Play Clothes, 4-8-14

Today is Tuesday and I’ve played with Atticus for the last three days.  Sunday we repeated a quick practice of loading onto the trailer and then on to the tree target game.  That game is the new “hot” trick these days and he offers it readily.  It might have something to do with the Stud Muffins I feed him for the effort.  Maybe.  🙂

But yesterday and today we went back to trying to shape a half pass.  I have a lot of criteria to try to shape and I’m playing with it to see what actually works.  I have a cheek target in place (he targets his cheek to my hand) and a hip target when he swings his hips to my hand.  But I think I really need a shoulder target as well because I want to be able to access and get those shoulders moving sideways and not have them stuck in the ground while he pivots his hips to me.

One note about the cheek target:  I thought about a nose target but then I get a head twisted on the neck.

My criteria for the half pass (the ultimate goal) are:  spine should be evenly bent throughout the body from poll to tail head.  Balance.  Crossing legs.  Keep the bend throughout the movement (and not have the head go to the opposite side).  Shift the weight back onto the hind legs, which means that the haunches must be engaged (all four joints of the hind legs are flexed at least a little).  This would also result in a lifting of the front end through the withers.

(And yes, I said four joints.  I know the classical literature says three, but what about the sacrolumbar joint?  That needs to be engaged as well.)

Anyway, all of those things are a pretty tall order!  But I’m not trying to get them all at once nor right away.

I have the cheek target but I needed a shoulder target.  Yesterday and today I worked on getting that shoulder target.  What’s interesting is that since the big boy is naturally bent to the right, getting the desired response to the shoulder targeting into my hand is easier on the right side.  I CT’d and jack potted.

However, the left side is a little problematic.  He gets stuck there.  His weight is on the left legs to begin with because he’s bent right.  So trying to get him to step to the left means he has to weight his right foreleg in order to move left.  Sound confusing?  It is a little.  He can lean left, which I’ll take, but that puts more weight on the left leg.  It’s kind of hard to take a step with the left leg is you’ve got most of your weight on it.

I kept reinforcing him when my hand touched his shoulder.  Then after about 6-8 times, I’d leave my hand ever so slightly off his shoulder and wait.  I also double tapped the shoulder lightly as a tip-off to what I wanted.  After two short session with the left shoulder (the right shoulder was in between), he was able to give me a step to the left instead of backing up, walking forward, or swinging his hips.  Yay!

Oh, by the way.  We practiced in his “play clothes” – saddle and pad.  🙂

From playing with the embryonic beginnings of half pass, we went to playing with the target again.  And silly me.  I thought I could expect that he would give me the same behavior as yesterday and go clear across the paddock to the target.  Nope.  Everything was different.  He was tacked up!  Yup.  I raised the criteria too high, too fast.  Off to the tree to start over.  And he, of course, did great!

As a side note, for the tacking up part we also worked on standing still for hoof handling (we haven’t done that in quite awhile), grooming, and tacking.  Yesterday I got two rocks out of his right front foot and today he was a little fussy about that foot.  He is generally fussy about that foot, but I’m sure the rocks yesterday didn’t help.

My laugh for today was Atty was intent on sniffing the saddle and pad while they were on the rack.  But more than that, he wanted to bite the pad.  Finally, while I was grooming his opposite side from the saddle, he picked up the pad, shook it a couple of times and dropped it.  I’ve sealed my fate with this as I laughed.  Maybe I can shape that into something and put it cue?  😀

Here are a couple of videos from Sunday:


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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2 Responses to Play Clothes, 4-8-14

  1. meadowmice says:

    He is beautiful! I liked being able to see your barn and homestead. Glad your work is paying off!


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