Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teaching Opposites

I was speaking with a client this morning who said that her yearling was being very good about staying out of her space as a result of his Clicker Training lessons. She was surprised that he didn't come up for a face rub when she went to his paddock this morning but she was smart to realize that it was because she had done a good job of training him and he learned his lesson well. So I told her that one of the things which Alex Kurland reminds us of frequently is that for everything you teach, you must teach the opposite. And in fact my client has already done this because she has taught her yearling to target. So that is a way to bring him to her if he is voluntarily staying away. One can see how it could be problematic if you do an overly good job of teaching a horse to stay out of your space and you don't have a cue for the opposite: you wouldn't be able to catch your horse! But by simply holding out a target, you can bring the horse to you. I have followed Alex's lead by teaching my horses to target my closed fist as well as other items. I never have food in the closed fist; that would confuse a horse who is not supposed to beg. I just hold my closed empty fist out away from my body and when the horse bumps it, they get a click and treat from the other hand. From there I teach them to follow the closed fist. I hold my arm away from my body and walk. As the horse follows, and at this point he does not need to actually keep his nose on it or even touch it, but just follow and he gets C/T'd at duration intervals. This is VERY handy when I have a loose horse. I just hold out my closed fist and rather than the horse thinking "oh, I'm free, I'm going to run and play", she thinks, "oh- a fist, if I follow that I'm going to get goodies!" and bingo, your loose horse follows like a puppy dog, right back into the barn or paddock. It's also the way I lazily bring horses into the barn. I don't bother with a halter or even lead over the neck- just a fist held out.

The wonderful part about teaching a horse to stay out of my space if asked or to come to me if asked, is that now my horses are watching me to see what is expected, rather than doing what they want to do for me to react to. They are tuned in. Now this presents issues of it's own because it means that I need to be very aware of what I am doing. Horses learn body movements and pick up on subtleties that we aren't always aware of. An example of this was when Elly became very light to rope and body cues in hand. She would walk with me, step away with a hip or back with the lightest of aids. But when I'd been working with her on this, a student would come to ride her, lead her into the barn and turn to hook up the cross ties. Elly would see the student turn to face her and know that was the cue to back up. So she would back the full length of the aisle with the student baffled as to what she was doing! Another reason to be careful what I teach my lesson horses.

Other opposites to be sure to teach: go forward and stop. This seems obvious. But sometimes we spend a lot of time teaching horses to stand still- on a mat or with the drop of a rope, etc. Then the horse learns there is a lot of reinforcement for standing still and he doesn't want to move. So it's a good idea to teach the balance at the same time. Yes you are being reinforced for standing, now I am going to reward you for moving when I ask you to.

The other time you need to balance go forward and stop is when beginning to ride. I had been riding Ande for a while before realizing I had not taught him to stop from his back. Because I clicked frequently, the stop always happened when he heard it so he could turn and take the treat. But I needed to teach him to stop when I asked with a rein cue as well!

Another thing I need to work on with the little ones is head UP. I teach them head down as a relaxation cue but when they volunteer it, it can be a problem if there is grass! So as well as teaching them head down, they need to learn it on cue. I like that they will drop their head to calm themselves if necessary but not as an excuse to grab a there needs to be a cue for walk with head at chest height (or whatever you choose).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zoe update

Somebody asked for an update on Zoe and I'm happy to oblige! I have had no major agenda for her this year as she is in limbo waiting for her next job offer. So we just go day to day without much excitement and I hope that her mind is letting down as much as her body is. She knows enough about her head-down exercise to offer it to me when she is bored and I go in her stall. This is really a huge bonus- she's a mare who knows how to be very expressive to get attention so for her to offer calmness as an attention getter is pretty impressive. I reward her when I can with attention in some form. It might just be few moments of rubbing her face, or I'll go and get her grooming mitt and give her a body massage, or I'll grab some treats and we'll do some duration work with head down. My aim is to keep life peaceful for her- and have her learn to enjoy that peace rather than feeling like she needs to stir up some excitement.

She loves to be out and grazing and there were a couple times this summer when turnout time presented some opportunities for clicker training. In the heat of the summer, I turn out as early as I can in the morning and then try to bring them in before the bugs get bad. I didn't always guess correctly about when the bugs were bad and that meant she would be in a bit of a panic by the time I got there. This stresses me out because we are obsessive about the grass in our paddocks and I hate seeing horses running up and down a fenceline destroying the grass. So I wasn't always happy with her by the time I got to her and it took some time for us to work through our combined angst.

