Miss D certainly seems to have figured out a few things overnight last night. She mugs me significantly less and her mouth has relaxed. She can now take treats from my hand in a “normal” way without being clumsy or getting my fingers in her mouth. It was like my fingers were being sucked into her mouth between the lips and the gums, which is very weird feeling. She’s figured out what the targeting behavior is – touch her nose to that white bulbous thing at the end and not the stick. She has unstuck her feet from the ground a little.
However, I don’t think that she knows what the click means yet. She’s learning behaviors that I’m teaching, yes, but I don’t think she’s figured out yet that the click actually has a meaning. As long as the reinforcer “touches” the behavior, she’s going to learn what I’m teaching. This is something that Dr. Susan Friedman talks about – the reinforcer “touching” the behavior. They need to overlap a bit.
The three C’s of operant conditioning are: consistency, contiguity, and contingency. If you are consistent with your criteria, timing, rate of reinforcement, and food delivery techniques, you’ve met that condition. Contingency is making sure that the reinforcer only arrives if the criterion has been met; that you’re not just free feeding for no reason. Contiguity is the time factor between behavior and reinforcer arriving. The shorter that time lapse, the better, whether or not you use a clicker. You can get a lot of behavior trained without a clicker – what Bob Bailey calls “just chucking food” – but the marker is there for precision and to cover the long time lapses between the wanted behavior and the arrival of the reinforcer.
Right now, it’s not super important that she understands that the click sound actually means anything to her or not. I’ll keep watching to see when that understanding dawns.
In my two very short sessions with her this morning, we reviewed targeting to the hand-held target and learning to back.
When I first went into her enclosure, she was about 40 feet away. She nickered and walked all that way to interact with me. We played with targeting for about five minutes. He behavior loops were clean and she didn’t try to mug me like she did the last two days. I didn’t have to feed in the pan either. I could easily feed her with my hand. She didn’t even mind my “stinky hands” from having my gloves on just prior to working with her. It’s just so nice to see that breakthrough of confidence of knowing what the task is.
I took a short break to get more treats and came back to work with her at the paddock gate so that I could begin to teach her to back up. Using the target stick helped give her the right idea, but I also worked from her turning her head away. I can click for that and deliver the food in a way that causes her to back up. Then I can click and feed quickly several times after that to help cement the idea that that’s what I want. The back up is by no means a solid behavior after only one session, but I think she clearly got the idea. We’ll see what she offers tomorrow.
I think her “lameness” or odd stuck-like steps are because her soles are too thin. She walks just fine, but if she has to pivot on a foot, then she acts like that foot is sore. Since she’s on gravel and barefoot, I’m willing to bet that her soles are thin. She displayed this behavior when I picked her up as well and she was on a gravel driveway there, too. I think this is the common factor.
Also, I think that most farriers don’t do a true “barefoot” trim so much as a “shoeless” trim: they prepare the foot for a shoe and then “forget” to put the shoe on. If you’ve watched most farriers, they trim out the sole. This might work well for putting shoes on, but barefoot horses need that sole thickness for protection.
My trimmer is due June 1 which is slightly less that two weeks away. I will have to start soon on working with her feet so that she’s at least a little bit ready for the occasion.
If you are interested in helping us help Diamond, please click here to go to the GoFundMe page to help defray the costs of rehabbing Diamond.