Friday, June 29, 2012

The Last Ingredient

The Last Ingredient

Cole Train isn’t afraid of much and is quite a bold horse. He does get worried about horses getting too close to him, but that is fine with me. I don’t want to get close to other horses. The one chink in his armor—getting splashed by other horses in the river.

In the beginning, just hearing splashing behind him caused him to scoot forward. He bolted, once, when horses crossed the water—and they weren’t even close to us. Anyway, I learned to be careful. I didn’t want him slipping on the algae-covered slate as he dashed away from our riding companions. I just had him cross the river last in line. As long as other horses weren’t behind him, he was fine.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to stop avoiding the problem. Of course, I had my clicker handy. My best assistant, Ellen, helped out. To start with, I would go in the water, ask Cole to stand and click him for it. Ellen would then approach on Ranger—not too close. She would watched Cole’s expression and acted accordingly. When Cole gets worried, you can see it on his face. Ellen would judge how close she could get by the way he looked at them. He usually would take a few nervous steps as Ranger went by.

I just kept up with it. When he let Ranger pass without moving, he got clicked. Ellen got a little closer each time. After a few weeks, I started to walk him instead of have him stand. He would be fidgety. When I got to the other side, I would turn him so he could watch. I threw in a lot of clicks when he seemed to be relaxed. I didn’t click when he did anything that I didn’t like. With a clicker, you have to be careful that you don’t inadvertently teach the wrong behavior.

Then, I was ready for the big time. I quit telling Kevin to cross Starry first. He’s not as alert as Ellen when I train Cole—Ellen always knows what to do without me explaining. I was now adding Kevin randomness to the equation. At first, I told him not to cross close to us, and all went well. The last few rides, I have just gone straight into the water with Kevin following on Starry. I am happy to say, my training has worked. I’m not even sure when Cole decided he wasn’t afraid of being splashed anymore—maybe it is when it got so warm and the splashing actually felt good?

I wish I would have done this last year instead of trying to avoid the problem. It really wasn’t that hard to fix at all.

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