Traditionally, a chain over her nose kept her in line but that is a management solution- gets us through a moment but does nothing toward changing her future behavior. I would like to write about this as a future post in and of itself. The chain also had a tendency to make her want to walk on her hind legs. She was trapped between wanting to go forward fast and the chain so the option was up. Now I have to admit that Zoe is about the safest horse on the farm to handle. She can be leaping all about but she is very very careful as well as talented so you really don't get the impression that you are going to get hurt. But having her rear next to me on a side hill was still a little unnerving and unnecessary.

The challenge with Thoroughbreds is that food is not always a high priority for them and movement can be more rewarding than a food treat. With clicker training, you always need to be aware of what is motivating and reinforcing for your learner. So for Zoe when the bugs were eating her alive, her biggest reinforcement was to get in her stall away from the bugs! Standing still was basically a punishment. I would put her halter on as quickly as possible (not always easy as she danced around) and ask for a split second of standing still. With that split second of self control, I would click. Now, the click ends the behavior, so if she then moved right off, that was OK. Generally I wouldn't allow that because I want them to back up for their treat for general manners. But Zoe's food manners are exceptional and that wasn't the issue here. The goal was to teach her that by showing a little self control, she would get inside sooner. I do have a contract with all my horses that click=treat so even though the treat wasn't her highest reward (moving was), I did offer her a treat with each click. She would take it but I also made sure that she was getting closer to her stall at the same time. Then, as long as she walked next to me, I would walk as quickly as I could to keep up with her (and she can walk FAST!). If she broke into a jig, or pushed into my space at all around a corner, I would slide down the rope with my left hand until I reached the snap of her lead, stand firm and let her forward energy ricochet her back out of my space. For details of this whole process, refer to Alex Kurland's T'ai Chi wall exercises. That was a correction, so there was no C/T for that. So she was learning that jigging did not get her to her stall sooner; it slowed her progress. However, if she took a couple nice quiet steps next to me, I would C/T, again not worrying too much about her stopping for the treat (as opposed to just about any other situation where I would insist on that). Stopping was a punishment- I didn't want to click and then punish her! Over a period of about a week, we made tremendous progress. Granted, the bugs weren't an issue every day so the days when she was quiet offered me an opportunity to ask her to quietly halt on the way in and C/T that, as well as standing for longer than a split second. But when her poor little thin skin was being chewed on by an army of bugs, then I did everything I could to get her in as soon as possible as a reward for a little self control at the end of the rope.

A couple weeks after that, we were practicing the same thing going TO the pasture in the morning. Cool mornings came and she wanted to get out as quickly as possible and blow off a little steam. In this instance, I was less tolerant of her impatience. She wasn't physically being tormented by an outside force (bugs) but by her own energy level. So as I led her out, she had to walk quietly next to me and any time she got ahead of me whether in a fast walk by breaking into a little jig, I would slide down the lead and make her back up. We had a bit of a setback because on these particular days we had a steep hill to go down and the grass was slippery in the early mornings. As a result, I wasn't always as coordinated as I needed to be and twice, she reared and the lead was so short that it was pulled out of my hand so she got a nice gallop around all the paddocks as a reward for rearing. Not good. I found a longer lead rope, was able to let her rear and still have hold when she came back down, ask her to back up, then proceeded.

Reading this makes it sound like she's a totally berserk mare who gets away with murder. But really she's a sweetheart with an incredible amount of exuberance. In the past, punishment or the threat of it kept her in line- a chain over her nose, yanking on her lead, etc. But what I was after- and got- was for her to walk calmly regardless of bugs or cool brisk mornings and be responsible for controlling herself. No chain, no yelling, just quiet controlled compliance. Because I trusted her to be careful with me even in her wildness, I was able to ignore the bad behavior- the rearing- and just reinforce the good. Had I felt she was dangerous- to me or herself, I might have had to take a different approach.

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.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bitting Rumer

Even though Rumer has worn her harness and been ground driven, I have done it all with a halter and no bit. Today I finally remembered to rummage around and find a little bit that I thought would fit her. I still don't know whether I will use it to begin driving her or not but carrying a bit in her mouth should be one of her lessons regardless.

It is common to clicker train horses to self bridle. The person stands in front of the horse holding out the bridle and the horse approaches, voluntarily takes the bit up into his mouth and then stands quietly for the crownpiece to be placed over the ears. I have worked with several of my horses and ponies with this exercise and have learned more about it each time. I do not actually hold the bit out for Ande, as he is for sale and I want him to be accustomed to accepting the bit the way a traditional rider would. Instead, I bridle him the way I teach people to bridle and just click and treat when he willingly opens his mouth as the bit approaches. I think I would like to teach Rumer both ways, if for no other reason than to see if I can do it from scratch!

