Using treats as a means of positive reinforcement during training. I am all for it, but I have been struggling with it myself. Even having had good training in how to use treats properly as a positive reinforcement during training and seeing the results did not warm me to the concept. Working with horses of clients who would “search” for treats actively and single minded did not help me revise my point of view.
But I decided I needed this to get to a horse who is very locked up in his world. We have been working together for two years now. He has become far more balanced and supple and stronger than he ever was. No more on and of unsoundness, no more consistent gut issues. His mind on the other hand is still stuck in NO and there is no forward thinking, no curiosity. This is making a true connection really hard. A little example would be having him tacked up in the stable. When I want to go out of the stable with him I still need to physically give a tug on the reins … it is so sad.
So after putting in all the work to get him moving freely and balanced he just does not go for it!
Working with treats as positive reinforcement to get his mind searching and looking to me will help me get the connection that is still lacking. BUT because of his years of gut issues and deprivation of essential nutrients he is very into food – as he will go and get it himself. The first stage of the training will be me having treats on me and him not digging them out of me. Softly explaining the new rules because I know where he is coming from. Sometimes asking to take a step and rewarding with a YES and a treat I give to him, away from my pockets and body. Also rewarding if he starts exploring softly by scratching, kissing and listening to him. Putting his mind at rest. Taking an interest in me and exploring is good and will get my attention and my love. Responding, even with just a little try, to an ask will get him a treat. But if he just goes for a treat, ignoring my boundaries that is not acceptable. I think after two weeks we have got this first stage in really nicely.
Phase two is to weave it into the training. Not as the single way of asking, but as a way of rewarding. I want his attention so we can build up our connection. I would love to see him exploring and offering actions. So I will friendly ignore anything he comes up with that I do not want. No punishment, no reprimanding words basically no negative reaction what so ever.
The coming months we will explore lateral movement from the ground. A course given by Lucie Klaassen (https://trueconnection.lucieklaassen.com). Laying down groundwork for working in liberty is on my mind. For that having a horse that still only thinks of how to get away is not working. Getting him interested and engaged with me, having a true connection is essential. That’s why in this particular case I am introducing working with treats. A learning experience for me and for the horse.
Friday 13 August 2021
VIDEO Molly on SURE FOOT
This morning I had Molly on the SURE FOOT pads and made a little video about it.
Now Molly is/was a highly reactive horse, with lots of Thoroughbred blood. This means that when anything happened around her, noises or movement, she would react. Often her adrenaline would shoot up and she would need to move then. Regardless of any human holding her lead rope! And she would stay on high alert and be not very responsive of any intervention. Which could create dangerous situations.
For several weeks I have been working with Molly and her owner. Combining bodywork with groundwork. She is also very reactive to touch which means the body work needed to be adapted to her needs. Using a jade Guasha scraper did wonders.
To address her high strung re-activeness I have used the SURE FOOT pads. This can help a horse switch from high strung and reactive to calm. And that is exactly what it is doing for Molly. She has learned to be alert without going into a high reactive state. Even when she does she can now easily calm down again.
Sunday 4 July 2021
VIDEO – Faith getting her first Guasha treatment
Take a sunny afternoon and lots of time to spent with a horse. Working with a herd has many advantages for me. Horses are keenly aware of anything that is going on, in and around the herd. So introducing Guasha to them in this setting gives a more shy horse the time to watch and feel how a more confident horse responds to me.
Today I started with Faith the little white one, she sees herself as the guardian of the herd. Always checking everything out. And she is very confident with humans. She came over to check me out strait away. I let her sniff me and my jade scraper and started scraping very softly and carefully. She became very still, working out what I was doing and how she felt about it. Then I felt her relax and I picked up the treatment. Working from front to back, top to bottom and from the inside to the outside.
She loved long strong strokes and enjoyed every moment of it. We captured the treatment on video so you can see what it entails.
