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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.
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.
A few thoughts about the recent clinic in Essex.
We gathered in the stable block and talked about the areas we wanted to work on either at the clinic (for those with horses there ) or at home for the auditors.
There were a variety of issues discussed:
getting more whoa
getting more go
desensitisation to nasal spray
bridling a slightly head shy horse
a competition horse who went over threshold at a dressage event due to horses round the arena approaching from the right side
a horse not interested in treats or training in hand in general
even the venues owners own horse who didn’t like the arena
Getting motivation was quite a key topic, making it worthwhile for the horse to want to target objects or to stand at stationary targets. Not to be stingy with the reward!
The first session was working on getting the horse to calmly target the target stick – all the participants had a history of using reward based training. It was therefore building on and refining what they were already doing.
The session on getting more whoa was interesting as the horse seemed very calm and most unlikely to be a “bolter”. I put bolt in brackets as true bolters I think are in an extreme state of fear and not just enthusiastic and strong out hacking. Sometimes we inadvertently cause them to get over aroused – excited, especially in the company of other horses.
Shawna worked on using the target to get the horse to move and then stopping and targeting – click and treat for the stop – then add rein cues to the process. The horse got a bit confused when the rider clicked as he was still looking to Shawna as the person with the treats.
At the end of the session the rein cue had begun to mean stop.
This same horse needed to be given a nasal spray, so the process of desensitisation was discussed and he got used to having his nostrils touched but there was more work to be done on another day.
The horse with bridling issues was the one with going forwards in the school issues. Shawna worked with the horse in the stable with the owner using a leather head collar at first, gradually introducing the noseband over the nose. Desensitising to the whole process, still more sessions needed to get it solid but the horse seemed less anxious about the bridle in the end.
Next into the arena with the same cob – the problem was the rider wanted more forward motion with out escalating pressure. Shawna had the horse moving towards a target pole and the rider clicked and treated for the slightest forward movement.
The horse with the anxiety issues when horses or people approached from a particular side was interesting. The owner said eyes had been checked but a few people thought there may have been a more physical issue than a purely behavioural one.
Shawna had the owner with the horse online on the good side to start taking him to the side of the arena were the audience was. Several people stood up and moved as the horse went by, not much reaction on the supposed good side Changed the rein and did the same thing – a bigger reaction on that side but not overly spooked.
Clicked and treated for any calmness as he passed people. The one person went outside the arena and stood on a chair, as the horse went by she waved her arms – and the horse did a major spook and looked quite panicky. He was rewarded for being calm – he did calm down quite quickly. A few more circuits with less extreme movement from the person the other side of the hedge, gradually resulting in the horse being calmer and calmer. This too was a form of desensitisation.
Then the resident horse who seems to dislike the arena. The target was used to get him calmly walking round the arena. Gradually getting him closer and closer to the scary corner!
Shawna seemed like a magnet for the horses and sometimes the owners had difficulty getting their horses attention back to them. Shawna did move from the horse area to the spectator area a few times, with lots of breaks for the horse in between chunks of training.
What I learned from day 1 – take things at the horses pace, don’t be a greedy trainer and ask too much or too soon. Give the horses time to process and calm down after a short session. Don’t be stingy with the rewards either, jackpot after a session and leave the horse with a good feeling. Timing is everything, click/bridge for the behaviour your want at exactly the time the behaviour occurs.
A few photos from the day are on Facebook – the rest are in a Photobox gallery.
I received books about clicker training for Christmas – Alexandra Kurland’s Clicker Training for your Horse is excellent. Lots of sensible advice on using all quadrants of operant conditioning.
There is usually more than one solution to a problem, so the more tools we have in our tool box the better we are able to solve problems. Whether this is positive or negative reinforcement, or redirecting or counter conditioning we can decide what the best way is for our particular animal.
As my daughter has just acquired a foal all this information will be very useful. Many chapters are on foal and young horse handling.
So now after a festive family Christmas I will be off to the field to do more target training. Also I won’t chastise myself for using a little light negative reinforcement – using tactile cues e.g leg aids. What I don’t like is the escalation of pressure to elict behaviour, we now know there is a better way.
Good session bridge training with Smoke – my daughters youngster. Went to catch him and he waited until I was about a foot away and came to meet me. Yesterday he just walked off as soon as I was anywhere near.
Took him to the arena and let him loose – he followed me to the gate and I went outside the arena and stood by the gate. He was calm and I bridged and he looked away fairly quickly to get his treat.
Next I introduced a target – he wasn’t sure about this and backed off. I stood quietly holding it and let him come to it, bridged for just sniffing and treated when he turned his nose away. He had a few moments of trying to get a treat but I walked away and let him calm down. He is still not sure of the target but he did touch it a few times so I left it there and went back in the arena, he stood next to me – no mugging and I gave him a few more treats. Then we walked back out into the field and I left him with some treats on the floor.
Hope this improves over the next few days – he didn’t walk so close today – usually he has his nose on my arm. Very pleased with Smoke, must not ignore Benny though.