‘U’ has been doing really well and, as you know, even participated in a clinic this year. He was also doing really well with regards to coming to the mounting block and inviting me to get on…or so I thought.
He was happy to come to the block and even let me on. He was also happy to have Shannon continue to play the games we had played on the ground while I was on his back.
We all got so excited about this that we started to go back to more normal riding stuff, fading Shannon out and having me do the click and treat for simply walking around the cone circle.
Well this went well for a couple days and then ‘U’ stopped offering to come to the mounting block!
So what do you make of this?
Traditional trainers would just say ‘get over it’ and make him go to the mounting block and continue with what they wanted to do. But ‘U’ has a voice, that he is allowed to use, and has learned that he will be listened to and his opinion will be taken into consideration.
So what do we do?
As Alexandra Kurland would say go and have a cup of tea. What this means is removing yourself from the situation and trying to look at what is going on and what the options are to resolve it.
What had changed in what we were doing that perhaps caused him to change? Well we went back to doing some things that perhaps did not have the most pleasant associations. Perhaps he thought he was going to be put back into the situation he left and wasn’t happy about that. Old memory patterns had been triggered. Poisoned cues too perhaps are coming into play here.
Ok, so what do we do about it?
Well, we go back to doing more of the stuff he likes with a tiny bit of things that smack of the past. Always at or before the first sign of stress, in his case getting slow, we do something he likes and has a high rate of reinforcement. And we would make a huge deal of his simply walking while I was on him to help him figure out that this time riding will be different.
We started by revisiting his mat work, which was one of the first new behaviours he was introduced to and by doing this his enthusiasm to come and play and even line up at the mounting block quickly returned. Next we will have Shannon help me out and play the mat game while I am just a passenger, along for the ride.
‘U’ gets to have a voice and a say in what he does especially right now as we are building up the bank account of trust. As time goes on he will be more likely to say a happy yes to my requests and be a willing partner in our adventures. But for now he gets to lead the dance and I get to choose the music.
Have we succeeded in convincing him life and riding has changed? Not yet, but he is once again offering to come to the mounting block and happily going from mat to mat and that is a fabulous start.