Clicker Training Day 2

It really should be Day 1, since from what I read, yesterday was NOT correct.

My approach today was based on a lot of reading on the Internet.  I started with PJ on crossties, so if he got too pushy, I could just back away.  I held the top of the whip where he could reach it.  He tried nudging my hand and biting my shirt and digging, but pretty quickly, he bit the top of the whip. I clicked and gave him a treat. Everything I read said I should click first before even making a move for the treat.  I used sugar cubes and kept them in a ziplock bag in my pocket (so my pocket wouldn’t get sticky).  The top of the whip was an enticing target and he bit it a lot and I clicked and treated a lot.  But he didn’t associate the behavior with the click and treat.  I had also just wanted him to touch the top of the whip but I was satisfied with him biting it – it was a distinct behavior.

I stopped after about 20 minutes and 20 sugar cubes and groomed him.  Then I spent another 10 minutes offering him the whip in different locations (low, towards the right side of his head, towards the left side of his head, high).  Then I tacked him up.  Betsy and I had scheduled a mock show with Bridget as judge.  We both warmed up and then I put PJ on crossties while she rode, so that I could video tape her and when it was my turn, she put her horse on crossties.

PJ was a slug but Bridget didn’t think he looked so bad.  I knew our lack of connection killed us, but that’s why I want to get him to go forward on his own – it will make my job of getting him to push from behind into my hands much easier.  After we both rode our tests, Betsy and I went on a hack but just not any hack.  Betsy ponied a 3-year-old filly who had never been taken outside of the ring before other than turnout.  We were a herd!  The filly was wonderful – she didn’t take a wrong step or blink at anything.  We just went around the farm but we considered it a success.

When we got back, I untacked PJ and played another clicker game.  I still don’t think he “got it” but I think he’s close (40+ sugar cubes later – I have to find another treat).  I started clicking more than once in succession – click, click, click – before giving him the treat and that seemed to help him make the association between biting the whip and the click and treat.  Once he gets what the click means, I will reduce it back to one click.

Tomorrow I don’t plan on riding him but I do plan on playing the clicker game.  I mentioned previously that I wanted to use clicker training because PJ seemed stressed.  Betsy said she noticed the same thing regarding her mare.  That if she rode too many days in the ring, her mare acted sour.  So, PJ’s issue could be that he just needs some time outside of the ring, and I do plan on going for more hacks, even if it is just 10 minutes at the end of a real ride.  But I think PJ will still get a lot out of the clicker game once he gets it.  I can use it to load into the trailer.  I can teach him to stand on tarps and stuff.  It can be used just to introduce new things to keep PJ interested.  The goal is to get him to like to learn new things, which will translate into riding even if I never use the clicker under saddle.

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