I have been playing with Hieldorf. As much as I have been with any of them, which isn’t a whole lot. Most of what we do I use for The Confidence Challenge. That has been tons of fun so far. He works perfectly to demonstrate how a horse who has never done it reacts when introduced to positive reinforcement. Plus he’s a beautiful model.

It warmed up a little last week and I managed to go out and play with him again.

We’ve done enough +R that he comes running up to the front corrals when he hears anyone outside. So he was at the gate and I was able to close a gate between him and the other horses. Part of the reason I’m finding it difficult to work with a horse right now is Rusty. He is insanely jealous of me and chases any other horses away when I try to catch them. I have to catch Rusty and lock him up in order to mess with anyone else. I think I need to work on that 😉  Rusty stood outside the gate the whole time I worked with Heildorf and had a temper tantrum.

Hieldorf has been ridden. I prefer to restart all my horses from scratch though, to make sure they know the things I think they should. Hieldorf is getting the same treatment. The first thing I really really want them to know is how to step over to a gate for mounting. It makes getting on much easier but it also lets them get used to you above them before you are stuck to their backs.

As chill as Hieldorf is about most things he scatters as soon as I step up onto a fence. Here we are working a little on getting used to me above him. Trying to show him I’m not scary and wont eat him. He is totally not convinced.



If I’m not a fan of “showing my horse who’s the boss”. Because of that I have been asked if I don’t tell my horse what to do? Does that mean they are the boss? That they can do anything they want?

Well, no.

So much of the time when a horse is being disrespectful, rude, bad mannered, all of the anthropomorphism’s we place on them, they are trying to express themselves. They are afraid. They don’t understand what we want of them. They are doing what we have actually trained them to do instead of what we thought we were teaching.

If we choose to work with a horse then we have to accept responsibility. We choose to go catch them a their pasture or stall and ask them to work with us. They would be perfectly happy to hang out with their buddies and never see a person. Because we make that choice everything that happens is our fault.

It may seem a bit harsh, but if we accept responsibility then we are also accepting that we can make changes. Responsibility is not just a burden but a gift. If everything happens to us without any ability to control it we are weak and helpless. To be responsible for the outcome is a power. It means we are capable of change.

In order to be effective in our responsibility to do right with our horses we need to know what they are thinking and feeling. If we never let them express themselves how will we know what effect we are having? If we pay attention horses are amazingly expressive. If we take a step back and ask what the cause is every time our horses are “bad” instead of punishing them it opens up whole new lines of communication. If we listen the first time they say they don’t understand what we are asking, if we hear them when they say it hurts when we do that, if we sympathize when they say they are scared, if we would just hear what they are saying instead of showing them who’s the boss so much of the time it would never escalate into a fight.

There are times when my horses have to do things.  They are working horses and jobs need to be done. Sometimes they don’t get to say no even if it’s not fun. I don’t want to go wade through ankle deep mud or brave a blizzard any more than they do, but we both have to. For those times the confidence and communication we have developed during the good times comes into play. I already know what they like or don’t like and how they say no. I can tell them that I understand and what good ponies they are for giving me their all. I can promise big rewards when we get back to the barn. I can know when to stop pushing, when it’s too much and let them take a break.

What does any of that have to do with this video?

When we work at liberty it is the equivalent of giving the horse a megaphone. We can hear their voice loud and clear. It forces us to refine our cues and training because if we don’t do a good job the horse can leave. By allowing the option of leaving, not just of staying and getting treats or leaving and not, but of leaving and going back to his friends and different food, I can be sure that I am taking responsibility for my training and insuring that it is the best I can do. That he is understanding what I ask. That it doesn’t hurt. That nothing is scaring him. When he follows me because he chooses to we have achieved the best possible communication and understanding.

I am taking control by letting go. Giving the freedom to say no is empowering. To the trainer, not just the horse. When we go back to riding or going places where he will have to be on a lead, we have already established our relationship. He can say if he’s worried without going to any extremes and knows I’ll listen. I know that he understands what is being asked of him and will give me exactly what I am asking for.

