I got a new computer. Or a new Operating system at least.
My husband is a brilliant computer guy. My words not his. Like anyone who is truly skilled at their trade he will never be the one to tell you he is an expert. The really good ones know how much they don’t know. Aware of how much is out there yet to learn an expert will usually rank themselves as mid level or beginner. A beginner will often tell you they don’t need lessons, they know everything. But I digress.
My brilliant husband was tired of the limits of my former operating system and so he installed Linux. Linux is free. It’s infinitely customize-able. It is complicated and most people don’t want to mess with the learning curve because it’s different and an unknown even though it is vastly superior to what they are using.. Most people haven’t even heard of it.
Of course I immediately saw the similarities to clicker training. Infinitely customize-able and allows training to reach a level never dreamed of. Changes are required though. We have to learn to do things differently than what we’ve always done and change is hard. Breaking old habits, creating new connections in our brains, it all takes effort. Besides who’s even heard of that weird stuff.
Can I say that my switch to Linux has been without difficulty? No I can not. I have to break old habits. Things aren’t where I’m used to them being. Getting to the things I want, my pictures and the like, requires movements that I’m not used to. Even though I can see where it will be much easier and more efficient once I’m used to it, it requires me to stop and think and try to figure out where things are. To remember how to do the things that are different.
What is the point of all that? Am I trying to convince people to switch to Linux or clicker training? Not really no. I don’t care if people still want to use window, even if I never will understand why 😉 And as long as your horse is happy I don’t care what training style people use. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things even when they are a little difficult. I don’t spend enough time using a computer for it to be worth becoming fluent in Linux. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying trying to figure out my new computer, just that I will not be doing any programming. If I used one regularly it would be well worth it. Some people don’t ride enough for it to be worth it for them to learn a whole new training style. They may not be using it to train horses but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t add to the experience. We should be gathering tools and knowledge everywhere we go and in everything we do. Just because something is different and a little difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth it!
And here is a video of Harvey saying he is not interested in fetching a rubber chicken, just so there’s something besides words to look at.
Yesterday I got to show off how amazing Harvey is. How he is able to grasp whole new concepts in a matter of minutes. He can and does.
Getting the idea and mastering the art are two different things. Fine tuning all the little nuances takes a little more time. While he was bale to get the idea of, and show me how to, step into my hand learning it on both sides and in different places was a bit harder. Not that he couldn’t do it. He is very capable. It gets complicated though and is a lot to learn.
That I am learning too doesn’t help matters. I am finding the pitfalls, things that help, things that hinder, and making my learning mistakes along the way.
Sometimes I’m too slow to the click and miss his thought and little tries because I am looking for more or don’t realize what is happening until too late. Other times I’m too quick to click and reward the wrong thing which can lead us off on completely different tracks that I often don’t realize we are on until too late. Here I accidentally/on purpose taught him to back to me instead of going sideways.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I taught it to Rusty, or to be honest he taught it to me, quite deliberately. I love learning things that way. It’s a fun useful trick, think backing out of trailers. However, we were trying for sideways. Now that I’ve looked back, had another training session where it became very clear that we left our intended trail, and have seen that we added back instead of sideways, I’ll have to see if we can find our way back.
Unfortunately the video is too long to post here. You can see it on the facebook page at /https://www.facebook.com/309985332692651/videos/362247711189677/
Harvey and I have been working on Spanish walk for a couple of days now. He’s been doing a spectacular job of picking it up using only capturing and his big brain. He’s such a smart boy. I thought it was time to work a little harder and add a new concept. The Pool Noodle!
This is the first time he’d ever seen one. It was interesting at first but never scary. Especially once it became attached to food!
With it he will learn to target with his knees. We work on and talk about targeting with noses all the time. Horses can target with any body part though.
It is pretty simple to teach. In this case holding the noodle in position and asking for a step forward so he bumps it and click! He very quickly picked up that the click happened when he touched the noodle with his knees and started putting two and two together. He was even offering a couple of steps at a time!
He has such slow controlled finesse, we ought to be able to accomplish some fun things that Rusty will never be able to because of his very different style. Do you know there;’s a name for holding one foot in the air and pivoting on the other? It’s a beautiful thing to watch and I can’t remember the name. Harvey is so doing it though!
I was talking to a good friend of ours the other day. He’s cowboyed his whole life and loves horses like I do. It’s always nice to get to spend time talking to him. This time horses came up, they don’t always. HE talked about horses he’s had in the past, his father and his horses, and training. It was fascinating to hear the things we talk about now in scientific terms come up, referred to by different names but obviously the same things.
One of my favorite things was that he had rode so many Morgan crosses in his life. They’ve been around here forever and were very popular before styles changed and a more modern breed of stock horse became preferred. Of course talking to him I could see some of the reason for the change. He liked a Morgan quarter cross, they had the staying power and go that Morgans have plenty of but were quieted down by the quarter horse side. He thought the quarter added more cow sense too. I , of course, disagreed and thought that it was the Morgan blood that gave quarter horses their cow sense in the first place 😉
He talked about taking cattle cake or ears of corn out with him to catch the horses and how much easier they came when a little feed was offered. Positive reinforcement, just without any fancy names. He talked about the people who wouldn’t make pets of their horses because they wouldn’t work for you if you were nice to them and how silly that whole concept was. We agreed that when you’re nice to a horse and treat them well they will do anything for you. How his dad, an excellent horseman who could ride anything you could get a saddle on, didn’t have too. While he was able to buck them out he chose instead to take his time. To teach them everything they needed to know before he got on. Once he was ready to ride them they seldom bucked and instead just rode out nice.
