Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 46

Session #1 - Around 3:30 p.m.

My clicker training book came! I spent some time and read through the first part of it, and thought through some of the issues we have been working with. Then I decided what we would work on today and ran out to get started!

Little Man was way out in the back of the pasture. Since the recent rain, the things he won't eat have grown up so tall I couldn't even see him. But he came up when I called. I waited in the pen, but he stopped a couple of yards from the gate and wouldn't come in. So I went out to him. I held out my hand, and as soon as he started to take a step I said, "Come". I figured since he comes up to me anyway, I might as well start getting him used to relating the word to the action. I did this a couple of times, then stroked him on the face.

I worked for a bit on resting my hand on his forehead. As soon as he stilled, I clicked. I gradually increased the intervals, though it wasn't very long. We got to 4 or 5 seconds though, I think. I then moved my hand up to rest between his ears. We repeated, with my clicking when he stilled. I moved from resting my hand to gently rubbing.

Then I worked from the left side of neck, moving my hand up to rest on his poll, again working from resting to rubbing. Then I switched the clicker to my right hand, and used my left hand to work from the right side of his neck. He was a little shy of my left hand, but after I treated him from the left hand the first time, he didn't flinch.

Lastly, I progressed to lightly and quickly running my hand from the base of his ear up the ear, then more slowly, then resting my hand on his ear. Then I repeated with the other ear. When I decided it was time to stop, I fingered his forelock a bit, and it didn't seem to faze him.

I worked the cookie bites and peppermints in between bits of wormer and feed, usually when I increased the difficulty. (I have been trying to do this so the "goodies" don't always and only come last.) I did notice that he didn't turn and walk off after getting a peppermint. I also immediately started petting and stroking him and working as soon as I gave him a special treat, so he knew we were still working.

He was very calm throughout the entire session. I didn't have my watch on, but I'm guessing we spent about 15 minutes. He did raise his head some, and did a little pie eyeing, but it wasn't full blown, and he settled down easily.

A couple of times he moved his head then sidestepped away, but he always came back, and I worked my way up to what I had been trying when he moved. I believe he is learning that my hands are not going to hurt him. He's not too sure about things that I happen to be holding, but I know that eventually he will realize that if I'm holding it, it's okay.

As I was reading the clicker training book, I noticed that in many instances, it took horses several days to figure out what the clicker meant. I remember how Little Man figured out that "clicker means treat" after about five clicks. :-)

He is so smart, and he really wants to please. And I am continually struck by how gentle he is. I wasn't being careful, and I accidentally stuck my fingers in between his lips. He stopped and pulled back when he felt them against his teeth, and gave me an opportunity to reposition my hand. It was very quick, but I know he was aware of what was going on.

He is still preferring that I stand in front of him, but he is not as insistent. Several times I was able to step and stand beside his head, more so on the left side than the right.

Session #2 - around 6:30 p.m.

Little Man came up to meet me, but stood outside the pen and wouldn't come in. I petted the goats for a while, and he moved closer to the gate, but stopped a couple of feet outside it and would come no farther. I didn't want to go out again, because I don't want him to train me to come to him wherever he is.

So I stepped out of the gate and held out my hand. I petted, clicked, treated, and moved backward into the pen. He came into the pen a few feet, and I made sure that we were standing so I was not in between him and the gate.

I continued to work on touching his forehead, poll, and ears, and his forelock and mane a little. He is settling down more. As we were getting to the end (we were running out of feed and treats!) I was just stroking his neck, and he angled his head; he was asking me to rub the base of his ear! I also worked on raising my hand in front of his eyes, which causes him to immediately raise his head and pie eye me. But we'll keep working on that. I was able to stroke his ears and even hold them, with lots of clicking and treating. It is so amazing that I can actually see him thinking "If I just hold out, she'll click and treat me." He KNOWS!

I stopped the session because I ran out of feed and cookies, though I did have some peppermints left. But he followed right behind me to the gate. My daughter came up to ask me something, so I had him target her hand a couple of times. He did, but he wouldn't take peppermint treats from her; so I gave them to him. Then she left and my husband walked up. Little Man let my husband rub his forehead, and even reach his hand up and rub between his ears! I clicked, and let my husband give him some treats. He did this three times.

Then I stood and petted Little Man for a couple of minutes, and left him grazing right beside the gate.

Today was pretty relaxed, and I'm glad I took the pressure of the halter off of us. I'm going to keep working with touching his ears and moving my hands around them. That way when I do finally get that halter up there, any fumbling I do won't bother him as much.

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