I guess you have all heard of those colt starting competitions – how you can do it in several hours or so. Maybe you can – I don’t know. Just go to YouTube and search for colt starting and you will get so many videos!
I just picked colt starting as an example because the focus of these competitions seems to be on TIME! From what I can read, these competitions may take place over a couple of days, the horse is in a strange environment – and is surrounded by an audience. The trainer’s goal is to see how quickly they can complete certain tasks such as saddling, riding and then perhaps going through an obstacle course.
I can’t begin to imagine the pressure these horses are put under.
In contrast, clicker training takes time! …… or so it seems – but it’s amazing how all the little bits add up so quickly!
Clicker training is a jigsaw puzzle. In fact it’s like a never ending jigsaw puzzle! We break the learning into small pieces – after one piece is put in place, then we start on the next – and so on…. Think of it like a jigsaw…what happens when you do one? You usually find a few pieces, leave it for a bit, then keep coming back to it. It can be slow going, but something keeps drawing you back. You get excited as the picture forms – you are enjoying the challenge!
Now, apply this to our horses. You can still think of them as Centaurs if you like – if it helps you to change your mindset.
In a way, we are working on the training puzzle together. I’m responsible for presenting the puzzle in a manageable way – and the horse then goes about solving the puzzle …. if they want to….
And if they don’t want to – what do you do? First you check on their health, then you check if the puzzle is too hard… or for some horses – it might be too easy. You check if your reinforcers are exciting enough – or if they are happening often enough. And you check the environment – is it a safe, quiet, familiar place for them to learn?
You don’t force – you let them decide. And if they say – no I don’t want to do that – you go away and have the famous ‘cup of tea’ that Alexandra Kurland mentions so often. I will add that you might want a gin and tonic, depending on the time of day! In other words, you just take your time – you try it again at a later date.
Here is a video from a year ago – Danny chose to leave the arena. At that time we had just started walking in the arena again. Previously I had been doing his exercises on his mat while we waited for hoof boots. In the video he leaves – after we had done some walking. It’s rare my horses leave the arena before I do! I went inside and thought about it. The day after this I did a very short session – one loop around the cone circle – a few mats – and that was it. After that he chose to stay in the arena – it was now as good as his usual waiting spot!
What I have found is that there is magic in time. Things happen! Maybe the horses sit down and think about it! Often a new day will bring a different result – even if nothing has changed. Or you have thought about a new way to approach the puzzle – or you have found that your horse isn’t feeling well…
Apart from that, the time taken in puzzle solving often produces ‘something’. In my head I think of it like a weaving. Both horse and human are winding their way through the puzzle adventure. And during this time there is a bonding between you.
It has nothing to do with dominance or force. It has everything to do with the fact that your horse chose to join in the game.
While you take the role of the teacher, you and the horse are on a level playing field. You are equals – and when you are equals it creates a whole different energy. It’s fun, it’s uplifting – and rewarding for both!
Take your time – and find the magic!
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