A Different Approach

I don’t think PJ is all that happy in his work.  Nothing definitive but little things.  He doesn’t have his ears up on crossties; that head shaking thing (almost gone but not all); just seems stressed.

I’m stressed too because I just can’t understand why he won’t go.  I’ve been working on what Adrienne had me do – ask nicely, if he goes then praise, if he doesn’t go then make him go and then praise, then repeat.  But it only works 65% of the time.  And even when it does work, he shuts down immediately after starting to go.

I want PJ to be happy and enjoy working and learning new things.  I decided to try clicker training. I have a clicker from trying to get my cat to be quiet (major fail).  I started with PJ on crossties to teach him click means treat.  He seemed to get that.  Then I rushed it and got on him.  At the halt, I clicked and treated a couple of times.  He seemed to get that too.  Then I asked for what I wanted – soft leg means go forward.

He seemed to get that too except he would anticipate me stopping him and giving him a treat and would stop on his own and turn his head around.  I gave up.

Since my ride, I’ve been doing some reading (something I should have done first) and some people suggest asking for a nice halt after getting the desired behavior, but I don’t know if he’ll associate the go with the click or the halt with the click.

I am going to try again tomorrow but I’m going to do something called targeting from the ground. That’s where he only gets a treat for touching an object of my choosing (I think it’s going to be the whip top).  This way he learns that a behavior gets a treat.  Hopefully I’ll be able to transition it to under saddle work.  I’m not giving up on this just slowing down.

My goal is a happy horse who looks forward to seeing me and learning new things.  And a horse with a go button!

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One Response to A Different Approach

  1. Net says:

    The way I’ve had it explained to me (because I ride a Friesian cross who is very food oriented, but I’ve been afraid my timing will be off and it won’t work) you want them to learn to associate the click as the reward – so you don’t stop to give the treat, or they’ll just keep stopping on you. So teach him to go, click as the reward and don’t pester him for more go.
    My very high energy TB liked to suck back behind my leg, and in his case it was a matter of tension through his back. It took him two years to really learn to soften his back enough to always want to go forward. Could there be something physical like that – not a pain issue, but that he’s physically keeping himself from letting go and going forward – with PJ?

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