Trailering Skills, Session #118, 11-21-13

Today was set up nearly exactly as yesterday. I walked out with Atty’s breakfast bucket and went to the gate. He watched me but stayed back by the hay box for a minute and then followed me to the gate. He came through the gate with me and started searching for grass. I opened the side door and dumped his bucket in the hay bag and closed the side door again. Then I opened the back door, thought about it for a minute or so, and then got on. I hooked up the butt bar and closed the back door. I went to the side door, opened it and gave him a Stud Muffin. Then I closed it again and went to feed the other horses.

On my way to let out chickens, I stopped by the trailer, opened the side door and fed Atty a few treats, including another Stud Muffin.

The chickens needed food and I also needed to fill the water trough. I started the water, fed the chickens, came back, got my treat bag, filled it up, and went to the trailer. I opened the side door, fed him a few treats and an SM. Then I went to the truck, got in, turned on the engine, and drove forward about 3-4 feet. I turned the engine off, got out, and went back to see Atty.

I opened the side door, fed a few treats in our routine, closed the side door, went to the back and opened the back door. I went up front, and did our routine, and went back to drop the butt bar. He waited for the butt bar, but then backed out on his own.

Today I did not try to emphasize waiting for the backing cue. I let him get off and go down the lane to find grass. I wanted to see what he would offer and whether he would get back on the trailer. He apparently did not find any grass to his satisfaction and he lifted his head and started to walk toward me. I clicked and walked toward him, taking advantage of his choice to move forward toward me and the trailer by clicking and treating. We met about halfway and I gave him his treat.

He walked up to the trailer and faced the open door. I had already put some treats in the bag along with an SM. I waited to see what he would do. He looked at me, looked in the trailer, took a step forward. Then another and another and then got on. I did not close him in again, but went up front to treat him. When he got off on his own, we left the area and went back to the paddock.

We went to the board and did one practice of backing the back feet onto it. Then I got my pedestal out and put it in the middle of the paddock. Atty had gone to the hay box, but he came back when he saw the pedestal.

He walked forward onto it and I carefully shaped him to walk forward off of it. He likes to dangle one front foot down which I CT. Today, he was positioned in such a way that he slipped forward off the pedestal as it tipped forward. He seemed to take that perfectly in stride. He may have blinked, but he didn’t otherwise move. He then walked forward so that his hind feet were on the pedestal. Then I carefully asked him to walk forward off the pedestal and he also let a hind foot and leg dangle until he stepped down. He experimented with dangling each hind leg.

Peggy Hogan told me that she a mini to back onto a pedestal without the hind end sway by focusing on backing straight to the pedestal, not onto it, and reinforcing straight backing and waiting in front of the pedestal.

I was planning to do that, but Atty had other ideas. He just backed straight onto the pedestal. He tends to leave one hind foot rocked up on a toe, though. When he’s off to one side and one hind leg is dangling off to the side, I asked him to step forward and try backing again. Once he got back up there (backing straight!) and his hind feet were in the middle of the pedestal, then I asked for “square” and he rocked the second foot down flat. I heavily reinforced that (long-term fine dining) and then we quit for the day. We finished with me leaving a double handful of treats in the nearly empty hay box. That way he could also clean up all the alfalfa fines before I restocked it.

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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