Clicker Training! Day 2  

Posted by Serenity

I did a little research in the morning to make sure that I wasn't missing anything.  OOPS!  I have been doing it wrong.  It should be click then treat not treat while clicking.  That does make more sense.  After work I will have to try it again.  Hubby has agreed to help run the colts into the round pen this weekend.  I am so hopeful that I can get closer to them the easier way.

When we got home I decided that the kids could come help with the chores while I took the feed buckets to the far end where the round pen is and see if I can coax one of them in.  It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Doc followed me right in and he was all alone BONUS.  Now that I have him here it is time to teach him.  All I have to do is remember it's click then treat.  It worked wonders.  By the time his session ended he was following grain in my pocket, around the pen.  I guess he forgives me at least a little bit. 

Fred's turn.  She will be the difficult one to convince since she really doesn't care much for the grain if it means getting close to a people.  Or so I thought.  Fred had been watching Doc and I and I guess she decided that she wanted to get in on that action.  I opened the gate to let Doc out and Fred went in.  It couldn't have been that way if I had planned it.  Fred spooked the first few times I clicked but all in all it went well she was eating from my hand and letting me rub her nose a bit.  I think I am gonna like this clicker training thing.

I fed Fred in the round pen while I held the bucked close against me.  This way the other two could finish their dinner without her stealing from them.  After she was finished I opened the gate and walked out with her bucket.  Fred walked out and of all things Amira walked in for her turn.  Oh dear I hadn't planned on that.  I only had enough treats for the colts not the 19 year old trained kids horse.  Fred and I played a bit.  I started jogging and she trotted with me.  I stopped and she stopped pretending to be uninterested in what I was doing.  Amira was still in the round pen.

I went back to chase Amira out so I could shut the gate and Fred walks in.  Who would have thought that my biggest problem wouldn't be getting them in, but getting them out instead LOL.  Amira absolutely refused to leave the round pen until she got her clicker training session.  I had to convince her that I would give her a session tonight before we leave for Girl Scouts.  So much for Clicker training being a quick thing in the cold I am up to 45 minutes of round pen work between three horses.  But they are all lining up for this and you really can't beat that.

Clicker Training! Day 1  

Posted by Serenity

It has been weeks since I last tried to work with the horses (regardless of the date of my last post) and nothing I have done has brought me any closer to them.  It has been too cold for round pen training.  Neither myself nor the horses need that kind of exposure right now so it's time for some creative thought.  What method could I use that won't require me to spend a lot of time out in the cold and won't get the horses all worked up.  Aha!  I remember a friend telling about a method that she was going to use for an unruly horse of hers.  It just might do the trick while it helps me rebuild the trust I lost with Doc.  CLICKER TRAINING!

Time for some research on how.  Every website I went to and video I watched show this as being a low stress method for both horse and trainer.  I like that.  I also like the fact that this method is built on positive reinforcement rather than negative.  I can see the value of having a way to tell my horses every time  they do what I want rather than punishing them whenever they do the wrong thing, which they will often do.  I can even get them started while it's cold since most sites suggest limiting the first few sessions to about 5 minutes each until the horse learns that Click = Treat and we all know that Treat = Good.  I trained my dog in much the same way only we didn't use a clicker.

The part that concerns me is that there will come a time when It is not practical to continue using the clicker.  Will my horse stop responding to me when I start phasing it out?  Or will they behave like the dog and continue doing the tricks in the hopes that the next one will be the magic treat one?  I guess time will tell.

I bought my clicker on Monday and eagerly took it out to the corral with me during feeding time.  This seemed to be the most logical time to introduce them to is since they usually get fed at this time and they will be expecting food.  It's an easy way to get their attention.

Fred is first up.  I grab a handful of her grain and thrust it into the corral waiting expectantly for her to decided to try it.  Fred eventually stretches her neck out far enough to reach my hand, she must be part giraffe.  As she takes the food from me I click my clicker.  Of course she spooks and starts to run away, but the promise of more food is just too much for her to resist and she doesn't go far.

After trying this several times I put her food bucket in its holder on the post and wait fore her to stick her head in and I begin clicking again but only for a short time span.  It's Doc's turn now.  I repeat the process.  Doc doesn't really care about much of anything I guess.  The sound of the clicker had no effect on him at all.  Well It's Amira's turn and with all the time I took with Doc I will have to stand by Amira so she can get her full ration without the kids pushing her out.  Sounds like a good place to stop for the night.  I smile back at the kids thinking that this might just be the method that will work for us and our situation.

We Have a Round Pen!!!  

Posted by Serenity

It didn't take me too long to decide that I may be in over my head with the colts.  I am not as young, fast, or skinny as I once was.  I often find myself asking "What was I thinking?  Will I really be able to ride these horses before my son leaves for college?"  The answer I initially come up with is no, but then the former horseman in me takes over and convinces my skeptical self that I have done it before and I am more than capable of doing it again.  This time I have a skill set that I never had before.  Something that can only come with age and experience.  I rarely ever use this skill, but all I need to train these horses is a little more patience and understanding.  HAH!

I have been patient trying to warm my way into their hearts through their bellies, but spring is almost here and I still can't even pet them much less get a halter on.  Time for a more aggressive approach.  Hubby has been threatening to just rope them and prove who is in charge.  Perhaps it's time to let him give it a try.

So we marched out to the nearly arena sized corral with our rope and grain bucket in hand.  Now I must say that I have never enjoyed the thought of roping a horse though I have done it once before for the horses own protection so I was a bit apprehensive about this decision.  I trust hubby, probably more than I should, but I want him to be a part of this.  That was my first mistake.  Who in their right mind trusts a roughie to gently train a horse?  The decision was mine and mine alone being the one with the most experience breaking, riding, and showing horses.

We decided on Doc for several reasons. 1) He is the smaller one of the two. 2) He is the stud and we need to have control of him before food is no longer his main driving force. 3) He is mine and I wanted to start with him.  Getting the rope on him was so much easier that getting the rope off.  The ensuing battle is one that I will not easily forget.  After watching my beloved baby thrash around and fall to the ground numerous I didn't feel that I could call myself a horseman any longer.  I had become little more than an old time cowboy.  With little regard for my horse and the trusting partnership that we so desperately needed to create.  To put it simply I LOST MY NERVE.

Doc fell to the ground one last time and I saw an opportunity for redemption.  If we could just get on his head we could hold him down and show him he had nothing to fear all the while taking the rope off his neck.  Enter my second mistake.  I honestly thought hubby knew what he was doing.  He always acts like it.  When I yelled out to get on him he started heading to jump on his back.  Doc is way to young to actually be ridden yet.  I pushed myself in the way and called out to get his head.  By that time it was too late.  Doc was able to get up and I was the only one holding the rope.  Not for long.

We chased that poor baby around our overly large corral for another hour or so before I decided that we were complete morons and deserved what we were about to get.  A horse that would never trust us again and the loss of one of the ropes that hubby inherited from his grandfather.

That night hubby went out and purchased two 10' panels to try to make a catch pen.  The very thing I suggested in the first place, before the rope debacle.  Early the next morning we attempted to force Doc into the rather small pen and after 3 hours with no sign of success, only more stress to my poor horse.  Hubby decided that it was time for a proper size catch pen and immediately left to buy more panels.

He returned a while later with several 12' panels which we craftily arranged in a circular fashion just outside of the corral.  We placed it in just such a manner to allow us to use on of the corral gates as a gate to the round pen and the corner posts as anchors for the panels.  Now we have approximately a 35' round catch pen that we will add panels to as we progress through each properly executed training step.

My story does have a semi happy ending.  I was able to work with Doc enough to get the rope off his neck and convince him to take some grain from me again, but it will be a long time before he trusts me again.  I guess I deserve that.