"Accidental" training

carthorse

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Well maybe not accidental, but certainly not formal targetted training.

A combination of little things that I've noticed after someone's comment about him not biting anymore made me look at the overall changes in Luka's behaviour on the ground.

Biting, or even just nipping, has never been a problem with me but was in his last home. Someone last week, who knew him then, was watching him on the yard and asked how I'd manage to beat that out of him when no-one else had - I think the comment probably explained the cause of the problem and I did say that to the person :mad:. It seems he did properly bite, drawing blood and ripping clothes, but I suspect it was largely in self defence with maybe an element of getting in first if he saw an action as threatening. He was late gelded and can be a bit mouthy but that's all I've ever had from him and I don't think the staff at the pro yard he was at a few times ever had an issue either - good calm handlers though who dealt with individuals not what they felt a horse should be.

He's so much braver/relaxed around people he doesn't know well. He's now chilled about them putting a headcollar on and leading him, though it's best they do it his way ie use the throat clip and lead on a very loose rope. Bribes, although welcome, are no longer needed. I'll only ask quiet people to handle him though, no big body language or egos are wanted and I'm also not sure how well I'd trust him with someone nervous, I think he'd be quick to take control though maybe kind enough to humour them anyway.

The rearing in the yard has pretty much stopped. Now maybe I'm better trained at paying him attention when he's in, but I think now he's also more confident he doesn't need me there to look after him and so my walking away isn't an issue. We may still get the odd one when the farrier comes, but if we do it's at the start and then he settles. Likewise the strike out with a front is now rare - pawing may take longer but is no longer so frantic that I used to wonder if he had some tunnelling animal in his breeding šŸ˜‚

Standing still seems to be improving too, sometimes helped by a few pony nuts if he thinks I'm talking too long. Interestingly though he will park untied to be untacked, go figure šŸ¤”

Getting cream on hind heels is now an easy job, initially it would involve kicking out and later moving away, now the most he does is lift the hind when I start and I think that's because if he isn't paying attention he thinks I want to hoofpick him.

He hasn't broken away when tied up for ages, that's quite a saving in leadropes.

He's generally a lot calmer in the stable as long as another horse is in sight. I don't tend to do much with him inside though except change rugs, and if other people are doing him I tell them to do that outside. If he's wound up he still has a tendency to barge out the door and again people are warned it may be best to put the headcollar on over the door. I do wonder if he'd be better in an outside box rather than the barn, but the indoor ones are cooler in the summer and have better airflow all year.

Some things don't change though. Dragons and tigers still exist and must be pointed out at every opportunity. Mud and puddles are to be avoided whenever possible, getting those white socks dirty is a no no in his mind and there have been mornings I've took his headcollar off and then pushed from behind! Any quick moves near his head, or someone he doesn't know going to his face, show he's still headshy, but given the beating comment that's hardly surprising, likewise he doesn't like having his face brushed despite collecting mud behind his ears.

I think it shows how much horses change with just day to day handling and attitude. Yes he's bright and picks up on things quickly if it makes his life easier, but that can be a problem in itself if not used well. Now I don't worry about asking others to handle him but I will always remember his attitude to his owner the first time I saw them together and it was not nice - I was glad I'd seen him on my own first and made my opinion then but even so it made me wary of who I asked to cover for me forquite some time and was why I paid a small fortune to send him back to the pro yard if I was away.
 

Bodshi

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I don't think training has to be formal, just consistent. It sounds like your method of 'training' is just what Luka needs.

I'm sure both formal and informal training work best when the consistency is there. Eg teaching a horse to move away from pressure in a school and making sure they do the same when you need them to move out of the way in the stable. I'm finding the command 'stand' particularly useful at the moment to stop AJ fidgeting while I'm putting on his pyjamas.

I am constantly surprised by the horse's capacity and ability to learn so quickly, I don't know why. It does worry me how easy it will be to accidentally teach the wrong thing though.
 

carthorse

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@Bodshi like people some are brighter than others :) . I find the ones where i have to endlessly repeat a lesson frustrating, but it does mean if you make a mistake the first time you aren't stuck with it for life as there's plenty of time to adjust and fine tune. I find that just being careful what I praise helps a lot in avoiding teaching the wrong thing, and if you accidentally do then don't give it time to get established but train in an alternative straight away - you'll be fine!

I remember someone saying when I was a kid that every second you spend with a horse you're training him. It may not be big training in terms of a result from a session but it colours how he sees you and that may be one of the biggest things of all. Luka needed to relearn that people could be nice, that he wanted to be around them, and that they could be trusted and after that everything else fell into place. Those lessons are only learned with time and consistency though. I made mistakes, not least assuming he'd done more than he had and so accidentally stressing him, but we got over it.

If I ever decide to do some school work with him then that will be more formal, like the few lessons we had were. Mind you now I think about it even those were very much governed by what he could mentally and physically deal with, and that was one of the reasons I so respect that trainer.
 

Bodshi

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@Bodshi I find that just being careful what I praise helps a lot in avoiding teaching the wrong thing, and if you accidentally do then don't give it time to get established but train in an alternative straight away - you'll be
OMG I have just accidentally learned this lesson. For the first time AJ picked and held up a foot on voice request rather than me reaching down and picking it up. I knew we were on the verge because he has been shifting his weight ready to pick up for a few days, but tonight he just did it. I was so pleased and he obviously could tell because when I went to try the other side he picked up the opposite foot and waved it about madly. So then I had to tell him no, that wasn't really what I wanted - that's all I did, just said No - and of course he stamped his foot down and refused to pick it up again. He did pick it up again after a bit of convincing but clearly I am a much slower learner than he is šŸ˜‚

Thanks for your kind words. I am genuinely really worried that I could ruin this horse.
 
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carthorse

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@Bodshi you won't ruin him, you just might have some hiccups along the way. If it helps I've always found that if I've accidentally taught the wrong thing then the best bet was to ignore it and praise what I want instead, that avoids the stroppy "but you said!" behaviour. And be careful about how ott the praise is, I found to my cost with Jim that big praise meant bigger effort next time which nearly had me fall off over his bum when medium trot turned into full on extended the next ask šŸ¤£
 
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