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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.
Mojo was ridden by Liz Hibberd, he was very cool today, we used the “walk on” cue and the target. Then phased out the target and Liz just cued him to walk.
He had one little spook when he trod on his own feathers – I really must cut them again.
He even had a little trot at the end, then lots of praise, scratches and treats.
Liz also sat on Indi for the first time and walked a few steps, we used my hand as a target and then the “walk on’ cue. Indi was very relaxed and we called it a day after a few steps.
I saddled Mojo for the first time this year, he was very good. He was in the school loose so had the opportuntiy to leave if he felt he needed to do so. We then walked around a bit before the bridle was presented, he stuck his nose in and stood whilst I fastened the buckles.
Mojo sidled up to the mounting block as soon as I stood on it and allowed me to get on. With a little moral support from a friend I asked him to “walk on” which he did and we got half a circuit of the school no leg pressure or rein contact.
Below are the photos my daughter took on her moble phone – as I left my camera in my car.
What will 2017 bring?
I am studying to be an equine behaviourist but so far am unsure whether I want to practice as a behaviourist. The equine part of the equation seems to be the easiest component. Changing peoples long held believes is very difficult, so many don’t even understand the basics of how animals learn. I don’t blame the average horse owner as they are not taught this at riding schools or even in colleges at diploma level.
If people are using pressure to motivate horses they need to understand that it is the relief of that pressure that reinforces the behaviour. This is basic negative reinforcement but I did not learn about this from the British Horse Society or even when I was doing natural horsemanship. I did learn that it is the release that teaches the behaviour but not that it was the use of an aversive stimulus nor was negative reinforcement ever mentioned.
It was only when I investigated clicker training that I learned about positive and negative reinforcement. The more I learned the more convinced I was that positive reinforcement is better for the emotional health of the horse, it gives them a choice. They can say “no” instead of being too afraid to object due to the adverse consequences of non-compliance. Even when I was doing natural horsemanship the horse was not allowed to walk away as this was seen as being “disrespectful”.
Benny taught me so much – he was very adept at escaping the escalating aversives and he introduced me to positive reinforcement.
Mojo is teaching me even more, horses can teach us so much, if we listen, than any human can.
We do not need to subscribe to any particular genre of horsemanship, we need to learn as much as we can from as many sources as possible. Only then can we truly decide what is in the best interest of the horse. To be blinkered or brainwashed by clever marketing is very limiting but unfortunately very common.
So I do find the human animal very hard to understand – it is the human who has to change if the horse is to have a better life.
Poor Mojo had a very sticky runny nose – very smelly too. The vet attended after a couple of days as Mojo was not a happy coblet.
The vet examined teeth etc and said Mojo had an acute sinusitis, so the options were antibiotics and hope it didn’t reoccur – but that is not always the case. Or to go to the veterinary hospital for a wash out, I opted for the wash out.
Mojo was booked in for a few days later and loaded well but as he doesn’t travel too well we took it slowly. He arrived and grew a few inches looking at everything. He was put in a nice cosy stable but looked very anxious – after booking him in I left him eating hay.
He was sedated for the procedure – to insert a tube in his sinus and wash it out. I explained to the staff and the vet how frightened he can get but I thnk because he does really show his fear they may have not understood him. It is surprising how many people only recognise fear when the horse is trying to flee or shaking or showing other obvious signs.
Anyway poor Mojo was not – in the words of the staff – a good patient. Even sedated he tried to escape, so he must have been way over threshold. All I was told was “when he learns some manners he will be OK”. so many people equate a suppressed horse with one with “manners”. Mojo had an opinion and made it known but no-one listened.
How most people instill “manners” is to use aversives to such an extent that the horse learns not to object for fear of the consequences.
The plan was to leave the tube in so we could wash him out at home but the vet deemed him too dangerous for us to do this. So he came home after 3 days with no drain.
We picked him up and he walked into the lorry but panicked once shut in – so he kicked the lorry sides a bit on the way home. I have a ot of systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning to do with travelling. Once the fields are dry I may be able to park it in a field and do this at liberty.
Mojo came out of the lorry and called to the other horses – only the 3rd time I have heard him vocalise.
We turned him out with his friends and he cantered round the field and rolled and rolled. Then cantered some more – he is normally very sedate in the field, so it was obvious that he was very high on adrenaline.
Later in the day he woudn’t came any where near any person that tried to catch him, not even for a bucket of food – stressed horse often don’t eat so this is another sign of how upset he was.
The next day he was fed in the field and seemed to have calmed down a bit. Over the next few days he settled and came over to say hello and I groomed him in the field and got him to target the brushes so he could get some reinforcement.
Now he is back to normal and is due for the suture being removed. He allows me to touch his face and ears and hopefully the vet will have no problems with him as he will be at home in familiar surroundings.
We owe it to our horses to prepare them for veterinary care but sometimes things happen that we cannot foresee. I know that now I have to get him used to having a lot of people around him.