Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chrome's Fifth Ride (video - no clicker)

Just for comparison's sake I rode Chrome yesterday without clicker and treats.  You'll see at the beginning of the video he has his ears forward and he's walking off easily and seems eager to work.  It doesn't take long before he gets totally confused with zero feedback (no click) from me and just stops.  He doesn't know what's he's doing and was getting no feedback so he gave up.

That's the main reason I LOVE clicker training.  It tells the horse exactly what he's doing right and gives him the incentive to keep trying.  I also think he was incredibly bored (you'll notice he perks up in the barn when he thinks we're playing with the wagon and when he's following my friend). 

Now I do want to mention that even for a session with no treats he seemed very reluctant, so I took him out to the road and trotted him up and down in front of my husband . . . yep he was limping on his left fore.  Sigh.  I looked him over and couldn't find any injuries, swelling, heat, nothing.  It's probably just a stone bruise, but I'm watching him closely in case it's something else (he's still limping at the trot today, sound at the walk, still no swelling or heat) and I won't ride him again until he trots sound.  At the walk he doesn't show any signs of it (except for his reluctance).  He even trotted off in the pasture on his own, so I know he can't be in excruciating pain or anything. 

I feel bad that I resorted to using a stick as a whip to get him walking forward (I was only tickling him, not even having to tap or anything).  I should have just quit right there since he was so confused and not learning anything.  I feel bad that he was probably hurting (I couldn't feel him limping at all when I was riding him, it was only obvious at the trot).  He's such a good boy though to put up with me.

If you can't watch Youtube videos here is the photobucket link (

So anyway, that's a session without clicker.  Now I'm going back to using it so we can both have fun and he can learn something (if I ever get myself organized) lol. 
The silent spots in the video were just me cutting out conversations between me and my friend.  I also cut out the really shaky camera parts and the sitting around talking parts lol.  Just to keep you from getting bored.  :D  Also please ignore my hideous choice of outfits.  We had just gotten back from the pool and I didn't feel like changing clothes since I was only riding for ten minutes.  :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clicker Training Question & Answer

One of my readers Margaret asked, "Everything seems to be working. I am just amazed, though, at how many treats he gets. Is that really what clicker training is all about? (I am not being snotty, I really don't know). I will have to google it. My QH (or my 1/2 Friesian) would NEVER get their mind on business and off of treats. Isn't the clicker supposed to be the award of a job well done and an occasional treat. I would like to see if he would put forth the effort without so many treats... or is that what you do eventually."

Okay, first I have to say I am really horrible about explaining things (which is why I will never be a teacher), so I'm going to use websites/videos to help me explain this.  :)  If you have the time and patience, here is a long video that explains how to get started with clicker training (  Here's another one from a blog I read frequently (   Also here's a short FAQ on a popular clicker training website ( 

Okay, now for my attempt to explain using my own words.  The clicker is a marker signal.  Think about the dolphins that are taught tricks at SeaWorld.  If they are being trained to jump, you can't immediately give them a fish when they are halfway across the tank, so it's impossible to be precise on what you're praising.  With a whistle (what they use instead of a clicker) you can whistle at the EXACT instant they do what you like.  They will know that's what they are being rewarded for even if it takes a minute to get their fish.  So no the clicker is not the reward.  It is a marker signal.  There are websites that can explain that a little better for you, but that's the basic idea.

Now, there are some people who don't like feeding treats at all.  Think of it this way.  There are a lot of different people in the world with a lot of different personality.  Some people are people pleasers.  A people pleaser is more likely to work for only praise.  I'm talking about going to work and getting a job done and getting praised for their good work, but no money!  Some people will work if it's fun for no pay.  However there are some people who are just not motivated by either of those things and will not work if they are not receiving a paycheck!  To a dog or horse the treat is their paycheck, especially if you're working on something they don't like (fly spray or for dogs having nails trimmed).  Some dogs will work all day for the chance to play with a ball, some won't.  Some will work all day just for your praise, some won't.  Some dogs are just highly food motivated (like my Beagle cross).  Horses are the same way.  I don't think of it as bribing.  It's a reward for a job well done.  :)  Clicker training can even teach dogs and horses to enjoy their work!  Also the pieces of food are TINY, so it won't cause weight gain (well I'm still working on finding the perfect treat for the horses that is small with no sugar, I think the green beans might work once they get more fond of them).  It's not about how much they are getting.  If you hand a dog a tiny piece of food or dump a whole bowl full on the ground they both mean the same thing.  That's why when clicker trainers give a jackpot, they give it one piece at a time, because they dog thinks they are getting more.  Anyway, I just got sidetracked (one reason I don't explain things well).

