Saturday, September 19, 2009

Duration Immersion

I am a resister of duration exercises even though I know how good and helpful they are. I guess I am just too impatient. So when I DO duration and have success, it makes me very happy. Today I did a bit with each youngster.

First, with Rumer, we went for a walk in her new harness. Choosing, ordering, receiving and putting together her new harness was a saga that took about six months. I'll spare you the details. The old one that I had ground driven her in was deemed to be unsafe for pulling by a very experienced (advanced marathoner) friend of mine. The new one of course feels different to her. It's wider, heavier, with lots of padding and more buckles. But she let me put it on entirely today- she'd only worn the saddle/surcingle earlier in the week. She also wore the bridle earlier in the week- first time with blinkers!! She was not concerned about them at all. So today she had it all draped all over her and I was clicking randomly while assembling it and fitting it- if she had four feet still for a length of time, I would click. When she fidgeted, I ignored it but kept working.

After it was all on, I led her out of the barn but went immediately to duration walking. She had been kicking at her belly a lot and I wasn't sure if she was kicking at flies or at the harness so I decided that was my criteria. I did not care about where her head was or her pace or her ears. She just had to go step by step without kicking at herself. I also interspersed a piece of the passenger lesson I'm doing with Ande by asking her to stand still for the same count as the walk steps. So we'd walk 3 steps, click/treat. Then she had to stand for a count of 3 (no unrequested forward and no kicking), C/T. Then walk four steps, C/T, then stand for a count of 4, C/T. The standing was harder for her but boy was it a successful session. She understands the duration game well enough that you could see her little 2 yr old brain working very hard to hang on as long as I was still counting. Sarah was absolutely right- duration for youngsters is a VERY valuable asset! The combination of forward and standing was perfect. Standing still was hard but when she reached the goal, she got C/T'd and was allowed to walk off. Walking was distracting because all that new harness was dangling so when she reached her target, she got C/T'd and could stop. We continued until my pockets were emptied. We reached a target of 25 for each and she was spot-on perfect for that- much more settled and focused that when we started out!

Next was Percy and the clippers. I'd worked with him a little bit and he is very much of the opinion that if scary things come to him, it's a concern. If he goes to the scary thing, then it's OK. So, just as with the bitting, I made my own tag point, "elbows at sides". That prevented me from approaching him with the clippers. He had to come to the clippers. I left them running and just waited until he touched them with his nose. As soon as he touched, I started counting. As long as he left any part of his nose in contact with the clippers, I kept counting and we went up in duration from a count of one, with a C/T with each new count. If his nose left the clippers, I stopped counting and waited until he touched them again. After we got to a count of about five, I began moving them around his nose a bit. I still had my tag point of elbows at sides, so I couldn't move much, but I could rotate my wrist around so the different parts of his nose were getting clipped. At one point, he decided he was going to EAT those clippers. Rather a successful step in the mind game, but not what I was after. So I stopped counting and pulled the clippers away when he tried to eat them. Then I held them out again for him to touch. By the time we got to a count of 10, he was whisker-free, but still very kissable!!

Last but not least was Ande. I took him out to the arena where he was absolutely wonderful for a longeing session: transitions on voice commands, moving away from me and the whip, trotting and cantering over a rail on the ground. Just perfect. So I pushed the envelope and on the way back to the barn, across the field with ankle deep clover, through the scary barnyard where we'd had bolting issues early this spring, and back to his shed where his buddies were waiting, I did WWYLM. The reins were over his neck and I let go and just walked. One step through the grass and clicked quick with a carrot piece for a treat. Stand for count of one without putting his head down for a bite and another quick click and a carrot piece. Then on we went increasing our count. He did try to reach for a bite once, but I just re-set him by taking the rein before he could get the grass and started the count over....this does not mean I started again at one. Otherwise he would learn that if he cheated, he could make the exercise easier. Instead, the count re-set at one and he had to go the full count that we were at previously. So cheating means it takes LONGER to get a C/T. Once we got to the barnyard, it took more resets because he kept wandering off to check out the tractor bucket etc that he had been clicked for touching through the summer :) But absolutely no sign of bolting, spooking, running for the barn, even though he was completely loose and was expected to stay at my side as I walked. Once we got close to his paddock, I let him drop his head into the deep deep grass and just graze for a grand jackpot of a terrific day.


Mary @ StaleCheerios said...

Sounds like all four of you had an excellent day!

I really like how you combined the duration walking with the duration standing for Rumer. Thats a neat idea.


Mary H.

Bookends Farm said...

It was an all around great day Mary- I thought that myself. It carried over to today as well as I tried pulling the tire as I led Rumer in her blinders. She didn't like that so I backtracked a bit and it is so clear that she gets the duration whether it is standing or walking! It just gives her something to focus on rather than any worries.