Thursday, February 17, 2011

Productive rides

Hear that sound? It is the sound of snow melting. We still have a lot—over a foot in most places at my house, but it is going fast. It is supposed to get to 60 degrees today, so I am hoping that most will be gone by this evening when I walk the dog. It is very difficult walking in the icy and deep snow.

The rides were very successful last night. The temperature helped a lot. Cruiser was settled and didn’t spook a single time. We did a fair amount of trotting and went a total of 40 minutes.

Cole’s ride was good, too. We started by working on the easy end of the arena with circles and transitions. He was giving me his big trot and feeling good. It was very quiet out at the stables—just me and my boyfriend. I ventured over to the scary end and started walking laps.

As usual, when we got to that side, his head flew up and he was looking all around. This has been our problem over there whether we are walking or trotting. He is way above the bit with his nose in the air, and I basically have little control of him when he does this. It gets me very nervous, which only makes it worse.

I decided I needed to change his routine. I needed a cue for him to lower his head when I am in the saddle. We do it all the time on the ground. I decided a gentle vibration of the inside rein would be a good cue. I did it, and in no time, he dropped his head. I clicked him for it. We repeated it a couple times on that lap.

I was going to do it for the next lap, but he surprised me—and kept his head down from the start! He didn’t learn the cue, but he learned I was happier with him when he carried his head in the normal manner. (He may be more comfortable this way, too.) I clicked him for it several time. We did a few more laps at the walk—reinforcing all the way.

When I decided to trot through that end of the arena, my work was paid off—big time. He trotted with his head in a normal position—and was paying attention to me. I wanted to just keep going, but I knew I had to reward him, so I clicked and treated. We did this a few more times with wonderful success each time. I think I could have gone on all night, but I looked at the clock and realized I hit the 55 minute mark. It was time to quit, but at least we were able to quite on a very good note.

I thought about what we did on the way home from the barn. With clicker training—and any training for that matter, we have to break things up into little pieces. To get him to trot in a relaxed manner, I had to get him to walk in a relaxed manner—and the first step was to lower his head into a normal position.

I should have thought of doing this from the beginning. It is how I encouraged him to trot nicely on the safe end of the arena—I just needed him to expand that behavior to the far end. I will keep working on it, and it should go well—except they are predicting strong winds for the weekend…

We started another clicker project yesterday. When I ask him to walk forward, he goes into a circle instead of straight. He has been doing it for the last few weeks. I decided that this was definitely something we needed to change. He was very confused at first. I asked him to walk and kept pressure on his outside rein. When he finally took a hesitant step forward—even though it wasn’t very straight, I clicked him. A couple more times and he started to go straighter and moved off more willingly. Of course, the straighter he went, the less resistance from the outside rein. (I wasn’t pulling—just prohibiting him when he turned his head.) Finally, he was starting off nearly straight! Later in the ride, when I wasn’t even thinking of this lesson, I found him starting out straighter.

I believe this is another case of the end result being something that is more comfortable for him in the first place. Maybe he was going into a circle because he thought that is what I wanted? Maybe I was actually telling him to do it by accident and he got into the habit?

I will continue working on this, too.


achieve1dream said...

Very cool! That does sound like a very productive ride. I have trouble breaking things down, but I'm working on it. :)

I'm glad Cruiser is doing well too. It sounds like he's slowly getting back into shape. Is he limping at all?

Judi said...

No, Cruise isn't limping. My sioster videoed us this weekend, so I am sure of it, now. I now think that his bowed tendom got irritated because I pulled his shoes--and then he got a huge chip on his heel of that foot--compromising his support even more. Live and learn...