So – we left off with our new style of horse – the modified Centaur! Maybe it’s all a bit far fetched, but let’s just stick with that image for now!
We ask our Centaur to stand on a mat and we want him to stand there while we brush him. I will call my imaginary Centaur Bob!
Let’s say he already knows about standing on a mat. He gets good things there. So he happily goes there. Now, I start to brush him, but he moves away. He is no longer at his mat.
I think this is what it really means to be a clicker trainer. It’s about looking for the ‘why’. Why did he move off? This is when the real conversation starts. Did he not like the brush? Was he just sick of standing there? Did he see something else more interesting?
Still think of Bob in terms of being part human – it will help. So you ask him what the problem is. “Bob, I’d really like to brush you while you stand in this spot – can you tell me why you don’t want to stay here?
By this time you may have worked it out – Bob may be busy eating a pile of hay he spotted. He may have gone over to chat up Jenny – or he may have gone to have an argument with Bill. Or he may simply not like the brush, or not realise that you wanted him to stand there.
Sometimes it’s easy to find the answer. If it’s hay – don’t leave the hay there at that time – or make the mat more exciting by upping the rate of reinforcement. I would say the same if he had gone to the other Centaurs! If that’s not obvious, ask him about the brush – does it hurt in certain parts – is it better near the tail? etc. Can you use a softer brush – can you start with rubbing a damp cloth etc.? Maybe you need to just touch with the brush, reinforce and leave it for the day.
Back in the cultural fog, the norm would be to just tie the horse up and get on with it! But then you look Bob in the eye after all this fussing – and you see something – you see a sparkle! Bob cannot believe that he has been given a voice! Someone’s actually listened to him. It makes him feel good inside!
And THIS is what makes it so special!
You have finally given him the respect he deserves!
Forget the myth of the horse not respecting you. That needs to be lost way back in that cultural fog!
This photo was taken years ago. I had just started clicker training for the second time when I knew more. I watched Ducati’s eye change – he became softer – more human – I really saw him as an individual!
The eye was my way of seeing the change – from oppression to having a choice! I watch the eyes of my horses carefully – they can hold quite a story!
Just for fun, I will leave you with this video. I caught this by accident while I was swapping the horses in the arena. I think it shows where they preferred to be – and of course Magnum had a little melt down because I was taking so long!
So let’s leave this post here and I will be back with more soon!
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