At one point I was thinking that I should make a chart for the arena listing all the things to work on with each horse then place the date on the chart when I practice them because there are so many things that I forget to do them! Well, I was reading a book this past winter and there was a test with two groups of horses. One group was taught something once a week. The other group was taught the same thing every day. The ‘once a week’ horses learned the exercise in seven sessions. The other ‘daily group’ learned it in eighteen. Cancel the chart!
Albert Ostermaier’s Piaffe method: Zelador and Zeloso understand to pick up the hind legs on cue for the piaffe. They are not picking up the front legs every time. I figured I needed to teach them to do that. The problem is: how to I use one hand with the long wand to cue the hind legs, the other hand to cue the front legs and still have a clicker in my hand to click when the horse gets it right. And I do want to use the clicker for this because the animals learn faster with the clicker AND retain the lesson.
I started with cueing the front leg nearest me using one hand and that hand had the clicker in it. My cue was: I touched the top of the leg (on the outside near me) very lightly with one finger and waited for the horse to do something. I didn’t speak a word, just touched lightly. Of course both boys figured out very quickly to pick up that front leg. Click/treat. Then when the horse offered the other front leg I clicked/treated. I wasn’t too worried about getting alternate lifting. I figured the hind legs which would be touched, first one then the other, with the wand would help the front legs. And, it worked. Zelador looked at me and appeared to be thinking, “this is very simple. Why didn’t you ask me CLEARLY weeks and weeks ago.” Zeloso was quick to offer diagonal pairs.
I am finding that I do need to carry different treats because the horses appreciate getting bits of carrots, but aren’t overly appreciative. I read about carrying a variety of treats a month or so ago, but really didn’t see the need. Now I do. Alexandra Kurland wrote in her book, “Clicker Training for Horses” that she has several different types of treats at hand. One for ordinary things, one for neat things and one for super breakthroughs. In the past I’ve given multiple ordinary treats for the breakthroughs. Now I’m going to have some of those molasses/oats/etc. treats at the ready!
Today Zelador was very sweet about “shaking the tambourine” and “ringing the bell”. (Zeloso broke the heavy duty string that held the bells to the support beam! I had asked him to ring the bells and he took ‘ringing’ to a new level. He didn’t look surprised when the string broke and he was left standing there with the bells. I had to reattach the leather strip with a thickish rope.)
With Zelador I stood about ten feet from the wall, facing the wall. Zelador stood in front of me (his butt to the wall). I said, “Zelador, shake the tambourine.” It was to my left (his right). He turned 180 degrees to the right, went to the tambourine, shook it, click, and he came to me for the treat. I said, “Zelador ring the bells.” They were to my right and to his left. He politely turned to his left, walked to the bells and rang them. Click. Then he came to me for the treat.
The other day I let him chase and play with the big ball. People LOVE seeing him do this. I’m a bit hesitant to let him because I’m afraid he’ll get hurt. But, there are all of those YouTube videos of horses acting like maniacs chasing the big ball and they don’t appear to be hurt. Well, I took a chance again today and let him play with it. He had a wonderful time and came to me when I positioned myself in the arena so he could see me. If I’d stayed far away from him he probably would not have noticed me. He came happily. As we were walking together we passed the tall pedestal. I motioned for him to get up there. He did and I used this opportunity to carry the big ball and put it away. The horses understand the distinction between me carrying it (the big ball game is now over) and rolling it (the game is still ON). We’re having a fund-raiser for the Toronto Cat Rescue October 17. We’re figuring out the acts and I know people would love watching him with the big ball.
It’s not quite 9:00 in the morning and the weather is already hot, hazy and humid. Grrr…