Reading Between the Lines, 5-1-14

As I continue to work IMG_2517_edited-1with both horses, Ollie and Atty, and the dog, Sophie, I keep having to remind myself – or maybe the animals are doing the reminding – to slow down!  As much as I write about, remind myself, and try to do that, I still have to work harder at it.  Or maybe just relax and let it flow.  Let go of any agenda that starts with:  “I just want to…”  That thinking will get me into trouble every time!

Atty is the one who told me today that I was not to rush things or take anything for granted.

I moved the truck so that I could hook up the trailer so we could play trailer games.  (The truck is running now, but I didn’t attach the trailer electric to it just in case.)

Atty came out to the driveway but was much more interested in eating whatever grass he could find there.  I did let him do that for several minutes and then I practiced Peggy Hogan’s “training on grass” game.  It worked fairly well for awhile, but it is spring and they haven’t been on the grass for a couple of days.  We’ll keep working at it.

And Atty did load onto the trailer, but when I went to the back, he backed off – three times.  I quit trying to “force” that plan and went to training on grass.  When I couldn’t maintain his attention, I left him in the drive with his grass and went to play with Ollie (see above).

Ollie is definitely progressing and we could get all four feet done with no walks-offs today.  I started with just asking for his right front by lightly touching the back of his leg.  That’s all I wanted right then.  Just relax the leg and pick up the foot at my light touch.  We did ten of those, clicking and treating each time.

Then I went to the right hind, he cocked it (which is exactly what I want).  Then I pick it up, clean it out, put it down, click, and treat.  I usually treat him with two or three pellets (they’re large ones) because I do more with the hind feet that I am with the fronts right now.

I came back to his right front foot and this time I wanted to pick the foot up.  We practiced that ten times, clicking and treating each time.  Then I switched to his left front and just asked for him to pick it up from a light touch.  We practiced that ten times, just like we did on the right.

Then back to the back foot, picked it up, cleaned it out, put it down, clicked and treated – with two or three treats just like the other hind foot.

I came back to the left front and asked for the foot but I picked it up and we practiced that ten times.  I placed the foot down each time, clicked and treated.  Then I could pick it up and clean it out.

I was actually amazed that he never walked off through any of that.

Then we went to grooming, including the nubbier side of the jelly mitt and the softer side, mane and tail combing (!) and practicing for sheath cleaning.

What’s interesting is that Ollie will let me slide up his belly to his sheath fairly well on his left side, but he’s more sensitive to this on his right side.  That could be because most of the actual cleaning is done from his right side.

He did walk off a few times during the grooming, partly because Atty was in the paddock with us, but at the hay box.  Ollie left once to get a drink and once to go to the hay box, but then he came back both times.  However, when he went to get a drink, Atty decided it was his turn to join me in the wash stall.  It worked for a minute or so and then Ollie came back and told Atty no.

And I did not notice Ollie twisting his nose quite as much as previous sessions.  It’s all good.

On to Atty.  I put Ollie away to work with Atty in the wash stall.  I didn’t want to press my luck that Ollie would stay at the hay box the way Atty did.

I thought I could go a little faster with Atty than I had with Ollie, but no, I could not.  Maybe a little, but only a very little.

We got all four feet cleaned, grooming the body and combing the mane, and targeting the forehead to the comb.

What has become a bit of a problem is combing the tail.  Atty used to stand solid as a rock while I combed his tail, but not this season so far.  I’m not sure if it’s pulling a bit of he’s just confused as to what his job is now that I’m behind him.  He’s been turning halfway around when I start combing the tail.

Today I worked on establishing the square, centered stand in the wash stall and then working my way back while clicking and treating for his staying put.  Then once I got to the tail, I would just kind of halfway pick it up with my left hand and let it run through my hand as I walked back up to him, click and treat.  I did that ten times.

I really had to break it down:  Hold it like it was going to comb the end, but let go, click and treat.  Ten times.  Then hold the tail and just take a short, quick swipe with the comb through the last six inches of tail, click and treat.  Ten times.  Gradually starting higher and higher on the tail.

He moved several times during this and each time I targeted him back into position, unless he stopped himself, then I just clicked and treated for that.

Since he did improve in this session (stopped going sideways), I think we’ve managed to clear up that confusion and we’ll keep working on it.

Keep paying attention to the tiny details and keep reading between the lines.

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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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