Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cruiser in the River

I found this picture of me on Cruiser.  Evidently, it was in the summer--that's why he is wearing his bonnet to keep the deerflies off his head.  This is the first river crossing right by our barn.  Most of the time, it is very low like this.

Cruiser is a Morab, too.  He is a 50/50 cross, unlike Cole who is 75/25.

Trotting Continued

With each ride, he did a little better, and we trotted a little further. I no longer clicked him for upward transitions, at all. He understood and loved them. Trotting was its own reward. Now, I clicked for some of his downward transitions and for the quality of his trot.

A week later, I was able to take him down on the trail, again. Since I had been reinforcing simply walking, he did, most of the time. I continued to click him for it on the trail, and he just kept getting better. When we were heading home, I asked Ellen, who was walking with us, if we should try the trot. She was of the same opinion as me. We decided it was time.

I turned him away from home. Ellen walked ahead of us a short ways. I asked him to trot. He seemed very surprised, but he listened. We were trotting. I asked him to stop by Ellen, and he did. I clicked him.

Now, what I was really worried about was that the excitement of the trotting would make him not want to walk towards home. The last thing I want is a horse that prances and fights walking quietly. I was pleasantly surprised that he willingly walked. I clicked him for it.

We did the whole thing again, and in fun, Ellen made large hand signals when he got up to her. I will have the only horse that is trained to stop by air traffic control signals. He stopped on his own. I clicked and we headed home.

This was his best trail ride, yet. He did spook at some noises a few times, but I could forgive that, easily. He only tried to trot a few times on the way home. We practiced stopping and standing so that Ellen could catch up with us—a very good lesson to practice.

I was smiling about our ride for hours. It seems that things are falling into place. Hurry!

Next weekend is Labor Day weekend—potentially 3 days to trail ride on Cole. I can’t wait. At least one of the days will be with Ellen on Ranger (which we did once before with great success.) It should be fun…

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arena Ride with Cole

It was cooler last night, so I decided to lounge Cole first. I haven’t lounged him in a while, so I was surprised when he did so well in the first direction—better than ever. When I switched him to the other side, it was like he had never lounged before. We had to review it, and he did improve as we went on.

Anyway, it did what I wanted it to do—take the excess energy out of him before I rode him. He had tossed a few bucks in on the lounge line, so I definitely know the energy was there.

The problem I have had, lately, is that all he wants to do is trot. When I am riding him, when I first get on, he keeps trying and trying. I keep correcting and correcting. He tells me he just loves trotting and that’s all he wants to do!

Well, the lounging helped, because when I first got on, he walked willingly. I clicked and treated him to let him know he was doing it right. He did try trotting without permission a few times, but it was much less than he did on the last few rides.

I was able to move into the trotting part of our ride much quicker. He did better. I trotted for longer durations each time, and as I did, I felt him settle down and become more balanced. There were a few moments when I felt very connected with him. He did try to stop on his own a few times, too, but I just urged him on. Basically, he is trialing different behaviors to see what works.

His trot, even when he goes fast, is very smooth. I don’t post it at all.

One time, towards the end of our ride, he decided it was time to quit. He stopped at the doorway that leads to his barn and refused to go. I just squeezed my legs, didn’t let up and tried to shift his weight to the left and right with the reins. Eventually, he took a step and I released all the pressure. He then continued to walk on. I only rode a few minutes after that, but long enough so that he knew he wasn’t allowed to end the ride when he felt like it.

Overall, I would say there was an improvement. He gets the day off, today. I will be riding him Friday-Monday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Training the Trot


Cole is a very complex horse, and although he is doing terrific walking out on the trail—the arena has been tougher. I’m not sure if the clicker is making him try harder or if that’s just the kind of horse that he is, but he simply surprises me, all the time.

In the beginning, I couldn’t get him to walk consistently. The trail work really helped with that. On the trail, we do work a little with turning, but basically, he has figured out he is supposed to just go forward and not try to nibble on the trees.

Those early rides in the arena, once he started to walk for me, were spent teaching him to keep walking and to turn with a leading rein. I had clicker to help me to tell him when he got things right, and it really seemed to help. Soon, were walking all about the arena.

The next element to add was the trot. We haven’t’ been trotting on the trail, since I spend much of my time correcting him when he volunteers the trot. I want him to know that “walk” is the default gait.

At first, when I asked him to trot when I squeezed my legs, he didn’t know what I wanted. After all, it is the same cue as walking. He needed to learn that leg squeezes don’t necessarily mean to walk, but to go faster than he is currently traveling. To encourage him, I tickled him with the whip, and he trotted on. It was a slow and very smooth trot. I was thrilled. We did it 3 times the first day, and I clicked him as a reward. He stopped for his treat and all was good in the world.