Also what a lot of people don't understand is that clicker training is for the the learning process or for refreshing old behaviors.  You don't ALWAYS use clicker training.  The reason it may seem like it is because when I post videos I'm posting them of new behaviors, not old ones.  If I posted a video of old behaviors you'll notice I'm not using the clicker. 

Think about this.  When I first got Chrome I taught him to be haltered, to pick up his feet, to stand tied, etc. all of that with clicker training.  Now I don't click for any of that!  He knows how to do it and he knows when it is expected of him and because he enjoys working with me he does those things without a reward.  So what you're seeing in the videos is Chrome learning new things.  When they are first learning something new you have to reward often.  This is why clicker trained animals can learn sooooo much faster than traditionally trained animals (if you have a consistent trainer and I am by no means consistent unfortunately lol).  You can teach a horse to tense it's muscles or shift it's weight or flick it's tail with clicker training. That's how precise it is!!  You watch for the tiniest movement in the right direction and click it.  It's amazing the things you can do with clicker training (I'm still learning so I'm nowhere near good enough to capture such tiny movements yet). 

All behaviors get weaned off of the clicker though.  Once the horse knows the behavior he doesn't need a marker signal to tell him what he did right.  He already knows.  A reward of some kind (treat, rest, scratches, praise) is still appreciated by the animal, but treats can definitely be weaned out.  I will mention though that clicker training teaches a horse how to learn and gets them enthusiastic about learning, but once I wean off of the clicker and treats he performs like any other horse without so much of the enthusiasm.  That could very well be a failure on my part (I'm not very good at the weaning process - here's a website for how to wean them off of treats  Almost anything you can imagine can be trained with clicker training.  I'm just not precise, consistent or imaginative enough to get those kinds of results.  What clicker training has given me is a horse who loves to try new things, is very confident, always comes to me (even if I don't have food) because he never knows what exciting things we might do (I work with him a lot without using any treats at all), etc.  He loves to play and be with me (even without treats!!). 

Using clicker training with Chrome has been a huge learning curve with me because he is the first horse I've ever clicker trained!!  I've trained dogs, but never a horse with clicker.  So if I'm doing anything wrong, or he's being pushy about food, or he's not learning something, it is ALL MY FAULT!!!  I'm still learning too.  Fortunately anything you can train with clicker training, you can also easily untrain (by teaching an opposite behavior) with clicker training, so when I make mistakes it's not the end of the world.  Since this is my first horse to clicker train I am VERY careful about what behaviors I train.  I won't teach him to rear or strike out with his hooves until (or never) I have the skill to do it safely. 

So anyway I hope that helps explain some of what clicker training is about.  I know I suck at explaining things, so if you have any other questions feel free to ask!!  Thanks!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chrome's Fourth Ride! (video!)

I really need to attach the headstall to the noseband so the reins won't slide back!

He did so well!  There's a surprise in the video too.  :D

If you can't view videos on YouTube, watch it here on Photobucket (

He's so cute!!  Sorry I had to cut so much out of the video.  We kept talking about things (personal life) that can't be posted on a public blog.  We'll try not to talk next time lol.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jigsaw Puzzle

I finished another puzzle today, which I plan to frame and hang on the wall.  It's of a Friesian!

Sorry the quality is crappy.  My house is too dark to get nice pictures and flash would have reflected too much.

Then I remembered the other puzzle I did a few years ago that is hanging on my wall . . .