Here he has had enough of working on crossing the bridge/teeter totter. It’s hard work for him. Not physically but mentally. I am asking for a lot. He needs a break. I realize I have been pushing hard for quite a while and decide to call it quits there. I gave him permission to say no. He came back and said he was ready to try again but it was a good time to quit.

So, am I the boss? Yes. In the end I do get the final say. Am I an authoritarian sort of boss? No. Why would I want to be?  Life is more enjoyable when we all get a say in matters. As a reward for not “Showing Him Who’s Boss” I get a horse who only needs to be haltered to insist that we are done working and he really does need to go back out to pasture. I can live with that.


Sometimes when I look back at video I’ve taken of me and Rusty, or whichever horse, I see things I missed because I was busy concentrating. I pay full attention to my horse and don’t realize that Daisy has been standing right underneath me begging for a treat. Many things like that.

Sometimes though I get to see what my children have been doing while I’m not looking. It can be funny or scary or just mindless. seeming to me that is, I’m sure they are intent upon some purpose.

This time it was quite  a ways back. I had to really zoom in to see. It was a bit hilarious. Still no idea what they were doing. Could the trampoline have been involved?

Building Up To It

The kids had drug some of my lick tubs out. When I found them they were lined up carefully with my teeter totter/board laid across the top and toy dump trucks lined up on top of that. I don’t know what they were doing but it looked like a fun game.
I wanted my board though. I took the interesting arraignment apart. But it gave me an idea.
Rusty thinks the tubs should be eaten, pawed, tossed around, but I thought maybe I could use them to help guide his feet onto the board.
With them creating a narrow path for him to follow it made him put all four feet on the board. Once I convinced him to walk between them. I didn’t think to start the video until he was already doing that. Then I added an old fence post underneath for a bit of height.
It wasn’t quite a teeter totter but were getting closer!

Something New

Ever since we watched Adventures of Gallant Bess I’ve been wanting to add a new trick to our repertoire.

I believe you can watch the whole thing here…

She stood on a teeter totter made of a two by ten, or maybe twelve, made with a saw horse. I was awed. We will have to have a safer sturdier one but we WILL do this trick. First he is going to have to learn to stand on a board. Strangely that’s harder than it looks.

Rusty has done lots of targeting, with his front feet. Never with his hind before and that appears to be where we are going to have to go here. He’s not scared of the board, he just doesn’t see any reason why he should put his feet on it.

Confidence Challenge, Scary Objects Edition

It officially starts today!

A friend of mine approached me at the end of last year. She wanted to know if our other friend Ineke and I would be interested in putting on an online training course. It sounded fun to us so we all umped right in. It took a good while to plan and get everything down and working. Now, finally, it is going! Not only did it fill up, within two days!, but we also have a waiting list for the next one already.

We all do clicker training with our horses, and our dogs, and children, and husbands, and anything else we can get our hands on. Now we are working hard to teach more people about it. Jain is the tech guy, lady 😉 she is one of the few people who’s work my very particular husband approves of! As well experienced in online training stuff. Ineke is the sweet hippy chick who is great with people as well as horses, I actually did a lot of writing for the course and am happy to be along for the ride.

If this goes well we are looking forward to doing more like it!

I am Noche, in case you were wondering who in the world those people were  😉  Who wants to use their real names online. I certainly don’t!

Girls Day Out

We had made a play date. The kids were missing their best friends. I was too. Then Tanna texted, She was home did I want to go riding? I did! But how could we fit it all into one day?!

In the end we combined the two. The kids played all morning, we had lunch, then Tanna came over and we went for a ride. Not all of us. The children stayed home with my wonderful husband. It was just Tanna, Heather and me, and our horses. It was so fun to get to see Tanna and Jerry together. I came to the rather startling realization that Jerry is almost eighteen! When did she grow up?!