The next arena ride was a little different. He remembered the trotting, and decided to volunteer it. I spent a lot of time explaining to him that he had to walk until I told him otherwise. Finally, he settled down. When I asked him to trot, and he exploded forward—as if the starting gait was opened! I immediately halted him. He did this 3 times in a row, and it was starting to get me nervous. I calmed him down (as I calmed down) and then asked one more time. He was slow and proper. I clicked, and we quit for the day.

My next arena ride went a little better. I got about 4 good transitions right off the bat and clicked him for it. Things were looking up.

It was a few more days before I tried it again. (The trail called.) This was the most interesting day. I think that he figured out what I wanted, so he tried to trot right away. I rode a good 10 minutes until I could get him to just walk. This must have made an impression on him. When I asked him to trot, he did—in place. Yes, my horse was doing piaffes. He didn’t do this once, but time after time. I’m so glad my sister and my niece were there to witness it, or no one would have believed me. Although he was on the forehand, he had a lot of action in his hindquarters, and they told me he looked quite elegant.

I clicked him whenever he started to give me forward movement, and slowly, he started to improve. We took a break, I tried it again and he trotted forward. I clicked and quit for the day.

The next day, I was there to try again. I wasn’t going to give up, though I confess, he did make me nervous. This time, I figured out that I could get him to settle down and walk for me if I clicked him for walking. The answer to that problem was literally in the palm of my hand. Cole needed to know that he would get a reward if he walked well. He quieted down much quicker.

This time, when I asked him to trot, he went forward, but fast. I clicked for the upward transitions, but I didn’t want to click him if he was out of control. One time, he really did seem out of control, so instead of clicking to get him to stop, I tried to stop him with the reins. He was very resistant, but when he did stop, I clicked him for it. This ride was better, but still, he scared me enough that I didn’t want to trot really far. The power in his hindquarters is amazing—yet he is still very smooth. We quit the trotting when I needed a break and spent the rest of the session working on walking and turning.

I still wasn’t going to give up. It was never this difficult with any of the other horses I’ve trained. Oh, how I wish I had that old round pen, again…

One more time…

I had a plan. First of all, I would click for a quiet walk in the beginning as before. It worked. Once we warmed up, I asked him to trot, but rather than clicking for an upward transition, I asked him to come back down to a walk and clicked him for that. Each time, I trotted a little further, and each time, he became more relaxed. Suddenly, he was listening to me ask him to turn at a trot instead of barging forward in a straight line. I was less nervous, and he was doing so much better.

I decided that I would trot him a full circle. It was wonderful! He gave me a very powerful trot, but listened to my requests. We made it all the way around. I asked him to walk, clicked, reached into my treat pouch—only to find it empty. All the carrot pieces bounced out as we went around the circle. I rubbed his neck (which he loves) and told him how wonderful he was. We were done trotting for the day, but we did some easy walk exercises and went for a stroll on the driveway as a special reward.

I believe we reached a turning point with out ring work.

Training Humans


by Thunder the Wonder Cat

Hi, this is Thunder. I have asked Judi to type an article for me.

I have been working on training Judi for over 3 years, now. Lately, I have a new trick that I have been working on with her. The bathroom window is too high for me to jump up to, but I am trying to get her to lift me up on command.

At first, I would lead her in the bathroom, and encourage her to lift me. She would trial new behaviors, like opening the shower doors, petting me or holding me. One day, she accidently put me in the window. Hurray! She trialed the right behavior! I gave her a lot of positive reinforcement by purring and rubbing my face on her chin. When training humans, positive reinforcement is very important.

I then jumped down and ran out. She followed me. Now, it was time to try again. I led her back in and tried the whole routine, again. This time, it didn’t take as long for her to figure out what I wanted. Once again, I gave her positive reinforcement.

Now, I needed to practice the new trick. We would do it 4-5 times in a row. She started to get good, so I put it on a cue. All I need to do, now, is walk up to the window, look up, and she lifts me up. It didn’t take that long. Humans learn very quickly with positive reinforcement.

In the mornings, before she leaves to go to work, she now will put me in the window, even if I don’t ask. That way, I can do my morning window hunting from this window, and later move to the dining room window to hunt.

I also use negative reinforcement to train her. Negative reinforcement means taking away a pressure as a reinforcer. It is often used with horses. The best pressure I have is my voice. I will meow and meow until she comes running. When she does, I stop crying to reinforce her behavior. As a bonus to shape her behavior, I then add some purring and cuddling to reward her (more positive reinforcement) and encourage her to come whenever I call her.

I do use punishment to train her, too, but very seldom. Too much punishment would just make her not want to spend time in training.

There are 2 types of punishment. Positive punishment is adding something uncomfortable to stop her from doing something. When she rubs me by my tail, I will meow at her, and then she will stop. If she tries to rub my belly, and I’m not in the mood, I will grab her hand and bite it. Negative punishment is when you remove something good as punishment. The only time I use this is when she tries to groom me. I remove myself—the greatest punishment, possible.