Faith focused inward into the treatment:
Taking full advantage of her spa treatment
Saturday 29 May 2021
Trailer loading (part 2)
Last time I wrote about how trailer loading problems not always are a problem with the trailer. I used Hudson as an example. Now training the horse is just solving half the problem, because in most cases the human needs to make some changes as well.
I wrote: “My analysis was that basically he said NO as soon as he got pressured/pulled or perceived actions as such.” Which meant that the owner working with him needed to change from telling him to go into to trailer to inviting him to go into the trailer.
This video is of the following week, were she is loading Hudson and doing a great job! Love the connection they have now.
Wednesday 12 May 2021
Trailer loading problems or not … (part 1)
Trailer loading is seldom a problem with a trailer …
I will use Hudson as an example how escalating problems with loading him on a trailer had nothing to do with the trailer.
So what was happening and why did the loading into a trailer got so challenging? He had never been a fan of being loaded onto a trailer, but with some doing he usually got on fine. Over the span of a year he had been getting fitter. So his surly reluctance changed into a more expressive NO. Hence the “escalating” of the trailer loading problem.
But why the NO to start with? My analysis was that basically he said NO as soon as he got pressured/pulled or perceived actions as such. It also was clear that this was a long standing behaviour. So to tackle this “trailer loading problem” I started with some lunging where he showed similar behaviour. He would say NO by bolting off or trying to. My job was to let him know I would not pressure him into anything he could not do. I would invite him to work with me and if he, out of habit of years, said NO I would just stay calm, listen to him, give him a moment and then invited him again to go on. I also made sure we did not by “accident” get into a situation that could be interpreted by him as pressure. This does not mean I do not put him to work!
Since being in a trailer was no problem I was confident that after three lunging sessions in quick succession we could progress to actually loading him on a trailer. My objective is that a horse can load himself onto a trailer and I am only there to invite them to load and to close the trailer.
It took 20 minutes the first time. Going home it took 5 minutes. Next day it took 20 minutes but he was becoming more confident that he could actually just walk onto the trailer by himself. Going home the owner could load him without any hesitation. So both the horse and the owner have been changing their habits and are coming together more and more.
The “trailer loading problem” was actually a combination of old habits and no clear communication between human and horse.
Wednesday 7 April 2021
Sure Foot to the rescue
After some really nice sunny spring days the weather changed. It was at Easter that we got an Arctic wind storming down with snow, hail and lots of very very cold air.
When I go up to the yard the wind is howling in between buildings, but it is dry. So first a round of poo picking in the field. Hudson is nice and warm under his rug and totally not interested in me. But when I go fetch him he is fine with that, knowing there will be hay in the stable.
But in the stable he just nit-picks at the hay. When I ask him to move a step aside he tours the stable. All in all he seems a bit tense. With two stormy days that is not really surprising. Now I know Hudson is familiar with the Sure Foot pads and his owner regularly uses them.
So to help him relax I put one hind foot on a pad to see what he thinks of it. Instantly he “zones out” and go to deep relaxation. Totally ignoring the hay just under his nose! After a while he goes from resting his toe on the pad to fully loading the pad, resting his other hind leg. Obviously he is totally into it and is able to really let go of any tension he had built up during the storm. After quite a long time I tell him I am going to move him. I slowly lift up his leg and shove the pad out of the way and very slowly put his foot back on the ground. Walk around and put his other hind foot on the pad. Hudson barely reacts, stays “zoned out” and goes straight back into deep relaxation.
After half an hour I take him of the pad and give him an additional healing session. Then I leave him to come back to the here and now, by starting to prepare his food 😉 This brings him back and he looks really alert! Bunkers down on his feed and starts with gusto on his hay net.
First his left right toe rests on it.
Than he moves back and loads his full weight on the pad.
Then moves back resting again before I quietly remove the pad.
I place his right foot on the pad, he curves to the left before he slowly straighten outs.
Finally I remove the pad, give a small healing and leave him for a while still deeply relaxed.