Sunday 25 April 2021

The Middle of the Staycation

 As per normal when she gets vaccinated, Phantom is suffering from some swelling in her boobage.

It sucks when you can only afford to get a boob job on one side.

It's definitely far from the worst she's ever been though. This year and last year she had the single-shot Vetera 6-way, which still leaves a large lump the next day, but it's a soft lump, rather than the hard, hot lump she used to get with whatever we used previously. Last year it seemed to cut her recovery time in about half - from up to 10 days to just 5 or 6. She was quite happy to walk forward on it yesterday, so I'm hoping that it will be the same this year.

We went for a walk (inside, because it's stupid cold after a beautiful sunny day - supposed to get down to -7 tonight and feel like -12) and then we did some work on clicker training..

Well, an attempt at a visual version of clicker training. 

Phantom generally really likes clicker training - she's a bit of a treat whore. Since she can't hear the clicker anymore, I'm trying to figure out a way to be able to use a visual or tactile "click". It has to be something that I can do consistently and quickly so that I can reward the behaviour when it happens and not too late.

I decided to try raising my left arm and making a fist. Eventually, I'll try to do the same with my right arm as it got awkward at moments not being able to hold the target in my left hand.

I had someone take a conformation shot of Cisco so that I can compare after a couple of months of Equiband use.

Phantom knows the idea behind touching the target well (my target is a piece of pool noodle shoved on a stick) so we started with using something she knows and does well to see if she would get the idea of the new visual "click".

I think that she did figure it out, although she oddly wasn't super into targeting. It could be because her boob hurt, or possibly because she had had bute syrup squirted into her mouth before we went over the arena and she usually won't take treats for a while afterwards (probably like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth). She definitely seemed to stop and look for the treat when I made a fist so I think she was getting the idea.

We also tried it with a flag on a dressage whip that was available. I didn't think she would have a problem with it but she was a little wary of touching it in the beginning, then figured it out, but didn't seem to have much desire to really get into it so we ended after a bit more with the pool noodle target. 

Cisco, on the other hand, was totally into his clicker training session.

When I first started him with clicker training he didn't seem to have much desire to figure it out, but lately he thinks it's the best thing ever. He's not the kind of horse who needs to be let loose to blow off some steam very often, so when I want to just play with him I've been trying to engage his brain.

The only usable picture was the very first one she took. For every other one the model wasn't co-operating!

If let loose and alone in the arena, he will just do 15m circles in front of the gate. Rarely will he go down into the scary end by himself (maybe in summer when all the doors are open and he can see horses outside), and he seldom will go even halfway down the ring. 

I've been working on giving him a mark to stand on, that I can then slowly move down the arena. We started off with a tarp, then I dropped my lead shank into a circle, and also tried a welcome mat I had bought to do this with Phantom years ago. 

The idea is that when he stands on the mark, I release the pressure and he gets to just hang out for a moment. Then I'll send him out, and if he returns to the mark he gets to chill again.

He very quickly picked up the idea. I'm sure that the application of treats when I clicked probably helped.

I've been able to get him to X while loose in the arena with this method. It's still a long ways away from having him trot up into the scary end by himself, but it's still a big improvement on the small circle he normally stays to.

We also worked with a flag. Not chasing him with it - I have no need to get him all ramped up and spinny - but getting him to chase the flag. 

Again, he figured it out really quickly. The first day we were in the indoor round pen, which is currently in the scariest corner of the arena. It didn't take too long before Cisco was trotting after the flag with his head down and nose reaching out, heading into that corner.

The next day I took out a full-sized flag (in obnoxious yellow) instead of the handkerchief on a whip from the previous day. Again, he wasn't concerned about it flapping around and was much more concerned about showing me how fast he could touch it to get a click and treat. 

It's a piece of fabric stapled onto a stick - not fancy, but it does the job!

I managed once to get him to come down into the scary end to touch the flag, but after that he stuck next to the gate with the open door behind it. Meh, baby steps. He wasn't worried about me standing in the middle flying the flag, he just would have rather have been outside. 

I grabbed him and led him around at walk and trot with the flag held aloft, kind of where it would be if I was riding. He might have been slightly more worried when it was on the right side than the left, but still, minimal concern on his part.

Coming up next - riding with the flag!

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