Correlation in Equine Learning

Years ago, in an effort to help him deal with his unease around some novel objects, I taught Chapiro to touch a target around apparently scary things. I didn’t force him but over a period of several months I clicker trained a touch response such that he would approach a novel area by touching my hand en route.
It was a fairly powerful tool even as far back as our days in France where he once marched up to a pile of ‘scary’ rugs when grazing in the field and touched them with his nose whilst looking at me as if to ask for the reward!
This week we have had sunshine and on Saturday it threw some pretty patterns onto the sand. I felt him backing off along the long side of the school but assumed it was something the other side of the end wall as this is a regular ‘scare spot’ where naughty humans appear from nowhere with mowers and tractors.
So to ease the approach I uttered my usual ‘go touch, it’s safe’ expecting him to approach and touch the wall but instead he dived his nose down to the sand and sniffed the sunlight.
I guess I lead a fairly dull life as this made my day!

Again it reinforced for me that he wasn’t just responding to the cue to touch any old thing but that he singled out what was scary and intentionally touched it- seemingly he has correlated this with the fear and my safe cue. Horses are just incredible when you encourage them to be.

Video is really dull but here it is anyway:

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