Third and final coaching session with Judith was yesterday! I sent some brief video of our in hand work, as I haven’t done much with the grooming.
We agreed he’s much more relaxed than he was before using the target. The shorter session broken up with the target game was great too. He was very actively engaged but not too over-stimulated and stayed relaxed throughout.
Big take away stuff
– if you’re getting the behaviour you want you’re doing it right! If not, try something else
– the hardest thing is keeping in control of ones’ own frustration and learning when to step away for a few mins or leave it for another day.
– suggested we try to teach a cue for head down (like hand on the withers or hand on the neck) to phase out the target for that.
So we had an update with Judith and it was really helpful! I sent a couple of videos over. Starting with the grooming one…
This is so much better! We have made really good progress and I’m very happy with it. To keep this improving we talked about:
– ignoring him when he does lift a foot, waiting for him to firmly plant it for a few seconds and *then* click but be aware he might start to chain it and lift a foot in order to get the click. He doesn’t look like this has happened yet though
– starting clicking for any sort of being totally relaxed. We need to start encouraging him to be more relaxed now he’s less anxious about being groomed.
In hand work
We started to look at in hand work. I did a clip of where we’re starting from:
As you can see he gets anxious and frustrated as soon as we start trying to do anything! Judith noted that sometimes he looked confused, and was offering a leg because he didn’t really know what to do. He also looked happier moving rather than standing still. We have a few things to try:
– working with a target instead of the cavesson. I’ll probably keep the cavesoon on him so he can break any bad associations, but ask for forward down and lateral bend using a target, and then progress to walking with the target
– have breaks more frequently. Throw a target for him to touch, or do something he finds fun every few minutes as this is quite intense work and he finds it hard
– instead of asking for a few slow walk steps and then stopping before he tanks off try doing a few steps and then walking him on as letting him walk on a bit will be a bit of a break in itself.
I’m acting as a case study for Judith for her Connection Training Instructor Training course which is super cool! We’d identified a couple of things to work on: his stamping/leg waving about grooming and his attitude to in hand work (or work in general really) as the biting and chomping has got a lot worse.
For this first session I’m looking at the grooming situation and I sent Judith these videos:
The things we discussed during the call were:
This is a very ingrained behaviour and one of his favourite fall back behaviours so it’s going to take a lot of encouragement to change it! We could try and replace it with a new behaviour, that we want, such as standing on a a mat or touching a stationery target
Firstly I’m doing a lot of clicks for not enough reward. As this is a go to behaviour for him and he’s still learning not to do it I need to teach him that the best possible course of action is to do nothing: so the ratio of clicks to treats needs to change. Give him 3 treats for every click!
As he is particularly sensitive around his belly which may be due to past pain due to ulcers we could try introducing him to the grooming game, where he gets to choose which brush he’s brushed with, or if he’s brushed at all. Judith also suggested adopting a counter-conditioning approach and throwing treats into a bucket when he keeps his feet down and bypass the click. This is because this is a thing that needs to happen and not a choice he can make to demonstrate a behaviour. But the grooming game might help him feel more invested and happy about the process.
The grooming game involves offering him two brushes, and using the brush he selects by touching with his nose on his neck for a bit before offering the brushes again and repeating the process until he realises that he can choose which brush is used on him. Swap hands to prove he understands the concept.
This week I shall try and teach him the grooming game! Could be fun.
We discussed his not seeming very comfortable in work. Judith suggests getting a soft tissue person to look at him and see what they think; David is taking a look at some videos to see if he thinks he should see him again. I need to find a masseuse…
Despite the heat we are making some progress I think. He’s getting calmer about saddling using the clicker to reinforce not nipping or puffing out behaviour. He’s standing much better to be groomed although his leg waving habit is very ingrained and will take a while to stop. He walked all the way to the arena yesterday, tacked up, without stopping at any point. So I’m pleased with all these.
The nipping is beginning to come back into the ST work, which is frustrating. I need to step back and take the pressure off again but I was starting to look for 2mm improvements. I think the LFS has improved, and the shoulder in isn’t too bad. The haunches in is still pushy so we need to go one step at a time I think.
