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, March 7, 2010

Sunday reflections

For many of us, Sunday is a time of reflection; a time to go to church and pray and meditate. For me, this Sunday is a time to drink my coffee, feed my pony and donkey, clean the barn and then get to the theater by 1:00 for rehearsal.
I love the theater. I love being a part of the illusion and magic that is inherent in each production. I've participated in plays as an actress and as stage manager and I have to say that I think I prefer the latter. Being stage manager allows me to help create the magic; to orchestrate it, choreograph it, arrange it. I set the stage; I MAKE IT HAPPEN..........sort of. I have a stage crew, of course, but usually it's one or, if I'm lucky, two adults and a whole bunch of kids ranging in age from 9-18. It would be great to be able to clicker train my stage crew. "Hey! You got the chair in the right place! Click!" "You remembered to turn the pillar around the right way this time! Click!" "You got the backdrop down in time! Click!"
But that's not the way it works. I do all the grunt work. I go to every rehearsal and consult with the director about what should go where. I spend months gathering props and working with the scenery/set designers (if there are any - usually it comes down to the director, myself and some poor, over-worked, kindly dad).........And then I write up what has to go where, scene by scene, and tape it in prominent places backstage. But of course nothing goes smoothly. The confetti cannons won't fire; the backdrop gets stuck and I have to run out and "unstick" it; the fog machine over-heats; the kids are eating the prop cookies backstage......................I do my best to "set the stage" but somehow, always, something goes awry.
Clicker training is sort of like stage managing. I do all the "grunt work." I read the books, I go to the clinics, I watch the dvd's, I buy a fishing vest (for treats, of course), I buy the right treats. In short, I set the stage. And then it's "opening night" for a new task or behavior. And the "leads" (my horse or dog or donkey and ME!) get "stage fright." One of us freezes and "forgets our lines." UGH. That's so frustrating!! So what do we do? Do we close the show? "Split - I ASKED you to take this treat politely! Did you not read the script? That's it! You're fired! I'll get another actor to take your place!" "SPLIT! WHY are you in my face? That is not called for! Read the stage directions! Forget it! This play is shut down! I can't find any decent actors who will read the script and do as I direct them!"
Or can I reset the stage? Can I rearrange things? Can I REWRITE THE SCRIPT? Yes, yes, and yes.
Clicking is about "setting the stage," certainly. We have to make sure that we have all the foundations in place before we start asking for bigger and better. But if there are "props" missing or the "scenery" is in the wrong place, the show must still go on. We just have to adjust and work around it, that's all.
I've discovered that if Split isn't doing as I'm expecting, then I need to step back and ask myself, "Hmm.....what am I missing? What's in the wrong place here?" Because most likely I've missed a step along the way - there's gap in our training; I've set the stage incorrectly. And Split WILL tell me - I only have to listen.
One night I was backstage at a play and one little boy, Peter, had been a handful since the beginning of rehearsal. He was a real cut-up and could not keep his mouth quiet backstage. I was concentrating on what was going on out on stage when I heard a loud whisper, "Mrs. Hayden! Hey, Mrs. Hayden!" I recognized that voice - Peter! I didn't want to hear that "So and So" had poked him or that his shoe was untied or that the lights hurt his eyes so I hissed, "Quiet!" Again - "Mrs. Hayden! Mrs. Hayden!" I glared at him to "BE QUIET!" and refocused my attention to the action on stage. And then I heard him again.
"Mrs. Hayden! THE CURTAIN IS ON FIRE!" ha ha ha Oh, yes, the curtain WAS on fire!! Apparently, one of the children had hit a spotlight with their foot and the bulb was directly against the stage curtain!! (We've since replaced both the lights and the curtain!)
Little flames were licking along the bottom so I ran out and stomped them out. Imagine if I hadn't listened to Peter that night!
That's how I feel about listening to my animals. If I don't listen to them, the "fire" will escalate until I CAN'Tput it out. I've learned that it's far better if I listen to what Split or Jingle or Jelly or Lucy have to say to me. I'm working on that but I'm still a pretty stubborn human sometimes.
Enjoy the day, everyone! We leave you with this quote (I love this one and I think it applies to us clicker trainers):

"You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles." (Miracle Max; The Princess Bride)

Don't rush your miracles!!!!

1 comment:

  1. "And Split WILL tell me - I only have to listen."

    Wonderful post!

    I love your comparison of clicker training and the theater. (And the fire story too!)

    So true. Our animals are always trying to tell us things, and it's up to us to listen.