Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cole is a Genius

Cole is a Genius

It’s been so cold, that there are days I don’t ride. I lead Cruiser to stay warm and then I turn out Cole in the indoor arena to play. Cole likes to roll and run around. I encourage the running by flicking a whip with a plastic bag on the end of it. He isn’t afraid of the whip—he will walk right up and sniff the bag—he runs because he feels like running.

After doing a lot of playing, we played ball, silly walk and bowing. I was ready to bring him in, when an idea popped into my head. I would try to teach him to free lounge. I have tried in the past, but he has just run around like a nut. Since he already did his running, I thought I would have a better chance.

Free lounging is an easy thing if you have a round pen. It is pretty easy if you are in a square arena. In our case, we are in a rectangular arena with a little “L” shaped area that leads to the entrance of our barn. The horses tend to get stuck there, and you have to go and get them out. Even Starry, free lounger extraordinaire, will get stuck by our barn entrance.

Cole is a clicker horse, and that makes teaching him new things easier because you can tell him when he gets it right. I started by asking him to move forward when he was just past our barn entrance—that way he would have some space to move before he could run to the door.

I asked him to trot, he went about a quarter lap and I clicked him. He stopped and waited for a treat. I was thrilled. He got it on the first try! I asked again—this time, I went a little further before the click. Each time, we went longer. He either did a fast trot or a slow canter—and he was perfect the whole time. He traveled a large, round circle in the rectangular arena. Since I was clicking him, he was very happy to comply.

This is an example of why I love clicker training. With Cole, once he gets it right and gets a click, he learns very quickly. When he catches on right away, the whole training session seems like magic.

I will try it again on the cold days we have ahead. I don’t know how well he will do if he isn’t tired to begin with, so I will give him a chance to play, first. Since he is such a poor lounger with a line, this will give me another option.

1 comment:

aurora said...

Great to have an option that your horse enjoys! I think clicker training is interesting.