Tuesday, December 20, 2011

back to it

After a short break I got back to work yesterday with Chapiro, relaxing the neck. The reflex relaxation response when the tension releases in his neck leads to him licking and lowering his head which I'm hoping to be able to bring on cue from the ground or when ridden. Basically using the same principle as bitted flexions I'm trying to wing it in a headcollar! It's still very much a work in progress (I have discussed it here before) and it may just be another one of those blind alleys but both he and Moo seem to benefit from this type of work so I'm going to give it some serious consideration over winter. In the second video we are working on the in-hand trot, again trying to keep the neck/shoulders relaxed especially through the transitions. The small circles (I only do this work for a few minutes) also mean that I can easily keep the shoulder lightly 'in' as on this size of circle it would be impossible for him to keep uniformly bent around the circumference.
I might give the in-hand horsemanship a go on interdressage this month if I can up our game in time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

sleep tight

I always knew I'd write this post but never considered it would happen this way. Eight days ago our Cleo walked out of our lives and hasn't returned. We knew her from the day she was born 16 years ago and had hoped we'd be there with her to say goodbye at the end but sadly that isn't to be. We don't know where she went and imagining is too painful but after hunting high and low for days we have had to admit defeat. Dementia is a cruel disease and it isn't my first brush with the monster. Wherever you are my baby, sleep tight, we miss you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

training tricks part 1 Jambette

Last post Di asked how to train the spanish walk so here goes!
I'm not a great trick fan and I know that lots of folks think of jambette and spanish walk as tricks but for me they are an extension of movements that horses can be seen to perform naturally. Chapiro most definitely raises a fore leg and quivers it at Manolo, his neighbour, if he dares to get too close to the fence. I think it also helps create more lift in the foreleg in preparation for passage (which we are some way off, lol) certainly in Chapiro's case I'm hoping it will  help make him more mobile in his shoulders.

This is a brief resumé of how the jambette can be started ;

*cue a leg raise in-hand
this will be different for each horse, a sensitive horse like Chapiro just needs a hint of a touch on any part of his leg to get a response, less sensitive horses may need some help with a hand to lift the leg at the same time as giving the touch or verbal (or both) cue. Begin by rewarding the tiniest try, even a shift of weight and gradually encourage the full lift by both physical and verbal cues. Remember that at some point you may want to transfer this to ridden work and so it's vital that you have a cue that is able to be given from the saddle. In theory though you could use a touch of any part of the leg/shoulder in the early stages but for me the most obvious spot is the upper front of the foreleg.

You can also use mimicry as I did on day one with Chapiro. When he watched Moo getting clicks and treats just for raising his leg he thought he'd have some of that! Some folks (and I have tried this but my right hip argues too much, ouch) do the leg raise themselves to encourage the mimicry.

If you already have target touching in your trick bag then you can easily use the touch cue to get the leg to the target. I am using this as an improvement tool and so far it's working well.

*improve quality and duration

Once you have the leg lift on cue then it's down to refinement, this can (certainly did in Moo's case) take a long time and I would reckon it's well worth taking time on this and doing short sessions to keep the work really sweet. To improve the placing of the leg then the target is perfect, think of getting the upper forearm to touch the target, then progress to the knee and finally the fetlock or hoof. The same with duration, just keep the touch for a split second longer each time before rewarding and end on a good note, always without pushing it too fast.

 *extinguish unwanted tries

This work can become so exciting to a horse that he will offer it at every opportunity and often when unasked, this is quite dangerous and so it's important to work on calmy ignoring these offered tries and unsurprisingly I use clicker for this too, a few minutes at the end of the early sessions may well be all it takes for some but as always all horses will be different.

*progression to spanish walk

I'll cover this as Chapiro works towards it but for now it's just important that he is able to raise a leg and then walk on so that we will be well prepared for spanish walk proper.

Hope this helps Di, any questions and input from others always welcome.

Here's our video's of the early work with Chapsi and some basic leg raising with Moo to illustrate my points.

We are currently continuing our 'homework' from the body worker with Chapiro so it's shoulder circles and jambette.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ministry of Funny Walks

Chapiro seems to have really picked up the idea of jambette/spanish walk from Moo when we had our double clicker session earlier this week. Today I had 'family' duties in the form of Christmas shopping and had more or less written off the day in terms of training but I raced MIL round Limoges at breakneck speed and just got back in time for a second go at the spanish walk preparation. Sorry for the rather gushing sound track but I'm so proud of my clever wee man, wish I was half as clever