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!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Eat That!!!

Like most neophyte clicker trainers, I had a tough time with treat delivery when I first began clicking. Food is a very high reinforcer for Split (he's all about the treat! ha ha) and he was so overjoyed with this new learning process that he would quickly grab the treat from my hand, resulting in nipped palms, bitten fingers, and a frustrated human being. Mary Arena taught me the "t'ai chi" delivery system which helped immensely and I also taught Split to back up a step or two in order to get his treat. When he has to stretch his neck, he's less likely to "snatch 'n grab." But then I read about "Don't Eat That!" This is about duration and patience, and I wouldn't recommend it for an aggressive animal unless you're working behind a barrier. But for a patient old soul like Split, it worked perfectly. I held out a treat to him and when he reached out to grab it, I closed my hand in a fist and brought it rapidly up to my chest. I also instinctively made a sound like, "Uh-unh!" (think "SSSSHT" as Cesar Milan does to dogs). Split was surprised by this and just stared at me. (For clarification - I did not ask for any behavior prior to offering the treat; it was all about the treat and developing patience in obtaining it.) I held out the treat again and once more he went to grab it so I did the fist to chest move again. The next time I held it out, Split hesitated for a second or two before beginning to reach for the treat. I clicked and let him have the treat. We worked on this each time we clicked and now I can hold a peppermint right under his nose and he will wait until I give him permission to take it.
I haven't done much clicking this winter. The weather is horrible, my paddock is either covered in 4' of snow or a layer of ice, and there's not too much room in my barn for indoor play. But on Sunday morning, I was feeling benevolent and decided that Split and Jingle each deserved a peppermint "just because......" Just because they're my friends, just because they're sweet and kind, just because I love them......."just because." So I went out into the paddock and began unwrapping the first mint. Split's ears popped up and he snorted, "CANDY!!!" And came right over to me and stood most politely while I unwrapped the mint. I put it in the palm of my hand and just waited......I thought, "I wonder if he'll offer to trade a behavior for the mint?" I could see the wheels and gears in his clever brain starting to turn. He looked at me; he looked at the mint. He licked and chewed for a sec and then took one step back. I smiled. He took another step, then another, until I counted 10 steps in all. I clicked and called him back to get the treat.
I thought that was pretty cool, letting HIM offer ME something instead of me asking him to do something specific. He's a neat pony!
Jingle of course waited politely for her turn at the candy. She's never in a hurry. She just ambled over to me and slowly lowered her head to my palm and very gently picked it up with those little, soft donkey lips. And then she chewed......and chewed......and chewed.....
That donkey knows a thing or two about getting the most enjoyment out of each moment in her life!
I love the quote I found this morning. I really should put it on a big poster in my barn. I don't know how many times I've done exactly what it admonishes against - thrown up my hands in frustration at myself, my pony, my dog, my spouse............and yet perhaps if I'd just practiced a little more patience..........

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success.
Elbert Hubbard

No comments:

Post a Comment