As you see, using basic learning theory, a cat can train a human to do tricks and be more useful. By using as much positive reinforcement as possible, the human enjoys it, looks forward to training and may even think the whole thing is a game.

Keep this in mind, all you cats out there, when you want to train your human.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ringwork with Cole

Had a good ride on Cole last night. We are working in the arena. He is doing so well on the trail, but the ring work has been a struggle. I think he finally understands trotting. We have gone from exploding forward to trotting in place. Last night, we were able to do walk/trot transitions on a circle. Even more important, when we were walking, he wasn’t constantly trying to trot. I believe we have reached the elusive turning point in our training. If I hadn’t spent so much time riding on trail, we would have been here, already, but I can’t resist the trail.

I will be working on a more complete blog on the subject, soon.

I rode Cruiser down trail, and we had a nice ride. The weather has cooled off, and the bugs have eased up. He was very enthusiastic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trail Riding

I had a couple of really good trail rides with Cole this weekend. The first was over an hour onto a trail he had never seen. He walked along, enjoying the scenery. The next day, he went with my sister’s horse, Ranger. He seemed to like the company. Ranger is his buddy. Cole led the whole way.

Tonight will be another arena ride.

I have been riding Cruiser, too, of course. He is doing well. Tonight, before I ride Cole, I am taking Cruiser out with my niece on Ranger. This will be her last ride. She is leaving for Cornell University this week.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cole pics

This is Cole out playing.
Here I am on our 3rd trail ride.  I have only been riding him for 2 weeks, he is already pretty good out there, and he doesn't get scared of much. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Rides

I haven’t blogged for a while—just not in the mood, I guess. Losing Pollie, combined with boyfriend problems (we worked things out, again) and being busy at work have taken my energy away.

There is good news. Things are going pretty good with Cole. I rode him twice in the arena last week and he got trimmed. Saturday and Sunday were trail rides with my sister along on foot. I know everyone (including me) recommends going with another horse, but I will take my sister on foot over on horseback, any day. Saturday was only our second trail ride. This was the day he decided to test me. He wanted to crowd my sister, turn to the side of the trail to try to grab branches (didn’t succeed) trot and stall out. I think he was trying to figure out what he was allowed to do and what he was supposed to do. Eventually, he gave a little buck. I shouted at him, which scared him, and he was pretty good after that.

Sunday, he gave me a few problems leading to the trail and he stalled out in the middle of the river. Once we made it across the river, but was pretty good. He still tried to trot a few times and stalled just a couple, but he gave up on trying to get branches and crowding my sister. We walked all the way to the next river crossing and then turned and headed home. Halfway home, we met my boyfriend on Starry. He rode back with us. This was the first time I have ridden with another horse. At first Cole was uneasy, but I let Star pass us, and then we rode past Starry and led all the way back. He was fine after he got that good look at Starry.

My sister and I have a 4-day weekend this week, and if the river cooperates, I plan to ride him down trail each day. One of them will definitely be riding with my sister on her horse.

Overall, I am pleased. I feel he can only get better, and I can’t wait for next year when I can ride with abandon!

I haven’t’ been able to ride Cruiser as much as I like. He had an outbreak of hives, and got some in the saddle area that burst open. I had to wait for them to heal. I though all was well, but last weekend, my riding irritated the bare patch on his back. I had to give him more time off for it to heal. Well, this weekend, I cleaned off my western saddle, which I don’t think I have used in 10 years, and tried that. Success!!! It didn’t bother the bare patch at all. I am back in the saddle with Cruiser—and riding Cole. This is the first time I have had 2 horses to ride since last fall.

It’s wonderful…

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cole doing well

Saturday, when I took Cole on his walk in the park, he was in uniform. Yes, he was tacked up. When the time seemed right, I climbed aboard and rode for about a half hour. He did very well. It was our 6th ride.

Last night, I rode him in the arena, again, and he did much better. Since he had that time in the park, he figured out the one thing I was having trouble with--walking on command. Now he understands it very well.

I got brave and asked him to trot a few times. All I can say it--he has marshmallow suspension. I have another black horse, at least in the arena where he's not going fast, that is nearly impossible to post. I figured he'd be smooth, but I was surprised how smooth. That might change on trail. Cruiser is easy to post in the arena, but has much more action in the park, and I need to post.

I have been having boyfriend troubles--things I can't share, here--and I don't know how this is going to work out. I may lose him after 14 years--through no fault of my own. He thinks I have cheated on him. (Of course, I didn't.) Well, if I did, I sure hope he was young and handsome!

I sure do miss Pollie. The house is just so quiet without her. My dad is really suffering. She was his best buddy. She was such a wonderful dog.