The basic principles of On TargetTM Training can be applied to any horse regardless of age, breed or discipline. Using the On Target system, horses develop a desire to please their human partners while building a relationship based on trust and respect. Shawna focuses on teaching horse owners and trainers these skills, opening up the possibilities for overcoming a variety of issues and attaining goals.
First, “bridge conditioning” is used to teach the horse to recognize the sound of a particular signal. This signal becomes a sound that will communicate to your horse, “Yes, that is the correct response,” and simultaneously the horse learns to return for a reward. A bridge signal can be any sound, but it should be distinctive. On Target Training utilizes a small clicker to produce the bridge signal. The clicker is paired with food as a reward and very quickly takes on significant value in the horse’s mind. He develops a strong desire to learn what is expected of him and will perform that task at the sound of the clicker in order to receive the reward.
The next step, “target training,” is an invaluable tool that teaches the horse to focus by touching his nose to a target. The target becomes a familiar object that the horse knows exactly how to respond to, no matter where he is or what the circumstances are at the time. The target is also used to introduce the concept of performing a task to earn a reward.
On Target Training utilizes a hand-held training tool made from a 2 1/2 inch dowel with a marine float mounted on the end to serve as the target. But again anything can be used as a target. The target is used to teach the horse a variety of skills, including: lowering his head for clipping, loading on a trailer, free jumping, standing quietly for the veterinarian, farrier, or mounting; and can also be successfully applied to work under saddle. Eventually, the target is faded out, and the bridge signal indicates recognition of the desired behavior.