Due to cataract surgery I haven’t done anything with Mojo – apart from pulling some twigs out of his mane. Today he was in for a rest from the wet fields, with a big pile of hay in his hay bar. He popped his head over the door and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. That is probably due to his unruly forelock blocking vision. I went in his stable and groomed him – well the bits that were dry, then put on my treat bag and loaded it with grass pellets. We went out into the yard and I groomed him a bit more, pulled the twigs out of his tail, sprayed it with “Mud Away” – not sure it does any good but we will see. He had a few pellets to nibble on in a bowl whilst I tidied up his tail and mane – scissors and a solo comb. I got the frisbee I use as a target and did his stretching exercises. He stood quietly whilst I switched on the small trimmers and just walked around the yard. We then did some targeting of an umbrella – just to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything. It is amazing with these horses that even after doing nothing but being a horse in a field for nearly 2 months he was still enjoying touching a moving umbrella.
My plan in the next few weeks is to get him happy to go in the lorry and be driven around the block.
February 11th 2019
Mojo had a flu booster today, all was good the vet was superb, she hugged him and as he was wondering what she was doing the injection was done and he never even flinched. Plenty of treats followed.
Before the vet arrived I groomed him and did some stretching exercising with the target. Also I had the trimmers on and walked all round him, he even let me touch him with the back of my hand whilst the holding the trimmers which were on. The battery is dying so it wasn’t very loud but a few weeks ago he would had have just left.
A couple of snippets from our 2nd lesson with Sally Ede. Mojo was calm and relaxed and focused. I used my body and a slight open rein to turn. We used scratches as reinforcement and he was forward going so only a slight touch with the leg to indicate ‘yes” that is what I want.
I now want to add verbal cues to the rein cues but that will come after I get more confident riding. At the moment Mojo doesn’t seem bothered by my riding and as long as he is under his emotional threshold all is well.
I did feel a little guilty as I wanted to use more positive reinforcement in our ridden sessions but I also need to know he can be ridden by anyone, as he will most probably out live me.
Well we only managed one session of training last week, but Mojo was much calmer at the top of the arena. I used the cones to settle him and get his attention away from the mirrors and scary pigeon producing hedge.
He was very good at his cone touching and then he stood at the mounting block and turned his head rather moving backwards for the reinforcement.
We did the mounting block at the top, middle and bottom of the school.
Here is a little montage of the session at the lower end of the school.
Another lesson with Sally Ede on Friday 17th so hope all goes well.
Mojo and I had a lesson with Sally Ede – a Ride With Your Mind coach, and great confidence giver.
We worked on getting Mojo standing at the mounting block – due to me not having done much mounting block training recently he had reverted back to swing his quarters towards me. He was at his emotional threshold once we got in the school as we worked at the top end in the shade. It just goes to show how important generalisation is in our training. He hadn’t been up that end much in our training sessions.
As he was at his emotional threshold all it took was a pigeon flying out of the hedge to tip him over in to a flight response.
This a very bad video of the event, the video was too far away and I had no help to reposition.
By the end of the lesson Mojo had calmed down and was beginning to stand still and not swing round.. I managed one foot in the stirrup a couple of times and then added some weight in the stirrup. So my homework is more mounting block training and to so this in other areas of the school.
Also to remember to breathe and do my grounding exercises before and during sessions.
To this end I have written a shaping plan. I am often too lazy to write them but it is a good idea to have a written plan. Having also just complete an Advanced Animal Training course I ought to know and do better!!
Mojo up date – he had been in all night as he asked the yard owner to come in last night. Apparently he looks directly at her kitchen window and stamps his foot when he wants to come in to his stable. It was obviously too wet for him last night as at 5pm he was happy out and at 7ish he was at the gate asking to come in.
