This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When Things Get Squirrely............

.....share your nuts!!!!!
This little feller has been frequenting my bird feeder. He's awfully cute and I actually enjoy his antics on the front porch. My husband has offered to shoot him with his Red Ryder BB gun but I don't want anyone shooting their eye out. So for now, Squirrel and his nuts are safe at my house!

The idea is that there is a kind of memory in nature. Each kind of thing has a collective memory. So, take a squirrel living in New York now. That squirrel is being influenced by all past squirrels.
Rupert Sheldrake

Well, I don't know about that. If this squirrel were being influenced by the squirrels of MY past, he'd be scampering away screaming, "NO! NO! No squirrel pie!" LOL 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Best Beagle In The Class!!!!!

Last night Jelly and I began our Advance Obedience class with Cathy Crawmer. The class is held at an indoor venue, The Pet Lodge, in Clifton Park. The room we were in was long and narrow and a bit cramped once all the dogs and handlers got there. I wasn't sure how Jelly would handle it all - at least 20 dogs/handlers, big fans whirring, the microphone speakers squealing, dogs barking, etc. but she did a great job and I was very proud of her!! At one point we were broken into 2 groups. Group 1 was told to have their dogs sit and they were to stand beside them and visit with the other handlers. Group 2 (our group) was told to put our dogs on sit/stay. Then Cathy opened a door and told us, "Now, leave your dogs. Good bye." My first thought was, "Yikes.....!!!" But I went meekly along with everyone else. I was worried that Jelly would come running after me. Cathy let us each peek thru the door one at a time to check on our dogs and, low and behold, there was Jelly, still sitting where she was told to stay, little beagle butt firmly attached to that cold, cement floor!! She was looking around at all the other dogs and handlers but she didn't move! It was a very proud moment for me! 
As you can see from the photo above, Jelly was quite proud of herself when we returned home. She's clearly saying, "Look at me! I'm the best beagle in the class!" (SSSHH!!! Don't tell her she's the ONLY beagle in the class!! LOL) Go, Jelly!!!

"Linus: You know what you and Snoopy should do? You should go to an obedience school!
Snoopy: Why should we go to an obedience school? He already does everything I want him to!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Donkey Cam

Jingle is the cutest donkey ever and I love to TRY to take her picture! But she's so curious that the second she sees the camera in my hand, she just has to get as close as possible to see what it's all about! If I back away, she follows me. I'm usually only successful if I stand outside the pasture or paddock fence so that she can't get to me but then, of course, there's always that pesky fencing in the photo! I tried to get some pictures yesterday but, true to her little donkey self, she just couldn't stay away from the camera:
 See? A nose and an ear. Maybe next time, I'll get the whole ass..........LOL!!!

"There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept." Ansel Adams
(Well, I guess we got that covered! LOL)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mom & Dad?

My husband asked me a shocking question last night - one I never expected to hear from him! (And no, it did NOT involve Fredrick's of Hollywood.....sheesh!). He was petting our beagle and suddenly turned to me and said, "Do you REALLY believe that our pets can come back as people we've known? Do you think it's possible?" I was shocked! I never thought he'd become so enlightened! I said, "Well, sure, why not?" "Well," he continued. "The cat reminds me a lot of my dad and he did show up the weekend after Dad died. And this beagle reminds me a whole lot of my mom and you know how she loved her beagles. And look at the relationship between GrayKitty and Jelly." He paused to chuckle. "Jelly takes no crap from GrayKitty and she's the only animal who can make GrayKitty cringe and skulk away quietly." HA HA HA That's absolutely true!! GrayKitty IS like Harry - taciturn, prone to small hissy fits when things don't go his way, determined to always get his way, thinks he's totally in charge! Jelly's a lot like my mother-in-law, Nellie.....she welcomes everyone lovingly into our home, she's short and a little stout, she's very strong - physically and emotionally - she's forgiving, and she puts GrayKitty (Harry?? LOL) in his place with nothing but a dirty look or a short bark! Oh, and she had a GRAND sense of humor and certainly would have worn the reindeer antlers pictured above! She would have plunked them on her head and struck a few funny poses while laughing uproariously! John and I got laughing as we talked about the similarities between the animals and his parents. Sorta makes me wonder...........................

"The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew - it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 25, 2011

She Shoots! She Scores!

