Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bits of Trouble with Cole

Bits of Trouble with Cole

As I do more and more with Cole, I am finding more and more challenges. He isn’t as good in the evenings as he is in the morning. One of the reasons, I think, is that the bugs are worse. Another reason—no Ellen—either on foot or horseback. Riding through bugs and going alone are two things he needs to learn.

The bugs are making him flip his head around, and when they get really bad, he tries to spin to run home. That is, unless we are already going home. Then he tries to trot away from them. If you think about it, this is a normal response to insects—run for shelter!

I am just persistent in keeping him going the direction I want him to go and at the speed that I ask him. We will probably work this out by the time the cold weather arrives. Of course, I use bug spray, and he wears a bonnet to protect him from the deer flies.

Lately, he has shown reluctance to go down the first river bank and then to cross the river. The other night, I decided to tackle the problem with the clicker.

I asked him to go down the river bank, and he halted. I used my legs to get him going. At his first reluctant step, I clicked him. He stopped for his treat, and then we did it again. I think it took 5 clicks to get to the bottom.

Now, as far as crossing the river, the problem started one day when he put his head down at the edge of the water to give it a sniff, and he found a leaf laying there. He tried to grab the leaf, I wouldn’t let him, and then he didn’t want to cross. He just wanted to look for something to munch on. At least I think that’s what is going on. He doesn’t act frightened. He just wants to play with his nose by the water.

He walked to the water, put his nose in and started playing. I used my legs to ask him to go. He thought sideways would be the best direction, but I kept him pointed forward and squeezed harder. When he took a forward step instead of a sideways step, I clicked and treated.

I asked for another forward, and I got more sideways. (Why did I teach him to sidepass?) Finally, I got another forward and clicked him. This is how it went for the first five steps forward. At the halfway point, he walked normal, and I clicked him for that, too. I think that not having Ellen on the other side made him more reluctant to cross.

I took him on a short ride. When we got back to the river, I crossed back towards home. I decided to try to recross it. Now, my gut said that Cole would possibly be worse. I know that when I am bringing Cruiser home, if I turn around to cross back over, which I will do if I find someone struggling to cross their horse, he is very, very reluctant. He just wants to go home. He will do it, but he doesn’t set the best example. I could have more of a fight the second time than the first time.

Still, I have read that it is important to reinforce heavily when clicker training. I decided to try it, again.

This time, when I turned him to the river bank, he readily walked down! Wow, was I surprised. After a few steps, I clicked and treated, and did it several times before he reached the bottom. At the water’s edge, he did stop, but when I asked him to go forward, he gave me much less trouble. I would say it took less than half the time to get him completely in the water. I reinforced him the whole way across, and when he got to the other side, I gave him a jackpot—all the carrot pieces I had left. We then turned around and crossed back towards home.

When I got to the other side, I dismounted as a reward—I didn’t have anymore carrots, and wanted to do something nice. I then led him up the hill and back home.

It had to have been the clicking to cross the first time that made him so much better the second time. I will continue the clicking—fading it off as he gets better—and I expect he will.


achieve1dream said...

That's awesome! I love clicker training. It's so nice to be able to communicate in a way that they understand. :) Cole is so smart!

achieve1dream said...

I'm getting so behind on reading blogs again lol. I thought I was going to stay caught up this time. Oh well. I'm probably not going to get more chickens right now. When I get the chicken house rebuilt so I don't have to keep them in pens I might get enough to have some eggs again, but I don't think I want to get into breeding them again. Of course my husband may have other plans lol.