Well finally got Mojo in the school to do some pole work and short lining. We haven’t managed much recently apart from grooming and a little targeting on the yard. I used my new short lines from Whinny Reins – they were brilliant, very easy to hold and didn’t get all tangled up like the feather lines, I must take a photo next time.
Anyway Mojo was very good, he walked well over the poles from a “walk on” cue and stopped on a “whoa”. He went to the frisbee I threw for him and even had a little trot, must now get the trot on a reliable cue. Only did a few minutes and now must build it up so we do more and then some ridden sessions.
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 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.
What would you do if your horse had a behavioural problem?
Firstly check for any physical reasons for the behaviour – pain, ill-fitting tack, back problems, teeth, feet etc. Then check the environment is right for the horse – has he got friends, freedom and forage? Is he free from stress – e.g stabling for too long without enough forage can cause stress related problems such as gastric ulcers.
Look at the diet, is he over fed for the amount of work he is doing?
Then look at why he performs the behaviour, what is the purpose of the behaviour, is it a fear based behaviour, does he feel insecure, does he have separation anxiety etc.
Often changing the environment will make a huge difference.
Only then can a behaviour modification plan be formulated.
Training alone may never get to the root cause of the problem, at best it may put a sticking plaster over the problem, by suppressing the behaviour.
Yes you can train alternative behaviours to ones you don’t want, you can punish the behaviour e.g adding an aversive stimulus every time he performs the behaviour until he learns how to avoid the aversive and the behaviour stops. EG adding pressure to the halter every time he tries to run away. The use of aversive stimuli can either stop a behaviour (punish), or its removal can reinforce a behaviour. So are you punishing the running away or reinforcing the stopping?
Get professional help from an equine behaviourist well versed in the correct use of positive reinforcement. Behaviourists will need veterinary approval first – this is to rule out any physical cause of the behaviour.
Find one who can teach you to use systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning. This will change the emotions associated with fearful situations.
Horses are big, strong animals and we do need to stay safe but that does not have to mean using pressure halters or other controlling equipment. They may work as the horse learns to avoid the pressure but without examining the underlying cause of the problem it may reappear later.
Suppressed behaviours do have a habit of spontaneous recovery.
Horses need to feel safe, our relationships should be built on mutual trust.
Mojo fidgeted a bit having the saddle on and then didn’t want the bridle at first. After some investigation and some reinforcement for touching he put his nose in the bridle.
He was very good going from cone to cone over the poles though.
We didn’t do any training at the mounting block as I didn’t feel he was in the right mood today. I just couldn’t find his scratchy bits today.
This is low res video as there seems to be problems uploading large ones to You Tube.