Coyotes Eye

I keep meaning to write about this. It’s been difficult. Not only because of the subject. Also I’ve been fighting Christmas, between everyone being home and trying to get ready there’s not much time to write, and I could not get the pictures to load to my computer from the phone. Yes I took pictures!
I guess I should mention just what I took pictures of.
Yes, the whole thing was incredibly difficult for me. I sat down that afternoon and wrote a deep sentimental sappy post about it. Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with that one. This one I am going to keep light and factual.
My husband stayed home to feed cows and watch kids. I loaded Coyote, Harvey, and our cat up. Might as well take a full load if we’re going. I wanted to get Harvey’s teeth checked out, make sure there wasn’t anything going on in there. The cat has a sore on her hind end that hasn’t healed. Wanted that looked at too.
I put Coyote in the back thinking they’d start on him first. They didn’t. They did let me keep them both together the whole time. He kept a very nervous Harvey calm while the vet decided his teeth looked great. Then they both went to a pen to wait while they looked at the cat. A quick look and it was decided it needed an antibiotic. Then it was time for Coyote.
The vet tech was great. She was calm and easy with him. The vet was also great. She kept trying to get me to go home and leave Coyote there. It’s a gruesome operation. They didn’t think I could take it. There’s no way I was leaving him though. He’s not an easy horse. Although I’ve really liked this vet every time we’ve seen her I wasn’t going to chance rough handling. I told them I was staying.
They gave him a strong dose to nearly knock him out. He would stay standing while she worked. As his head nodded lower and lower she gave him shots in and behind the eyeball of pain killer. I stood arms crossed in front of me, his head resting in my hand.
We talked as she worked. Womanly things, c-sections, in people and cattle, children, husbands. She was competent and gentle. Soon my hands felt wet. I looked down and realized they were covered in blood that dripped down his face as she cut. I moved my treat bag and phone around behind me to keep them clean.
Of course I brought my treat bag! One of the things I like about this vet is that she has been patient with and never mocked my treat bag and clicking.
Soon enough she had the eye out. I asked her to wait and let me get a picture, leaving blood smears across my phone but documenting the moment. The loss. She says she often sends things like that home for children to take to school to study and dissect. Gotta love small town schools. I thought hard about whether of not to share the picture here. In the end I decided it was too much.
She sewed the skin tightly shut over the hole before I was willing to look. I would stay for the surgery that doesn’t mean I had to look. The change was startling and hard to look at. He will feel so much better though, without the pain of the growth bothering him.
He went back out with Harvey, who had woken enough to start calling for his buddy, to finish waking up. I had an errand to run and was given permission to take him home as soon as I was done. He had come through even better than usual and she didn’t see the need to watch him for the usual length of time.
Coyote is adjusting well to the complete loss of sight on that side. Loosing sight slowly must have helped a little. He is taking his pain med well, after a few hiccups on my end. I am looking forward to writing about our cure for the Bute problem.

Sortin’ Cattle

Rusty had another chance to show what a big boy he is becoming. Before the cows went out on corn stalks we went through and picked out any that were getting some age to them or limping at all. Those will be kept up close to the buildings where they wont have to walk as far and can be given extra feed.
This one looks pretty healthy and energetic here but there must have been some reason I pulled her out. Rusty seems to be enjoying his job. He let out an enthusiastic little buck as we ran over the top of the dirt pile. The dog getting in the way the whole time could use a little clicker training herself I think.

