Management or Training? 7-9-2018

I‘ve been working my way through clicker training the horses as best I can but I still realize that I’m not really doing very well.  At least not in how I think about it.  I keep finding that I’m doing more management than training.  Sometimes I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve trained something that has made my life easier – sometimes much easier – than when I was just managing it.  Sometimes I’ll suddenly realize that I am just barely managing something else that I could train.  If I just put some thought into it!

For example, even though I’ve been training for over ten years, I’ve only recently put efforts into training an auto back at the gate.  I’ve been smiling to myself how lovely it is to not be crowded when I come through the gate with buckets full of food!  Well, duh!  I’ve finally trained that behavior!

Why didn’t I do that before?  Did I think that was just too much work?  Did it require too much thought?  Too much preparation?  Why did I think it was just too hard to do right now?

At five minutes or less per day at each and every meal (twice a day), it didn’t take that long to train the two horses who needed to be trained – Atticus and Diamond.  Ollie doesn’t crowd the gate since he’s too soft and the other two are vying for that job.  Ollie would rather hang out in his stall and wait for food to come to him!

Did it take some thought?  Yes, but not a lot.  Just a bit of commitment.  Did it take some planning?  Yes, a bit.  Patience?  Yes, enough to wait for them to offer a weight shift or lean back, something I could shape into a full two or three steps back.  How long does that take, really?  A minute?  I waste more than a minute many times a day!

Atticus also had a bad habit of trying to get out of the stall whether I wanted him to or not and sooner than I wanted him to while I was trying to get in or get out.  In frustration I started teaching him to wait in the stall with the stall gate open.  He had to stay in the stall while I backed out.  I taught a wait cue by saying “wait” and holding my hand up, palm open that signals “stop” for most people.  This worked so much better than wrestling my way in and out of the stall.  (It also later helped when we revisited trailering skills by my being able to use that “wait” cue while he stayed on the trailer!)

Oh, and, by the way, there’s a feed pan over there in the corner?  Did you know you could toss a couple of treats in there and then he’d go over there instead of hanging out by the stall gate?  Have you tried that one, Laurie?  Maybe that would help.  Ya know?

And lately I’ve been working with multiples in Peggy Hogan‘s Multiples Online Class.  First I work with Diamond on stationing on a pedestal.  Then I work with Atticus.  Both already knew stationing on a mat or pedestal, but now I’m working with both together in the paddock, although very far apart.

Stationing would also help when I need to put their muzzles on to go out to grass and when they come back in and I have to take the muzzles off.  Atticus resource guards me and can get aggressive with Diamond.  If I train the stationing sufficiently well, I can have them station on a voice cue and they’ll stay there until I release them.  Then I don’t have to duck and dodge and try to get those muzzles on and off quickly.

I keep thinking about how to make this training go more smoothly, especially to reduce the time a horse has to wait on the pedestal.  I have to clean everyone’s feet every morning but I start training right after breakfast.  At first I only cleaned Diamond’s feet and started training.  Then I’d clean Atty’s and bring him out.  Then clean Ollie’s and bring him out.

It occurred to me that if I clean both the boys’ feet while Diamond is transitioning between trailer training and stationing, that she’ll have to wait less.

Yesterday I had a brilliant thought!  Why not clean the boys’ feet first while they’re in their stalls and THEN bring Diamond out and start working with her and clean her feet.  That way no one would have to wait for me to clean another set of feet!  Why didn’t I think of that a couple of weeks ago?

Coming out of Diamond’s stall, D has a tendency to crowd me.  This has been going on for over a year.  Oh, yeah.  Feed for position!  I’m carrying feed.  Why not treat her OVER THERE so that her head is out of the way and so is her shoulder.  Duh!

What things are you putting up with through management or some other way of coping that could be solved much better through training?

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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