You may have seen that both myself and the horses have been a little busy… If not, then you need to take a look at this page on my site, then head for Amazon to buy our book lol!
That’s not the only thing we’ve been busy with however! We’ve moved on from syringe acceptance to see what else we can make acceptable with some positive reinforcement training.
Starting small, I decided to work on areas of “no touchy” both horses have. For Yogi this is ears and for Swift this is the centre of her face. For Swift, between the eyes is fine, a good forehead scratch most enjoyable and her nose and mouth are acceptable places for humans to touch as well. But to walk up to her and just rub the centre of her nose -well that is a “no go zone”.
Yogi was pretty straight forward as always, he sees what it is you want to achieve, and the conversation goes something like this:
- “Let me touch your ears Yogi” I’d ask
- “No way, that will kill me for sure” (as he backs away frantically)
- “You’ll be ok I promise”
- “No, no I won’t, my ears are precious and very, very sensitive”
- “Don’t you want this treat then?”
- “Oh… well that smells good, maybe you could touch my ears a little then”
And the training commences and advances. It takes a while to work through his fear and I know with him, it only takes once false move on my part, to have to start all over. All he thinks about appears to be the black and white of – will this action hurt me or not? There is little thought about the process -the grey matter in between!
With Swift… things are a little different and the conversation is more indepth:
- “Let me touch your nose Swift” I’d ask
- “Why would you want to do that?” she’d reply
- “Cos I like your nose and I’d like to be able to rub / pet it”
- “Yeah -you say that, but what’s your ulterior motive?” she’d say suspiciously
- “There is none, honest, this is just a fun experiment”
- “Fun for you… maybe, but what do I get out of this?”
- “One of these tasty treats? Or a nice nose rub -eventually” I’d offer
- “OK I’d like a treat, but what’s the process going on here, how will it work?”
The training therefore takes longer to set up -she is like a curious three year old child always asking Why? All she thinks about is the process -the grey matter in between is hard at work and you can almost see the steam coming out of her ears! The black and white at each end is given only a cursory glance. The training is harder to initiate, but once commenced and with all the Why? questions answered – then no start overs will ever be required.
I’m starting to get the horses out for short rides now to start building them back up after their illnesses. Its going to take a while as they are unfit and lacking muscle. I’ve never seen them look so scrawny if I’m honest, but I am grateful that they are on the mend and I’m grateful too that it’s opened my eyes to other fun and interesting things to do whilst still spending time with them.