I gave Percy some hay to keep him out of the way and had Rumer in the barn aisle but loose. She shadowed me as I got things together, wondering what we were going to do today. I filled one pocket with hay stretcher pellets, one with peppermint treats and one with wrapped people-peppermints. I started by standing in front of her and holding out the bit- by holding the ring on each side with thumbs and forefingers. Of course she sniffed it and I clicked and treated with a hay stretcher pellet. After a couple tries though, she seemed to startle a little when I held it out to her. I know that's a funny place for horses since they can't see right under their noses and I decided to change position so that I was next to her rather than in front of her. For whatever reason, this seemed to eliminate the startle.

I am still playing with the correct balance of how much high-level of reinforcement to use compared to how quickly I should up the ante. I'm pretty sure there is no hard and fast rule but that it depends on both the horse and the I guess I'm just trying to educate my feel a little better as to when to do which. Starting with a high level of reinforcement (clicking as frequently as possible) gets them interested, engaged, confident and wanting more. But if you do that too long, they can get stuck thinking that's the total behavior. You want them still varying the behavior a bit so that you can shape further aspects of it.

I am kind of using the magic number of 10 as a goal for a high-rate of reinforcement before asking for more...I vary that if the horse offers what I'm looking for before 10, but I don't withhold a click for more until I get at least 10 good initial responses. In this instance, I clicked Rumer about three times for simply touching the ring of the bit and then she voluntarily touched the mouthpiece on the fourth try. It is critical enough for this process that she learns which part to mouth that I grabbed that offer, reinforced with a peppermint treat instead of a hay stretcher pellet and thanked my lucky stars when she took that as a good reason to keep targeting the mouthpiece. After several more C/Ts, she targeted the ring again. She had done the mouthpiece enough times that I felt confident to withhold the click until she touched the mouthpiece, being pretty sure it wouldn't discourage her. It didn't and she quickly moved on to the mouthpiece, confirming for herself that just the rings were not going to be enough.

Again, my goal was 10 touches to the mouthpiece when her enthusiasm to touch it caused her lips to part a little and I felt it clink on her teeth- another peppermint treat for that. But this time, I wasn't sure that she'd offer it again soon since that clink could have been a little aversive, so I still C/T'd for just lip touches after that....but offered hay stretcher pellets for lips and peppermint treats for teeth.

This is where it became hard to control myself. When a horse is that close to success, it is very hard for me to not want to "help" them this case pull the bit up so her teeth touched it rather than having her offer to touch it with her teeth. There is a world of difference between the two- the mental and emotional equivalent of offering and engaging in an activity vs tolerating what a person does. There is certainly a place for allowing people to do things to a horse (vet work, etc), but there is also enormous value in having a young horse (especially) actually volunteering for every day handling behaviors. A horse who willingly takes the bit every single day is obviously telling you something on the day that he chooses not to take the bit. A horse who has to have his mouth opened for the bit each day and/or has learned he will be in trouble if he doesn't cooperate, will be less able to communicate a poor fit, a tooth problem or any other reason he may not be up to being bridled or worked.

So when I found myself raising my hands to "help" Rumer touch the bit with her teeth, I assigned myself a tag point: elbows at sides. By keeping my elbows at my sides, I was less likely (less able) to lift the bit. After a couple trials of this, I found I was still lifting my hands. So my new self-tagging point was: hands below belt loops. In order to touch the bit now, Rumer had to actively seek it out and I could not subconsciously take it to her. There was no marker signal nor reward for me- I didn't really need one. I just needed to find a way to concentrate on what to DO (as opposed to not-do) to achieve my goal.

Now that I was out of the way, Rumer continued to make progress to the point where she was consistently tapping the bit with her teeth and at one point her teeth separated a bit so the bit just slipped between them. Click and a peppermint treat. She'd been getting a lot of hay stretcher pellets so the peppermint was appreciated and after a couple more teeth taps (I was no longer clicking for just lip touches), she opened her teeth again and this time I gave her a people-peppermint. She loves these and practically dances when she hears the crinkly paper wrapper. Not only was it a great reward but it got her chewing and slobbery and thinking about crunching and eating so it wasn't long before she did it again. In no time, she was opening her teeth and taking the bit between them. Here again, I backed off reinforcing the easy step- the simple teeth touches- and only reinforced when her teeth opened. I had upped the ante again. At each step, there was always something she was confident doing which earned her consistent rewards, but there was also something else she could do for a peppermint treat. Once she did that more difficult step consistently, it became the hay stretcher reward and the next difficult thing became the peppermint earning behavior.

