Zelador working on his colours.

I received the following email from Colleen Archer, who has been clicker training her horses for years.

Hi, Winnie.

I realized when reading about “nose away” that this is exactly what Aurum does. I taught him to “look away” when he was young as an alternative to being pushy and wired. Now when he’s learning something new, if he senses I’m not happy with what he’s doing he immediately looks away (turns his nose away), even though I haven’t done anything overt. Then we try again.

He seems consistent now in getting the red cloth over the white cloth. I don’t know whether to leave it there, since it shows he has the concept of different colours, or to push on and ask him to now choose the white cloth. Mostly I was just trying to communicate to him the idea of different colours, which was a hard concept for the first day or two since he thought he was doing scent discrimination. I love it when you see the idea dawn!


My thoughts:

I think Aurum can differentiate many colours. Go for it! I’ve shown my guys red, green and blue. These are the IKEA flat cushions which they can retrieve or go to and touch. I often wonder if each has a scent and they’re thinking when I say “blue” they associate it with a specific smell they discern on the blue cushion. A friend also bought numbers from IKEA. There are a round and a square (three-dimensional) object with the number 1 of each of them. The objects are the same colour. There are also the same two shaped objects for the numbers 3 and 4. One set is blue, another is red and the third set is green. I’ve had them fetch the red box or the red circle. I’ve also had them match the colours and the numbers. I figure if we don’t try these things we’ll never know if they can do them.

Now that I’m familiar with the “nose away” lead-mare concept I see it everywhere. Yesterday afternoon I’d already brought Zeloso in from the paddock and was returning to fetch Zelador. I purposely did NOT look at him (looked at the ground instead) and for one brief instant when I was about twenty feet away I looked up at him. He instantly turned his head away. I thought at that moment, “He’s very interested in allowing me to be the lead-mare when I’m about to ask him to do something that he really wants to do!”

I also moved the horses’ heads away from me (started this years ago) when they got too much in my face. I used the words, “head straight” because I wanted them to have something to do, not just respond to me saying “no”. I try really hard to give them a job/command instead of a reprimand. If they need to be told “NO” I do that and try to quickly follow it with a job. When they do the job they receive praise. As a result the session isn’t a series of “NO”, “NO”, NO!!!!”