Saturday, October 9, 2010

Clicker introduction

Well, I went out Friday afternoon and bought a clicker and a green plush dog frisbee.  I introduced the clicker as we were walking back from the pasture.  I clicked and treated several times in a row so that he associated the click with the treat.  Once we got into the barn aisle, I just stood and held him in the cross tie area.  I showed him the frisbee target and as soon as he sniffed/touched it I C/T (clicked/treat).  I held the clicker in the same hand as the target and had the treat ready in my other hand so that it was an instant reward.  I think he was catching on a little.  He did try sniffing my treat pocket and I said no sharply, paused, then made him back a step.  I am not sure if I could C/T for that, because he already knows 'back' as a command with various cues (verbal and physical).  I am inclined to not c/t for anything that he already knows and is something I consider basic manners.  However, I could be wrong.  Anyhow, I started moving the target around to the side of his body where he would have to turn his head, but not so far he had to take a step.  I also put it up high but that scared him.  He seemed to lose interest easier if the target was not directly in front of him.  After a break for fly spray and grooming I tried again.  He seemed to know right away that touching was getting him treats.  I put the target at nose level between the bars of a stall so that he could easily touch it.  He wasn't very interested and I don't think he quite got that it was still the target if I wasn't holding it.  He did touch it twice, but I'm not sure there was a connection.  I had him target a few more times with me holding it and then called it a day.  

Unfortunately, the day got a little more exciting.  

I dewormed Boomer and had his rope looped over a bridle hook up high.  I went to throw away the dewormer trash and put away my grooming stuff when I head hooves against the concrete, timid at first and then faster.  By the time I got out to see him he was already running towards his field.  Luckily the whole property is fenced and gated.  He didn't go far, just until he found his friend at the fence line-maybe 300 feet.  I think his rope fell, spooked him and he ran/panicked when he saw that the rope was 'chasing' him.  I saw him eyeing the rope as he kind of skittered sideways from it.  So, after I caught him, I got another lead rope and dragged it behind me as I lead him all around the property.  I threw it at his legs and snaked it around.  He was definitely scared at first, kicking at the rope and snorting.  After about 10-15 minutes he was much calmer and ignored me as I flicked the rope all over him, including legs.  So, that was exciting, but I think we ended on a positive note.  I will make a point of dragging a rope more often when I lead him around.  That would have been a great clicker targeting exercise, but we hadn't quite caught on yet, plus he doesn't like treats after being dewormed.  

So, initial experiment was a success.  We have our work cut out for us.  I have a feeling that ground tying and/or standing on a mat are important tools in our future.   

5 comments:

Sally said...

Now Rascal and Boomer have telepathic communication! I had to leave a lead rope on her for about a month before she got over it...

Story said...

A shame about the setback. I know that with Dee, even though she has been brilliant about her head and ears in her stall I'm still hesitant to try anything in the aisle due to her last panic and escape. But it makes me wonder how much of this kind of behavior is about the situation more than the object? Going back to your girth troubles, do you go back to the cross ties when you switch from surcingle to saddle? I think the hardest thing is to break the habit that the fear can become. I'm really anxious to hear how the clicker training progresses.

Funder said...

I've noticed that "up high" is hard for many horses. It seems odd to me - I've seen horses demolishing tasty tree branches or hay poking out over a tack room wall - but it's definitely more difficult. You're on the right track!

Giving him an occasional c/t for stuff he knows how to do isn't a bad move. It's intermittent reinforcement.

Heather said...

Sally- did you just leave her out with a halter/lead 24/7? I have thought about this and don't think i could do that. maybe I could just leave him in the arena or a small individual turnout for a few hours with a lead rope attached?

Funder- interesting article and good to know that 'up high' isn't anything to worry about if we don't get it right away!

Story- I think you are on the right track. I do not take him back to the barn to re saddle him. We just make the switch loose in the arena. I am more comfortable because he is loose (I'm holding the reins, but he isn't tied) and the footing is sand so lower risk of injuries. I'm sure my comfort level has a lot to do with it. And really, he hasn't pulled back in a year and has only gotten girthy and laid down twice ever. So, much of the anxiety is from me, I am sure. I don't feel like we would have ANY problem at all if I could groom and tack up in a round pen, stall, or something similar. So, that right there tells me that you are tight about the fear becoming a habit- for both of us probably- but at least for me.

Sally said...

At first, I just let the lead drag while I was there. But, with her being difficult to catch AND flipping out about the lead, Yes. I left it on her 24/7 until she got over it.