Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday season.

I am unbelievably busy at the moment so poor Fox is being a bit neglected. I haven't started anything new training wise but I have been going over the stuff we've already done for a few minutes each day. Fox is keen as ever for treats but I think I'm going to have to come up with a new delivery method as he seems to have a bit of trouble differentiating from treats and fingers. Putting the food in a bucket works for some things but not others so we'll see.

It's going to be a strange Christmas this year. My dad is unwell so won't be able to make it which is very sad. We're all just hoping he will be right by his wedding on the 28th!! Family are all scattered no one can be in the same place at the same time but I'm hoping we'll manage to see everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Second Session

After Fox did so well during the first session, I decided to work on grooming at liberty. I got him to target my hand a few times which he remembered then his nice green brush. He cottoned on pretty quick. I raised the brush up to his neck, he stood so I reinforced. As I moved down his body giving him a nice groom his head kept peering round trying to find more treats LOL. He only got the reinforcement when he was standing calmly facing forwards though. We had great success. I was able to groom him all over on both sides at liberty with no sign of Fox wanting to move away. Best of all we got all kinds of lip smacking, chewing and yawning for which he got lots of reinforcement.

Since I have problems picking up Fox's feet, I thought I would have a crack at training him to get better at this. I gently ran my hand down his leg and asked him to lift his front leg. I got a shift in weight, so I reinforced. I asked again, the leg came up so I reinforced. I put the leg down and asked a couple more times before Fox was very willingly lifting his foot up. It was great. The best part was once when I had let go he kept holding his leg up by himself looking for treats. Much hilarity ensued, cheeky monkey. I tried the other leg and Fox straight away lifted his leg up and started contorting himself into odd shapes to get the treat. At one point his head was upside down right down between his front hooves. Is there such a thing as being too motivated?

I'm feeling really positive about this. I've only done two sessions and already we've made so much progress. This way of training is also heaps of fun. There is no frustration or anger just lots of smiling and laughing. Next session I think we'll try targeting a moving thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Last night I had a quick go at using some clicker training. I got Fox targeting his food bucket with no trouble LOL. So he touched the bucket, I clicked and dropped treats into it. We did it side to side, high, low, all over the place. I guess because that is something that Fox associates with good things already it was easy for him to make the connection. I tried a bit of getting him to target my hand, I probably should have gone to the car and got something else but never mind. It took a bit longer to associate touching the hand with getting treats. When he touched my hand, I clicked and dropped food in his bucket. Before he got his feed I also made him target my hand.

Our handwalk yesterday was not particularly pleasant. Fox kept wanting to eat. He would take a couple of steps then try and eat, a couple of steps and try and eat. It got very frustrating so tonight we're walking on the road! He was a lot calmer though so maybe this weekend I might brave a ride.

Another thing I have noticed is that Fox isn't particularly keen on being with me while I'm grooming or even massaging. He tries to pull back, stamps his feet and generally looks a bit pissed. Before, I passed it off as impatience but after reading all that stuff yesterday, it took on a new meaning. I think I will try some work at liberty using the clicker training and getting him wanting to be with me.

I'm really missing the long hacks we used to go on at the moment. Not the schooling or the jumping, just the nice relaxed walks we used to go on. Those times are the times of the most peace and happiness. When the joy seems to radiate from your soul. I know, that's a bit sappy but it's the best way I can think to describe it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interesting times

First of all, I think I've found a new resource. After doing my Psychology paper learning about conditioning and learning and my Canine Behaviour paper with an assignment on positive reinforcement, I have been wondering how this would fit with training a horse. This site has all the answers and links to many more.

Thanks to Kim at Enlightened Horsemanship for the link!

The stories Cheryl has about her horse DaVinci, whilst more extreme than Fox, follow along a very similar path. The fear, the hyperreaction to pressure, the dislike of certain places being touched and certain actions. This also would explain why our float loading was successful. Ok, I wasn't using clicker training as such but I was using asking, letting Fox make his own decision and positive reinforcement.

Previously I've been put off the thought of clicker training by the clicker itself. I am not that coordinated at the best of times so adding a clicker into the mix of interactions was bound to be a disaster. However, Cheryl mentions she uses mouth clicking. That I can do!

So I think I will experiment with the Something Wonderful concept tonight, see if Fox gets it.

Fox has been moved back to where his old buddy is. The reaction to seeing Al for the first time was priceless and totally validated my decision to move back. His ears pricked, his eyes focused and he let out a soft whicker. They had a wonderful time saying hi to each other after their long separation.

On Monday, the evening was fine for a change so I decided I would have a quick bareback ride. I gave Fox a quick groom and massage, put his bitless bridle on and prepared to mount. He was very impatient and wouldn't stand still, I eventually managed to get my leg over and settle in. He seemed very eager to go but when we were going past Al's paddock he got 'stuck'. He seemed nervous of something ahead but it may have been him acting slightly herdbound. I urged him on a bit and he walked a few more steps before spinning, bucking and running back towards his paddock. And I stayed on. Self preservation can make the body do wonders.

I thought I would have another go. This time I just let him work through his fear of the spot and he walked off on his own accord. But a bit further down, he took exception to something else and we had a repeat performance. This time I didn't stick. I think I am a good lander, so no injuries. Gave my head a bit of a whack which means a new helmet is on the list of horse related things I need.

No I didn't get back on. We went for a nice handwalk instead LOL. Fox remained 10 foot tall but he remained calm and there were no antics.

Last night, winter had returned so I only went to feed. Fox was in a mood, maybe the cold air and rain had refreshed him. He was running and kicking and bucking like a lunatic. He seemed to be having a great time. It was fun to watch until I went to feed him and some of those kicked seemed to be aimed more than coincidentally in my direction. Not close by any means but definitely some direction. Not sure what that was about so I made him back right off. Once he was calmish he got his food.

So I have a horse who is full of beans that I am reluctant to ride with a saddle and now ride at all. Lunging is not a good idea for his pelvis or leg so it will be handwalking. Lots of it until we get some sanity back. I mean it's nice to know he's feeling good again after so long being depressed but sanity is better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bad Me

Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been flat out trying to keep up with everything.

Fox and I have continued to have short gentle bareback rides. We will have the saddle fitter out next week to make sure everything is ok before I start riding with the saddle again. My seat is improving again thank goodness. I was a worried for a bit.

Fox's chest is healing really well, there is going to be a mother of a scar though. Lucky he's not a show horse LOL.

Fox's tendons are up and down still but still on the way down. He can't wear his boots at the moment because they have given him a bit of chafe after getting wet in the rain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Final Results

Got my final results back today. I'm so happy, two A-'s, four B's and a C+!!
Which means I have achieved the B average I need. Have to keep it up for two more years though!

Fox has settled in well. Already he's eating his hard feed again with his normal gusto and generally looking chilled and happy. The swelling has been up and down but still on a downward trend which is good. He looked a bit stiff through his pelvis yesterday so I gave him a good massage that seems to have helped.

Looking forward to doing some more riding but the weather gods have not been kind. Where oh where has Summer got to?

On a completely unrelated note, I am shaving my head tomorrow for the Child Cancer Foundation so if anyone is keen to donate let me know.