Monday 11 December 2017

Clicker Calming

Tuesday night was my night off. My one night off in the week. The only thing that I wanted to do was hang out with my ponies.Well, also do laundry, dishes, clean the house, make Christmas presents, and catch up on Netflix. However, ponies were at the top of the list however, so that was where I went once I woke up.

But what to do with them?

Phantom would just get loved and spoiled. I don't want to put her in the arena because I don't want her legs to get gunked up with sand sticking to her leg goop. So she was easy.

I wanted to do something fun with Cisco. Fun for me, at least. I've been inspired by Megan's success with clicker training her horse TC on her blog A Enter Spooking, and since I'm pretty sure Cisco is TC's mini-me, I thought that I would see what I could achieve with some positive reinforcement.

I popped my lunge cavesson and lunge line on him, and grabbed my lunge whip and treat container, which contains a clicker. I had no idea what kind of horse I would have when we arrived in the arena.

When we arrived in the arena there was a new horse who was just finishing some groundwork. Cisco had a few moments of excitement, but chilled pretty quickly. And surprisingly didn't get worried when the other horse left. That boded well for the day.

The goal was definitely to have him be more relaxed in the scary end of the arena. Hopefully stuffing his mouth full of treats down there would help to alleviate his fear. I've done a bit of clicker work with him, but haven't used it a lot for training purposes.

So I started off by asking him to drop his head as we walked by giving a downwards tug on the lead. Drop his head, walk a couple of steps, get a click and a treat. We started out in the good end, where he figured this out after the second click. So we went right down to the scary end to see if it would continue.

And it did! Well, mostly. There were a bunch of bending poles in the corner that the 4-H group had brought in, that were on the outside of the fenceline. And they were a wee bit scary. More so turn a horse into a giraffe type scary. But I asked him to drop his head. And he did. For a moment. So I asked him again. And he went "okay". And kept it down as we walked past them. I mean, as soon as we stopped, he turned into a giraffe again. But when moving his head was down. And he was super chill. I was super happy.
No media, just a cute face to break up the text.

Next up - trying to get him to touch the scary bending poles.

They were on the other side of the fenceline. At first I hoped that if I just stood in front of them he would reach over the fence to sniff them, and that's when I would click. But that didn't work. He wouldn't reach over the fence. So I thought I would try to stand on the other side of the fence, and see if he would reach across to me.

I unclipped the lead and went through the gate next to the bending poles. Cisco apparently thought I was leaving, so he hoofed it down to the other end. I called out to him, he turned around and saw me, and trotted across the full diagonal right back to me. Click and a cookie for that!

I did a bit of work with him to have him touch one of the poles. He did okay and sort of got the idea. What was more important to me was that he was happy to stay there, wasn't panicking, and wasn't trying to leave.

So far, the positive reinforcement had been successful! My goal was to have him more relaxed in the scary end, and clicking and treats definitely made a difference.

No media from this, as I couldn't manage to hold a clicker, a horse, a phone, and stuff a treat in his mouth at the same time. I need a video assistant next time!

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