Notice anything interesting?  Friesian and gray Arabian?  Chrome's sire as a Friesian and his dam was a gray Arabian LOL!!  Just thought that was cool.  Especially considering I bought them before I got him (yeah it took me that long to put it together lol).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chrome's Monthly Progress Report

Date: 5-19-12 (okay so I'm posting several days late lol)
Height: 15.1¾hh (technically 13/16 so a little over three quarters)
Height Gain: He didn't grow any.  :(
Weight: His heart girth measurement is 70 and his length measurement is 72, so according to the Equine Weight Calculator he weighs 1069lbs.
Weight Gain: He didn't gain any weight either.

Progress: I RODE my horse finally!!!!  If you missed the post check it out here!

Goals: Now that things are settling down a little I hope to start working with him more.  I'm not going to ride him too much since he's not done growing and all of the growth plates are still not closed in his spine.  For a really interesting article on the hardening of growth plates in horses check out this site (

I would really like to start some light longeing with him so I can teach him to long line and them ground drive.  He needs to learn how to steer, so that I have more say so in our rides lol.  In our mounted sessions I'm going to keep working on a go button and then work on whoa (not really picking directions or steering much at this point).

I also want to start going on hand walks again and do our equine pilates so help him build strength and become more supple.  I know those aren't really specific goals, but it's just the natural progression of our training.  Once we get past the really baby lessons I can focus on more specific goals.  :D




I miss that thick stallion neck!



And just for fun a conformation comparison over the years!

5 Months

1 Year

2 Years

3 Years


It has been sooooo much fun watching him grow over the years!  I still can't believe I've had him for just over two and a half years and yet it feels like I've had him forever lol.  Crazy how that works huh?  I've enjoyed the last two and a half years and I can't wait to see what fun adventures we get to have from here on out.  Thanks for following along over the years guys!  Your comments, advice and questions are what keeps me blogging.  :D

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Third Ride Pictures & Answers

Disclaimer:  First I want to mention that I am not wearing a helmet in these pictures.  Please don't yell at me lol.  I wanted to get a nice photo of me riding Chrome so I didn't wear one.  I woke Chrome up from his nap (oops) and took him up to the barn.  He was very relaxed and being just as good as he was on day one so I went for it.  Don't worry I plan on always wearing a helmet when riding him and will only occasionally sit on him without one for pictures only.  :)


 He is soooo sleepy eyed in all of these picture lol.  I felt bad for messing up his nap.  I was having trouble keeping him standing still (since he doesn't know whoa when I'm on him yet) because all he wanted to do was mug the camera and play with anything he could get his mouth on.  I finally figured out the best way to make him stand still is to scratch him on his favorite spot on his neck and chest so I'm laying across his neck in a lot of the picture.  I think they turned out decent so that's fine.  Also as far as riding goes I wasn't on him long, just long enough to get pictures, so I don't know if this even technically counts as his third ride . . . :D  Here's the rest of the pictures.  Also I'll answer another question at the bottom of the post.

P.S.  I forgot to measure him for his progress report which was technically supposed to be on his birthday so I'll get it done tomorrow!  I'm curious to see if he made it to 15.2hh.  Cross your fingers!

He's still butt high . . . and he's sinking his back under my weight.  We will definitely have to work on long and low to strengthen his back.

 He kept getting caught with his eyes closed lol.

Neck scratchies!  Notice his head stretched up and tilted to one side and his cocked rear leg?  He was loving it!

 More scratches.  He goes off into a trance when I scratch his itchies.

More scratches.  And still relaxing his leg.  :)

 He turned his face out of the shot, but I actually for once like how I look in this photo so I kept it.  :D

 My feet hang below his belly soooo bad!!  I really hope he gets bigger.  :)

 Scratches.  He was practically falling asleep.  :)


 More hugs!

This last one is when he tried to eat the camera lol.  :D  My husband managed to get this shot before getting covered in pony slobbers.

