Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Preparing Cole for More Riding

Preparing Cole for More Riding

I’m not sure what Cole’s opinion of my retirement would be if he knew what was going to happen.  It will mean more work for him.  With more work comes more hoof wear, too.  The last few years, we have been getting away with front shoes, only, but barely.  I wore his back feet down way too far, and there is no way that they can take any more riding than he has been getting.  It is time for Cole to get back shoes.

This means preparing him for the big event.  He isn’t bad for trims, but he isn’t happy about the phase when the farrier pulls his hindlegs up and forward.  He is tense and wants to pull away.  It isn’t such a big deal with trimming, but shoeing is more involved and takes more time.  I like Cole and my farrier too much to make shoeing a difficult time for either of them, so I decided to work with Cole on this problem.

Of course, I’m using clicker training for this.  I have found clicker training to be wonderful for any kind of hoof work.

I have 8 weeks.

I started with lifting his back hoof up forward and high, and clicking when I felt any sort of relaxation in Cole’s leg.  I would then put it down and give him a treat, of course.  I was doing each foot about 10 times each session.

After he was getting reliable with that, I started to pull his leg towards the side and set it on mine.  Once again, when I felt relaxation, I clicked, released and treated.  I did this so many times, that by now, when I walk to Cole’s hindquarters and face forward, Cole lifts his foot up for me.

I am only doing this with Cole loose in his stall, and in the first few weeks, he voiced his displeasure with the activity by moving to a different part of the stall after a few pickups.  I just patiently followed him and continued the training.  He no longer does that, so I think that is a good sign.

The next step was adding duration, and I started it on a day that he was eating hay.  I thought that might make him more cooperative, and it did.  I would set his foot on my thigh and do the “good boy” chant.  (Cole is conditioned to know when I do the chant that he will get a treat at the end of it.)  I began with 20 seconds and have been increasing it over time.  Even though he was eating hay, I was still clicking and giving him carrots.

The first time I did it without hay, we did have one silly session.  When Cole wants to ask for a treat, he will park out and bow.  Well, I had his foot up and was rubbing his withers and doing the chant and he decided he would park out.  When he does, he will arch his neck and point his nose down, first.  Cole arched his neck, pointed down and then he tried to pick up his front foot to move it forward and realized that he couldn’t because he was on three legs.  He glanced back at me with a quizzical face that made me laugh.

To kill time, because just standing there with a hoof on my leg is rather tedious, I started to gently rub his hoof and foot.  I was surprised when he didn’t like that and tried to pull his hoof away.  After a few times, he didn’t mind, anymore.  I have added tapping and scraping his hoof with the hoof pick, and he took that in stride.

It is hard to hold this position for long, so I guess I am working on duration for myself, too.  I don’t know how farriers do this all day.  It’s making me appreciate my farrier more than ever!

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

I can't do that... :( Between my back and now my neck I can barely hold them long enough to clean them and do Chrome four stretches. I only do each stretch one time when I really should be doing them several times. I also don't always do it every day although I should. I just can't, physically... I have no idea how farriers do it.

I'm glad it's going so well with Cole. He's such a good boy. Clicker training is great for hoof stuff. I'm so glad I was able to use it to teach Chrome all about hooves before I got old and injured haha. The trick I taught him where I tap his fetlock with my toe and he cocks his hind leg has been so helpful. I don't reach down and grab his back legs because if his stifle catches he could accidentally hurt me. I keep my face away from his back hooves. If I ask him to cock his leg before I ever reach down it makes it safe because his stifle is disengaged. I'm so, so, so glad I taught him that!!