Friday, March 18, 2011

Clicker & Trailer Work

I started out working on the trailer. Chrome walked right on, but left his left rear leg on the ramp. My husband tried tapping the hoof to have him put it on the trailer, but it startled Chrome so I let him leave it off. That did make me realize though that I'm going to have to work on touching him all over while he's standing on the trailer. Just another step in our desensitizing.

We spent some time tapping on the inside and outside of the trailer. I opened and closed the front door. Last I had my husband gently swinging the rear top doors (ramp raises up, then two doors close across the top) back and forth, but not latching them. He backed up (front feet never went off the trailer) when the upper door went past halfway closed, but I got him standing on the trailer comfortably with the door about halfway closed. We will keep working on that. As far as the trailer work goes we still have a lot to work on, but he's getting more comfortable with it.

Next I worked on lateral flexion. For some reason that I cannot explain I went to his left side and asked him to flex to the right using the rope as a cue . . . um yeah. What was I thinking? We haven't worked on that. He was confused, backing up, etc. I finally managed to get a tiny flex and clicked it. Then I went to his right side and asked for left flexes which he did perfectly for a tickle or rope cue. Then I went back to his left and asked for a right flex with a tickle. After he did that a couple of times I started picking up the rope and tickling. By the time I quit he was flexing for a rope cue (with an occasional tickle if he seemed confused).

Next I worked on back lifts. The first one he did a small lift. The second one I must have had uneven pressure because he dropped his right hip, resting his toe on the ground. Um. That was weird. I clicked for it and probably shouldn't have because I was cueing a specific behavior. Oh well. I did a few more back lifts with even pressure and he did okay. The lifts were small, but that's okay. I think my fingers just aren't enough pressure. We will keep working on it.

Next I tapped his right rear fetlock with my toe and he picked up his leg and rested his toe on the ground!! On the first try! I was so excited. What a good boy. I did it two or three more times and he did it perfect every time. He finally understands it. Next I'll have to work on his left rear hoof. :)

After that I worked on head lowering with a light squeeze midway down his crest on both sides. He did really well, although a couple of times he seemed confused, but I think that's because I was cueing too far down his neck (too close to the withers). Now that I've established a new cue I'll have to work on getting his head all the way to the ground and duration. It will come with time.

I also worked on rubbing his face. The first time I rubbed his forehead he tried lowering his head, flexing and backing up. When he finally stood still without moving his head I clicked. After that I was able to rub his forehead and poll without him moving. Yay Chrome! Next I'll work on ears and after that I'll work on his muzzle.

After that I had him back a few times with me standing at his shoulder, facing forward, from both sides. He did three steps each time easily. I'll have to work on adding distance. Then I asked him to pick up both front hooves once. He did well.

Last I worked on something new. I want to teach him to walk in a circle around me from me simply lifting my hand and pointing in the direction I want him to take. This will eventually be used for lunging, loading in a trailer or walking through a gate ahead of me. I started on his right side. I stood at his shoulder a couple of feet away from him and held up my right arm. He thought he was supposed to stand still because that's what I usually have him doing, but eventually he reached out to sniff my hand, but couldn't reach without moving his feet. I tried clucking and then swung my left arm in the air and he finally walked forward. I clicked and treated. I held my right arm up again, nothing, clucked, nothing, swung my left arm by his haunches and he stepped forward. After a couple of tries he was walking forward for a point and cluck, no swinging (didn't have a whip with me btw).

Then I switched sides. It didn't take him long at all to figure it out for a point and cluck. Eventually I plan to have him walking on for just the point. :) The only thing I don't think I like is that when I click he faces me . . . that could cause problems eventually with lunging and ground driving. I'll probably worry about that when I start asking for a whoa. The click ends the behavior. He's being rewarded for walking, not for facing me. :)

I was going to work on voice cues for walk on and whoa (with me leading him), but I was running out of treats and it was getting dark. I was happy with how the session went overall. I wasn't going to work with Zeppelin because my toe was hurting and I was almost out of treats, but he started following me as I was leaving the pasture. It was cute and showed trust so I clicked and gave him some tiny pieces of treats. Then I pet his right cheek, clicked and held out a handful of tiny pieces and treat dust . . . and he bit down on my finger really hard! Ouch! He didn't mean to. I had the angle of my hand wrong and let my fingers curl trying not to drop the tiny pieces. When he bit me I yelped. It scared him and he shied away. My finger was hurting bad enough that I just ignored him and hobbled to the house as fast as my painful foot allowed to put my finger under cold water to numb it. :( I didn't mean to scare him. He didn't mean to bite me. I think I'm going to take a break training him until my toe is better. I'm so scared of it getting stepped on that I'm not able to position myself correctly for treat delivery. Sigh.

Anyway, sorry to end the post on a downer note, but I thought I would mention it. I'm still super proud of how Chrome did. He started out sort of distracted, but he was really focused and sweet toward the end. I think he's definitely gaining some patience. :) That's all for today. Sorry no pictures.

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