Monday, May 17, 2010
Clicker Training - Getting More Organized - Also Beet Pulp Question
I think I'm finally through my slump. I got a bit depressed and sleep deprived after learning about the death of my uncle (as well as losing my goat), but I think I'm finally pulling out of it. I've just been getting through work each day, doing chores and crawling onto the couch to zone out in front of the t.v. until the wee hours of the morning, but last night I finally slept really well, had a good day at work and came home feeling happy and motivated, so I did some clicker training with Chrome.
Last night I was reading Alexandra Kurland's book to review what I've worked on with Chrome so far and to make sure I haven't missed anything. The first thing that became obvious to me is that I'm falling into my usual habits of barely touching on things before getting bored and moving on without getting anything under stimulus control. Since she states several times that the three foundation lessons (target, head lowering and backing) are very important I decided to work on those until I get them really solid. I also realized on the 'grownups are talking' game (I skipped ahead hehe) that his head and neck are supposed to be straight not necessarily turned away, so I decided to work on that too.
Even though I had a long list of things I wanted to work on I chose two. Backing and grownups. I also decided to work with him in the halter because he's been evasive about it. I decided to use my previous pony's old green halter because the red halter that came with Chrome is getting too small, even on it's loosest setting (cool!). Imagine my surprise when I discovered he's scared of the green halter!!!! I guess he's only ever worn red so the green one kind of worried him. I did a few click/treats with him putting his nose in the halter, then I slipped it on. He still wasn't too thrilled, but he'll get better about it. I probably should have changed my game plan and focused on haltering, but it was extremely difficult to juggle the halter, lead, clicker and bucket. Sigh. I'm going to have to get him eating carrots. He drops so much of his feed (even though it doesn't go to waste thanks to my chickens lol) and it's a pain to manipulate the bucket during training.
So after he was haltered I started working on backing. My two goals for backing today were adding a consistent vocal cue "back" and to get more than one step, because he's started giving me lazy, tiny, single steps. I forgot to up the criteria lol. Chrome did really well! Within seconds I had him backing two steps for each click. I can't wait to add more, but I'm not going to get too eager lol. I also gave a clear vocal cue just before giving my hand cue (pointing at his chest), so I hope he catches on to it.
After that I worked on the grownups game. Having the halter on him made this sooooo much easier because I could stop him from walking off. He likes to walk circles around me when he gets impatient. Within minutes he was keeping his head and neck straight. A bonus is that he was lowering it too! Yay Chrome! Hopefully when we start working on head lowering soon it'll go smoothly. :)
Just for something different I took his lead off and did the following game for a bit. He's sticking to my side a lot better and also starts walking with me instead of catching up. He's nowhere near consistent but I don't mind. After making a loop of the paddock I did a couple of halts and he did so well I gave him a jackpot and let him finish his supper. I'm very pleased with how well he did today. I think he's starting to gain a little patience and emotional control. I can only hope anyway. :)
On a side note I'm thinking of adding beet pulp to his diet because we're having difficulties finding sources of hay (they won't start cutting til June) and he needs more higher quality roughage. I'm worried about knocking the calcium/phosphorus ratio off, but what I've been reading says that diets made of grass hay and concentrates are usually high in phosphorus anyway so the beet pulp helps balance it out. Beet pulp is also low on the glycemic index and helps slow down the passage of concentrate through the horse's digestive system. If anyone has any experience with beet pulp I'd appreciate hearing from you. :)