Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Invisible Stall Guard
Invisible Stall Guard
With more time on my hands since MerryLegs left, no horse in our little herd is safe. I decided to teach Dante “Invisible Stall Guard.” It is something I taught Cole a long time ago, and it is so handy. I can leave his stall door open with no stall guard up, and he will stand at the door and wait for me. I don’t push my luck and leave him attended for very long. Still, if I need to dash over to the tack room because I forgot something, I can do it with such ease…
I’m not a fan of crossties, so years ago, when we moved our horses to a barn with only 1 set of lousy crossties, we got into the habit of tacking up in the stall. We never got out of it. We have good cross ties at this place, but still tack up in the stalls. So having a horse that knows “Invisible Stall Guard” is so handy.
It was very easy to teach Cole. I just gave him treats for standing by his door quietly. I gradually increased the time. I don’t have to click him each time we do it—I just tell him he is good. Every now and then, we have a reinforcement session. Cole has only sneaked out of his stall once, and I just gently turned him around and guided him back to his stall without even a rope or halter.
Dante has had a few of sessions, and is proving to be way more tempted to wander out than Cole. I made the rule that he has to stay on his stall mat. When he stands for 10-15 seconds, I click and treat. When he steps out, and I push him back in place. Now, here is the tricky part—I don’t want him to chain incorrect behaviors. Simply, I don’t want to teach him that if he steps out, gets pushed him back and then he stands for 10-15 seconds that he will get a click. Yes, horses can do this. Once I put him back into his stall, I have to wait a lot longer before I click him for staying in his stall. That is harder, so then he wants to step out again before he gets clicked for staying in—and we are back to the beginning.
When I clean his stall and he is in it, I trained him to stand back away from the door, so I can get to the wheel barrow. He does this very well. I did add a good chain to the behavior. Sometimes his neck or big head is still in the way, so I taught him to stand quietly, and when I approach with the pitch fork, he will swing his head away from me in the opposite direction to make room for me to reach the wheel barrow. I click him every 3-4 forkfuls. This is a good chain.
My last session with Dante is demonstrating to me that he is starting to figure out what I want. After we did a lot of gentle pushing back into the stall, he started to stand with his feet on the matte—and when I looked at him, he swung his head out of the way like he does when I clean his stall. Then he looks at me as if he is saying, “I did it. Do I get a treat, now?’’ Of course, as long as he keeps his feet on the mat, he gets clicked and treated. He made another good chain of behaviors—even though that isn’t exactly what I intended, it is good enough for me.
I think it will only take a few more training sessions and he will understand. It will still take a lot of reinforcement until he is reliable like Cole—and I will have to increase the duration, too, but he is on his way.