I had great intentions of writing this past month about a very special lady and her horse who are students of mine but I needed to edit some videos to do the job right and it didn’t happen…so look for that next month!

Instead I will give you a report on my recent clinic on Denman Island. I have been going to do clinics there for several years and it is always a treat to go to this peaceful green piece of paradise and play with Cynthia’s great little donkeys. Cynthia has done a great job with them and they are a delight to work with.

This year the focus of the clinic was trying to help folks understand the process of how to look at a behaviour we want to train and figure out just how to make it into those tiny steps that will hopefully provide us with almost error free learning on the part of the animal.

We played a game called PORTAL (Google it) to get our minds thinking about just how many steps you would need to train a certain behaviour and everyone had a great time playing and realizing all sorts of wonderful things about how they trained and learned!

This lovely young lady had only three sessions of teaching this particular behaviour chain, with this donkey before we videoed. It shows just how easy training can be if all the component parts of this complex behaviour have been taught before attempting the finished ( or in this case not finished) behaviour.

In this video you can see how the donkey is picking up and putting objects into a basket and being reinforced for doing so. Can you think what behaviours had to have been taught before attempting this? Targeting? Holding object? Carrying object? Releasing object? Yup that’s a good start. Once all those behaviours were in place it was an easy step to combining them into this more complex behaviour. The final behaviour will involve more distance and more objects and the bucket will be on the ground so more deliberate placement before dropping will be needed as well. I thought they did a great job having only done this three times before.

If you’d like to join me for a clinic at my farm or next year at Denman or this fall in Ottawa just shoot me an email or a comment here and I’ll be in touch. If you would like to organize a clinic near you let me know that too!

Until next time – keep it positive!