Monday, October 17, 2016

Slow and Steady

Slow and Steady

Dante likes to trot slow and steady.  He can go trot like that all day.  Cole goes quite a bit faster and he can trot like that all day--but you can see that it can cause a problem if Ellen and I ride together.  I spend a lot of time waiting for her.

Bella trots a little bit slower than Cole would if he is in the lead, and I have spent the summer encouraging Cole to match her speed and give her plenty of space.  Since Bella likes to throw in an occasional dance step if she sees a stick that looks funny, it is always best to give her room.  Cole seems to have mastered the lesson.

When I am riding just with Ellen, Dante will trot fast enough on the way home that Cole can physically match his speed without having to come to a walk, but it is hard for him.He tends to get a little too fast and trot up behind Dante much too close.  It then have to slow him down so Dante can have space.  In a minute or so, Cole will be too close, again.

I decided that Cole can learn to match Dante’s speed just like he learned to match Bella’s speed, and keep enough distance between them.  It won’t work when we go away from home--Dante is much too slow, but when Dante is a little zippier on the way home, there is simply no reason that Cole can’t learn.

The other day, we were a long way from home and wanted to trot.  It really is much nicer to stay close to Ellen so we could talk.  She took the lead.  Cole, as usual, rushed up and was too close.  I slowed him up and talked to him with the reins to correct him when he accelerated.  I managed to get about 20 seconds of perfection, so I clicked him.

I told Ellen to keep going.  I quickly gave Cole a treat and we then trotted fast to catch up.  I didn’t think of it at the time, but catching up was a good technique because I then had to ask him to slow down and match his speed.  When he did, he got another click.

I did this a few times with success, and then switched my tactic because he was getting good.  Instead of clicking him, I went into the “Good boy” chant.  I have taught Cole, over the years, that if I do the chant, he will most likely get a click at the end of the chant.  It is a “keep going” signal for him.  This isn’t something he automatically knew, but something I trained him to know.

Now, we were successfully trotting at Dante’s speed with a comfortable distance between them for longer distances--all in one ride!  Why didn’t I take the time to teach him this long ago?

The next day, Ellen and I were out again.  On the way home, she took the lead.  Cole knew what I wanted right away.  I did click him a couple times to reinforce the behaviour, and after that, I used the chant.  I was so proud of him.  We will continue to practice in the rides to come, and I am sure it will soon be an automatic behavior--just like it is when we ride with Bella.

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