Diamond seems to have balancing and coordination challenges. Maybe proprioception problems. Her feet get stuck in place and she often stands in a parked out way – all stretched out. This makes it difficult to handle her back feet but that also poses a problem for getting onto my step-up trailer. If she’s stretched out, she’s not in a position of strength in order to step up. This could also be an indication of fear, but anything I can do to help her in her body, I’m supportive of. For that reason, I contacted Wendy Murdoch because I know she comes up to my area.
Wendy asked if Diamond was a candidate for being a demo horse in her upcoming clinic in Honey Brook, PA. I thought D might be a great candidate for that, assuming Wendy is okay with Diamond not having much handling around her hind feet.
Along with my ongoing training with D’s hind feet, the upcoming clinic also requires that Diamond get on the trailer. She was hopping onto it on her own last year when she lived next to it, but now the stimulus picture has changed and it’s been nearly a year. Last year, she lived next to it with a shade tent for shelter and a plastic trough for her hay. While the trailer might be in the same place, the tent and the trough are gone. This is enough to make everything new again.
This time, not assuming anything regarding Diamond’s willingness to load, I place three mats near the trailer – a piece of plywood, a low pedestal, and a higher pedestal. These were there not only for practice stepping onto things, but also for letting D go to whichever one she wanted in order to have an easier behavior with strong reinforcement histories attached.
I also wanted to let Diamond choose which ones she wanted to go to and to use them according to Premack’s Principle – The Premack Principle states that preferred behaviors, or behaviors with a higher level of intrinsic reinforcement, can be used as rewards, or reinforcements, for less preferred behaviors.
Another thing I wanted to play with is Peggy Hogan’s “patented” rubber-band technique – paying for position away from the trailer even though I’ve clicked for a behavior connected to the trailer loading goal.
I wish I had a good video that shows the rubber band technique. Unfortunately, I do not. I hope to get one later this week. If Diamond showed any interest in the trailer, I clicked but fed away from the trailer. I might click and reinforce a few times for facing into the trailer, but then I would click and feed for position away from the trailer. This had the effect of pulling her back to engaging the trailer because that is what she had been clicked for.
The first video shows some practice from a days later when she offers a foot onto the trailer and it also shows my focusing her using her shoulder muscle to prepare for stepping up:
This last video shows what happens when you add in the pedestal that Diamond knows exactly what to do with and place it next to the trailer. It occurred to me that perhaps the trailer was too high for her at this juncture of training. I think I was right. Now I just need to stop being so greedy and let her do one short (short, dammit!) training session and leave it at that for the day!
The title says “short” but it’s really 3:34 so you can scroll through it if you choose:
I am pleased with her progress, but I’m not sure we’ll go to the Wendy Murdoch clinic. That might be pushing things just too far – a trailer ride so soon and then having to get back on in a strange place, plus having to be in a strange place, having strange people handling her, and lots of strange people watching. I’m sure that Wendy will be back in the area soon enough.