What’s PJ’s Cupcake?

I would do just about anything for a cupcake.  PJ is without a doubt, food motivated too.  However, today we came across a bit of a problem with the clicker training.  I took him to the outside ring, where the first thing he did was spook at a deer.  All I wanted him to do was a nice marching walk but the deer rattled him and all he wanted to do when I pushed him forward was to jig.  When he did give me a nice walk in response to my seat, I clicked and treated.  Eventually he calmed down, but then I was faced with slug horse and another problem.

The pellets as a treat didn’t work very well.  After the fourth or fifth time of giving him the pellets, his mouth was so full of them, he didn’t care to get any more.  I think it was the bit, because I would only give him a few pellets at a time, but because of the bit, it all got gummed up in his mouth. It didn’t help that he was in the mood to either totally ignore me or walk off like a slug. Of course he got no click and treat for that, but after seven, eight, 10  times of trying, you could appreciate that I was getting frustrated.

I changed tactics. If I asked and didn’t get what I wanted, I got after him until I did (not having my whip, I just kicked him a lot).  Then I clicked but didn’t treat, I kept him going but clicked every few strides.  After going a half-time around the ring, I clicked, stopped, and treated.  Then we did it all again.  If I asked nicely for him to go even more forward and he did it, he got a click but we kept going.  If he didn’t go, then I got after him until he did and then he got a click.

To change it up a little, we went to the newly plowed field in front of the barn (different than the “front field” that’s far from the barn).  This is a much smaller field that either the cross-country or front field but still has a nice hill and a good stretch to trot or canter on.  I did the same thing I did in the outside ring.  Ask nicely and either get after him or immediately clicked when I got the response, but no stopping.  We’ll see if he figured anything out tomorrow when I have a lesson.

I need to figure out what to use as a treat.  Sugar cubes are too big.  Sweet feed is too messy.  I don’t know if oats would be motivating enough or if he would choke on them with the bit.  Any thoughts?

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