Here are some things to consider when you want to purchase or make a target stick for training your horse. It’s good to think about some things before you buy or make one. This can prevent accidents or lots of frustration and a waste of money.
Buying or making a target stick
There are websites to buy a target stick. I am thinking of the target sticks of Shawna Karrash or Spod International (for my Dutch readers!). It can save you a lot of money and time (and prevent lots of frustration!), just buying one. If you’re constructing one yourself or buying a tool that’s not made for horse training you can end up buying and buying until you find The One for You… I’ve been there, done that. Now I consider my time a valuable asset.
If you know what you want, you can easily made one yourself. I did that and it lasted over 8 years… Until I stepped on the stick and broke it. It was cheap too; only $10 dollars and it took me less than 10 minutes to construct it.
What makes a target stick a good tool: things to consider
Here are some things to consider that can help you figure out what to look for if you’re making a target stick:
- Use an object that has (not yet) an association in your horse’s brain so the association you train is a positive one right from the start.
- Attach your target to a stick so that your reach is bigger: you can lead horses away from your body/pocket of treats, you can train with a fence (protective contact) between you and your horse
- Make sure the whole target stick stays lightweight so that you won’t get tired using it.
- Focus on safety! Smaller objects or soft objects can be grabbed by the horse and you don’t want him to accidently bite (or worse: swallow) a piece of it! That’s why I am not a fan of dusters or pool noodles until the horse understands what “Targeting” is and that he’s not suppose to bite it.
How to use a target stick
Once your horse understands he will get rewarded for touching your target, you can use targeting as a training tool to train other behaviours. The target stick is such a versatile tool, I wish I knew about it earlier. I’ve only discovered this useful training tool about 10 years ago. It has made my life so much easier! It can give your horse so much clarity if used well, that you simply want to have this tool in your tool box.
Watch this video to get ideas to train 20 behaviours with the help of your target stick. If you click the “YouTube” button, you go directly to YouTube, where you can subscribe to my channel!
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Sandra Poppema, BSc
I teach horse people to connect with their horse in training, so they get results and the relationship they want with their beloved horse. Make training win-win!