Okay, my question is from appydoesdressage over at Musings From LogDog Acres. She asked, "Even as a 3 year old riding more than a few times a week wouldn't hurt him. Have you had his knees xrayed to see if they have closed?"  My answer:  No, not yet.  The incident with the feed has me a bit strapped for cash.  It's not just his legs I worry about though, it's his back (did you notice how he dropped it so drastically under my weight) because the growth plates in their spine don't harden until as late as seven years old!!!  I'm just going to take it easy with him so I don't cause any long term damage or teach him to dislike being ridden due to muscle pain, etc.  I'm still going to do stuff on the ground with him like going for walks and learning stuff with clicker.  :D

If you have any questions feel free to ask.  I like answering them so I think I'm going to start adding my answers to interesting questions at the bottom of each of my posts.  :D  Thanks for all the awesome comments guys!  You all make blogging so worth it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Answers To Some First Ride Questions

Thank you everyone for the great comments on yesterday's first ride post.  I'm still grinning ear to ear from the ride.  It's taking everything I have not to go for another ride (probably not a good idea with a painfully twisted ankle which I did yesterday and then had to work nine hours standing up on it).  Anyway, I just wanted to answer some really good questions that I got on that post from the gang over at the Poupounette ( 

Unusual dismounting technique after that first ride!?  Yeah the dismount was for fun and also to show some people I know in real life who thought Chrome would buck me off during our first ride that he's such a laid back horse I can do anything with him.  I've had him since he was five months old and he's used to my crazy antics lol.  :)

Also seeing you get on from both sides.  Yep I always get on my horses from both sides.  After an incident where a horse (not mine) threw me because I lifted my right hand I always work with them from both sides.  It's good for them to learn everything from both sides so nothing ever catches them by surprise lol.

Why did you ride bareback rather than on a saddle? I rode bareback for two reasons.  Number one I don't have a saddle that fits him right now and number two it's less distracting for the horse.  I wanted him focusing on me and not on a saddle.  I really wasn't expecting him to feel so narrow and for my balance to be so off (from not riding bareback in a long time) so I probably should have used a saddle, but it didn't hurt anything and it just gets him used to even more craziness.  I like my horses exposed to a lot of weird, different and unusual circumstances and stimuli so that they are far less likely to be spooked by something in the future.

Are you planning to always use a bitless bridle?  Yes I am planning to always use a bitless bridle unless something comes up that makes that impossible.  I also used a bitless bridle (or his halter) for his first ride for the same reason I didn't use a saddle.  Less distraction.  And it's a good thing because I caught him in the face with the reins a couple of time and that would have hurt with a bit in his mouth.  He also had his teeth done fairly recently so I'm doing everything I can to protect his mouth.  If I ever put him into dressage training with my old trainer I will probably teach him to wear a simple snaffle bit because that's what she rides in.

Are you planning to ride Faran too eventually? We hope to maybe someday ride Faran, but right now that's just not in the cards.  Due to the way he was raised (not handled much I guess and definitely not desensitized to everything like Chrome was) and the abuse he suffered from previous trainers, he is just way too unpredictable.  If you walk up to his left side and hop up and down he bolts away from you.  Everything scares him.  I worked with him with the mounting block the other day and we made progress, but he was on the point of exploding for most of it.  I'll do a video soon to show you what I mean.  We're going to keep working with him and when/if we ever get to the point where we trust each other we might ride him.  For now we're just loving him and giving him the life he never had and teaching him to trust.  Thanks for the questions!! 

If anyone else has any questions feel free to ask.  I will happily answer them all.  :D

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chrome's First Ride!!!!!!! (with pictures and video!!!!!!)

 This is like my new favorite ever picture of Chrome.  He's so handsome in his bitless bridle!!

So here are the pictures/videos you've all been waiting for!!  Chrome's first ride!!  We had so much fun.  We invited all of our friends over to watch and then had grilled hot dogs and zucchini (along with chips, potato salad, etc.).  Everyone had such a good time.

    Sorry for blurring out all of the faces.  I don't feel right posting peoples' faces online!  
Chrome had a good turnout for his party!  :D
I love his expression as he checks out the little girl.

 Okay so first things first.  We had to get all "purdy" for our party.

I couldn't find my blue ribbons so we went with silver.  His SCA colors are going to be blue and silver so it works.

I got to use my homemade mounting block that my husband built (and I never painted oops)!  Here's a picture of my first time ever sitting on Chrome's back.

 I look weird because I was sliding forward.  He was so relaxed he was resting a hoof the whole time.  Silly boy.  You can tell he's wondering what's going on though because his head is up and his ears are back listening to me.

