Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Are You With Me?

One interesting thing that has come up with doing target training has been the focus of the horse.  Even after just a couple of days of targeting and clicking in very short sessions, all three of my horses were so much more focused on me.  I think the click + treat is part of it, but there is also a mindset of when a human is around there might be a puzzle to solve.  All of my horses were fed treats before, Jet even learned to “smile” on cue for a treat, but by doing many short (usually 5 minute)sessions with the target, clicker, and various exercises their level of attention is through the roof.

What is even more interesting is that I am so much more aware of when I lose their focus.  Having their attention, deciding when to click, and shaping behaviors has improved my focus on the horse as well.  Sort of in a feedback loop maybe?  I think this is what the most talented natural horsemanship trainers like Warwick Schiller do.  They approach and retreat using a form of CAT-H staying way under threshold but they themselves have such a fine grasp of their own and the horse’s focus that they can make the magic happen.  For me, having the target and the clicker makes things more concrete so a little easier to get the timing down.  The natural horsemanship way obviously uses pressure to shape behavior  so is R- and clicker/target training uses the click and rewards so is R+ but both have so much to do with focus.  Many roads lead to Rome I guess.

Anyway, I’m loving the target training using a clicker and am starting to incorporate it under saddle.  Mostly for spook training and touching various things with their noses under saddle, but I think I will gradually move to the clicker more and more under saddle.  The power of withholding the click and then marking the moment is pretty amazing.  

Tell me about something new you have learned recently that has helped your horsemanship journey.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Some Late Summer Updates

As seen above Cruise is coming along nicely.  He is working under saddle on various places on my farm, doing poles, circles, turn on the forehand and leg yields at the walk and generally being a great boy.  Target training is working so well to get him in a relaxed state about new things and places.  We have a nice straight line trot and the next thing is adding in a big(think 30-40 meter) half circle at the end to trot AND circle.  He has such a big trot even just tootling around that he struggles  balancing on a smaller circle.  I also have trouble staying with him AND sitting up.  After using the Pivo with him for the first time yesterday I realized I need to get my pelvis more in neutral and use a ton more core.  But if this is his F around trot with me laying on his front end-WOW!

Jet is sound and being ridden three days a week, with a mix of working gaits and a touch of collectibility, but only for a few steps at a time.  I’ve been playing with some ideas from Connection Training that use Philippe Karl methodology and that has been super enlightening about getting the horse off the forehand.  Jet also love the target training and it has been helpful with tension.  I think I’ll do a post about the online riding course of Connection Training and give you my thoughts soon.

In super good news I have a contractor for my sand outdoor arena and a build date sometime in October or November.  The price is fairly reasonable and I’m also hoping to make all weather runs from each horse’s stall since the equipment will be here anyway.  I’m also planning  to get Cruise out on a couple of field trips this fall to a local horse park.  Hopefully pretty low key, trailer out, do a little groundwork and a lot of targeting, make it a positive experience and head home.  Fall is going to be busy with good things!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Connection Training Club Review

In addition to all the free information on YouTube and at connectiontraining.com there is a CT Club that is a monthly online subscription.  The cost is a half price for the first month and then $34.95 per month. See it HERE.  The CT Club includes a Forum, Study Groups, and Coaching but the real jackpot is the Home Study Courses.

Each course contains hours of theory, video, and demonstrations all in 20 minute or chunks that progressively build to the finished behaviors.

There are lots of ordinary horse and rider examples with moments of imperfection showing the step by step training process.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed the content, the way it is formatted, and the style of communication.  I have learned so much and haven’t even begun to scratc the surface of the many hours available.  I really like the short chunks videos but especially appreciate the step by step format that includes being able to check off each section in the course so you know where you are and how far you have to go.  I will say that the production values on some of the videos are not super polished but the content is A+++ and that is what matters to me.  Currently, I’m mostly through the Riding in Connection and De-spooking for Life and have learned so much that I will touch on in future posts.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

On Target

This target training stuff is pretty amazing.  Using free resources on YouTube, mostly Connection Training, I’ve been able to teach all three horses to touch a target stick(hillbilly version, a Gatorade bottle on a piece of wood trim), a variety of fixed targets, use my hand as a target, and touch fixed targets under saddle.  I’ve also learned a lot about target training, marking a behavior with a click or praise, and gotten much better at shaping an action with positive reinforcement.  The horses all love it and are super engaged.  I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I started this training.

I’m at the point now of using the fixed targets that the horses know in the spooky places to give them something positive to focus on and do.  It works like a dream.  I’ve also gotten to where most things are becoming targets, which makes the horses see slightly suspicious things and walk towards them to play the target game instead of looking sideways to spook.  Using my hand as a target in spooky places has been interesting as well, especially with some poll flexion sideways.  Yesterday Jet and I stood 20 feet from a garbage truck using the robot arm to pick and dump a trash can and he targeted my hand a couple of times and was totally chill.  Amazing.

Anyway, we are transferring the targeting to under saddle work right now.  The principles are the same and the horses LOVE it.  They are so eager to “work” and have a lot of motivation.  Not strictly dressage, but really fun stuff.