Wednesday, December 30, 2009
When the lightbulb goes off
Today was a day we dedicated to the dogs, and I'll have some pictures and perhaps a video on that later.
But before Day of the Dogs, we stopped by the stables.
It's very muddy, our wet winter weather has created quite the soup in the paddocks. We'd brought the dogs to do a few introductions and while the dog wranglers set to work, I headed out with a pocket of cut up carrots.
I was not looking forward to trudging through the paddock in my boots to get my boy. So I went to the "gate" (just where the electric gate is set) and clicked my tongue to my horse. He looked up and headed right for me.
I "clicked" (actually a low clucking sound since I know I'll never be able to keep track of an actual clicker) and gave him a bit of carrot. Then he followed me out, without a halter, into the alleyway.
Yeah. And that would never have happened before. We do NOT leave our friends without a rope. No sir.
But, there it was.
Today my only goal (since we were not going to ride and were just doing dog intros and such) was to try to get the "touch this" connection with the clicker training. Since I'm going to be working with sacking out, and since last go round with Canyon I learned that a whole lot of courage is bought with a slice of carrot, I decided to try to get this connection to happen.
At first, Cibolo was just going for my hand that held the carrot, not the object I tried to get him to touch. I began to have him touch my hand as I pointed, but kept the carrot piece in my other hand. I spread the time a tiny bit from the point of success and click (or cluck, in my case) and the point of getting a carrot.
He got it. A cluck meant success.
Then, slowly he moved to nosing the object slightly. The trailer wall. The latch. The rope on the latch.
Then I picked up a stick no more than 3 inches long and pointed to the scary orange piece of equipment he's avoided a few times.
He paused. I waited. Then he touched the object that the stick touched.
The entire thing took about 10 minutes, and I was cautious to leave him wanting more time.
I'm getting the idea he really looks forward to these sessions. Sure, there are carrots, but there's also figuring out how to get them. It's not just riding, going places he doesn't want to go.
There's something in it for him. And I'm getting obedience and respect out of the deal. His ground manners remain impeccable. I am keeping him from mugging me because there are no "free" treats. Even our treat at greeting requires one respectful step back.
And not every behavior is treated, sometimes the reward is relaxing and rubbing.
I'd like to figure out how to do some of this in the saddle, particularly to reward pushing through hesitance. I need more saddle time, something that will have to wait for longer days and more cooperative weather.
Right now, I'm just glad the light bulb went off.
About the above picture: (Read here about the guy who ate nothing but carrots in an attempt to turn orange. And he's from my neck of the woods. Coincidence? I think not! Okay, probably.)