of blanketing.
Being inherently lazy or maybe just being the kind of person who likes chores to be efficient or maybe just from blanketing a lot of horses over the years I like my horses to help to put on their own blankets – just like I like them to help put on their halter or bridle or hold up their feet for cleaning.
So, let’s look at how we can use the foundation lessons that are in place already to train this blanketing behaviour. We can use stationary targeting, hand targeting or mat work (which is really a form of targeting) to teach blanketing.
Let’s look at training it using targeting to a stationary target. We will start by reviewing basic targeting if you haven’t done it in a while with your horse. Does he know this behaviour? Does he target quickly when the target is presented? If not, then you need to spend more time here first. Can you send him to a target that is away from you, a stationary target perhaps on the wall of his stall? (See the video link – Eggo stationary targeting). If you haven’t taught your horse this targeting behaviour, then you will need to teach this as well before proceeding to the blanketing lesson.
Is his targeting behaviour solid? Do you have a hand or verbal cue or both that you give to send the horse to the target? This should be added in here if you are going to teach blanketing this way. But remember: a cue is added only once you can predict that the behaviour will happen – not before! How sure are you it will happen? Would you bet $100 that he will do it? If not, you need to do more work on the behaviour first!
Once I am willing to bet that $100 that my horse will touch the target quickly after it is presented then I can add in my verbal or hand cue just before he touches it. I use the verbal cue ‘park’ as I use it a lot with my driving ponies to have them station while I get the carriage but you can use any cue you would like. Be sure to pick a word that sounds different from other verbal cues you may have. For example I would not use ‘park’ as a cue if I also used ‘pick a’s another cue for a different behaviour as they sound a lot alike.
Start by moving the target just a little ways away from where your horse is. You can do this easily by standing near the stall or fence and extending your arm sideways but still inside the fence or stall so he must walk a step or so to get to it but you do not need to move. If you move he might just be reading your body cue and not actually the verbal cue of touch or park that you are trying for! Gradually increase the distance the horse must move to touch the target, eventually have the target where you would like him to station for blanketing.
Check out Eggo stationary targeting below: