I introduced a new toy for the gang on the hill to hold. Teddy sniffed it. Duke sniffed it. Tilley didn’t faint. Georgie held it!!!! And, much to my surprise, Lulu sniffed it. I figured Lulu would hold it.

I told Bill about the new toy and he said, “You can never be too careful if you’re a horse.”

I’ll present it again…and again…it is GREEN in colour…you’d think that would be acceptable.

I’ve been reading two books by Temple Grandin: “Animals in Translation” and “Animals Make us Human”. I like both of them. If you have time to read just one of them go for “Animals in Translation”. Temple ties things to the different parts of the brain.

She also discusses how animals learn and insists on positive reinforcement. She refers to clicker training again and again.

So, I bit the bullet and tried clicker training Friday morning to help Zelador with his problem of anticipation after cantering. (After cantering on one lead he is positive we’ll canter on the other and he cannot relax and listen to me. He wants to race into the canter.) I’m pretty sure that it’s quite entertaining to watch me sit in the saddle, hold the reins and manage clicking the clicker at the appropriate time.

Here’s what we did: I cantered to his good, quiet side (the right) and when we got back to the walk I waited for a quiet, peaceful walk step. Had to wait for a while…

When I got one calm step I somehow managed to CLICK. He recognized the sound. (I have clicked from his back in the past, but not recently. And, I didn’t do it very much.) He stopped when he heard the CLICK and I gave him a treat. In the next few minutes I clicked/treated about twenty times.

Now here’s the interesting part: Christi came and rode with me the day before (Thursday afternoon). She noticed how nice the right lead canter was and that the left lead was a huge improvement, but not as good as the right. She actually got on him and rode the canter. She hasn’t done this for about a year. He was incapable of walking and listening after the first canter with Christi Thursday. She finally got him almost settled and cantered left.

I did the click/treat session Friday morning. Christi was able to come to ride Friday afternoon. She watched the canter to the right and announced, “He looks like a normal horse.” (And THAT’S saying something!) Then she was quite surprised to see Zelador calmly walk after the canter to the right. In less than 24 hours this horse had lost his hyper fidgeting/jigging and was walking calmly with rein contact, waiting for me to direct him.

The canter left was better than what she’d seen Thursday. She said, “You could see that he was excited, but you could also see that he was listening to you. And, after several circles, you were able to get a calmer canter.”

Saturday I introduced the word “soft”. I started at the halt and asked Zelador to be “soft”. This means: body relaxed, no bracing with Zelador able to munch on the bit (either side) when I touched that rein. When he was “soft” I clicked/treated. We progressed to the trot. “Soft” became part of Zelador’s trot vocabulary. Then I focused on the walk/trot transitions, looking for and rewarding “soft”. I even tried “soft” at the canter. Couldn’t manage a click, but he seemed to understand the spoken word.

So I say, “Thank you Temple Grandin for reminding me about clicker training.”