Sunday, October 17, 2010

Riding day!

I decided that Friday would be a riding day!  

I brought Boomer up and led him up from the pasture on his right side with the rope dragging.  He seems to be almost 100% OK with that now!  I am so surprised at how fast he caught on to that!  

I know Boomer is smart, but he is also very sensitive.  I think that the reason he seems to be learning so quickly with the Clicker Training is that the click is so instantaneous that it really keys in with his reactive, sensitive personality.  The positive food reward also seems to keep him interested and happy.  

I brought him to the hitching post and gave him a few reminder 'head downs' before I tied him.  He was very good and immediately started offering to drop his head while I was grooming him.  I worked a little on 'head down' with hand pressure on his poll.  He didn't seem to understand that at all before but he caught on right away today!  It isn't quite as solid as the rope pressure method, but he is getting it better than I thought he was!  The rope pressure method for 'head down' is going great.  It really only takes the slightest touch.  He is so sensitive!  I think the hand/poll pressure method is important for when I am saddling him and can't reach the rope or when the halter is around his neck for bridling.  

We didn't work on targeting or back today.  I would like to work on back and 'stand' next week.  I am so thrilled at how quickly he is catching on!  

I did work on head down while fly spraying him, especially the neck.  He was resistant at first but once he dropped his neck, he left it down.  Good boy!  

One big thing, for me more than him, was that I saddled him right away before lunging him.  Usually I put on the surcingle, lunge, then switch to the saddle in the arena.  I decided today that we would take it slow and work through the girthing issues.  I think it is more of a me thing, but he was a little tense.  I started by untying him and draping the rope over my shoulder.  He sniffed the saddle while I held it, C/T.  I put it on, asked for 'head down', C/T.  Messed with the girth a ton on both sides before buckling it, 'head down' and C/T over and over.  I held the girth up but didn't buckle, 'head down', C/T.  Buckled the girth one hole, 'head down', C/T.  Walk a few steps, 'head down', C/T.  Tighten one more hole, he got tense, 'head down', C/T.  I moved his hips over away from me so I could reach his bridle, he got really tense bending around the girth.  'Head down', C/T.  Graze on the grass a few bites.  Move on to bridling.  

So, that was an event.  An uneventful event, but I think that it went as well as possible.  I am proud of him for being calm and I was really impressed at how quickly his nerves settle when he has his head down.  

I lunged him with the elastic rein for about 20 minutes and he was wonderful.  I tried a new, successful, way of dealing with his looking to the outside on a circle to the right.  He was really bending left on the circle and I had the idea to move the lunge line from running through both bit rings to just snapping it directly to the right bit ring.  This really only works because I use a full cheek bit.  But, it did give me just a little extra control over where he pointed his nose!  I was so happy to see even the slightest improvement!  

I rode for about 20 minutes and even did a little trotting.  It took a few strides for me to find my balance posting, and Boomer was pretty unsure what I wanted.  Eventually I got him moving more forward and was able to find a rhythm to post to.  That was a strange feeling, but my balance has already started to shift!  I enjoyed the ride and I always hope that the Baby is enjoying the ride too.  I have to hope that the rhythmic motion is soothing and also distinguishable from any other walking type motion we do.  Don't tell John, but I'm really hoping to plant the 'horsey bug' early for our Baby!!!


Story said...

Sounds like you made great progress today. Yay!

Funder said...

Oooh, I'm so glad to hear the c/t is working out for you! Glad you got to trot a bit too.

Judi said...

You can click him when he turns his head to the inside. Of course, he will stop for his treat, but that just gives you a chance to do it, again. I do this with Cole. He isn't the greatest lounger, but the clicker is helping. I now only click him when he is trotting balanced with his neck bent towards me and his attention on me.

Heather said...

Judi- I had thought about using the clicker while lunging and as it is I already give him a nice low 'good' as a reward. i wonder if I could incorporate using the clicker and 'good' as the reward so that I don't have to interrupt our session with treats?

Funder said...

The clicker works so well because it means "I always get delicious snacks." Be careful diluting it!

This is why I hardly ever c/t while riding. I'd usually rather keep the forward momentum going. Touching scary trash bins is my only exception.

Sally said...

The horsey bug has already been planted - it's genetic!

Heather said...

Funder, that is a really good point. I can see both sides and I think that the treat does help the learning happen faster. However, I do see him respond positively to just a verbal praise. So, maybe it will take longer, but verbal praise while we are 'working' might be a better option? I just can't see stopping him for a treat every other circle. Just doesn't make sense. But on the other hand, I would like for him to have a clear signal as to what exactly I am praising.

Judi said...

Maybe do both--start with the clicker in the very beginning and fade it off to verbal--with a click only when he does something excellent.

Funder said...

I can only tell you what I've read from the behavioral experts. They say the clicker works so well because it's a very distinct signal and it always leads to a high value reward. For a dog, that might be a treat, a really good scratch, or a favorite toy. For horses, the highest value reward is food, period.

I know what you're saying - you want the precision of the click for "YES that's exactly what I want." Try using a different marker sound - not the click from the box, but a tongue click, or snap your fingers, then praise him and keep going. If you think about it, good riding has the same precise reward system - you cue with reins or leg, he moves, you release and he knows that he's done the right thing.

Shanster said...

Another good Boomer day!