He’s enjoying the connection training work so I think once session a week purely at liberty is a good idea. On the one hand this is a bit ‘chasing too many rabbits’ but I do think he enjoys the variety and the nipping and pushing comes back if we focus too much on one thing so I think I’ll stick with it for the moment!
Things for this week:
– more Connection Training cone stuff
– focus on slowing down the HI for ST
– ridden transitions
– try and get out for a hack
Ok plan for this week is a bit of clicker stuff mostly and getting him looser:
– grooming without nipping or leg waving
– being saddled without angry faces (in stages, so just saddle pad, then saddle but no girth, then saddle with loose girth and finally properly girthed – but this should be done over a few sessions)
Schooling: short sessions focussing on attitude as much as anything else.
Monday – In hand: walking, teaching ‘out’ & ‘back’
Tuesday – In hand: as Monday
Wednesday – Lunging: poles
Thursday – day off
Friday – Lunging: physio band
Saturday -day off
Sunday – Lunging: poles
Well. I wish things were going as well with the ST as with everything else! I did three sessions this week. I’ve started trying to push through the nipping and do some SI and HI (in WIH) rather than just walking round in circles. The nipping is worse than ever though, full on lunging and biting although he never actually catches me. I really don’t know what to do. He’s less nippy when he’s trying to do something like HI or SI but he’s quite pushy still. But if I stop to try and correct the pushy I keep having to avoid the teeth! Bit of a nightmare. I’m going to keep pressing forward for a bit in the hopes that maybe once the work becomes a bit easier he’ll chill out? My clinic with Roz has been postponed (again) as she now can’t do 27 April. Might be 11 May, but not sure yet!
Well. This week I decided we needed to push on a bit with ST stuff. The nipping and pushiness were just as bad as ever but instead of doing a very small amount and then stopping I decided to try and push through it. We did get some reasonable work. I also did some HI positioning myself very close in front on him so he had to take one step at a time and this seemed to help a bit. I shall try this a few more times this week and see if we can cement the idea that one step at a time is the way forward!
Not done much ST this week but I’m focussing on trying to stop the nipping. I’m giving a very firm NO when he nips and then trying to redirect to something he can be treated for. I’m finding the redirect tough. He’s still rushing and pushy but I can’t think about more than one thing at once!!! So I’m trying to get rid of the nipping and then we’ll think about the pushy….
ION Roz is coming to Barnfields!!! YAY!!!! 27 April and I already have enough lessons and one spectator so it’s looking like it will be a successful day. She can help us with the push I hope if we haven’t worked it out by then.
I really do need to get more touchstones in. I’m going to lose the ones I’ve paid for and I would like to feel like we’re making progress. But I think we’re still on this plateau…ah well.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the ST cavesson we’re using isn’t really helping us. Dino’s quite resentful of it – most likely my fault as he’s been pushy I’ve probably been putting a lot pressure on his nose which he hates anyway – so for the moment we’ll go back to doing the easy stuff again but with his English lunging cavesson instead. We had a bit of a play yesterday with Liz who came to visit and I think it was an improvement. He seemed calmer and less stressed in it so I think this is the way forward!
Lesson with Roz next week which I’m a bit anxious about. Worried he won’t even get on the box and worried she might want to push him more than I’m happy with but we are a stuck and probably do need challenging. Watch this space!
We did do some ST over the past couple of weeks but it’s hard going. The surface in the school is terrible and he’s very pushy and rushing. Not sure why. This week I plan to:
– Monday: ST – go back to LFS on circle and try and find some balance in exchange for some sweets
– Tuesday: Ride, maybe with some poles if the schools have drained at all
– Wednesday: Ride & Masterson
– Thursday: ST – as Monday
– Friday: day off
– Saturday: ST/ride. Emma should be out to look at the saddle again and Liz is hopefully visiting! Maybe we’ll record a new longeing touchstone
– Sunday: hack if I can find some company. Also Masterson.