Driving Horse

Sometimes I worry about how far behind we are. Of all the things Rusty should be doing by now. Of all the things he would be doing if I rode once in awhile instead of messing around with those silly tricks. I hear people say things about trick training, they don’t say them kindly either. They have real training to do and don’t have time to mess around with silly things like tricks. I sometimes think we should work on real world skills. I’ve been meaning to introduce Rusty to a rope. A good cow horse needs to be able to have a rope thrown off his back, to be able to hold and drag a calf. It’s so hard to find time for these things though.
Today after church the weather was perfect. Warm and calm. The kids played outside then decided they wanted someone to pull their wagon for them. I said I could do it, on Coyote. Then I remembered how I am trying to go really easy on Coyote until his eye is taken care of. Then I thought about Rusty. He’s never drug anything in his life. So why not start him out pulling the wagon loaded with children?
He took it like a pro. Never spooked. Never hesitated to put his full weight into it. The work wasn’t easy through the deep sucking mud. With the time put in and trust learned working on learning tricks rusty waited calmly for his next cue. He’s used to me asking things of him that would seem weird to a normal horse. He was happy to be playing at this latest fun trick we were learning together.
We’ve been wanting to learn to drive Harvey who may or may not know how. It has somehow never occurred to me to just teach Rusty to drive. I may be buying myself some harness for Christmas

TAG Teaching

My very wonderful sister in law said today that I will try to clicker train anything that breaths. She may be right. But when something works why fight it? I’ve trained the horses, our dog, a cow. I could work with the cat or the goats but there’s only so much time in a day.
Instead I’ve been concentrating on children. I don’t know that we’re allowed to clicker train children. It might not be PC. Instead I’ve been doing some TAG teaching and positive reinforcement.
I volunteered for an after school program my daughter is in. It must have been a moment of insanity and I soon realized just how much I didn’t want to do it. It’s right after school and the children, especially the boys, needed to be out using up all that energy that had been contained throughout the day. They cold not sit still, instead rough housing and bouncing about the room. Not that I blame them but it did make life difficult. After a few weeks of yelling and ordering around I decided there must be a better way.
Enter the clicker. And a bag of candy.
I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to go about it at first, whether I would click them individually or as a group. We rotate through four groups each person taking a different group each week. This would allow me to test the training on all the different children and not mean that it had only worked because of the certain children it was applied to. Also that I had to train different ones every week.
I sat down with the first group, the first time, and asked if they remembered when I brought my horse to the talent show last year. Rather gratifyingly, most of them did. This is a rural school, most if the kids have horses of their own. Seeing a horse isn’t a big deal to them. Our tricks had excited them though, some remembered that he could bow, others that he danced. I then told them that I was going to train them the same way I trained him, by telling them what good jobs they were doing. Then I loaded the clicker. One click, one little piece of candy each, a few times over. Soon every time I clicked all their little hands were stuck out waiting.
I clicked them for sitting down, for listening, then as they got the idea every time one asked if they could help, invited another child to join their group, was polite, or helpful. The whole group got a candy so I tried to be sure no one was doing anything particularly rotten. All those little hands would stick out, then they always asked why? I explained that someone had helped or been nice.
I got a few, Wait, all I have to do is say thank you to get candy?! Soon everyone of them was offering help, inviting another child to work with them, apologizing exuberantly if they bumped into each other.
It worked the same through every group. Even the most difficult were tolerable with a few clicks. The adults stood around after the last class telling horror stories of their evening. One fight. Three children in one group banging around the room, climbing over and under desks. Nobody paying attention. I sat quietly and listened. Mine had been wonderful.
This week the lady in charge brought a few bags of candy of her own.

At church we are getting a handful of small children ready for the Christmas program. Ages three up to early teens. The smallest have to walk up the aisle and say a few words into the microphone. They started out shy and quiet. We added a small reward after each repetition of their lines. First with a click, this is all experimental, then without. It worked much better without. Instead of a click and every child getting a candy every time, the one who finished their lines quietly gets a candy reward.
They march enthusiastically up the aisle and shout into the microphone. This may be working too well 😉
The older kids get their reward too. After their patience in waiting for the littles to finish and reading their lines we make the trip down the line giving each one a candy.

Then my children started doing this the other night. He was playing the dog and she his owner. She was doing quite the job training him too.
This may be getting out of hand.


