I haven’t posted anything for a while, we have had a break since we went to the clinic with Margrete Lie (Hesteglede). This is quite the long read, but here’s a video that shows our progression throughout the weekend, and in the end of the post there’s a bunch of pictures 😉
Before we left, my expectations were very low. I told myself that I would be happy if we even got all the way there, and that we would probably spend the whole weekend working on being calm in a new place. I was convinced something terrible was going to happen with Frøya on the transport, that she would kick out the door or something like that.
I was so wrong! Everything worked out wonderfully!
My aunt came to pick us up, and I loaded Frøya in the trailer. She was very keen to get in! It was a new trailer, much smaller and darker and bumpier than the ones she’s used to. So the first half of the journey she pawed a lot with her front feet. After that she stood like a champ! I, on the other hand, was so nervous I could hardly speak to anyone while we drove xD
When we got there, Frøya was quite sweaty (horses who are stressed tend to sweat a lot), although some of it was because of poor ventilation in the trailer – it was pretty hot.
I put her in her paddock, and she seemed to kinda settle in a little when I gave her some hay. Her neighbor arrived shortly after, and they became instant friends!
Right next to her paddock (behind solid fences) was a train track. The train ran past her 4 times an hour. The first day she thought this was really exiting, and tried to run towards it. But after a while she stopped caring about it at all, which makes it a great example of habituation!
We didn’t do anything on friday, because the clinic didn’t start until saturday. Me and my boyfriend spent the night in a tent in the woods!
We were the second equipage saturday. I collected Frøya from her paddock, and put her in the outdoor riding arena. I expected her to just go around checking it out and eat the grass in the edges, but she was very keen on doing some training! She was perfectly calm 😀 Before the clinic I had taught her a cue to move her hind quarters towards me while I stood in front of her (as preparation for haunches in), but she didn’t know anything else. We worked on moving forward while moving haunches towards me, and she did SO well! The only problem was me, of course. I have to learn how to walk backwards xD
We also introduced shoulder in, by trying to capture moments where Frøya mirrored me. This was SO hard! I tend to only watch the shoulders, but I have to learn to watch the back feet instead. I therefore missed some of the moments where I could have clicked. But Margrete said I did well!
The hardest thing this day, was the fact that I have rewarded Frøya very much for doing haunches in. Which means she offered it allllllll the time xD She needed to learn to only do it when I asked. This is called stimulus control, and is essential when doing clicker training. We haven’t done this a lot, so it was a good lesson for us!
By the end of saturday, we were able to do a few steps haunches in, followed by a few steps shoulder in, followed by halt and weight shift backwards! This is called a behavior chain. Instead of clicking and treating for every behavior, you ask for several behaviors before clicking. This way you can build long chains! Every new behavior you ask for becomes a reward for doing the previous behavior (if you are good at making the behaviors fun and rewarding individually).
I started developing some cues for the different movements:
- Weight shift:
For this I have to stand by Frøyas shoulder, facing the same direction as she is. Then I rock my weight backwards. Frøya mirrors me, and rocks her own weight backwards. I click just when she starts, because if I wait, she will eventually take a step backwards. I don’t want that, I want only the weight shift. I will change the cue for this so that I can ask for it while standing in front of her.
If I want her to stop, I stop myself. If I’m walking beside her, I give the vocal cue “prrrrt!”. I tend to also lift the hand closest to her, and moving it backwards while also stopping myself.
- Haunches in:
I lift my inside hand in the air while facing her. I want to fade this cue soon, and only use my body position and how I move my feet as cue. Mainly turning my body slightly to the inside, and putting more weight on my outside leg.
- Shoulder in:
We don’t yet have a solid cue for this, because this was our first time doing it. The cue is pointing at her inside leg just when it’s in the air, and also turning my body slightly to the outside and putting more weight on my inside leg.
Apart from the actual lessons, we practiced some patience. I sat watching another lesson, with Frøya standing beside me. She was quite fuzzy, so I rewarded her often (every 5 seconds or less).
We only had one lesson this day, but it was enough. Frøya was really tired, so we only did a short one. We continued with combining walk, haunches in, shoulder in and weight shift. We did several different combinations.
What we are going to work on:
- Haunches in:
Her head disappears to the outside, so I need to first ask her to target my hand before asking her to move her haunches. Perhaps doing target —> haunches —> target etc, so she will start combining them.
- Shoulder in:
Getting a solid cue, and make sure the outside shoulder doesn’t disappear outwards. Her outside leg should move towards me.
I’ll work on this along a fence, so I can see what’s happening.
I have to teach her to halt while I stand in front of her. This should be quick.
- Weight shift:
Add a cue I can use while standing in front of her.
- Walking backwards!!!:
It’s not so easy to teach a horse to stay in an exact position all the time without halter or rope or anything. Her nose should always point towards my belly button, and her shoulders should be aligned with my hips (I think!). For starters I must teach her to walk like this without crowding me or walking past me. Then I have to be able to move her shoulders and hips so that she bends her body the right way. I haven’t tried moving her shoulders from this position, so we need cues for that as well. I can move her hips by asking for haunches in or shoulder in.
The road ahead:
Our short term goal is to walk backwards in different shapes (without asking for anything), do haunches in and shoulder in along a fence (at least a couple of steps) and weight shift backwards while I stand in front of her.
Our bigger goal is to be able to ask for combinations of haunches in, shoulder in and weight shift while walking backwards in a circle.
Our even bigger goal is to do the same, but refine the cues so that I only ask the movements using body position.
Our biggest goal is to transfer these things to the lunge!
PHEW! Shit is getting real