Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter's not over yet

That two week reprieve from the frigid weather was apparently just a tease, we're back down to the single digits at night. Brrrr!

Clicker training has been progressing. I've been trying to switch it up and not work on the same thing everyday. I don't know if that's the right way to do it or not (let me know if you know better), but I don't want her to get bored. Keeping that in mind, the next day we went back to the outdoor arena and worked on leading. Well, stopping actually. We stopped facing the barn, facing away from the barn, at the end of the arena furthest from the barn... By the end of it she was starting to anticipate the whoa and stop when I stopped my feet. Which is exactly what I want- she got extra praise for that.

Next night was targeting on something NOT in my hand. I put the target all over her stall and then stood on the opposite side before I asked her to target. She caught right on, smart little bugger. The only one that was a little hard for her was when I put the target on the floor and asked her to touch it there. She kept trying to just wave her nose over it and still get credit. Sorry dear, no dice.

Last night it was much too cold and windy to take her outside so I started training her to ground tie. That's going to take a while. First of all, she's started mugging me for treats now (I'll have to go a little backwards and teach her to turn her head away before I give her a treat), and second my timing isn't quite right for getting the response that I want. I think I might be waiting a bit too long to click her for the behavior I want. I touched her shoulder, said "stand" and took a step back. Almost every time she would immediately turn her head towards me when I stepped back. Hmm, I think I need a new strategy. Suggestions?

I haven't forgotten about my boy. Bit training is on hold until the temps come back up. I feel like it would be really mean to try getting him comfortable with the bit when it's cold enough for his tongue to freeze on it. So he's just been getting scratched in his favorite places when it's too cold to do anything else. He seems to be pretty happy with that.


  1. -26C today! Very chilly. I envy you that you are able to spend so much time with your guys and I admire your dedication. My time with Gem is limited to two or three times a week, so resolving issues or learning new things will take longer. :-( I am curious to find out how you resolve Gwen's head turning when you step away from her side. And, giving your boy scratches is always a good thing!

  2. -26C? That is why I will never live in Canada.

    Yup, I get to the barn everyday. The barn is five minutes from my apartment and is actually on my way to work. Which helps a lot in the morning because I have to turn my own horses out. My barn owner can't get Gwen's halter on. So we still have a lot more work to do. Though I think part of the problem is that my barn owner is still nervous around Gwen since getting pinned by her on her second day here. Gwen sucks in nervous and radiates it back out times 10.

  3. Regarding repetition / switching things up:
    Do what works. Some horses get bored fast and like variety, others seem to really benefit from lots of repetition and consistency. So, if you feel you're making progress with how you're doing it, keep doing it that way!

    Ground tying:
    Alexandra Kurland has an exercise called The Grown-ups Are Talking which is nice to teach good manners / no mugging and also transitions well into ground tying.

    Basically, you stand at the horse's shoulder and click/reward when the horse's head is straight ahead. Start with the horse in a stall at first if you're getting serious mugging.

    (Very) gradually, you can increase the time and the amount of rope you give the horse until the belly of the rope is on the ground. Then you can continue increasing the time and the distance you are away from the horse. It's a slow process, but it works well.

    If you want to put in on cue, I'd wait until you're getting at least some level of consistently correct behavior before introducing the cue.


  4. Thanks Mary, I'll give that a try today. By the way, I found one of your previous comments that I had missed before about clicker clinics. I was wandering around on Alexandra Kurland's site a few days ago and found out there are going to be multiple clinics in my area over the summer starting in May. I'm definitely going to sign up.

  5. Awesome!

    I think you'd really enjoy it. I did a clinic with her last fall and learned a ton.