Coyotes eye is getting worse quite steadily. It is going to have to come out soon. There are some benefits to the slow progression of his cancer. He is becoming accustomed to not being able to see out that side bit by bit instead of all at once. The tumor covers more than half of it now and is starting to make the eye difficult to close.
I don’t know what the surgery and care afterwards will entail but we are doing all that we can to prepare in advance. Instead of waiting until he needs medicine put on it then trying to convince him to accept it, I am getting him used to assuming position and letting me mess with the eye lid. Hopefully this will make it easier for the vets to look at it and for me to doctor after the eye is removed.
It’s a hard thing to know is coming. As long as we can still have Coyote, what is one eye anyway? He will be just the same wonderful horse with only one eye that he is with two. Now I just need to get the vet called, and to keep telling myself that.

Learning To Train Through Learning

I stopped in town today to drop something off. There on the front step, a native man stood, talking, waiting while the women folk did their shopping. He was very friendly and said hi as I walked past. On my way out we struck up a conversation. He introduced himself. His name was wonderful and in the native tongue, Tatanka something that meant two. Of course I can’t remember it, I can barely remember my own children’s names. I told him that of course I knew what Tatanka meant! I’ve seen Dances With Wolves.
He said he would tell me how to say anything I wanted to know. I want to know all of it! How often do we get a chance like that? My mind doesn’t absorb knowledge as quickly as my thirst for it would desire. I froze, I couldn’t think of anything to ask. Finally I said hi. I want to know how to say hello. He told me. He told me quickly and fluently.
I tried. I stumbled through repeating it, poorly and with terrible pronunciation I’m sure. He knew what he was doing though and kept going. More words. Paragraphs of things I was unable to grasp. No way my mind, already lagging behind, could remember.
As I drove home repeating the one phrase I could almost grasp over and over to myself, trying desperately to force the knowledge into my brain, it occurred to me that we often do the same thing with our horses. We know what it is we are trying to teach. We know what the outcome should look like. In our excitement and enthusiasm we keep pushing more and more of our knowledge to our horses.
Our horses are usually willing, they do try so hard to get along. They do their best to grasp all the things we keep throwing at them. Perhaps if we slowed down a little. If we worked on one thing at a time. Gave them a chance to catch up, to learn that one thing before we moved on to the next. Perhaps we would speed up the training by slowing it down a little.

The phrase I was trying so hard to grasp? It was along these lines. Not quite this, instead it was we will meet again, I think, but this was the closest I could find.: Ah kay wan chee keyn ktay = It was good to see you again!

First Training Session With Poppy

We are working on treat manners and targeting. Cows present completely different problems when it comes to treat manners than horses. With horses we mostly worry about biting. Also staying out of our space and not smashing us, but differently than we have to worry about cows. Not that I am exactly sure what it is I am going to have to worry about with a cow and clicker training. I do know the usual problems and ways to get hurt with cows though.
Cows can bite but they don’t have teeth on the top, only bottom in front. Biting pinches but doesn’t usually break the skin or hurt quite as bad as a horse. I’ve been bit by far more cows than horses actually 😉
What cows do that can get youhurt much worse is head butt. It’s how they fight each other and how they defend their calves from coyotes. In the video here she is doing some resource guarding. Baa, our goat, has gotten too close and is making her nervous. She is starting to rub her head on me and push a little. I am more active in dissuading that behavior with my elbow, a touch of positive punishment, than I would be with a horse. That little bit is fairly dangerous. A cow that isn’t scared of you at all is far more dangerous than one that just keeps her distance. They will be more likely come up and eat you during calving if you have to mess with their calves and without fear, or well taught manners are just more likely to run you over. Good manners are very important.
Horses will at least try not to step on things under their feet. Cows just walk all over anything on the ground.If they knock you down you can get good and smashed.
To avoid all of that we are being very careful about manners. This is our first go and she’s starting to get the idea. We had to move out of the way to let a bull go past. He asked us to move very politely. All the cattle are just finishing up their breakfast, ground hay with corn mixed in. There are round bales waiting for them. They have free choice hay available at all times.  Poppy is completely free to go any time she chooses. This will be a fun and interesting learning experience for me no matter what she ends up learning. Completely +R, except for the little bits of +P I add to keep myself safe.  She doesn’t have a halter or want to be touched so there will be no pressure based training involved. I can’t wait to see where we go with it!

