Monday, November 20, 2006

Clicker training

Maybe I should title this "How much I love clicker training"?

The rain finally stopped, and with it the temps plummeted. But at least the ground is drying up! So I brought Joe (ImaWindyJoe), my 6 year old Quarterhorse gelding, out to the roundpen. I even lugged the saddle up the hill, thinking I would maybe ride a little, but that didn't happen. I had set up an "L" shape, and a couple of barrels, and was going to do a little bit of obstacle stuff, and some backing to help Joe build up his muscling and topline.

It is a chilly, overcast, breezy day. The chickens were active, scratching in the leaves, and my neighbor is building an addition onto his house, so there are dumptrucks in and out, dumping their load of gravel that goes: "Whhhooooosssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh", then BANG!!!! bang-bang-bang-bang" as the gate of the dump swings closed. Now the way the house is situated, its down the hill and "over there", so you can't really see it from the roundpen, so all that racket was coming out of nowhere. A little disconcerting to a 6 year old prey animal. I had also dragged out a length of drainage pipe, the corrugated black stuff that is soft and coils up, we had leftover from a project. I had a bit of an argument with the pipe, so gave up on it and shoved it under the panel outside the pen.

When I went up to the barn to gather Mr. Joe, I had 5 equines standing at the gate, all ears forward watching everything I was setting up in the pen. I had to just about beat them back, and needed a cow(horse?)horse to sort out the one I wanted. Joe was thrilled to be todays "chosen one". I gathered my helmet and rope sidepull, and Joe stuffed his head into the halter as fast and enthiastically as he could, and we set off for the RP, after beating back 4 equines with promises of their turns on another day.

Joe and I went through my pathetic little obstacle course in about 3 minutes flat perfectly, so now I was left with trying to figure out what else to do for my red overachiever. Joe is sooo keen on clicker training, that the biggest problem I have is trying to keep my brain going as fast as his so I can continue to challenge him. He loves the game so much that we actually have to work a lot on just "stand still and be quiet". Before I can even think of the next thing to ask him, he has already offered like 5 other things from his bag of tricks (back, head-down and target or "touch the goblines" are his favorites). He is getting better, but he learns activities faster than he learns to just be still. He sorta reminds me of my son ;-)

Anyway, Joe did great, he did get concerned about the leaves blowing and kept checking the woods, and the dog barking ferociously at him (I guess I don't bring the horses out often enough for it to be old hat for the dog), and the banging of the dumptrucks, the other 4 horses staring from the gate longingly and calling, so I made an executive decision not to climb aboard. I haven't ridden much in 5 years, and didn't feel up to pushing my luck with Joe being just a little "up". Joe kept glancing over to the goat pen. Hmmm...... aha, the black pipe! So we played "Touch the Goblins", and Joe just had a grand old time, touching the pipe, jumping, then licking it and getting clicks/treats. I walked away a few times to do something else, or see if he wanted to do something else, and he just stayed at the pipe, touching and licking it.

So the last time I brought Joe out a few weeks ago, I had a hard time getting him to leave the pen and go back to the barn. He loves working together so much, he doesn't want to go back. So I've even had to use clicker training to get him to leave the roundpen and go back to the barn! Today we did it a little different though. We left the RP, then had a little stroll around the yard, we checked out around a few corners and looked at stuff. Joe is so cute, as soon as he gets just a little bit worried about something, he'll stare at it, then drop his head, soften his posture and eye, and glance at me for his click and treat.

Then back at the barn, he got lots of attention, and hugs, and told what a handsome, smart boy he is, then he had an Equine Touch body balance , and had a little touch-up pedicure, then a couple of flakes of nice, soft, green, second-cut hay.

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