Welcome to the Cardinal Points Farm blog !

Dear friends and fellow animal lovers, here it is ... a blog to discuss training.

My specialty is horse training and dressage, but I’ve applied to my horses many invaluable lessons from other animal trainers. Together we can create a greater awareness of the unlimited potential for greatness that your animals (and you) possess, once you acknowledge that many animal species are intelligent and capable of reasoning and communication.

So let’s get started ! Let's share insights, lesson plans, techniques, videos, pics, stories ... what have you.


Sian Min The
Cardinal Points Farm

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Shaping behaviors using targets

... Continuing from my previous post Start communicating!

Once the horse is thoroughly conditioned to the bridge (both the Terminal Bridge or TB, and the Intermediate Bridge or IB), you can teach the horse to target an object of your choosing with some part of his/her body.  It’s natural for a horse to investigate new things by sniffing, so it’s easiest to teach a horse to target with his/her nose.

1. Make a two-finger target, or TFT (see picture below)
2. Position the tip of the TFT in front of the horse’s muzzle, and say "Here!"
3. When s/he touches the TFT say "X", and give a treat immediately.
4. Repeat 3 times each with the TFT in front, to the left, and to the right of the muzzle.
5. Repeat, varying the distance of the TFT from the muzzle (if the horse is new at this, don’t go further than a foot or so from the muzzle.

Two-finger target (TFT)

In the beginning, be alert to what may seem like an accidental touch by the horse’s nose to the TFT.  Be ready to bridge with a TB even if this is all s/he does.  Lavish praise on the horse when this happens.  As the horse gains confidence the targeting will become more deliberate.

Teaching duration

You can also use bridging to maintain a behavior for an extended period of time. For example, you can ask the horse to keep its nose on the target for several seconds. 

1. Make a TFT
2. With my TFT held in front of her muzzle, say "Here"
3. As soon as s/he touches the TFT say "xxxx..." (this is the IB) for as long as she keeps contact with the TFT.
4. The first time you do this, withdraw your TFT after 1 second of contact, then say "X" (this is the TB), and treat.
5. Repeat, asking for 2 seconds of contact.
6. Repeat, asking for 4 seconds of contact.

You want to be the one to end the duration of contact by giving the horse the TB.  If s/he stops touching the TFT before you can give the TB, cease bridging with the IB, and repeat steps 1 through 4.  Don’t ask for longer duration until the horse understands that it must wait for your TB to move its nose away from the target.

A common mistake for trainers is to push the TFT into the horse’s nose, so that it’s the trainer who initiates and maintains the contact, instead of the horse.  Stand your ground, and keep your target steady in one spot.  This will become even more important when you use other objects as the target, such as the tip of a long stick.

Next post, naming objects …

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