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!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Clicker Feet

Hey, I'm double-bloggin' today!! But I'm so excited about our latest clicker success that I just wanted to share with everyone!
Split has always been a gentleman about having his feet handled - as long as he was tied up. At liberty, his attitude was, "I don't have to stand for this." Literally - he would just walk away as soon as I tried to pick up a foot. I never really pushed the issue because as far as I was concerned, hoof health trumped everything else so I would just take Split into the barn, tie him up, clean out all 4 feet, and let him go. But this year I decided would be "The Year of the Hoof." I was going to have him picking his feet up at liberty and he was going to like it! ha ha No, that was NOT my attitude. But I did make that my goal for this year and was excited to see how it was going to play out. I was also anxious to see how I would handle it........I've learned a lot about emotions and behavior these past few years - equines and my own!
I donned the vest o' treats and moseyed out into the paddock early this spring with no other goal than to be able to touch Split's leg without having him walk away. Literally, if he was at liberty, the second my hand reached for his leg, he would simply walk away from me. Yep, that's just what happened. I sighed and followed him at a leisurely pace. I reached out to touch the leg again and again he sauntered away. At no time was he grumpy or exhibiting any signs of stress. He was just free to go so he did! I have no idea long how I spent walking around that stupid paddock, patiently, step by step, waiting for that nanosecond when I would be allowed to touch a leg. (I tend not to wear a watch when I'm clicking.) FINALLY Split stood still for that one second and allowed me to touch his lower leg. CLICK, TREAT, WITHER SKRITCH! Yay! Could I touch it again? Uh.....no. LOL And so we began again. After awhile, Split was comfortable with me touching his leg and he didn't walk away from me so we quit there.
If you're a clicker trainer, you know that progress is measured in microscopic increments and rarely in huge chunks of success. And so we plodded around the paddock until one day.....I reached down to touch Split's leg and, lo and behold and halleluiah, he stood still and let me not only touch it but rub it and give him a nice massage!! Jackpot! Then I asked him to pick it up. "Bye-bye!" And off he went! Oi vey.
I knew this was as much about me as about him so I kept trying to see things from his perspective and asking myself, what does Split want or what is he trying to teach me?
When he finally did pick his foot up for me, of course I WANTED IT ALL and grabbed it and held onto it and he slammed that foot right back down on the ground and walked away. Oops. I blew it. More sighing on my part. More plodding around the paddock. And on it went. I began clicking for the slightest forward movement, indicating that Split was going to pick up his foot. Slowly (like the 3 Stooges.....inch by inch, step by step.........), Split would lift his foot higher and higher but I made no attempt to hold it. Progress!!
A week or so went by and we had temps approaching 100 degrees here with very high humidity. I hung out in the house; the horses hung out in the shade in the pasture or in the barn. No clicking aqui. Today, however, is lovely! Temps in the high 70's with a really nice breeze. I picked the paddock, donned the vest o' treats, and proceeded to groom the heck out of both Split and Jingle. I really don't have to treat for that because they both love it but they're so quiet and stand like statues so I throw a few treats in "just because."
Then I decided to work on "clicker feet" again. To my total surprise, the minute I moved my hand toward Split's foot, he lifted it up and held it there, light as a feather!!! Was it a fluke? Nope. He repeated it over and over and in the end I was able to hold it, clean it, and put it down slowly and gently. WHOOOO HOOOO! Truly a peppermint moment!!!!!!!
Of course, that was his off fore. Tomorrow we'll try the near fore. I bet I'm going to be spending a lot more time plodding around the paddock....................

You Know You're A Horse Person When... (quotes from Horse Forum)
...someone does something nice for you and you pat them on the neck and say 'good boy'. (I've done that, actually......)
...you say "whoa" to the dog. (Yep, all the time)
...you show up for an appointment in your city clothes and when you get there people reach across the table to pick alfalfa out of your hair. (Guilty!!)

One time I was walking my first graders from school up the hill to the monthly mass and when they dawdled along, I literally turned around and said, "Walk on, please, walk on." Oh, geez..............

Hey, don't forget - June 14 is Flag Day!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool!

    That's great that you are making good progress with his feet at liberty and that he offered to stand still today and pick up his feet.