Well, not really, but Jelly is really catching onto our soccer ball game!! After she got the hang of touching the ball with her paw, I began withholding the treats in order to encourage her to offer another behavior. Naturally, she went to the ball several times, touched it with both her nose and paw and returned to me for a C/T. She would cock her head and look at me, asking, "Well?" I waited until she "batted" the ball with a paw and then clicked and treated her. Of course, as round objects are wont to do, the ball rolled away. This provided an interesting scenario! Once she received her treat, Jelly returned to where the ball WAS, looked perplexed for a second, then ran back to get her treat! LOL I was wondering if she'd figure out that she had to look around for the ball but apparently she hadn't made that connection and she continued to turn around and look at the spot where the ball had last rested! I finally went to the ball and nudged it with my foot so that she could see where it was and then returned to my spot by the counter. Jelly looked at me, looked at the ball, and then went to the ball and pushed it with her paw! C/T! From then on, she knew she was to find the ball, go to it and bat it with her paw. This has been a fun game and one that Jelly seems to really love! Her tail starts wagging and she has this big, ol' beagle grin on her face! I'm not sure what our next game will be but my daughter's fiance asked me yesterday, "Could you ever teach her to bat it into a little net like a goal?" Hmmmm..........Well, of course!! I'm thinking I could cut the bottom out of a box and make a square goal...........
100 Things To Do With A Box...and a ball!!! Clicking really allows us to use our imaginations. If we can imagine it, we can click it!

"I myself have known some profoundly thoughtful dogs." James Thurber

Yeah.......me, too!!! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pony Manners

The other day I decided to clean the stall area of my barn while Split and Jingle were enjoying their meager handful of hay pellets. Split's pellets always go in the old wooden manger; Jingle's go in a little rubber tub on the floor. For some reason, Jingle will only poop and pee on Split's side of the stall.....right in front of his manger! Some sort of statement? Who knows........Anyway, while Split was tuckin' into his pellets, I grabbed the manure fork and started scooping up the piles in back of him. He turned and looked at me, clearly saying, "Seriously? I'm eating here." Ooops. I guess I wouldn't want the waitstaff vacuuming around me while I was dining, either. "Sorry," I apologized. What a funny pony! He shook his head as though saying, "Geez. Humans!" And he turned and walked away and stood in the stall doorway with his butt to me! I started laughing and he turned and communicated, "Please. Just get on with it so I can get back to eating." I quickly finished the job at hand, stepped aside and called to Split, "Ok. I'm done." He looked at me and I bowed slightly and motioned toward his manger. "Your pellets, Your Majesty." Without a word, he walked politely back to his manger, snorted slightly, and resumed eating. What a hoot!!!

A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Perhaps that's true of horses as well?? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Watching The Paint Dry..........

Yeah, that's pretty much what clicker training is all about.....watching the paint dry or the grass grow. Ho-hum....at least to the casual observer. To those of involved in the process, it's really exciting to see those little, tiny steps toward success. And sometimes they're so microscopic you think, "Did I just really see that?" Take Jelly and that soccer ball........
So...I bring the soccer ball into the kitchen and place it on the floor in front of Jelly. She glanced at it, walked around it and sat in front of me. I nudged the ball with my foot. Jelly gave it a cursory glance and went on staring at me. No interest whatsoever. I got out my treat-filled fanny pack and suddenly those little beagle eyes lit up like high-beams and her tail started wagging "to beat the band" (my grandmother's expression!). She knew then that she was in for some fun! 
Jelly hadn't yet associated the ball with the treat at that point so I gave her a little help. I nudged the ball with my toe again and when Jelly looked at it, I clicked and treated (C/T).
It took several minutes for her to associate "look at the ball" with getting a treat but once she got it, you could see the wheels start to turn. She looked at me, cocked her head, glanced at the ball, and then looked at me again, clearly asking, "Is that it?" I then added lavish verbal praise. (I tend to be quiet when I'm clicking for a new skill because I don't want to confuse or distract the animal. Occasionally I will add a quiet "good, good.") When "look at the ball/CT" was established, I stopped C/T for looking at the ball and simply waited to see what Jelly would offer once she figured out that just looking wasn't working anymore. She looked at the ball and then at me several times - not receiving a treat - and then stood up and looked at the ball - C/T! She remained standing and looking at the ball. We repeated this loop several times. Because Jelly was clearly enjoying the game and wasn't frustrated by it, I decided to add another criteria - would she go to the ball and put her nose on it? I helped her out a bit by pointing to the ball and saying, "Touch it." As soon as she did, she got a small "jackpot" treat (3 treats instead of 1). She caught onto that right away! I probably could have gone right to "touch it" from the get-go since Jelly has targeted a box before but I thought I'd try starting at the beginning. Anyway, after 10 successful nose touches, I again extended the period between clicks, wondering what other behavior she would offer. She touched the ball with her nose several times and returned to me for the treat. She never gets disappointed when the treat is not offered.....she simply stares at me (and one must have a lot of patience at this juncture! LOL). I smile and wait, hands behind my back, smiling and waiting, smiling and waiting.......She finally went to the ball, touched it and tentatively put a paw on it!! Exciting stuff!! I immediately clicked her and gave her lavish praise and a jackpot. When she had completed 5 successful paw touches (being C/T after each one), I called it quits for the day. I have no idea how long that all took us. I've discovered that when you're first teaching or wanting to shape or capture a behavior, you should take off the watch and just allow things to develop on their own. If I'm pressed for time, I find I WANT IT NOW and that just makes things more difficult so I choose a time during the day when I know I have "all the time it takes."
We're doing more with that soccer ball and I'll fill you in as we go along.