Thursday, April 25, 2013

Walk This Way

Today was drop dead gorgeous so I played hooky for a few hours with my friend Marie.  Marie got a chance to ride the pony (she was good.  not super forward but not super crabby either) and then to go for a walk afterwards down the spooky driveway and out to the road.

Marie uses clicker training and had a clicker with her.  It was fun watching Tessa's brain kick in as we walked down the driveway.  The walk was short in distance but long in time, as we walked and stopped.  Walked and stopped.  Tessa would take a tentative step and then freeze up.  Marie watched for signs of relaxation..chewing, head lowering, sighing and then would click and treat.  Every step forward was rewarded with a click.  A few times she had to get Tessa's shoulders moving to unstick her, but after the first while she did pretty well.

When we broke through the dappled sunlight of the long driveway on the road, there was lush grass which gave us another opportunity to show Tessa how great exploring can be.  We let her graze for a while before moving on.

Further down the road we encountered mail boxes, scary rocks and some horses.  The horses were the scariest part of all.  Exhibit A:  a short video of Tessa doing a gorgeous Arab trot with her tail thrown over her body.  This was in response to the neighbor horses coming to the fence to check her out.  She's so pretty!

We found some more grass and let her graze after this.  Then we turned and headed home.

The walk home was full of turning around and walking away again.  Marie was very patient about turning around EVERY SINGLE TIME that Tessa surged ahead, even a tiny bit.  She made sure to do lots of stopping and if Tessa tried to go, they went...but AWAY from home.  Staying next to Marie was rewarded with a click and treat.

I really admire the way Marie works with horses.  She's patient and calm and kind and just didn't make a fuss one way or the other.  She wasn't prolific with the praise, but with the clicker it was so clear to Tessa when she got it right.  And when she didn't get it right, she wasn't punished..she simply wasn't rewarded.  Walking too fast towards home?  She was turned in a circle and marched away from home.  As many times as it took.

Marie reminded me that when I go to do new things, to set the goal and then allow the time to make it happen.  So if my goal is to get down to the end of the driveway, to allow myself all the time in the world to accomplish it and to not quit until we got it.  She said the biggest lessons horses learn is when you stop short of your goal or get frustrated and try to push it faster/harder.  She said just stay quiet and give rewards whenever Tessa took steps in the right direction (either literally or more figuratively like relaxing a little bit, even if it is a tiny, tiny bit).

She also agreed with my trainers that Tessa is a great little horse who just needs more exposure.  My plan is to try to do the driveway walk again tomorrow and the next day and the next, until the driveway walk is boring for both of us.


  1. Sounds like a great session, with just the right techniques to work with a smart, nervous horse like her - she sounds a lot like my Dawn and clicker worked very well for her in scary/uncertain situations.

  2. I haven't tried clicker training, but am thinking I want to learn more about it. She looks so pretty in that video!

  3. Totally agree - great plan to keep at it till it is boring for her. Love the video - she is very expressive :)