Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Break & Chase the Tiger

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I hurt my arm playing basketball so I had to take a break from training. I couldn't lift my arm away from my body at all so that makes it difficult to hold a target stick lol. I picked training back up yesterday and today though and we had fun. My husband worked with Faran on targeting my orange cone and leading at liberty. He picked both up quickly.

At first he was very hesitant to touch the cone for some reason, but eventually figured it out. When he was touching it while my husband held it he put it on the ground and backed away from the cone. It was so funny because Faran would walk to the cone, stop with his toes next to it and then reach over it to sniff at my husband, then he would resign himself to working for his treat. He would deliberately touch the cone and raise his head back up for his treat. :)

On the leading it didn't take him long to figure out that walking up next to my husband's shoulder got him a click/treat. Then he started following at my husband's shoulder. They made it a full circuit around the round pen (where we work him so Chrome can't interfere) and then he ended it on a good note so that Faran decides working is fun. :)

With Chrome I worked briefly on yielding his shoulders. I want his cue to be pressure where my knee will be in the dressage saddle, but pressure right there caused him to yield his hindquarters so I put my other hand on his neck. I was using only light pressure. It took him a minute, but he finally figured out he had to step over with his front feet instead of his rear feet. He crossed one front hoof in front of the other about four or five times and I left it at that. I'll let it sink in a while.

I also introduced Chrome to Chase the Tiger. Chase the Tiger is a game that was invented by some of the members of the Art of Natural Dressage forum ( You can read all about Chase the Tiger here (, but I'll also quote their explanation here.

"Chasing the tiger is nothing more or less than letting your horse chase a plastic bag/piece of clothing or something else that you hold in your hand or have tied to a stick/whip/pole. A lot of traditional trainers also use sticks/whips with plastic tied to it, but then in order to let the horse flee away from it in order to make them run. You can compare it to the rope that is flung to the horse in a join-up, or even a lungeing-whip that is cracked in the air in order to 'scare' the horse so that he becomes faster. These training methods reinforce to the horse that the human is the hunter and the horse is the prey, and therefore subordinate to the human.

We do it the other way round. First you teach your horse through rewards that he can put his nose against a plastic bag that you're holding in front of him - and reward a lot for that! Then you just walk a step away from your horse and ask your horse if he wants to follow you and touch the bag again. Then slowly take longer distances, or let your horse touch the bag longer while walking, before you reward. If that's all okay, you can tie the bag on to the end of a whip and start running away from your horse, animating him into a trot or canter while holding the bag in front of him. When you tie the bag to a longer driving/lungeing whip, you can lunge your horse around you like this, let him do the more energetic moving while you're in a safe distance (and a bit less tired ;) ).

The most important reason to do this, is that most horses just love it. They love the fact that they're the hunter instead of the hunted and that they can chase instead of be chased. Because for horses, chasing each other is very natural too, only a lot of horses never chase others because the others always chase them. So giving them the opportunity to change place really can give them a boost of self-confidence.

Chasing the tiger is also a very good way to conquer fears. Clickertrainers already know that targeting a scary object with the nose easily convinces horses that that object isn't that scary after all. Chasing it makes it even more harmless, as obviously the previous scary object is now running away, and therefore scared of the horse. :) So let the horse be as wild as he wants to be with the bag (or other object) and reward him for that behavior. Touching the bag with the nose is very good, but stamping on it with a front foot is even better, as it means that your horse dares to come closer to it with his body.

Another reason why Chasing the Tiger is a great game, is that it teaches horses to move freely and at higher speeds eventually, even the more timid horses. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to 'make' horses more independent of you, especially those horses who don't play wild games on their own because they don't like to leave you.

The last reason is that lungeing in Chasing the Tiger-style, with the horse following the bag with his nose stretched out down and forwards, is a very good way to loosen the back. With horses who tend to lean a bit too much on the frontlegs when moving, you can also hold the whip with your targetbag more at knee-or breast-height.

Essentially you can play Chase the Tiger with anything: with wooden planks that you drag through the sand, or a jacket tied to a rope so that you can drag it behind you, or a tennis ball or piece of cotton tied to the end of the whip. Start easy, with an object that isn't that scary according to your horse, and gradually you can make the game more interesting by taking more scary materials (plastic, wild colors) and by asking your horse to follow it at higher speed. Experiment!"
I love this forum by the way, so check it out if you want to learn more. They have videos of Chase the Tiger at the link above and a whole lot of other interesting content. I used a whip with a handkerchief tied to the lash. I started with him targeting it in my hand and then on the ground. It didn't take him long to follow it around. He seemed a little hesitant and possibly a bit skittish of it, because if he came near his hooves he'd jump away. It was actually kind of funny. :D After our first session I did some targeting to make sure he was still willing to trot and that there wasn't anything wrong. He was fine.

Today during our second session of Chase the Tiger he did fantastic!! I started with the target to get him moving around and energetic. I also didn't feed him beforehand. Normally I feed first so he isn't so grabby at the treats, but he was just too sluggish. This time he wasn't. He trotted after it and was doing his pretty stallion stomp on it. It was so cute and he was so gorgeous! I'll have to get it on video because it was a lot of fun. :) I'm glad he did so well.

Well, sorry the post got to long. I'll try so get a video tomorrow. :)

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