DIY target stick

A target stick is such a great tool in clicker training. Read on to make your own safe and sturdy target stick. It’s really easy so you have no excuse to not at least try it out.

With a target stick you can teach a horse practical anything. Read Best basics: Take targeting to the next level if you want some tips for target training.

Supplies

Floater
Bamboo stick
Duct tape
Glue gun

Target

I chose a hard plastic floater which I found in the boat section of Canadian Tire. The floater has a hole in which you can put a bamboo stick. I chose this floater for several reasons. It is a hard plastic so horses can’t get a grip on it with their teeth (safety), it is highly visible, very durable and it is lightweight. The target stick in the pictures is used daily and with many, many different horses. I made it years ago and it is still in super shape!

Stick

You can buy bamboo sticks in a garden center or in the gardening isle in a hardware store. Take the bamboo stick in your hands and try it out: hold it horizontally, point it up and down to get a feeling for length and weight. Make sure it feels good in your hand. If the stick is too thin or too long it’s hard to hold for a long time. Some bamboo sticks are a bit thicker on one end, that would be the best end to use as handle.

Tip: buy the floater first and bring it to the garden store so you buy exactly the right size stick: the one that fits in the hole of the floater. It works best if the target is already stuck on the stick without glue.

Glue

I used a glue gun to glue the target to the bamboo stick. You can use any kind of glue that is suitable for the materials you are using and is non-toxic. My floater fit perfectly with the bamboo stick, but I glued it anyway. I wanted to be sure not to lose the target in the middle of a training session or take the chance the target will fly away whenever I am waving the stick in the air. I don’t want to poke my horse or myself in the eye.

Duct tape_targetstick_

I used duct tape to prevent the bamboo stick from splintering or splitting. Some horses like to bite the bamboo stick. They are allowed to investigate it, not to eat it. Duct tape makes it less tempting for them.
Duct tape is available in all colours and prints which makes it fun.

Instructions

Glue the floater on the stick. Let it dry. Put tape around the stick and you’re good to go. To make it more fancy you can glue a (golfstick) handle on it too.

Let me know how your target stick turned out and if you have any tips. Thanks.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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Choosing the right target stick

DIY target stick HippoLogic

My DIY target stick

What criteria does a target stick need to meet to be a ‘good’ one? That depends on personal preference.

In this post I will tell you what I think is important about a target stick. I’ve seen all kinds of objects and DIY target sticks for horses on the internet, some look safe others don’t, some look handy others don’t.

If you want to know how a target stick is used, read this post.

My favourite target stick
I made my own target stick. I have experimented with different materials over the years and this is the one that I like the most, see picture on the right.

Lightweight
I prefer a solid lightweight target stick. This is important because you can hold a lightweight stick longer in your hands before getting tired. You can also work more accurately if the stick is rigid. If your target stick is too flimsy it may bend at the wrong moment and you don’t want to bump your horses sensitive body by accident. A flimsy target is harder to hold still.

hippologic key lesson targeting

I made a special lightweight target stick for my son: a soft floater glued to a whip. For this goal: working with a clicker savvy horse and only asking the horse to touch it with the nose, just to make a picture it was OK. I would not recommend it in other situations: too flimsy and inaccurate.

Safe
The target at the end of the stick has to be safe. I choose to use a floater of hard plastic so horses can’t get a grip on it if they are exploring the target stick with their lips and or teeth. I use duct tape around the bamboo stick, to prevent splinters. Tennis balls on whips or sticks or soft floaters/pool noodles are not safe if you work with mouthy horses.

 Hip target stick hippologic

The stick must be long enough

Length of the stick
I want my target stick to have a convenient length: long enough to use it to target my horses hips if I stand near the head and long enough to work with the horse while working with a protective barrier between us. But also short enough not to become too heavy after a while. You need to be able to use the target stick easily in one hand without getting tired.

Obvious/clear
The target must be easy to discriminate from the stick. It will be easier for the horse to see it and understand that it is only touching the target at the end of the stick that will earn him treats.

An obvious target makes it also easier for the trainer to have clear criteria what to reward and what to ignore.. One of the goals of using a target stick is to create distance, so the horse has to learn to touch the end. That is why you put a target on a stick. If the horse can’t distinguish the target from the stick, you are missing the point of this tool.

My first DIY target stick HippoLogic

My first DIY target stick by HippoLogic

This is my first DIY target stick: a dog toy on a willow branch. It was too flimsy, too short to use for different exercises (head lowering or hip targeting), not glued to the stick so it fell off often. The dog toy was easy to grab for Kyra (because of the little bulges) and the willow was way too tasty! 😉 

Small enough
Choose a target that is big enough to notice and get touched by the horse, but small enough to be light and easy to work with. The smaller the target the easier it is to store and to take with you.

Quality
You want to invest in a stick that lasts for years. If your target stick is easy to use, you will use it often. You get used to it and therefor you want quality. That quality doesn’t have to be expensive as you can see with my target stick.

I am curious what you use as target stick. Did you buy one, or do you use an existing object (like a tennis racket) as your target stick or did you make one yourself like I did? Please share your ideas.

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. Or post your comment, I read them all!

Or simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I connect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
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