U is learning to lead happily.

U is learning to lead happily.

As promised, I will have the after leading video in here for you to compare with the before one from an earlier blog. I hope you can see the start of the change in enthusiasm and energy being put forth by ‘U’.

If you are watching his expression, you will see that he still has that grumpy face that is often seen in horses trained with a lot of pressure. He is saying “Okay, I’ll do it, but I’m not really happy doing it.” I am not forcing him to be with me, but I will reward him with a click and a treat to tell him when he has ‘done good’ and offered me the tiniest bit of what I’m looking for. There is no consequence other than no reward. There is no threat of escalating pressure or punishment.

As we progress with the lessons, I will start to reinforce him for when he has his ears forward as well as moving with me, but for now, it will just be for his increase in energy. The change in his energy is subtle and if I were to wait for the ‘finished’ behaviour I have in mind before I clicked and treated he would get frustrated, so I click and treat for ‘trying’ which will eventually build to the end behaviour I want.

This video was taken about three weeks after the first one in the blog. There would have been about nine sessions or play over this time period and each would have been around 30 minutes long, so not a lot of time spent to get a huge change in energy.

You will also notice that I do not have a lead line on him as that seemed to add to the poisoned cue effect of ‘leading’ with energy.

I will start to capture and shape the ears forward ‘happy faces’, one of our foundation lessons, while we are doing other things like grooming or less stressful work like the targeting that he enjoys. You can try this on yourself. If you smile, you will find it is hard to be grumpy – and this seems to go for the horses too, so we will gradually get him smiling more and he will start to feel happier as well and start to enjoy his ‘work’ more too.

Continuing on with that smile note and trying it on yourself, I’d like you to try and see what you want your horse to do rather than what you do not want him to do. Focus on the good and try and redirect the behaviour you want to decrease into one you want to increase. If we approach the horse with an ‘Oh boy another day, another battle’ attitude, that is just what we will get.

I challenge you for the next week or two to go to the barn with a different attitude, look at your horse and appreciate the trying and the hints of things you like and see how your relationship changes. I’d love to hear back with your stories. Until next time keep it positive.