Trailering Skills, Sessions #188-189, 11-17-14, #thevolunteeringhorse

14slugkgsThe last two sessions with both horses I’ve focused on using the yummiest treats that I can find for them and make those treats available ONLY in the hay bag on the trailer.

This is working very well for Atticus since we’ve already built lots and lots of mass around the behavior or getting on the trailer.  He is very willing to get on and stay on and come back to get on again with all the tasty incentives!

Today, when I tried to get him to follow me to the pedestal to get a double handful of Alam cubes so that he’d be distracted while I filled up the hay bag for the next session, he ignored me and just got back on the trailer while I wasn’t looking!  I had to run to the front of the trailer to put the goodies in!  Next time, I closed the door after he got off.

In all, Atty got on the trailer four times.  On the third time, I hooked up the butt bar and closed the back door.  I made sure that he had another round of tasty goodies to keep him occupied and to up the pleasure of being on the trailer with the doors closed.  I definitely want to build a positive conditioned emotional response.  (See Eileenanddogs’ blog about it:  here.)  In fact, I’d really like to be able to call him and have him come running to the trailer!  Wouldn’t that be awesome!

Again, he didn’t want to be finished with this practice and insisted on checking the pedestal for treats before finally leaving.

And again I was able to switch out the horses without too much trouble even though Atty would really like to guard me from Ollie.  He doesn’t want to share!  🙂

Ollie is a completely different story for several reasons.  First, as I’ve said before, I just haven’t put the time in with him on training the trailering skills through shaping and at liberty.  Also, Ollie is a different horse with a different temperament and style of learning.  He is more obviously afraid but is also more “willing” to be coerced.  I can try to rush things with him assuming that we can just get on with it, only to find that rushing will backfire.  I truly have to commit to working at his pace, not mine.  And Ollie can do the best horsie version of the cha-cha!  It doesn’t look at all like the real cha-cha; maybe it more like his version of the hokey-pokey.  hokey pokey

I wish I had set up and taken video today, but it was raining and I didn’t even think about it.  But the reason I wish I had was that I think it would be interesting to show how Ollie will give an honest try, back out, turn away, and then turn right back to the trailer, making a  little circle to come back and try again.

He was like this with the wash stall:  come in and turn around, stay a moment, walk out a full horse length and turn left to check out the possible action in the world, turn around to the right and do it all again.  He eventually realized that turning left again was shorter back into the wash stall.  Then he realized that just going out half way was easier and backing back in was easier yet.  The boy is quite lazy!  The wash stall is now his very favorite place to be because it pays off so well.  🙂

I expect at some point that Ollie will spend less time circling – one because it’s too much work but also because he’ll get more comfortable with the whole process.

To that end, I will make the party happen at the back end of the trailer and will only gradually – at HIS pace – move the party site farther and farther into the trailer.  Right now, he gets clicked and treated for looking at the trailer, taking a step toward the trailer, or putting his nose in the trailer.  I also feed for position – facing into the trailer.  We’ll stay here, at the back, for as long as is necessary until Ollie is comfortable with the idea of moving on and he has perfected the skills needed at this stage.  I have to be content, even happy, with what he volunteers.

Treats for Ollie at this stage is bits of carrot.  He loves apples, but apples are a bit problematic since I don’t cut them up ahead of time and I don’t like to take bites out of them.  I can, however, bite off bits of carrot while we train.  carrots Ollie WILL trot after me!  I’m going to click and reinforce that behavior because I’d really, really like to have TWO horses come running to jump onto the trailer!  Now wouldn’t THAT be impressive?



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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