The only thing remaining was to get her to take the bit all the way into her mouth. I think I may have "helped" a little there and rewarded with a wrapped peppermint and lots of verbal praise. She did it once on her own and I decided that was great progress for the day- from never having seen a bit up close to voluntarily taking it all the way into her mouth. I had taken two short breaks during this short session- both when I had run out of treats. Each time I returned she had turned away to look out the door but rather than going to her, I stayed just inside the panel and she would quickly turn back to me and reach for the bit. I consider this a great beginning for a pony who should seek out a bit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Lesson with Ande

I had another lesson on Ande Tuesday. He's been doing very well under saddle and it was great to get Sarah's input, as always. We began with a little WWYLM just so she could see how it was coming and she thought he looked vastly better. So after just a couple circles, I mounted. I still try to keep my center low over his as I get on, but no longer try to keep my head down or worry about how my legs move as he stands like a rock until I ask him to walk off. I explained to Sarah that I have been working on a few different things with him:
  • forward and straight
  • one rein stops
  • stay on the rail
  • teaching a leg cue for forward
She helped me to organize these activities better into separate lesson segments so that he will be able to understand what I am looking for in each situation. Forward and straight along with stay on the rail becomes the Passenger Lesson. This is basically a lesson in duration, giving Ande the responsibility of maintaining the gait and staying on the rail himself so that I do not have to micromanage his steps. A one-rein-stop thrown into this exercise would translate into a correction for him. I don't want to make him think he has done something wrong when I am simply "practicing" a one-rein-stop. So instead I focus on the Passenger Lesson, increasing the steps one at a time (until I get to about 30 or so and then maybe jump up a couple steps at a time). I click when I get to the target count and he stops on his own to get his treat. Sarah recommended always beginning at a count of 1 so he understands what we are working on, but once he is able to do a higher count, I can quickly jump up to higher counts before transitioning back to gradual counts. In other words, I know he can do over 25 now. So the next time I ride I will begin at one and maybe do 1, then 2, then 3, then 5, then 8, then 12, then 16, then 20, 22 and then go back to increasing by ones. So it has taken us 8 clicks to get to 25 rather than 25 clicks, but he knows what lesson we are working on and can get into the rhythm of going until I click. If he stops, or leaves the rail or tries to grab some weeds poking through the panels, I reset him where he belongs and begin the count again.

Then as a separate lesson at another time, I can work on developing his one-rein-stop from his back. He is very familiar with it on the ground so it is just a matter of transitioning it to under saddle reliably. And rather than just throwing the stop at him, I should be working into it with three flexions first. When I practiced this in front of her, Sarah pointed out that I was not finding the appropriate leverage point for Ande. I had developed a comfortable leverage point on Smarty and Elly, but Ande is just a pony and so I needed to find the appropriate point for him, rather than just going to a set position for my arms. Duh! That's why it's so nice to have a lesson with someone else watching!!!

Sarah also recommended I not give with my hands as much as I was when I ask for a go forward. I was really throwing my reins at him in an effort to be soft on this green pony but she pointed out that I was also throwing my weight on his forehand as I did this, making it more difficult for this green pony. So I got her to tag me for just giving with my hands to the point of his withers :) It's fun being tagged!

Because I am usually on him for only about 15 minutes, I got concerned after a bit about how much was too much for him so I hopped off. Usually I remove his tack and let him stay and graze in the round pen so Sarah suggested just removing the bridle while we chatted for a while (10- 15 min?), and then I put the bridle back on and got on again. This turned out to be a great situation. He had a break, had a graze but then went back to work. He immediately walked off nicely and went right into a very nice swinging walk which we did Passenger Lesson with. After several C/Ts, I realized I had not had to use my verbal cue at all to get him forward- he was going off my leg 100%. Yay! I do need to remember to be clear to take my leg off when he goes forward to keep that cue clean and meaningful.

Sarah also pointed out another exercise I should begin working on: accelerating off a leg cue. Technically right now, closing my leg to Ande means "walk". If I close it again while he is walking, he may be confused because he is already walking! I need to teach him that leg means "more forward" (with even more nuances in the future) and understand that he may not know that now. I can use a target or voice aids to help explain this to him.

Now if this wonderful weather would just hold, I'll have lots to work on with him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rope proofing

I think I wrote in a previous post that poor Percy had been attacked by his lead rope earlier this summer. I had dropped the end of it while putting Rumer's halter on and when he walked off, it followed him, no matter how fast he ran! And because it was long, it also wrapped around his legs and up over his back, etc. Unfortunately this happened twice before I got my act together to clicker desensitize him to the rope around his legs and body.