He said his dad would break them proud. Instead of being shut down and dead inside, they held their heads high and had life to them. If that’s not a description of learned helplessness vs good training I don’t know what is. One of our friends favorite horses was a horse his dad started who was born the same year our friend was. The horse bucked with him for the last time when they were both eighteen. But the big black horse, half Morgan of course, was careful about it and would buck back underneath him if he was starting to fall off. Talk about a learned behavior and not bucking because of fear or because he was upset. He mentioned a semi load of hay shipped in from clear across the state basically thrown away because it was moldy and he wasn’t going to kill his horses feeding bad hay.
It was so interesting to hear about good horses and excellent horsemen who were using many of the same techniques we do without knowing the science behind them. We don’t always need proof coming from some test done in a lab to know what works. It’s easy to see, if we pay attention, that when told what a good job they’re doing a horse will want to do that job again. I would like to say that out here where we spend so many more hours on our horses doing jobs most people wouldn’t dream of, out here where we spend our lives in amongst the animals, caring for them and seeing to their needs, that we know better. That we have learned how to go about things in a way that is kind and effective. The unfortunate truth though is that farmers and ranchers are people, just like any other people, with good and bad. There are those who care for and love their livestock and there are those who pay no attention and think making a pet of your horse will ruin them. Just be sure not to forget all the good there is. Don’t be fooled by terrible propaganda into believing that those who care for the land and livestock don’t love them just as much as those who keep them simply as pets.
I got to go play with some fellow clicker trainers today. We are lucky out here in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska to have such a large clicker community. Large is all relative 😉
Andrea gave an overview of clicker basics then everybody paired off and we got to work. Horses quickly picked up treat manners and figured out what the click meant. Then worked on targeting and what ever else the horses needed.
One of the horses got targeting down and they proceeded to put it to work sniffing out and touching all the scary things they could find. Bern brought his horse in and gave a demonstration on laying down. That inspired almost every other horse there to give it a try. With lots of clicking almost every horse in the barn laid down. It was very impressive.
It was a day spent shoveling food into the mouths of happy horses and hopefully an interest in clicker training into their owners. It will be fun to see what grows from this.
I’m trying to break up the endless videos of me sitting on Harvey not doing anything interesting. Here, instead, is a story about Amarillo.
I had been letting him out in the yard to graze. He got to stay there, by himself or with another horse, for a few hours before going back into their pen. Not an entirely bad thing in its self. They have a few acres, unlimited hay, and other horses to hang out with. No grass though. he was good about following me back in or another horse. He has not let me catch him since he came though. I haven’t tried real hard. There hasn’t been a need.
The first day after the time change we spent the day cleaning up the garden. It was hard. dirty, tiring work. Coyote and Rusty had been out most of the afternoon while we worked. As I put them away Amarillo and Harvey begged so piteously that I gave in. It was only four after all. They would have plenty of time to graze before it got late. As I let them out it began to drizzle. Night was coming fast. I hadn’t taken the time change into account. Oh well they could sty out for a little while.
The only problem was that when I went to put them away Amarillo wasn’t ready to come in. I tried targeting. I tried putting Harvey away. He had gotten to stay out at first to be a good influence. I tried leaving the gate open and running him in. He stood in the gate and looked at me. I could see him thinking. Then he turned and came back out.
It was getting dark. It was raining. Amarillo was not letting me close. I snapped a picture to commemorate the day.
I am very often happy that this place is set up to run cattle. Lots of gates and lanes. He thought he was being all smart going down one of them. It dead ended in a gate. Unfortunately I had to get the gate open somehow. I thought maybe I could just catch him in the dead end. He nearly ran over me. I was able to move the horses on the other side of it and once open he came back and through it. He was in.
That whole thing made me not like him very much. he was NEVER going out again.
It was time to change my criteria. He has been getting clicked and treated for coming up and saying hi. Now I needed to ask for more. He gets one for coming up, but no more than that. Now he has to let me touch him. Pet his neck. Put a lead rope over his neck. Or even let me put a halter on.
I was able to sneak out the other day and have an actual session just with him. Almost. He had been standing at the gate. It was going to be easy. He wasn’t. It wasn’t. Oh well. Coyote can play too. I don’t care what I click him for. Coyote is perfect in every way. What ever he’s doing when I click is bound to be good 😉 It was a fun group session with horses, goats, and bulls.
While not purposely bringing a horse above threshold is a grand plan in horse training it is not always possible. Often we have nothing to do with making them nervous, they do it all on their own. Ether by feeling really good like Rusty has been lately, or just up, spooky, jumpy, and energetic, like Harvey for this go.
This is where all our work on being calm, head lowering and the like, comes in. Can I say it was completely successful? No, not entirely. He didn’t magically become a calm steady horse in these cold windy conditions. On the other hand nobody died! I always consider that to be a success. Really though it was a pretty good session. He left calmer than he started. It wasn’t a day to leave the safety of the fence, instead we worked on giving to the reins and making sure he was ok with me moving all around and touching his hindquarters.
I have been working on getting up the courage to dismount on his right side. There’s no reason to think it wont be just fine. On the other hand it has never been just right to do so. I’m not as young as I used to be, I no longer bounce as well, I would prefer to get conditions just right for all these things. From getting off on a new side to riding there’s no reason not to take your time and make sure everyone is perfectly comfortable. Today besides the slick mud and energetic spooky horse we were not positioned just right. He was too close to the fence with his left side. I want a horse to have somewhere away from me to go if they spook. Once again I chickened out and got off the usual way. It’s as good for us and our saddles as it is for the horse to keep it mixed up. Our legs and the stirrup leathers need to get stretched out equally.
Unfortunately the video is too long to fit here. You can find it here though: https://www.facebook.com/309985332692651/videos/2215522075390884/