Heather rode Army. I rode Rusty of course. Army is well into his twenties, Jerry is almost there. Rusty was the youngster of the bunch. As we started through the yard Jerry was leaping enthusiastically. Army was off like a shot. We weren’t sure that combination was going to work. She questioned how old he was really? As they circled to a slow down if not a complete stop. I assured her that to the best of my knowledge he was an old man. Not sure if she heard me or not. Army was gone by then.

It was a warm day so of course the wind was blowing hard. Maybe the horses were feeling the coming weather change. What ever it was they were full of it. We didn’t walk slowly through the pasture we leapt and pranced and bucked our way through the hills. Little bucks but it’s always nice to know they’re feeling good. Zippy speedy Rusty trailed the herd. We laughed and talked. Screamed over the wind, but still we managed to carry on a conversation. We made a lap around the pasture then across the corn field. Then our tired, worn out, out of shape bodies decided they couldn’t take any more. Tanna was very nice about it and was willing to humor us and call an end to the ride.

The husband and the children had survived our absence. We were pleasantly sore and tired. Tanna left us and we crashed on the couch long enough to recover. Hopefully Tanna will come back and play again. That was lots of fun. I think a girls day out to go riding could become a tradition.

I don’t have much for pictures. We couldn’t hold still and I didn’t want to drop my phone. Here are the few I have.



Confidence Challenge Preparation

I have been trying to get video of Hieldorf starting his clicker training. The Confidence Challenge is about to get under way and I needed an example.
It’s hard to get any footage that can be taken seriously when I have so much help running around.
I had planned to work on targeting different objects, like the big bouncy ball. Of course getting it out to use made it immediately desirable and it was stolen for other purposes. Adorable purposes, but still

Proper Rewards

I am a clicker trainer.

Some people think that is all rainbows and marshmallows. That everything is all happy and hunky dory all the time. Actually, most of the time it is 😉

I have been given a hard time about being too soft and cuddly with my horses. I’ve been mocked about everyone getting a participation reward just for showing up. Isn’t that what we do?

That is where I draw the line, where I start to take offense. I reward generously and enthusiastically When My Horse Meets A Certain Criteria. Yes, we are all happy, and lovey dovey, and rewarding the slightest try, but there does have to be a try and the TRY is rewarded.We recently went to a school event that really drove the difference home to me. Before this I wondered if maybe I was one who gave participation rewards. Now it is very clear to me that I do NOT.

Some kids had worked really hard on their projects. Some kids had not. It was months of effort. The drive to the competition was long, but we did it. These kids had worked hard, they deserved to show what they had done. We were willing to put in the effort so their work could be rewarded.

We sat through the showing of their projects. We waited while the judges figured out their placings. We sat as every single kid got a token reward. The ones who had worked hard got a pat on the head. The ones who spent the time wrestling around and playing instead got the exact same pat on the head.

I train horses not children but I know what would happen if I tried to train my horses this way.

Say my horse Rusty is standing next to me in default mode, head straight ahead, four feet on the ground, working really hard at looking straight ahead, this is the hardest thing I could ask of him. I click and reward him. He turns his head towards me, nuzzling and searching for food, I click and reward him anyway. He got a treat either way! What is he going to do next? Will he work hard or will he keep searching for treats? Was anything at all accomplished?

I know there are reasons people want to reward all the children, all the behaviors. Some of these kids are small. They don’t really know they didn’t win something. Their token reward made them happy. That’s nice.

I have no problem with giving every horse in the pasture a cookie for free. It’s a good way to load the clicker. If you are wanting a certain behavior though, if you want them to happily work hard towards a goal, that isn’t the way to accomplish it.

I know I have been trained not to put the same effort in next year. Why not let the kids mess around and have fun instead of pushing them to concentrate, buckle down, work hard? When everyone wins the same amount of nothing they have trained nothing. I do like that everyone got a memento for their efforts, don’t get me wrong. Great, load the clicker. Offer a high rate of reward for those just starting out. There should be a jackpot though. An actual reward, for the ones that actually did good. A goal to strive for next time if they didn’t win it this time around.

Horses, children, any other animal out there, training is the same. Without reward we have no goal.