We started much the same way as the previous session - asking him to drop his head as we were walking. Then I added in that when we stopped he had to keep his head down. Again, he figured this out pretty quickly. He would wait for the click, then turn into a giraffe. We'll work on that.
I left through the gate to grab one of the bending poles, and just like last time, he left the scary end and went back down to the safe end. And just like last time, he saw me come back into the arena, and trotted all the way back to me. Click, treat, and warm fuzzies in my heart.
Today's goal was to have him touch the pole, which I was going to move across the short end into the really scary corner. He figured out very quickly that touching the pole gave him a reward. So after he touched it a couple of times, I moved it a few feet closer to that corner. He happily stayed with it all the way. Well, with me standing right next to it.
What would happen if I stood a few feet away from the pole?
I love that he is making the decision to head into the scary corner to touch the pole! He's not being forced to go in there, he's making a conscious decision. Yes, he gets a food treat, but this is a big step from omg it's scary must leave right now ok bye.
I sort of tried to free lunge Cisco a bit afterwards. He doesn't want to go too far from me because he doesn't want to lose his chance of getting treats! So he kind of did a couple of circles around me. I am intentionally standing down at that scary end because of this. Then he circles closer to that end. Still not as far down as the track, but much closer than usual.
Clicking definitely seems to be helping him realize that he isn't going to die down in the scary end. He still doesn't stay focused completely on me, and every time he stopped he was looking down to the good end. But this seems to slow his brain down and keep the hamster off that wheel in his skull.
Next I will have to figure out how to send him away from me to touch the pole. I ordered Alexandra Kurland's book Clicker Training for Your Horse for some more ideas. It will hopefully arrive before my next barn visit so I can try something new!