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June 26, 2022: Hrimmi’s Blog

Alys said that I could contribute another blog, in part because the other one I wrote was so well received. Wow – who would have thunk it? Maybe someday I’ll do like Raudi did and collaborate with Alys and write a book.

Today was a breakthrough day for both Alys and me. Here’s the situation: I wear a bitless bridle, so it’s easy for me to grab at grass while on the trail. And right now, the grass is lush and chest-high, a rarity around here. It has been bothering Alys to no end that I repeatedly lunge for grass, sometimes even throwing her off-balance.

Young Hrimmi grazing on the bench trail

For years, she’s gotten impatient with me. Our combined pattern of behavior has been going something like this; I lunge for the grass. She hits me with the crop and kicks me hard, all the while yelling “come on, come on.” I lift my head, walk a few yards, then lower my head and resume eating. Again she . . . well it’s a cycle and not one either of us like. Both our hearts start pounding wildly, and Alys tightens up on the reins. I don’t have a bit in my mouth, but I do feel the pull of the reins on my nose.

Today Alys decided to do things differently. I suspect that the warmer weather put her in good spirits. Maybe her being in good spirits enabled her to realize that she could try doing things differently with me.

I was born here at Squalor Holler Farm. Pete was the first person to lay eyes on me and Alys was the second person. Alys had, in working with Raudi, learned the value of positive reinforcement training. I, who had such training from birth, took to it readily.

Alys, with clicker in hand, trained me to give my feet, stand quietly for the farrier, and to go into the trailer. She used the clicker in training me to accept the saddle and bridle, and to go through puddles and mud spots on trails.

The only time she’s ever used negative reinforcement, which is aversion training, has been on the trail, when I’ve chosen to graze rather than listen to her.

Today she decided to use positive reinforcement training. She clicked with her tongue when I went a short distance without grazing, then reward me. I caught on really quickly. Alys started to relax and then so did I. I did grab at grass a few times, but not nearly as much as I did previously. It is important to note that Alys didn’t reward me for stopping. She did click when I moved out, this was her way of also rewarding me for picking up the pace.

We finished our ride with both of us feeling calm and relaxed. Alys next took Raudi out and on the trail, tried using the clicker and treats. After the pair got back, Raudi and I talked about this. Apparently, using positive reinforcement did not work as well with her. She said that she likes getting treats and grazing, and grazing even more, so she’s going to keep going for the grass.

Me, I like what Alys is attempting to do here, which is improve upon our riding related relationship using positive reinforcement. In fact, I’m actually excited about going on tomorrow’s ride. This is a feeling I haven’t felt in quite a while.

Next: 174. 6/27/22: Hay, Hay, Hay

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