Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"For what the horse does under compulsion... is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer."

Tonka and I had an absolutely wonderful day yesterday, and a great one today as well, though our time today was short.

I've been knowing that I need to work on loping the boy, but haven't done it. Footing, laziness, aversion to arena work, etc... There are always excuses for doing nothing. But the Expo made me realize just how badly I've been allowing my horsemanship to stagnate. Gotta move forward... When we worked on loping before he was having trouble picking up the correct lead. I think it may have been mostly a saddle fit issue. Probably not helped by my riding. :) Yesterday we made a couple trips in either direction at the lope, and he did great. It's nice to have the safe footing and clear area of the arena to work in. I think I'm going to start trying to get over there 2-3 times a week. Hopefully he'll soon start to get some muscle tone back. He's not looking so hot lately.

Today I watched a video on clicker training. Alexandra Kurland's The Click that Teaches. It was basic but good. There are a couple really basic things I've done wrong when trying it in the past. So today I went out and found my clicker in the tack shed and tested it to see if it was clicking right (my son messed it up a little). Tonka headed eagerly in my direction and followed me along the fence to the gate. Think he remembered that sound? We did do some very basic preliminary work with it a year or more ago. Maybe he just really wanted something to do. But I think he probably remembered the clicker.

I filled my pockets with treats and haltered him, then worked on targeting. I didn't have a lot handy, so I grabbed an empty wormer tube. He didn't like that a lot, but he's not a freak about worming so I figured I wasn't setting him up for failure. He'd touch it, I'd click and treat. He got his targeting on that down pretty good, then we went to a lariat and I pointed to it and asked him to touch it, and he did several times. Then I put him away. He really didn't want to go back through that gate. Maybe I should have taken him for a walk. I wanted to keep it short and sweet though.

I sat down to break the treats into smaller pieces and of course I had a very interested audience. Cisco and Bella were dying for some goodies too. I decided to try it with Cisco, over the gate, because he is very pushy about treats. I used the end of the lariat as a target, a wormer tube would have been too hard for him. It took him a little longer, mainly because he was so focused on my pockets. I was also not using the voice command "touch" to ask him to touch it. I was just sticking it out there. He did a lot better when I added the voice command, and was consistently touching the lariat instead of mugging my pockets and hands. Good boy. Then I let Bella touch it once and clicked and treated her, but I'll have to get her out away from the other horses for a real session. I could work with Cisco with Bella there only because he wouldn't allow her to interfere. Bella would have gotten pushed away by Cisco if I tried to work with her over the gate.

Boy, sorry for the long and boring post. I better get back to doing more productive things now.


Anonymous said...

It wasn't long and boring - it was wonderful! The Xenephon quote was perfect and your descriptions were entertaining and informative. Thanks for your post!

Anonymous said...

Great quote!

I use clicker a lot for management things and just whenever I am working around them. I have sent my girl (who has totally stuffed knees from a hard life pre-me)down to a retirement property to have a few nice months or more (as long as she is comfy)in a great paddock with other horses where she will also be rugged (blanketed, you say up there) and coddled.

The owner, a non-clicker but a nice lady, reported to me that my girl is so polite and an absolute pleasure to have around. Go clicker! I don't know who I ever did without it!

The 'clickryder' yahoo list is really helpful if you have any questions or want to immerse yourself in clicker stuff.