Today, 9-4-13, I took Mr. Atticus out without halter and lead to the trailer, which was open and waiting for him. I just wanted to see how willing he was to load since his abscess is not fully healed, but he is walking almost normally. (He’s not weighting the heel since that’s where the abscess is/was.)
On the way to the trailer was the muck tub with about 4 inches of water in it as well as an apple. Atty went straight to the tub and looked for the apple. He first bit a little out of it and then went for the whole thing, which he got. But he then tried to bite it in half while it was in his mouth. He lost it and it rolled away. I put it back in the tub. He then bit a bite out of it first before going for it again. This time he had made it small enough by taking bites out of it first that it fit in his mouth and he could eat it all without dropping it. Poor guy! Big horse! Small mouth!
He sniffed around and ate a little grass and thought it about it and finally loaded. He got a stud muffin which was waiting for him in the hay bag. I opened the side door and clicked and treated him for touching the target, three times. Then I asked him to back out. He back up, but not out. Then stepped forward, then finally backed out. That’s all I wanted so we were done.
I then wanted us to go back into the paddock, but Atty had other ideas. He wanted to mow the grass in the trailer area/driveway/swale. I let him do that for awhile, then we practiced getting clicked and treated for bringing his head up. That worked for a few clicks and then he went back to grazing and walking along side the trailer.
Then I walked to the front of him, and using grass as a reward, asked him to back. He did this readily but still had to graze a few bites for himself. Then he began backing in earnest and I treated with my usual treats. We finally got back into the paddock.
From there we worked on the “go out” exercise again. And again, I’m working on cleaning up the cueing. I want him to wait for the cue, see the cue and immediately touch the target on the tree. I don’t want him to touch the reflector first, or scratch his nose or his leg or bite at flies or touch the target without the cue first.
To help, I put FlyRid on his legs so that he wouldn’t have the excuse for scratching his legs. At this point I think that scratching his legs or his nose is a “ghost” behavior that he thinks is supposed to be in there. Because when I didn’t cue him while or right after he scratched, that behavior dropped away. He had several trials (in a row even!) where he saw the reflector and immediately touch the target on the tree. There were other times where he looked off into the distance, walked away and back in a small circle, scratched his nose or legs, or bit at a fly on his side. But mostly, he did very well.
I gave breaks between sessions of ten trials by turning him away from the target and scratching him for a couple of minutes. Then we turned back to the tree. At one point, I tried to either change the game into grooming at the tree (no thanks, mom) or being done altogether. “But, mom! I still want to play!” So we did a couple more sessions.