Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The kitty litter experiment

Remember how I mentioned a while ago that I might try throwing a bag of kitty litter on Gwen's back to get her used to having more weight up there? Well tonight I gave it a try.
I brought Gwen in under the lights and put the western saddle on her. The first thing I did was stand to her left, grasp the horn of the saddle with my right hand and jump straight up. Interestingly, her head went up at the same rate that I did. Hmm... should have done this last March. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, right? We did that a few more times before I switched sides and did it again. Gwen has made me a believer of the "different side, different horse" mantra, so I always make sure to work both sides before proceeding.

I then went over and grabbed the bag of kitty litter. Apparently it wasn't a bag of litter like I thought it was, instead it was a bomb. At least that's what Gwen told me as she snorted and bugged out her eyes. We spent the next 15 minutes touching the bomb/kitty litter. At first I had to click her for just looking in my direction, but it didn't take long for her to come over on her own and touch the bag with her nose. We did this on both sides and then I raised the back towards her back. I waited until she dropped her head to click her and put the bag down.

Eventually she let me put the bag on the saddle, where I'd wait for her lower her head, then click and take the bag off. I kept going until she didn't even pick her head up when I put the bag in the saddle and then I put the litter away for the night. To finish up, I asked her to move over by pressing the stirrups into her sides. As this work goes on I'll look for her to move her hindquarters over if I press further back and her shoulders if I stay near the girth, but today I just wanted her to move.

Overall I think the kitty litter experiment was pretty successful. Her only response to the weight was to throw her head up, otherwise she didn't move. I don't know how well it will translate for her having me get in the saddle (I weigh 100 pounds more than the kitty litter), but it can't hurt to have her get used to more activity around her back. We'll definitely be doing more of this in the weeks to come.


  1. Great idea. And I think you'd get a good work out too :), with all the kitty litter lifting.
    I find the clicker training description very interesting.

  2. Oh yeah, that 35 lbs bag got heavy really fast.

  3. Yay, kitty litter! You weigh 100 lbs more than the kitty litter????....Show off! I think my thigh weighs 100 lbs! :-)

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Oh I don't believe that, I've seen pictures and I'm sure your thighs couldn't weigh more than 75lbs each ;-)

  5. Carol, I wanted to respond to your comment about the clicker training description: I got this idea from an Alexandra Kurland video about a pony that was afraid of being saddled. Alex would pick up the saddle and then put it down when the pony would lower her head. She eased it closer and closer to the pony's back this way until it was actually sitting on her. It was very interesting to watch because the pony had total control over the situation, if she didn't want to saddle near her back she just didn't lower her head. Since head lowering has a calming effect, the pony was reinforcing her own decision to accept the saddle. Seriously cool to watch.