He was a very muddy beast and quite hot, with all his hair, this morning, I brushed as much as I could and got lots of hair out. Then we went in the school to walk over the poles that were nicely laid out in a fan shape. Mojo was very good at this but did knock a few out of place. Then did his “carrot” stretches using a target and then giving the food. I left him in the school after the end of session signal and he went to look in the mirrors at the end of the school, he seemed quite intrigued at his reflection.
We just need some dry weather for a prolonged period so the fields are not so waterlogged. Is this really Spring?
It has been a while since I wrote anything on this blog, winter is always a difficult time of year for horse owners. Our fields are muddy and Mojo is a mud monster. He is still out unrugged, he does come in if the weather is particularly foul or the fields get too poached.
Consequently I have only done basic care with him, a little bit of target training on the yard so he remembers, and some standing still on the yard too. He has a stationary target and stands there and eats hay whilst I groom him or pick out his feet. I am revisiting foot lifting as his fronts are perfect now but he still struggles a bit with the hinds, some times more than others. One of the liveries said when she got him in from the field he seemed a little stiff – probably slipped in all the mud. I checked him and did his stretching exercises – I do these with a target stick and he was very supple laterally. He is not so good at stretching down between his front legs but that was more that he was unsure of where the target was at first. He stretched his near hind but was a little stiffer on the off side, this is always the side the physios pick up on.
We have regular physio visits and/or massage therapy. Plus saddle checks – not the I sit on him very often but it is important that he is comfortable.
I do hope the wet weather stops soon and the fields can recover, we are fortunate to have a good school that doesn’t freeze or flood, so I can take him in there to do pole work or long lining – I must get on and do these again but can’t rustle up the enthusiasm in the wind and rain. Horses like just to be horses and as long as they are cared for and happy they will be OK. Plenty of forage in the field and friends to groom and hang out with, some shelter by the trees and a stable to come in to occasionally to dry out and have a sleep.
I will make a list of things we need to revisit and reintroduce tack in the school before riding him, I don’t want him always to associate the arena with being ridden. The arena needs to be a place where fun things happen and I wont ride unless I know he is OK with everything to do with being ridden.
Gone are the days when I just got on a horse, even when they are fidgeting or moving away from the mounting block – yes I have done that in the past but I know better now. This equestrian journey is never ending – as it should be for everyone. We never know everything and learn all the time – if we don’t we get stuck in the past and never progress in our horsemanship.
I have just completed a course with Karolina Westlund – http://illis.se/en/
It looked at the 7 core emotions as described by Jaak Panksepp and how these affect our animals.
1. SEEKING – can be a positive or a negative emotion depending on whether the horse is seeking something they want or seeking to avoid something they don’t like.
2. PLAY- this is something we can tap into when training.
3 CARE – the mutual grooming and nurturing side of horses.
4. FEAR – can be as little as mild anxiety or a full flight response.
5. RAGE – fear can escalate into aggression or frustration if the horse can’t escape or get what he wants.
6. GRIEF or PANIC system may be seen in separation anxiety.
7. LUST – fairly self-explanatory
I would recommend this course to anyone interested in looking into emotions in more depth.
We often over look how our animals feel and many horses suppress their emotions and behaviour due to the way they are trained. Horses are an affiliative species and prefer to live in harmony with their friends. We often unwittingly suppress natural behaviour because we don’t understand the function and/or because we are afraid of losing control.
Take a look at my new site for more musings about equine training and behaviour. I hope to keep this one as my personal training diary.
I haven’t done much with Mojo recently but he did get a bit cross the other day when I took him out of the field whilst the others horses had been fed, he thought he wasn’t getting anything. So the RAGE system kicked in and he was a bit tense, of course he got his food when got to the yard and I left him in his stable eating hay for a while until he settled down. Mojo’s emotions are often very subtle and I may have missed them a few years ago – before I studied equine behaviour and neuroscience.
So it does pay to learn as much as we can about our individual horses and learn to observe those, often very subtle signs, of discomfort.
Take a look at the Positively Equine site as it has articles on learning theory and the core emotional systems all mammals share.