Cognitive Dissonance? Or Functional Fixedness?

In clicker training we often hear that people don’t want to switch over from whatever their normal training method is because of cognitive dissonance, “ the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values”. The theory is that by believing that you can train horses more kindly by rewarding them makes people uncomfortable because then they see how cruel they’ve been to horses, all animals, up to that point making it hard for them to accept positive reinforcement because it forces them to accept that they were unkind. This is obviously true for the people who believe that. But is it the sole reason and true for everyone? I tend to disagree.

I was reading a great article in the December/January Readers Digest. Most people come with quotes from deep scientific papers, I read Reader Digest. I am not deep and scientific. This is taken from a slightly more lofty source though, Elastic: Flexible Thinking In A Time Of Change, by Leonard Mlodinow. He states that once on a path people tend to follow it, no matter what. We get stuck in our ways, stuck in our thinking and are unable to change, unable to even recognize that it is possible for things to be different.

I know I see it in myself regularly. I fight and fight with something no matter how hard it is to accomplish. I don’t see that I could do it different, even though often there are ways of doing it much more easily that I should be aware of, it just doesn’t sink in because I’m so busy fighting my way down the path I have chosen.

It’s not because we are bad people. It’s not because we know, subconsciously, that it will make us feel bad if we do things in a kinder way. It’s that we are already doing it, in the way we are used to, surely there is no other way.

Most people are already doing things in a very kind and understanding way with their horses, or any animals. Are there things that could be improved? Yes. All of us have things that could be improved. Few people are going to start clicker training and suddenly become distraught over how cruel they’ve been their whole lives. There may be some why didn’t I do this sooner?! This thing and that would have been so much easier if only I had discovered this easier, funner, way sooner! The same as I feel nearly daily about many things in life.

In order to overcome our fixed ways of thinking he offered a few suggestions.

Change your environment, from small changes like reorganizing, to larger ones like reorganizing your entire life.

Pretend you are encountering situations for the first time no matter how often you’ve encountered them. Think about and examine deeply the normal ordinary things you encounter regularly in life.

Surround yourself with people who don’t necessarily agree with you. People who have different view points and ideas. I guess I’ll have to keep following some of those groups that drive me crazy 😉

And, this one should be easy for us positive reinforcement people, think positively! When we get all negative we shut down, stop thinking. When we are positive in our thoughts and actions we explore and broaden our horizons, open ourselves to new thoughts and ideas.

I think that instead of being all negative about the reasons people aren’t interested in trying positive reinforcement, criticizing and critiquing, we need to stay open, listen to them, talk, share, and be nice. Remember that we need to be as open to the possibilities that there are other ways of doing things as we would like them to be.

