Thursday, April 30, 2009

More single rein riding- part 2

Once I got Elly off the grass of the hayfield and on to the driveway where it meets the dirt road, she stopped dead. Her head was up as she was looking down the road and then at the young cattle across the road. I decided to let her stand and look for a moment so we could both take a breather from the maneuvers we'd just been doing. Then I closed my leg lightly, she took a couple steps and stopped again, head higher. I had a hard time believing she was really scared but I also know there are a LOT of wild turkeys around right now, and they frequently cross the road just beyond where we were. I decided to give her, as well as the clicker training process, the benefit of the doubt and asked her for head down by lifting up on one rein. She complied by lowering her head a little, so I released and then asked again. She lowered it further so I clicked and treated, then asked again. This time she lowered her head to the ground and left it there so again I C/T'd. She definitely felt more relaxed so I closed my leg again and off we went. After about 2 or 3 steps I C/T'd again.

This was my reasoning: in the field, she had not been listening to me; her focus was on the grass, not me. Therefore, my actions had been to avoid letting her reinforce her independent behavior which would have been the result if she had gotten any grass. Every independent move she made, I countered by sliding down the rein which prevented her from getting her head down. While she did make a couple "cooperative" moves, I did not think I could get a treat to her before her head dove down again and I really wanted to avoid having her get any grass. Once we got on the road, she was no longer behaving that way. Granted, she did stop, which I had not asked for, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt that there might have been something worrying her. She was not behaving in a dangerous or selfish way; she had just stopped. So I asked for head down in order to help her calm down. She did listen to my request so she got reinforced. Then after she was calm, I asked for forward and again, she complied with my request so I reinforced this also.

The rest of the ride was very interesting. There were a couple more times that she stopped and raised her head. Each time I would let her look for a moment, then ask for head down. Each time she complied easily and then we would continue. We did not do the serpentine this day, as we had done last time. I let her wander back and forth across the road as she went, since she seemed to be enjoying herself. She also stopped once to sniff a flattened manure pile and I let her do that. I decided to treat her like a dog on a walk. Within reason, she was allowed to go where she wanted (not off the side of the road into the grass!), allowed to stop and look, allowed to sniff the ground. I decided this was a good theme for going for a hack. We could both enjoy ourselves and the surroundings, with no agenda for how far we went or how fast we got there. It was very different from my previous perceptions of what a hack should be....but it was very relaxing and enjoyable. And I think she enjoyed it as much as I did so I hope it makes her more willing and happy about going out in the future.

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