Make Haste Slowly, Part 3, 4-19-14


Continuing on with Ollie, we had a very good day today – making progress and moving more quickly.  As the title suggests, we get to move more quickly now because we took more time earlier.

Ollie is leaving less and less often and for shorter periods of time.  If he leaves completely and goes all the way to the hay box or to the water trough, I let him have a drink and a bite of hay.  Then I kiss to him and call his name and he comes back quite willingly.  I click early but he has to come all the way back to me to get his treat.  I will treat generously here (several Alam cubes) because of his effort.

If he leaves by only a few feet and then backs up, I click fairly early for that as well.  But I still wait to deliver the treat when he’s back in position.

Today, as usual, I started with the right front and asked for a buckle of the knee (not even a hoof lift, really).  With only one short walk-off and return in between, we were able to go from three attempts to ten.  Super!

I then went to the right hind, picked it up, cleaned it and put it down.  I clicked when it was still up but I was done with it and treated him a couple or three Alam cubes.

When I’m done holding the foot, I place the foot down where I want it to go.  I don’t just let go or drop it.  I place it on the ground where I want it.  It’s kind of funny that they usually resist my putting it down!  They don’t want to pick it up but they don’t want to put it down either.  In this way I can control that they stand in a good, square, balanced position – not crooked, stretched out, or “goat on a rock”.

If they’re standing in any unbalanced position, they’re going to move to get balanced.  If they’re stretched or camped out, they’ll want to either bring the hind feet up or move the front feet back.  This annoys me that they’ve moved.  I’m fairly certain that it annoys others as well.

Maybe I’m already holding the foot or maybe I’m reaching for the foot or even just walking or moving or bending down toward the foot and they move!  But if I recognize that they need to be in a balanced position to start with, then I can control that by targeting forward and feeding for position or asking for a back up and feeding for position.

If they’re crooked, I either ask for a move over away from me or a hip target toward me.  It depends on what behaviors the horse has in place that I can ask for.  If I’m working with a foot, I can put it down where I want it.  If one leg is out of place (often a hind leg too far back), it’s part of the program of asking for a foot and putting it where I want it and clicking and treating for that part of the behavior.

Back to today, Ollie and I were able to finish cleaning and treating all four feet with very few walk offs.  When he does come back, I always give him a “fine-dining” jackpot – sevearl treats one at a time.  I really want to make the space where we work on this stuff a “happy spot” for him.

Then I changed to grooming and that went well too.  A couple of short attempts to walk off.  Sometimes I click anyway, knowing that he’ll stop to get the treat.  And sometimes I let him walk off and wait for him to come back.

When both of these are really solid, smooth, and “fast” in the sense that I don’t have to keep repeating the same things or he’s not walking off (this one is the most important as it tells me where he is on the comfort scale), then we’ll add sheath cleaning to the mix.

We also worked a little on the worming procedure with applesauce today.  I got a new dosing syringe from the vet yesterday and it works much better than the old one that wouldn’t move!  Ollie slurped up all the applesauce and even let me squirt some into his mouth.


Atticus is really coming along and the foot thing is pretty darn solid – all four feet cleaned and treated with very few repetitions and no walk offs for him.

Grooming is also going well, but he did walk off when I went to comb his tail.  He got a drink and a bite of hay and then I kissed to him and called his name.  He came back to me and he got clicked early but the treat was delivered as he got to me.

We have begun to work toward sheath cleaning – and leaving the hind feet on the ground in the process!  Very important!

When he turns around and faces out, he gets clicked and a “fine-dining” jackpot.

I tacked him up today with saddle and pad (no bridle) and then we went into the paddock to work on cheek and shoulder targeting in preparation for half pass work.

While talking on the phone with Peggy Hogan and working on his right side, he gave me some nice targeting and even a step or two toward me in a sort of “baby” turn on the haunches.  This is his easier side as he’s bent right to begin with.  This fact makes it easier for him to move and bend right because his left legs are the ones that carry the most weight so it’s easier to unweight the right legs in order to step to the right.  Then he brings his left legs over to close up the gap.  And he’s able to stay bent to the right.

His left side is harder because he still wants to stay bent to the right – he wants to swing his head to the right in order to move his shoulders to the left or he swings his hips to the right in a different attempt to accomplish the task.

On his left side, I spend more time cheek targeting and experimenting with how solid that is.  Will he follow my hand forward?  How far will he bend his neck to target my hand?  Can he follow my hand both sideways and forward?  What can he give me in response to my hand on his shoulder?  Can he give me any weight shift to the left?  Considering that he’s already weighting his left legs, what does he have to do in order to actually step to the left?  On the right, he’ll step right with his right foreleg and follow with the left.  On the left, he shifts his weight left, steps to the left with the right foreleg, and then he might shift his weight to the right leg in order to step left with the left leg.  It’s a different process on this side.

Because his balance and body-use preferences are different, he tries different things to accomplish the task.  He backs up, swings his hips to the right, and walks forward.  I really have to break things down and try different things to see what he can give me that I can build on.  It’s a very interesting process for me.

We’ll continue to make haste slowly and keep charting the process and progress.

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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