I've spent a couple sessions doing this and am happy to report that this morning we got proof of success. Again it was a situation where I had gone out to bring the two of them in and I put Percy's halter on first. Rumer was happily reaching for grass under the fence in a corner and rather than ask Percy to squeeze himself in between her and the (electric) fence so I could get her, I just dropped his rope and let him continue grazing while I went after Rumer. At that point, little Miss Kizzy decided to gallop to the barn and went racing past him. He lifted his head and took a couple steps, and found that darn lead rope was following him again. But this time, he just bent his head to the right so he didn't step on it and kept walking. But he really didn't want to go in without Rumer, so he stopped and waited until I caught up to him, picked up the rope and led them in together! Success!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Table for One

I want to start getting Ande out further from his comfort area on the farm. He has been very good about going to the arena- out of sight from the other horses. He listens carefully, especially if Stowaway calls to him, but he doesn't whinny back and he does pay attention to me, even if it isn't 100% of his attention 100% of the time. But I'd like to be able to take him down our road in hand before thinking about trying it under saddle. I know it will be stressful, so I want to use really wonderful treats to make him think it is worthwhile. Problem is, I haven't really been able to figure out what he likes best.

So today I set up a buffet of treats to offer him. I was going to do a scientific experiment. I came up with eight different options: hay stretcher pellets (my everyday treat), 2 different brands of peppermint pellet treats, peppermint hard candies, cut up apples, cut up carrots, sugar cubes and a baked dog/horse cookie. I set several of each out on a "table" and took him in to see what he would do.

Lesson # 1- do not make the table unstab
le. The first time he picked up a treat, the table tipped and all the treats that could roll, did. I quickly scraped them back into their piles and put the board on the ground.
Lesson # 2- do not use the same piece of plywood you use for a mat as the table. He wasn't really sure if he was supposed to eat them or stand on them. He did a little of both.

Lesson # 3- science went out the window. It was kind of like setting a kid free in a candy store. I found out what he didn't like, but for the most part, it seemed pretty random as to what he went for first. I'd let him take a bite, then ask him to step back and wait for him to finish and then let him go again. I was trying to see if he went for the same thing consistently.

If I had to rate them, I'd say 1st prize was a tie between the hard peppermint candies and the apples. It could be they were the most fragrant so they were the ones he was drawn to first. After that, the carrots, hay stretcher pellets and one type of peppermint treat all seemed equally enticing. The baked cookie treats were turned down completely (which is OK because the dogs like them...they are a bit old and perhaps stale). The other peppermint treats and the sugar were tasted with lots of head flipping and tongue action, but not repeated. When that's all that was left, he just went for the grass.

So I filled my carpenter's pouch with the apples, carrots, preferred peppermint treats and candies and ventured off through the farm. He was quite good all the way to the house, showing no concern. Then of course, my husband was hunting for something in the tall weeds across from the house so his white tee shirt kept popping in and out of view as he rustled around. Ande decided he needed to keep a pretty close eye on him. I let him look, asked him for head down which he gave me promptly, and then handed over a piece of apple. We went a few more steps and I asked for another head down and this time left him there for a count of 5. No problem- another apple piece. I had him touch each of the three mailboxes for a hay stretcher pellet each.

We continued down the road with him keeping an ear on the silly man in the grass. I asked for head down a couple times and he was fine but then he stopped at the edge of our lawn and left a pile of manure there. My point was not to push him out of his comfort zone, but rather to the edge of it, show him he'd survive, and then go back another day to extend it. So I asked for head down there and he had a hard time doing it. He would put it down but couldn't leave it down for more than 3 seconds. I decided to settle for three, gave him a carrot piece, and we turned around. As we returned on the road, I would ask him to go 5 steps, then ask him for head down, and each time increased the count. As soon as we reached the target count, I would click, give him a piece of apple and immediately walk off again. His reinforcement was that not only did he get a click and treat for maintaining head down calmly, but he also got to move closer to the barn. But then 5 steps later, he'd have to head down again and for longer. By the time we got to the shop, I was down to carrots and peppermint bits. We were in sight of the barn now, but the shop area is full of things to look at and it changes constantly. Nonetheless, he was able to head down for a count of 15 without even moving a muscle so he got a good handful of the mess that was left in my pouch. After that I was able to let him graze his way back to the barn.

I will have to take advantage of the fall apples (I had used drops from our tree) over the next weeks to extend his walks.

And here's a photo of this winter's hay as it was mown today. In the foreground is the rotational paddocks for the horses. The one closest to the tractor is the one they were just turned into this morning- the others were grazed earlier in the week.