Reinforcement History and Classical Conditioning, 6-9-15

syringe_by_reaper_neko-d307aanTwo things have happened this week with my two horses, Atty and Ollie.

First, I needed to do shots, only two this time.  Ollie has always been very good for shots and I don’t worry about him but I always click and treat him for the shot.

Atty has an interesting history with shots.  When he was three and I had just bought him, I gave him a shot and he bit me!  I’ve never had a horse bite me for shots before!

Since then I’ve always used Dermaplast spray on the injection site before the shot.  Dermaplast is a benzocaine spray that numbs the skin.  Atty still didn’t like shots, but he he no longer bit me.

Now, almost nine years on, and he’s gotten much better.  He no longer bites and I don’t need the Dermaplast any more.  However, his head is still high in the sky.

When I did the shots yesterday, I did practice pretend shots first CTing for Atty targeting his neck to the needle cap.  I began with my touching his neck and CTing.  I did that about ten times.  Then I held the syringe and needle with cap on just barely off his neck and waited for him to touch it.  He did that several times.  During those practices, his neck got lower and lower.  I was, of course, feeding for a lower position.  🙂

Then I gave him the shot.  He shook as I was pulling the needle out, but that’s a huge improvement in my mind over how he used to be.  We repeated everything on the other side for the other shot.  Yay!

Now for Ollie.  Ollie has never really liked being in the wash rack/grooming stall.  And this became painfully obvious when I started working him at liberty a few years ago.  Through lots of shaping and reinforcement history for lots of things, he has come to love the wash rack.

However, he still did not like being groomed.  I used to CT for a brush stroke or two, but he still often walked off and away.  Sometimes he’d come back and sometimes not.

This spring I’ve just been free feeding during grooming (classical/respondent conditioning/learning).  I’ve been using my jelly grooming mitt (the softest thing I can find for my sensitive boys) and “scrubbing” them as lightly as I can with it while feeding him.married_back_scratch_300

Today was the first time that I can remember in the ten years of owning Ollie that I thought that he might actually be enjoying being groomed!  I found itchy spots that he apparently liked have scrubbed more deeply, he moved his butt closer to me so I could scrub it good, and he turned his right hock out so that I could scrub that!

The funny thing about Ollie is that he doesn’t do long camel lips when being scratched.  He kind of chews or gnashes his teeth.  But his neck is stretched out and I can tell that he’s loving every minute of it!

Food will out!  😀

Update:  The latest shots with Atty were:  no Dermaplast and no shaking!  Totally smooth and “normal”!

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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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