Friday, February 1, 2013

Teaching Joey to Bow -- Parts 2&3

THE BOW PART 2 -- I totally agree with Mosie when she says that training tends to sink in better over night (for both horses and humans, I think). The next morning after that first session of teaching Joey to bow, I went out to grain for breakfast. I figured while he was eating that I would tidy the paddock until he was done and then we could have another small session before I had to go in and take care of schoolwork. Well, out of habit, I accidentally threw hay out for him to eat. *facepalm* Now I thought there would be NO WAY we were going to have a morning session -- Joey tends not to be very interested in anything, let alone WORKING or LEAVING when food is available. But after a while, I noticed that he had come over -- LEAVING the hay completely -- and was just hanging out while I tidied the pasture. I asked him if he was bored with eating (we have been making free-choice forage available 24/7, after all), to which he replied with a big sigh. :P So I put away the manure fork and the wheelbarrow and grabbed some treats and our dressage whip. To see if he was really interested in working with me while food was available, I asked him to follow me around, which he did eagerly; and then I asked him to back up, which he also did willingly. So I tapped his leg with the whip, said "left", and went to pick it up for him the first time or two, thinking he might not remember yesterday's lesson. But before I could bend over after the tap and the verbal cue, he popped his foot up on his own, put it back down, and asked for a treat! I was so happily surprised! ^.^ Treat, and we asked for the trick again; he complied eagerly. I'm so excited that he got it after just one quick session (I've never really worked on teaching him anything like this before)! And now that he's got lifting his leg on cue, we're going to concentrate on holding it for longer periods of time. We've had two more session since (5 total), and he's getting the idea, which is really exciting. :D The next thing to incorporate that Mosie introduced in the first video is the target touching.So last night after supper (our 4th session) I tied a plastic baggie onto the end of our dressage whip. He was very curious to know what the sound of it meant (since he can't see, and plastic bags are generally noisy objects), but he soon got used to it (I was actually surprised he was never afraid of it). During that session, we began with what we knew: a few leg lifts, which he performed easily and eagerly (he even tried to do a few "extra" without the cue, to see if he would get extra cookies :P ) Then we introduced targeting. Mosie suggested that since he's blind, we adjust "targeting" to him just keeping his nose on the target. I'm open to this idea, but I wondered if he could find the target, especially if I used a noisy plastic bag? So I began a method: I shook the plastic bag a little, said "touch", and then touched his nose with it and praised. We did this exact thing several times, and then ended the training session with a few leg-lifts (I'm a firm believe of ending every training session on a positive note, with something that your horse already knows how to do and preferably something that he thinks is fun so that he will think he's had a very productive and fun lesson and will be more receptive of the next session).This morning (session 5), we began with a few extended (meaning time) leg-lifts (he really likes doing these; he thinks he's very clever ;) :P ); and then we worked more with the targeting. After how well he's progressed with the leg-lifts, I was kind of hoping that things would "click" in his brain the same for the target -- but it didn't appear that it had. After doing exactly what we had done the first time, several times, without any real recognition of what we were attempting to do that showed on him, I thought about switching things up. Now, I no longer brought the target to him; instead, I kept shaking the bag gently, and repeating "touch", and when he moved his nose and slightly brushed it, I praised. Well, he was very surprised indeed that THIS was what I was looking for! And I saw some recognition in his eyes, like something had finally clicked in his brain. By the end of the session, I was still shaking the bag lightly and saying "touch, Joey", but he was definitely LOOKING for the bag, and even lipping it. I was so ecstatic with our progress! Again, we ended the session with what we were confident in: leg-lifts. :)
THE BOW PART 3 -- Sorry I haven't been updating as much. Actually, I felt there wasn't much to update on; Joey and I were faithfully practicing our leg-lifts and our targeting at least in one session a day. He absolutely loves doing the leg-lifts (he thinks he's VERY clever ;) ); and the targeting has become a kind of game for us, even to the point where sometimes I'll dash away to a distance and say "touch" and shake the plastic bag, and he'll see how quickly he can follow me, find the bag, and touch it. He's liking that game more and more every time we play it. ^_^
But I didn't feel there was much updating to do since we've been working on the same things as in the other two entries I've done thus far.
Last weekend, when I was sure he knew the leg-lifts by heart and knew what the concept was for the targeting, I tried to begin asking for them at the same time and came up with a problem: We're using verbal cues for both "left" and "touch"--how was I supposed to say them at the same time and ask for them in a way that Joey would understand what I was asking for? We tried a couple times, but to no avail, and we both became frustrated at something that didn't come quite as clearly and easily, so we immediately went back to what we already knew: leg-lifts and targeting, and we were ok and having fun again. But it bothered me that I couldn't think of any possible way for us to get both tricks done at the same time in a clear and concise way. :/ I slept on it for a few nights with no inspiration; and then I got suddenly and unexpectedly busy with school, chores, and extracurriculars; so our play sessions had to be put on hold for the first few days of this week.
After we rode this afternoon, it was so clear that Joey still wanted to spend some quality time hanging out, that I went to get a few bits of cookie and our dressage whip. We practiced our leg-lifts a couple of times and played the targeting game for a few minutes when I began to realize something: When I asked Joey to touch the target closer to the ground and nearer his front legs, he was doing a leg-lift at the same time -- putting the two tricks together on his own! He acted like it was almost a game with himself: let me see if I can balance on three legs while I touch the target really low like Mom's asking me to. I could tell he thought he was really clever, and even a bit funny. :P I was shocked that he would do such a thing, though; but I was so ecstatic!! I didn't have to come up with a way to ask him, after all; I just had to give us both a little while to mull it over, and then just remember that it's all about having fun and building our relationship, even if that means we won't get to do everything that I might want to do. I'm so immensely proud of him! <3 ^_^

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