Monday, March 1, 2010

Trail Training Newsletter #110 - part 2 - Ranger and the Farrier

Ranger and the Farrier
Mingo isn’t the only horse who has had farrier issues, lately. Actually, Ranger has been having some troubles with his hind legs for quite some time. He had trouble balancing on one foot while the farrier held up the other foot. Our farrier had to keep his foot very low and give him breaks. Ranger would pull his foot away often. We attributed it to arthritis. Early on, giving him bute helped. Ellen also did spent a lot of time stretching his legs when she cleaned his feet.

Last year, we couldn’t put back shoes on Ranger, and he is a horse who really needs them if Ellen wants to do a lot of riding. He twists his foot when he trots and wears his foot too far down on one side. He used to grind his shoes paper thin in 8 weeks. Ellen had to adjust his riding on the account that he couldn’t be shod.

Well, she saw the success I had with Mingo in lifting his feet, in spite of it being painful, when I used clicker. She decided to see what she could do with Ranger.

She had done target training initially, so he understood the concept of clicker. She then started to click when he lifted his feet up. He decided he really liked this game, and he got very good at lifting his feet.

The next step was to click when she was holding his foot. To do this correctly, she needed help. Due to her work schedule, that means she could only do the “lift and hold” on Saturdays when I was there to give him a treat, and she wouldn’t have to put his foot down to treat him. This meant that we only worked on this 8 Saturdays.

After a couple lessons, she noticed Ranger relaxing his leg. She then decided to only click when he relaxed. This worked awesome! He would relax, she would click, I would treat, she would pull his leg out further and wait for him to relax before she would click again. It was amazing how far and high she could get his leg—and how relaxed he would get.

Then came the real test—farrier night. We didn’t tell our farrier any of our plans, so he was clueless. He got there before Ellen did, and trimmed Ranger. When Ellen arrived, she asked him how Ranger did. He replied, “Really good. As good as he used to be before he started having problems.”

Success! Success in a big way! Ellen’s next step is to get him to lift his foot up even higher. Will he get so good that our farrier will be able to shoe him? That remains to be seen. He is still arthritic. Still, if he can be trimmed with ease and less discomfort for all, it is worth the training. Remember, the real work was only done on 8 Saturdays.

I know I have been preaching a lot about clicker, but we have been having so much success with it in solving practical problems. I always thought it was about teaching horses tricks, but now I know it is about helping horses understand what we want and to help them get along in life with less stress and even some fun. After all, I have never seen a more enthusiastic horse about hoof cleaning than Ranger.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

I agree about clicker. It has so many applications. That's why I want to get Chrome started on it. I want to be able to communicate with him that way. I'm glad Ranger is doing so well. Nice job.