Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cole - Moving Forward

My biggest problem with Cole, so far, is that he doesn’t want to enter the barn or his stall. He does better with one entrance than the other. I’m not sure if it is fear, reluctance to be put in his stall for the rest of the day or that he wants to explore the barn and visit with the other horses. He isn’t giving me any good clues on the cause, but it is a problem that definitely needs to be solved.

I have been working him a lot on walking forward to pressure on the halter. Just like Cruiser, when I got him 20 years ago, he seems to think it is optional. He is catching on. He will now walk and whoa fairly consistently from both sides. I would like to reinforce this with clicker, but though he is targeting very well, he doesn’t seem to understand that clicker means “good boy” with anything else.

I can’t wait for clicker. I need to work on this now. I figured I needed to do it with good old fashioned negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is removing pressure when the horse responds, and it is how most horses are trained. Last night, after we did our leading, I decided to tackle the barn. I brought him to the entrance, and he put on the brakes. I asked him with a light tug, no response. I increased to a strong pressure and held it. I was not going to let go until he took a step. Timing is essential for him to learn. It seemed like it took forever, but finally, he took a step, I released and of course, he stopped. I asked again, and we had another long wait. I released and got him all the way to the stall where he balked, again. I repeated, got him in the stall and took him right back out again.

We practiced this from both entrances—going into the stall each time. at first, it was a trial, but each time, he got a little better. When I decided to quit, I would only be holding strongly to the lead rope a second or two. When I quit, we did targeting in the stall, to make being in the stall a fun time.

Somehow, I think this whole episode will help me in the long run. It is one thing to teach a horse to move from pressure when he doesn’t mind moving from pressure like our training sessions in the arena. It is another thing to teach a horse to move from pressure when that is not what he wants to do. We did this without fighting and in as clear and consistently as I could do it. I could see him learning the lesson and understanding the command.

He wasn’t the only one learning. My boyfriend was watching the whole thing. He wants to be able to take Cole in and out of his stall on when I’m not there. He got a perfect demonstration on how to use negative reinforcement.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Hmm this is starting to sounds like reluctance. Does he have his head high and maybe the whites showing in his eyes? Anything to indicate fear? Or is he just acting stubborn? I'm curious about the reason as well. It sounds like you're doing the right thing and making progress so I don't know if it really matters, just a curiosity thing. :)

I went back and read my posts on Chrome's blog because I couldn't remember how long it took him to understand the click. It took about four or five sessions of just targeting before I mentioned him understanding the click. I remember now when he realized what it meant. I was working on target with him going to it and then coming to me for the treat. As soon as I clicked his ears came forward and he walked to me. So just keep working with him. Since he's older than Chrome and probably trained the old way it may take longer for him to understand.