My farrier led us around in a few circles to see how he was doing.  He spent the whole time trying to chew on his brand new blue (notice the color theme?  It's our favorite color!) lead rope.  Brat!  I'm glad he was so calm about the whole thing.  He acted like it wasn't the most bizarre thing to have a human on his back.  It's almost like he knew that's what he was meant to do someday.  :D  Then we decided to try standing on the pedestal.  He did great!

He's so cute! 

 And then we decided to try it on our own!!!  My farrier unclipped the lead rope and let us go.

He had no steering at all!  And he was so easily unbalanced.  I could shift my weight and he would move over.  

 And then he stopped to scratch an itch!  When he reached around to scratch he lost his balance because he's not used to carrying my weight and had to step over with his right hind leg.  I had to grab his neck because I wasn't expecting his haunches to go sideways so suddenly lol!

Some of the two of us just riding around.


Okay here is the video of our first ride!  I hope you all can watch it because there is a surprise at the end of the ride.  If you can't watch it on YouTube and would like me to email it to you let me know.  :D  Oh and sorry about the quality.  My camera is dying (lens error) and I can't afford to get it fixed right now.  Sometimes it works right and sometimes it doesn't, unfortunately it chose my ride to mess up.  That's why the black edge is around the right top corner.  Annoying!

He did so great!  Chrome is such an awesome horse ever and that was the best first ride a girl could ask for.  :D  Here are some more pictures.

 After the ride Chrome was getting scratches from THREE different people all in his favorite itchy spot (the underside of his neck)!  He was so cute.  He stuck his head up as high as it would go and wiggled his lip.  He loved it!  He was totally loved on and spoiled all day.  I think he enjoyed his birthday.

 More spoiling.  He LOVED his birthday apples.  It took him forever to learn how to eat them.  I'll post a video of him eating one later.  It's totally adorable.

 His expression is so blissful!  :D

 I think Chrome enjoyed his party.  He was all smiles lol!

 After that I got comfortable (my pretty blue shirt was synthetic and very HOT!) and changed into my "happy first ride" present from one of my friends.  It's an awesome t-shirt.  Enlarge to read.  Oh and I was being a dork lol.

Now the observant of you will have noticed that my first ride was in his blue halter (and matching blue reins), but the first photo of the post he's wearing his homemade sidepull bitless bridle . . . . hmm . . . wonder why?  Because after everyone went home and I took a break (was up at 5am) I went out for a second ride.  Don't worry both rides were only around ten minutes a piece and I'll only be riding him once or twice a week.  I'm not going to get carried away and overdo it.  The fun part is that the second ride we did clicker training.  :D  Well tried.  We need work on our treat delivery.  I also made some mistakes (clicking too much, rewarding naughty behavior, clicking the wrong thing, etc.), but we had fun and nobody was hurt so I call it a success.  Here's the video of the second ride (at the time that I'm posting this it's still processing so if the quality is bad try again in a few minutes!).

I was a lot more relaxed without an audience.  I have stage fright which is why I never competed when I was young lol.  We had so much fun.  He had me laughing the whole time.  After watching the video back I also realized he was offering his shoulder yield at times.  So cute!  He kept throwing me off balance though because he's soooooo narrow!!!  It's like riding on a 2x4 lol.  I can't wait for him to broaden out.

Here we are after our second ride (only got video, no pictures because only my husband was there).

 And some of Mr. Faran, so he doesn't feel left out.  Zeppelin chose not to attend the party.  There were too many people lol.

I wish the last one wasn't blurry because he's so handsome checking out all of the stuff I was carrying lol.

I'm soooo happy how our first ride went!!!  It was funny because after I rode him I couldn't believe that I had.  It felt like it was all a dream that never happened (one reason for the second ride was to sort of confirm to myself that it did happen lol).  He's been my baby for so long it's hard to think of him as an adult riding horse.  It's going to take a while for that feeling to wear off I think.  :)  I'm so proud of him.  He's still such a baby, but he's so friendly, laid back, accepting, curious, etc.  I just can't say enough good things about my boy.  I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and videos.