Saturday, March 7, 2009

Elly and mat work

By way of an introduction, I will try to post something about each of the various animals (mostly horses but I may occasionally throw in a dog) in the beginning and explain what I am working on with each one and why. I'll try to post pictures too but this is a horrid time of year for photos in northern New England because we have shaggy horses and ice or mud to show....and then when you combine mud AND shaggy horses, well, yuck.

Today I'll focus on Elly. Elly does not actually belong to me but is on loan from a wonderful family who outgrew her and wanted her to go somewhere she could enjoy and be enjoyed by other children. She is a 14.3 hand Morgan mare. She is a funny combination of the Morgan and the mare. She's pretty unflappable, rugged and brave, like Morgans should be. But she is also sensitive and worries about some things- too much rein aid, whether it's safe to put her feet somewhere, etc. She freely moves her body around, but her feet worry her.

So my focus with Elly right now is mat work. I did some of this with her last winter and it helped a lot and I think more will be better! Last winter I used a cheap doormat and that transferred nicely to stepping on plastic and other scary, flappy things. Right now I'm using a piece of plywood about 2' x 3' as I've read that horses like the solidity and sound of their feet on the wood. I also hope this will help her be more comfortable with the trailer ramp.

Today I was hoping to get a photo of her standing on the mat, but when I tried to progress to walking away from her, I realized I did not have enough duration built up even when I was standing next to her. Duration is a very difficult thing for ME and I'll take all the excuses I can to force me to do more with it. There are lots of subtleties involved and I also noticed I could use my microshaping observations to help time my clicks...if she was leaning forward in the slightest, I had waited too long to click. I tried to click when she was standing solidly. I only got up to a count of about 12 before I started running out of treats, so I quit there.

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