And to go with that, a video of Harvey nicely walking into a trailer 🙂



Hay Grinding

Yesterday I put up the video of Harvey and Rusty grazing quietly next to the massive, noisy, horse eating hay grinder. That video was the ending. It doesn’t begin to cover the rest of the story.
As Paul Harvey would say. I miss him. His name was Harvey, just like Harvey! Just realized that. But anyway.
We brought cows home just before Thanksgiving. Just in time too. It’s been cold and snowy ever since. We wouldn’t be able to get a semi load of cows in now on the slick muddy roads.
Until Thanksgiving break ended my husband went out and did the feeding. I took over Monday when he went back to work. We, I mostly since he does not like cows!, have a very tiny herd of our own. I had seen all of them but one. I looked really hard. No sign of her. Then I couldn’t find her calf either. One cow missing out of a tiny herd hurts. Financially and mentally. She’s a really good cow, young, sweet, and always raises a nice calf. I was starting to get a little worked up.
After feeding I saddled Rusty and put a halter on Harvey to bring him along. Horses don’t only learn by riding. We rode through the slop, mud and poop, and the rain/snow, searching for that one cow. Finally, chasing a tight circle of them off a hay bale her head with the pale green ear tag proclaiming her to be number 313 popped up. I was thrilled to see her.
We went up and rode through the calves searching for her calf. The calves ran around us, back and forth, up and down, as calves do. It was a lot for both horses to take in. We didn’t find the calf. I did remember seeing one of our calves with his mama when we brought them home missing an ear tag. I will assume it was him.
By then they were well underway grinding hay. We rode out into the yard. We made big loose circles around them. Letting the horses look, listen, and settle down.We rode down wind of them and let the horses sniff in wonder and try bites of this weird hay covered snow that was underfoot. They took it all pretty well until we rode down between the hay bales and the grinder.
Harvey wants to shoot past us anyway and we were going towards home. He and Rusty kept goosing and wanting to run forwards. We made laps, stopping to graze at each end. Make it past the scary thing, get a treat. Back and forth, back and forth. Lots of grazing mixed in. Until Rusty could go on a loose rein and Harvey wasn’t trying to pass up any more than usual.
At one point I looked up and the guy running the grinder gave me a big thumbs up. He has horses. Big fancy expensive horses. I used to show with him back in the day. Not against him, he was always in the open classes. I was amateur. But we’d be at the same shows and talk. I have to say that his expression of approval made me feel a little warm and fuzzy.
I had thought, briefly about wearing the GoPro for the whole thing. The rain made that out of the question. Taking pictures was a dangerous undertaking, in the wet sitting on one hot horse while the other bounced around us. I managed to get a couple of pictures without dropping my phone though!


Group Workings

I have been out to play with the horses little bits here and there. With Thanksgiving and everyone home there hasn’t been much time.
I had a few minutes with only one small child underfoot so I snuck out to worm them. Deworm to be exact for the nit picky out there. Amarillo took\k one look and knew something was up. He left.
That left Coyote as the next trouble causer to be gotten done and out of the way before he realized and left too.He usually takes it well, and was, until Rusty went after Harvey and startled me. I looked to be sure I wasn’t going to get smashed. And stopped right in the middle of squirting the nasty stuff into Coyotes mouth.
I spent the extra dollar to get apple flavored wormer. Apparently that didn’t somehow make it yummy. Coyote wanted nothing to do with me after that and it took a little longer to get the job done. As soon as I let him go he turned to Harvey who was of course immediately underfoot again and I swear he wiped his mouth off on Harvey’s back.
Rusty stood wonderfully and Harvey will suck anything that get too near into his mouth. He gobbled it right up before realizing, or maybe never realizing, it was anything other than a treat.
Then we get to the video.
During the last snow we had lots of time to work on group treat manners. Harvey is still an issue. Way too enthusiastic. Not bad, just in my space. Amarillo was getting curious but it still took him a bit to join the fun.
With Coyote we are working on putting his head on my shoulder and letting me mess with his eye. It will be coming out soon. The cancer is growing quickly. Starting to make it hard to close the eye and being generally uncomfortable. I need to call and get the appointment made. I want to be sure he has the ability to care for it well installed before it is done.
Amarillo finally decided to come into the group. It took a bit to get him caught and haltered. I only left in the last little bit, I really thought this whole video would be two or three minutes long. It was over six in the end and I had to cut something. He took his wormer so very well in the end I’m not sure what all the upset was about.
Then I was out of apples and had to fall back on my special secret supply of peppermints. That Amarillo didn’t like. Oh well, he should have let me catch him earlier.