So today I wrote up a plan for working with Elly. My big goal is to have her "stay with" her handler, whether it is rider or someone leading her. She is fine with me, but can really drag a kid around if grass is available. I'm not sure if this is really a reasonable goal. The kids just don't seem to have the muscle to stop her and I worry about whether they have the mental sharpness to be quick enough to outwit her. My hope, therefore, is to teach her to pay attention to her handler- in this situation it would be me- and see if it will carry over to the kids when the time comes. In any case, I'm sure all these little lessons will come in handy for her general education.
In clicker fashion, I had to come up with things she should do, not things she shouldn't do....I need to have things that I can reward her for. It is not clear enough to a horse that they are being rewarded for "not eating". I came up with three mini-goals toward this larger goal:
- relaxation- she needs to be relaxed with her handler, not worried about anything, nor on the hunt!
- self-control- she needs to be able to resist the grass or other food temptations when she is being asked to work in any way- under saddle or in hand
- attentive- she should be looking for the next cue, wondering what she could do next.
- relaxation-"Grownups are Talking"...she needs to learn to just hang out next to a person and not fidget
- self-control- "You can't Get Me to Eat that Carrot"...this will be identical to practicing her self-control around grass.
- attentiveness- I chose a combination of the "Cha-cha" and "Duct Tape" lessons. My thought was that by doing a combination of all these, it would keep her busy and focused on what I was going to ask for next so she wouldn't get bored.
It was easy to break down the Grownups Lesson. That was simply a matter of duration so I just continued to count as I asked her to stand and just increased the duration by a second or two at a time.
I broke the "You Can't Make Me Eat that Carrot" lesson down into holding the carrot out, approaching her with a carrot, standing in reach of her with the carrot, and then trying the same with a fresh cut apple, then with a flake of hay and then with a bucket of grain.
The third mini-goal was the Cha-Cha and Duct Tape Lesson exercises. I set up a random series of movements to ask her for to see if she would pay attention both to each request and to the long series of them as I switched from one to another. The different moves were:
- one step forward, one step back
- forward, back, forward
- forward and then back 5 steps
- forward half a circle, then back 2 steps, then forward again
- repeat all of the above from the other side
- ask for step over from hip cue from each side
- ask for step over from shoulder cue from each side