Sunday, March 18, 2012

*Leo's bucket

I love to hear folks who are new to the American Curly breed rave about how quickly they learn.  What especially thrills me are the ones who are quite experienced with other breeds, and can easily make comparisons to Curlies.  Because of allergies, I am limited in my experience with other breeds’ learning abilities, so I depend on hearing from people such as Lynn Marks in her recent thread on the Facebook page Curly World.  Lynn recently acquired a Curly, Harley, on March 8th, and she has shared with us his fantastic progress.

I’m the first to admit that I lack horse-training experience; however, I have tried to make up my lack of years by reading, seminars, clinics, talking with experienced people, and one-on-one training.  For me, my favorite style is Clicker Training, because it makes me break-down the steps of what I want to accomplish into manageable bites and makes me acutely aware of the exact moment in time that a step is done correctly.  This helps the horse to know what I’m wanting, if she/he has done it correctly, AND it puts them in control of the thought-process and decision to get there.  It is also something that can be done when you have only a few moments or limited space.

*Leo eating
*Leo picks the bucket up.
 *GMC Envoy’s Pride (*Leo) our almost 5 year old gold champagne gelding has been inside in a stall keeping our old girl, *Glory, company.  *Leo has always been a mouthy one, and when you are near him (in a stall or in the field) his favorite place to be is so close he might as well be in your pocket, oh and with his nose planted on you.  He loves to lick you (disconcerting at times), or simply take hold of a jacket or sleeve edge with his lips and hold on as if you are going to escape too quickly.  One of his other favorite things has been to pick-up his feed bucket when he is done and hold onto it.  For some reason, it was only recently that I realized this would be an easy action to shape with clicker training.

*Leo brings the bucket to me.
*Leo hands me his bucket.
So, for the past few feedings after he’s done eating and I’m still in the stall cleaning, I have directed him back to his bucket when he is done with a “Get your bucket.” and pointing toward it.  He’s easily headed back to it, and eventually, will bite the rim and lift it up.  At that point what I have been doing was to come over quickly, hold onto the bucket, and ask him to “Let go.”  Once he did, I would click and treat, telling him “Good job.  Good boy.”  It was then time to mold the behavior further, and so I would stay further away from him, and ask him to “Bring me the bucket.”  At first it was only a few steps for him, but the most significant one has been a space of about 24 feet!  At this point, when he does this I “jackpot” the click and treat.  “Jackpotting” is a time when you give LOTS and LOTS of treats.  I typically use alfalfa pellets, but I sometimes mix in bits of sweet treats as well.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m heading in this with him.  I can envision that it will be useful.  For instance, out on a trail ride you drop something and he should be able to pick it up and give it to you.  But it may just be a “fun trick” too.  I do know that *Leo is incredibly smart and he is very good looking.  He is just waiting for “his person” to come along.  In the meanwhile, we will continue to have fun with one another, and I will use his desire to “show off” (By the way, his half brother Sage apparently has this same quality, according to his owner) in order to introduce more “tricks” that will be molded into real abilities in his training routine.

Please excuse the quality of the photos used in the blog to show his ability.  It is quite hard to photo and do the C/T at the same time!


Lisa-Maladylis said...

that's a wonderful trick to teach him and I know you will find it very useful in the end. I know I do but it's my dog that does it for me. I have head pressure so it hurts to bend over so I taught my collie to pick up what ever I drop and then hand it back to me. I say ut oh and she will come running from where ever she is to get it. it's a wonderful trick for a horse as well I think, just the items will have to be larger. :-)

mindy schroder said...

i LOVE this! i too have molded my curlies mouthiness into something similar. Billy Blaze will bring me his jolly ball or one of the orange cones we use for training. the other day my handsome hubby got a video of him carrying a cone over to the pedestal where he flipped it upright right onto the pedestal. he loves to come up with his own version of the games ;)

Laurice Lee said...

Adria, Also on "Curly World," there have been several posts of videos by Rational Velvet. When she was on crutches due to a hip replacement, she taught one of her Curlies to pick up her crutch! He then "extrapolated" the game to picking up cones in the arena and giving them to her! I saw a video of a guy who trained his Freisian to "fetch" a ball in an arena, just like a big dog! It keeps them thinking, even if these aren't "practical" applications!!