I’m very excited about my upcoming articles in Horse-Canada magazine and hope you will have a look at them and then come back to the blog for more detailed instructions on the training being covered. A thousand words seem like a lot, but to go into the detail needed to train behaviours like the ones in the articles, I need more! So, the articles will cover the general idea of how to train the behaviours we are working on, and the blog will fill in all the needed details for several different issues that you may encounter while training these behaviours.
The first article, in the March/April issue, will cover how to teach your horse to be great for the farrier and for you when it comes to cleaning his feet. A bonus of this behaviour of having him hold his own foot up is an increase in his balance which is always a good thing.
Clicker training often has many great side effects that you don’t realize are happening until after the fact.
Let me tell you a story about Thunder. Thunder is a friend’s horse and many years ago, during a winter a lot like this one, with lots of snow, he managed to get himself hung upside down with his front leg stuck between the top of two panels. How he managed to get his leg stuck in a two-inch gap at the top of the panels is amazing, but then those of us with horses know that if they can figure out how to get into trouble they will! And, of course, he had his leg on top of the pin we needed to get out to free him. And it was 20 below to boot!
The vet said he would probably just be a pasture ornament and never sound again, but Terry, his owner, and I don’t give up hope that easily. It was winter and he needed stall rest for many weeks, but we didn’t want him developing all those lovely ‘confined for too long’ horse behaviours, so we came up with some tricks he could do without much movement to start with.
He learned to target. He could target up down and give a great stretch to each side while touching the target. He learned to pick up objects, which proved to be very useful later on when he was being ridden again. Check him out in this video:
After a bit, he learned to kick a ball with either front foot. All of these games and tricks helped keep his mind occupied like we had intended, but when the time came to ride him again (yes, he is 100% sound!), Terry was surprized at how his balance had changed for the better. All the tricks and kicking the ball and lifting feet had improved his balance even without being ridden. Now that’s the kind of bonus side effects I love about clicker training.