Sunday, August 26, 2012

Breaking Promises

Heavy title isn't it?  Really, I'm just admitting that I broke my promise about more pictures.  I went out to the barn for two days in a row and don't have a single picture to show for it.  I'm sorry.  Especially since there some good things to take pictures of!

Saturday, I got reacquainted with my pony.  She's still rubbing out her tail, but it's not as bad.  Her butt gets incredibly dirty.  More than any other horse I've ever known!  Probably because she spends most of her time walking around with her tail held up or to one side.  So I'm thinking most of her tail rubbing is from a dirty butt at this point.  I'm going to clean her butt daily and try and check her udders once a week.  At this point, I'm still farming out the work on checking her udders because she's really nervous about it, but I can see that changing in the future.

Remember how frustrated I have been with my relationship and what am I doing and all that whining?  First of all, thanks for hanging in there and reading, even if you are rolling your eyes and sighing dramatically and saying to your computer monitor "Really, Mona Sterling?  How many stupid posts are you going to write about this?"  'Cause I totally do that to myself.  But I'm one of those people who work out problems by talking (or typing) it out.  I go on and on and on and on and just works itself out.  You'd think after having things ALWAYS work out that I would relax a bit more.  But relaxing makes me a bit uncomfortable.  A good example of this is that my six year old is going away with my parents for five days.  FIVE DAYS!!  This is my chance to relax, right?  Ohhhhhhh no.  I have two extra work meetings, an extra riding lesson, a meetup with another blogger, a dinner party and I'm painting the living room, dining room, entryway and all of our trim including the fireplace.  Also, I am going to clean up the garage and clean up our guest room.  Somewhere in there, I will relax.  Ha!

Anyway, I was perusing the internets for some answers to my life problems.  Oh, you don't do that?  Really?  I can't afford a counselor AND a horse, so when the horse is the problem and not my solution, I turn to the internet.  I stumbled across a video about clicker training for spooky horses.  In my former life, I was a dog trainer and have used clicker training for dogs with some success.  I thought it would be fun to see what Tessa did.

Rather than using a clicker, I chose to use the word "Right" to reinforce.  I won't explain the process in detail (the videos on the website above do a better job of that) but within five times, Tessa was looking for food every time I said "Right".  I used tiny cut up carrots, but it would have been better with grain or something less crunchy I think.  The first thing I worked on was not mugging me for treats.  We were loose in the arena and she learned very quickly to turn her head forward if she wanted a treat.  Within ten minutes, I had her touching her nose to a cone to get treats.  I then brought in an umbrella and opened it.  Tessa's eyes went wide.  I held still, umbrella in one hand and carrots in the other.  Tessa looked at me, then looked at the umbrella.  'Right!" I exclaimed loudly and handed her some carrots.  I shook the umbrella.  Tessa took stock on the situation.  Scary umbrella?  Carrots?  She knew what I wanted.  She stretched her neck out and nosed the umbrella.  "Right! Right!"  I gave her a whole handful of carrots.

Then I walked around with the umbrella, Tessa following and touching it with her nose at every opportunity.  That day she also touched a coffee mug, my sweatshirt and learned that if she kept her head forward and her attitude in check while I was girthing her, she got lots of praise and carrots.  After my ride on Sunday, I did some more work with her and within ten minutes had her following me around, stopping when I stopped and backing up when I backed up.  At one point, she moved her body away from me and tried to come around front for a treat.  I just held still and she circled all the way around me and PUT HERSELF BACK IN POSITION!  I'm not even making this up!  She came back and put her shoulder even with my shoulder.

I will try to take pictures or even a video next time I have time to do this.  Probably not until next weekend, but I should be able to get something by then.

In other news, Tessa will be going for her first official trail ride on Saturday Sept. 9th.  A trainer at the barn who gives beginner lessons, Sarah, is going to take Tessa and her horse BeBe.  I will ride BeBe and Sarah will ride Tessa.  So exciting!

So my relationship with Tessa is improving as we try new things AND we're getting out of the arena.  Things are, as usual, just working themselves right out.


  1. I don't use clicker all the time, but I've had very good success with using clicker with Dawn to help her learn to approach scary things and be more able to spook in place rather than make a big move with her feet when something she's scared of is nearby. The trick, I've found, is to allow the horse to decide how fast and far to approach the scary object, and when to retreat - no restraint. There are some good clicker books about horses - Alexandra Kurland is very good.

  2. Congrats !! I used clicker training method to get Rosie to put her halter/bridle on herself. This included opening her mouth for the bit without me touching her muzzle. Very effective!