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March 3, 2015: Happy Trails to You

Today the Sihler’s came over with their two mares and one foal, and we did a trail ride. It had been threatening to rain – it was warm and overcast. However, the rain held off until we finished our near-weekly trail ride. I was initially concerned about our all going out because the trail has been icy in places – as I told Pete, they’re on the edge of being dangerous. His response was that we’d go and check them out, and if they were unsafe, come back home.

Okay. So we all tacked up and were ready to go. I walked Raudi to the trailhead for two reasons. The first was

that I consider walking her to the trail and back home to be an integral part of both our warm up and cool down activities. And the second (today) was that Claudia had chosen to bring Hroun, her three-month old foal along on the ride.

Raudi was uncharacteristically bouncy on the walk to the trailhead. Once I got on her, Claudia let Hroun off lead. He then came up to Raudi who squealed and pinned her ears back. Oh oh, I thought. I got off Raudi, and we all sorted things out. The ride order was then Pete, me, Claudia, and Frank. And Claudia wisely put Hroun on lead.

Like hobbits, we continued down-trail, calmly and happily. Hrimmi stopped every so often – Raudi then came up behind her and gave her a nudge with her nose. It’s getting so that Hrimmi will now move on when I say “push,” to Raudi.

I found it difficult to what I did yesterday, that is rewarding Raudi for moving on, using a clicker and a treat, because I was in a lineup. I guess she’s just going to have to put up with my using the crop in group rides until she gets what I’m getting at. But, she did at times, with little urging, pick up the pace.

It’s odd, how small things can make such a difference. I’d attached my clicker to the crop, using duct tape. Now I don’t have to search in my pocket for it when I’m riding. It’s right there. So positive reinforcement training is now going to progress in a more cohesive and organized fashion.

I am thinking that I’d like to work with a dressage trainer who uses positive reinforcement training in working with horses. This is going to be a tall order because using positive reinforcement training with horses takes considerable imagination and creativity. I am learning that doing ground work lends itself to this premise since the educator has to figure out how to get the horses to do what it wants him or her to do without touching it. Riding is different, because there’s actual physical contact.

The trick is to couple physical contact with reinforcement, which is by rewarding the horse for responding to the correct cue. Say, for instance, the horse responds correctly after being given the cue to canter on a specific lead. (In this instance a squeeze on the side with the inside leg and the reins with the outside hand) When the horse does as asked, you click. The horse will then of course stop. You reinforce, and then have the horse increase the number of strides before again rewarding it. The horse, over the long haul, is more apt to respond favorably to this than it is to increased pressure.

I don’t see a clue as being a negative reinforce because it’s followed with praise, praise being a treat or a shoulder scratch.

Tough stuff to figure out on my own. Claudia said she’s working with a woman who is interested in using positive reinforcement in working with dogs and horses. Her name is June. I might soon be meeting her. We’ll see how this goes. I am pushing on doors as hard as I can.

Next: 62, 3/4/15: “Cheechako”

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