Free-Shaping Hat

Trailer Loading, 12/19/2012
Okay, today I pulled my free-shaping hat firmly and securely down around my ears and tied it under my chin! I really wanted to stay away from the lead rope!

We went out the driveway again as usual and he found some grass to munch for a bit. Then I was able to target him away from the grass to the mat. We worked on hind feet on the through backing.

He did self load once somewhere early in our session and I decided that, while I love the fact that he’s self-loading lots, I think that it is currently too much a distraction for what I want to work on right now – targeting the hind feet to the mat. So I closed up the trailer.

It also dawned on me at some point that I needed to think about the component parts of targeting his hind feet to the mat. It’s not only about the mat, and about hind feed, and about backing, it’s also about aiming. By that I mean that he can back toward the mat, but be slightly off to one side. Then what? Ask him to step sideways? Or target him forward and start over?

I want to make it clear to him that it’s about hind feet on the mat. Eventually, he will need to back straight if he is to load onto the trailer backwards. But it would be okay with me if he self-corrected by stepping sideways to get his hind feet on the mat.

But maybe we should just concentrate on getting it right the first time when backing? Lining up and aiming correctly?

Anyway, I decided that I’d see what he offered and go from there. He easily offers backing without my cuing it. I made sure that my hands were either behind my back or straight down at my sides – no cuing with hands or body (leaning or walking forward) or voice or lead.

In the beginning, my thought is to click and treat for backing. At first every step or even just a shift of weight backwards. I’ve now begun to wait a little longer and click after two steps. But I’m also trying to click for correct aim. I will treat for position to affect his hind end. That is, if his hind end needs to step to my right (his left), I will treat to my left (his right).

However, if he steps to one side while backing (thus aiming away from the mat), I don’t click (or treat) as he’s not offering to aim for or step onto the mat. If he got it wrong, I used my fist or hand to target him forward. In targeting him forward, I tried to help line him up for the next attempt.

Several trials, some misses, a couple of good ones. We finished on a good one and I still had a Stud Muffin to hand out. Jackpot! And we quit for the day. Although he didn’t seem to want to quit or leave the area until we got halfway to the gate. Trailer magnet? Mat magnet?

There really is a huge quality of difference between letting them try to figure it out on their own and our trying our darnedest to help them! I can’t explain it, but it’s huge! 😀

I really do need to video more often.

About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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