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Positive Reinforcement and Stallions

The temperature had dropped from a muggy 90 degrees to a blustery 52 degrees in a matter of hours. The horses were all running around and leaping into the air to try to stay warm. Of course, I thought that this would be a perfect evening to work with my Andalusian stallion, Frankie (Financiero) since weeks of bronchitis had limited my time with him. For the last month, I had only had a few minutes here and there to do a little clicker training while moving him from one turnout to another.

For this cold wet evening, I had Frankie in his shed pen next to the arena. I was almost out of daylight, so I grabbed my long bamboo pole I used for training horses to lunge with R+ and my treat bag and opened Frankie’s gate and asked him to follow me. First thing I had overlooked was a big feed bucket with old mushy alfalfa pellets sitting right outside Frankie’s pen. He had not had dinner yet so went right for it.

I really didn’t want him to eat the old feed so I tried the “I have something better” game. I asked him to lift his head and gave him a good treat when he did (rather than our usual Timothy pellets). It took 3 or 4 times to finally get him to follow me away from the bucket and into the arena.
One of Frankie’s favorite things to do is to run to the other side of the arena immediately upon entering and see what horses might be hanging out on the other side. Second thing I overlooked was that I has put a mare who was always quite a flirt, in the paddock at the end of the arena. Frankie did his run to the other end, saw the mare and I figured I would have to go get him and end our session in the arena. By the time I got the arena gate latched however, Frankie was running back to my end of the arena and went to one of our stations that we had worked on a couple months ago when I was taking an online multiples class. I was thrilled so I clicked and threw some treats into the pan.

I knew Frankie was cold and wanted to move, so I asked him to target the end of the long bamboo pole. I had only worked with him and the long pole in a couple short sessions during the summer. I did not expect much tonight. But He was more willing to reach for the end of the pole than he had been in the past. The long pole can be very intimidating to horses that have experience with whips and Frankie was extremely defensive when I got him several years ago. But now Frankie followed the long pole and touched the end agreeably.

I then walked over to the platform in the middle of the arena and he got on it quickly despite it being very wobbly. After treating him for his success, I had him follow me to the horsey car wash (hanging pool noodles). The wind was blowing pretty hard so I didn’t ask him to get close enough to be hit by a flying pool noodle. That was the point I decided to try to video some of this. The camera light came on and Frankie was blinded for a more moment since it was well past sunset. I quickly figured out just to point the camera at the target and not at my horse. Sorry Frankie.

So the point of the story is that I had a great training session in the almost dark with my energetic stallion despite the cold wind, a mare and assorted other horses around the far end of the arena, and obviously no lead. Frankie did station by the mounting block as we were leaving but I decided I was too cold for anymore tests on that night;)

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Clinic Series: Introduction to Training with Positive Reinforcement
I.  Saturday, November 4th, 2017 (2:30-4p)

II. Saturday, November 11th, 2017 (12-3p)
III. Saturday, November 18th, 2017 (12-3p)

Balance Point Liberty Challenge: Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Winter Class Series: Learning Theory
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Winter Break Camp: December 26-29, 2017




Sunday, March 4th, 2018: Play Day at the Balance Point


Sunday, March 11th: Advanced Liberty Clinic