Zone One:
Engaging with Humans

Learning to Eat from the Hand

Task One is all about getting the animal to where it can stand next to you and take food from your hand. Usually, if the horse hasn't felt too abused by it's capture and processing, this takes one day. If there is some sad history to overcome, it might take a lot of patience and time. There are also a few tricks up our sleeve not shown on the video.

  • Subtask1: Approach the trainer and eat from the ground near trainer w/ 1-3 second latency.

  • Subtask2: The horse will take food from your hand at 10 bites per minute. [group video]

  • Subtask3: The horse look for food in response to the bridge sound.

Stand in a Relaxed Posture to ask for Food (cue:"Easy")

Task Two is the first operant conditioning project. We want the horse to relax on cue, but relaxing is actually very hard to teach so we just teach them to assume a relaxed posture. You will notice a very high rate of reinforcement, which helps these still wild animals to stay engaged and working.

  • Subtask1: Horses neck is in line with its backbone (no bend). (using shadows)

  • Subtask 2: Horse top of head is at same elevation as withers and neck is straight in front of body.

  • Subtask 3: Duration of 10 seconds.

  • Subtask 4: Standing at shoulder, conditioned relaxation posture for 10 sec for 10 trials.

Look at Human from Right and Left Side

Task Three helps the horse overcome it's natural inclination to want to keep fearful things on one side of it's body. The more anxious your horse is, the more you will notice the problem. (Research video)

  • Subtask1: Do “easy” with duration CD(10) while human is on preferred side.

  • Subtask2: Do “easy” with duration CD(10) while human is on the scarier side.

Targeting Face to Finger (cue:"Target Face", two fingers extended)

Task Four accomplishes a couple of things. It starts giving the animal an idea that human touch might be okay. It orients the animal so it is less likely to kick you. And, finally, it creates a way to move the animal around by offering it a target to go to.

  • Subtask1: Touch finger 10 times per minute with muzzle above the nostrils.

  • Subtask2: Move feet to get to where it can touch the finger.

  • Subtask3: Keep face in contact with fingers for a duration of 10 seconds

  • Subtask4: Respondent conditioning of face petting. (horse clip 2nd)

Target Nose to Guider Ball/Frisbee-on-a-stick (Cue: "Target", stick offered)

Task Five teaches the animal to generalize about objects as targets, and makes a fun game to play with the human.

  • Subtask1: Touch target with muzzle.

  • Subtask2: Move feet to get to where it can touch the target.

  • Subtask3: Duration of 10 seconds.

Target Body Parts to Finger Target (Cue: "Target BP", finger target pointed at body Part)

Task Six puts the horse totally in control of touching the human with it's body. The goal is the animal having predictability and control to master a behavior which is very frightening. The body parts the horse learns are all between the nose and the withers. The BPs are STAR, EYE, EAR, JAW, BUCKLE, NECK, SHOULDER, WITHERS. BUCKLE is used to mean near the poll where a halter buckle will be later. In the second part of Task Six, the horse gets used to a hand rubbing upward from the forhead, over the ears, and onto the poll.

  • Subtask1: Horse targets 100% of the time requested for each part with less than 1 second latency.

  • Subtask2: Horse pushes head under hand, allowing hand to go over flattened ears, and onto the neck.

Follow in Stall to Target Fingers (Cue: "Target", extended finger target )

Task Seven is a review and extension of Task 4, but gets the animal ready for Task 8.

  • Subtask1: Look at trainer when animal’s name is called with 1-3sec latency.

  • Subtask2: Follow in stall to touch finger target with 1-3sec latency.