Cindy’s comments were like a bombshell…. I was really just scratching the surface – of my clicker knowledge – and of my knowledge of Ducati as a horse.
Training a horse is a bit like playing pass the parcel. Each layer reveals something and it seems to keep on going!
The stress I had caused Ducati with the bitless bridle handling extended to other behaviour. He would regularly pull away to lick and bite on the rail – like a version of windsucking. He would go into his own world. Here is a video.
He also became more anxious in second guessing the next behaviour I was going to ask him to do.
I needed to stop everything. I put the bitless bridle away for a while. Some days I took him into the arena to do almost nothing!! We would wander around – wherever he wanted to go and I’d just sit and hang out.
We spent a lot of time on the mat – I improved the head lowering exercise. This truly did calm him – I built longer and longer duration. I went back and studied Alexandra Kurland’s ‘Head Lowering’ DVD again.
Head lowering became one of his favourite things! He would almost have a little snooze while down there. When I felt him getting uptight we would go back to head lowering. Even now he likes to lower his head when he waits for me while I move his feed bucket! Here is a short video… you will hear the sigh at about 0.16.
I then started on something different. I wanted him to trot on cue – but how on earth do I start him trotting? I didn’t want to ‘drive’ him with a whip or rope. With some great ideas from the clicker community, I started by holding up a target. I ran along with the target – finally he trotted – I clicked and treated.
And so we went on….. my own trotting improved as well!!! I was clicking for the transition from walk to trot. It didn’t matter how long he trotted for – I just wanted to get him to understand the transition. Here is another video.
We worked on the trot transition around a large cone circle. I no longer needed the target. I used a hand and voice cue. Because of the focus on the transition – rather than the trot – Ducati learnt this cue well. If you listen to this Equiosity Podcast you will hear Alexandra Kurland talk about this.
Ducati was enjoying all of this – he was relaxing. I was observant of any signs of tension.
All of this let me see this horse for who he really was… and as my awareness grew, I realised how much I expected of him.
I will talk about this in the next post.
COMING UP – DUCATI – CHANGING MY PERCEPTION…
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