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Happy Faces: Part 2

By now you should be both smiling and having an even better time, so now we need to look at generalizing this behaviour just like all our behaviours.

Perhaps you have encountered grumpy faces in your horse when you go to feed him. This behaviour is usually caused by the behaviour of ears back being inadvertently rewarded. The rule says that for a behaviour to continue it is being reinforced somehow. Perhaps, initially he had his ears back at his neighbour at the instant you threw in his feed. By throwing in the feed when he was doing this behaviour, the behaviour was accidentally being reinforced, especially if it happened over and over again. How can we stop this grumping so that we will change his view about feeding time and also his need to feel he has to resource guard? As always there are many different ways to do this with clicker training so let’s look at one way.

If your horse is in a stall or in a paddock by himself, it makes it easier to shape this new behaviour than if he is out with others. Start by approaching the stall or paddock with the hay or grain or whatever causes him to put his ears back. As soon as his ears start to go back stop going towards him! Wait for the ears to go more forward (again don’t ask for the finished ears fully forward yet), and then take a step, if the ears start to go back again then stop, if they stay more forward then take another step towards him. This process will take a few minutes for at least the first few days as he will be trying to figure out why supper is stopping and starting towards him. Eventually you will get there, and he will have his ears more forward than back.

Now make sure to wait until his ears are up to throw it over the fence or place it in his feed tub. So your horse thinks he is now training you to move towards him when he puts his ears forward. Make sure to remember to manage your environment to make sure that everyone is safe and able to be successful.You might have to think about how to set this up before you do this to find the best way to arrange your environment so that all goes well. Each day the time it takes to get his food to him will decrease as long as you are consistent about what you are rewarding.

This technique will work for stall banging and pacing and all those other unwanted feeding time behaviours, however if you are at a boarding barn it will be very hard to achieve for your horse unless you all the staff doing this training each time he is fed. Perhaps you could help them get a whole barn of happy faces and no banging doors at feeding time. Now wouldn’t that be a nice scene!

So, until next time we meet, make sure both you and your horse are smiling. Smiling will make a difference to how both of you are viewing the world and also how the world responds to you. Smile and the world smiles with you.

Have fun playing and till next time keep it positive.

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