Next step in training

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Next step in training

Post by sheilazav on Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:08 am

Hi! I have a 5-year-old TWH gelding that I have done a little clicker training with. He is the type of horse that is very curious and anxious to please so he picked up targeting an object within minutes. In his second session, he would touch the ball (using a jolly ball with a handle) even when I would toss it far from me. I used it to teach him to stand still for mounting within about 5 minutes and have had no problems since. It's a great tool!

I now want to teach him to bring the ball back to me when I toss it away. Taught him to touch it when I was holding it, go to it and touch it when I toss it. Figure the next step is to teach him to hold it in his mouth. When he mouths it, I click and treat. He will actually take the handle in his mouth for just a second now. Click and treat. But he won't hold it longer. If I let go, he just drops it. How do I encourage him to hold it in his mouth for longer periods of time. Don't want him to become discouraged and he seems to if he does the behavior that has been getting him a treat and I don't treat him.

I wonder if I am going too fast, but he really does seem to just "get it" most of the time. My other gelding couldn't care any less about targeting. Not curious, not interested. This one almost wags his tail when I do fun stuff with him. Don't want to lose that enthusiasm by frustrating him.

Thanks for any advice!!

Sheila

P.S. (If you read this, Cheryl, I love your website! Prowler looks so much like Raleigh in coloring. It's like Prowler on steroids when I see him!) Smile
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sheilazav

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Re: Next step in training

Post by Cheryl Ward on Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:27 pm

Hi Sheila,

Sounds like you and your gelding are having fun and that’s the first and most important step in my book.

To encourage him to hold the ball in his mouth, I’d make sure that the ball was really easy to hold. Sometimes the Jolly Ball can be a little daunting for a horse as the first object it learns to hold because the horse has to open it’s mouth pretty wide to grasp hold of the handle. Even Romeo, my veteran Paso Fino retriever will not open his mouth wide enough for a Jolly Ball. The other thing I’ve found is that the handle of the Jolly Ball is so durable, there’s little give, or compression, once the horse has the ball in it’s mouth, making it even more difficult to grasp.

I’ve found that my horses, both with fetching and painting, seem to prefer thinner objects to thicker. It appears it’s much easier for them to hold objects in their teeth if they don’t have to open their jaws so wide. Which makes sense, since horses chew side-to-side rather than up and down like dogs.

I start my horses with the inexpensive thinner plastic bouncy balls you can find at the grocery store. I deflate the ball just enough so that it’s easy to be grabbed by horse teeth. I’ve also found smaller balls that are covered with a durable canvas type material. These have been great, but I prefer the balls at least 12” or so because they are easier for the horse to see. I’ve also taught a few horses to fetch with a big tee-shirt wadded into a ball shape.

I don’t think you’re going too fast at all. You’re right on target to watch him carefully to gauge his enthusiasm. My guess is that your gelding is totally ready to hold the ball in his mouth it just may be physically too big of a challenge at this point. I can’t wait to hear how he does with an easier object.

As for your other gelding that appears disinterested, here’s a fun thing to try. Take a big auto sponge or Nerf ball and cover it with a big sock or tee-shirt and tie it shut so the sponge or ball can’t fall out. Then mix a little molasses and water and spray or drip the mixture onto the sock or shirt. This then attractively ‘scents’ the object making it a happy smelling object for the horse to follow. I haven’t found a horse yet who was not interested in following/targeting such a fascinating, friendly object. The molasses scent also makes the object very inviting to pick up.

Then all you have to do is click away for each step you want to reinforce, just like you already do so well.

Thank you so much for your question. Keep me posted!

Cheryl

PS I’m a huge sucker for sabinos, so much so, that I had to have two! I have Raleigh, the giant Clydesdale bay roan sabino with Prowler’s coloring and DaVinci, a mystery breed, with classic bay sabino markings.
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