Saturday, May 29, 2010

Carrot Tryouts

Picture taken 4-19-2010.

I finally got motivated to do some clicker training with Chrome again and I decided to try the carrots out. I have two things I really need to work on. Fly spray and hoof care. I didn't feel like working on the fly spray so I decided to work on him letting me hold his feet up for increasing amounts of time. He's been good about picking up his front hooves, but I've had problems with his rear hooves. I'm starting on the front to let him know what we're working on. After I have him balancing, holding his hoof and relaxing I'll introduce the trimming tools like the nippers and rasp. Then I'll move on to the back hooves.

He did pretty well. At first he was moving around a lot but then he realized what I wanted and was offering his hoof pretty well. He does back up to pick up his hoof though. I don't know if that's a balance issue or if he's confused what I'm asking for. If anyone has clicker trained hoof work I'd appreciates some tips. :D

Unfortunately midway through the session my neighbor stopped by with his grandchildren to look at our chickens. While they were watching the chickens I went back to working with Chrome, but I felt totally self conscious because I was wearing my ugliest shorts, tank top and muck boots! I wasn't expecting an audience! So after they left my brain was all over the place. I did some backing practice and he did great!! He was going three steps back very quickly and eagerly.

Then I went back to the hoof work. While asking him to pick up his hoof he reached his head down between his front legs being a pest. I totally should not have rewarded it but it was cute so I did! I had him reach between his legs several times and then had him reach around and touch his sides. So now we have vertical and lateral flexion lol! Cool!

When I went back to the hoof work he started spitting out the carrots. I still don't think he really likes them. At that point I called it quits and put the rest of them in his feed. It went decent considering the interruption I guess. I'll try again tomorrow. :) Or maybe later.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Score For Carrots!!

I know I already posted today but I just had to tell everybody that Chrome ate two whole baby carrots!! I'm so excited. Chrome may have finally decided he like carrots! That will be so much easier to clicker train with than the bucket of feed. Besides I think the bucket is becoming a cue in itself. He still did a lot of head shaking and dropped some pieces, but since he's finally not acting so picky I think I'm going to try chopping them up in his feed everyday for a while. :) This may seem silly to you, but I'm excited. It has taken sooooo long for him to decide to like treats. Oh and he likes his beet pulp too. I can already see a difference in him. He doesn't act like he's starving all the time now and his hay is lasting longer into the day. :)

Silly Pictures

These are just some random silly pictures of Chrome that I took on Saturday when I was getting pictures for Donkey Day. I don't know how many of you play that game with your dogs where you poke them, tickle them, etc and dodge their teeth (well I do because I know they won't bite - the paw tapping one is fun too), but I've gotten into the bad habit of playing it with Chrome. Please don't yell at me. I like to tickle his lips and watch him open his mouth. It's hilarious. He still doesn't try to bite me though so I think he knows it's a game. If he doesn't I guess I'll learn the hard way at some point lol.

Heck we could just call that training for a equine dentist LOL. Open wide Chrome!

"Is this close enough Mom?"

Weird angle. Don't know why I kept it, but I like it. :)

Anyway sorry for not posting much. I'll try to do better.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

5-22-2010 - Donkey Day

Sorry I've missed Donkey Day but I've been so busy that I haven't been taking pictures. You'll like this one though. :) To befriend the skittish donkey I've been doing several things. I've been hand feeding treats. He wasn't very comfortable taking the treats in the next pictures because Chrome was climbing up my back and I was having to push him away which kept startling Zeppelin lol.

Look how he stretches to reach the treat.

He knocked it out of my hand and ate it off the ground lol.

Look at those sad Eeyore eyes. His face is finally shedding out dark. Takes a lot longer than a horse to shed!

I've been holding his bucket while he eats his feed twice a day.

He lets me pet his nose a little.

He's getting much better at it especially if I'm sitting down.

Zeppelin is getting a bit nippy about treats, but he's so gentle I took the chance to get cute pictures!

I LOVE this adorable grimace!

In this one he's snorting. Too cute! Look how puffed up his mouth is lol.

I think Zeppelin is embarrassed. :D

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Chrome!! - Monthly Progress Report

Today was Chrome's first birthday! I had big plans to make him a tiny cake made out of sweet feed with a single candle in the middle, but after work and chores I ran out of time. Oh well. :( Anyway here is his progress report.

Date: 5-19-10

Age: 12 months

Height: 13.3½ (55½in/140cm)

Height Gain: Somewhere around 7/16ths of an inch.

Weight: Approx 620lbs (281.2kg)

Weight Gain: Wow . . . could he really have not gained any weight? He is a bit thin but I wouldn’t have thought he was that thin. He doesn’t look too thin, his ribs just show a bit when he’s moving. I’m definitely going to start feeding him beet pulp to increase his roughage intake and give him some more protein, but not too much. Balancing a young horse’s growth is difficult!

Progress: Chrome hasn’t shown any heat or discomfort in his joints anymore, so I must be doing something right, but I would like to get a little more weight back on him. I just don’t want to increase his feed too much. I might try adding alfalfa hay or maybe I’ll just do rice bran. That’s what his breeder had him on and he did really well on it. He’s doing fantastic with his clicker training! I’m so proud of him. He’s so smart!

Goals: My goal for this month is to continue clicker training and also to slowly add beet pulp to his diet. Hay has been very scarce in my area lately so he’s not getting as much roughage as I’d like him to have. I’m just glad our grass is growing so well so that he can spend some time each day grazing. I would also like to walk him on the roads some more (I never did get around to it this past month), give him his first bath and also trim his hooves for the first time. They’re getting a little long. I hope I can achieve that much in one month lol!

Anyway here are the rest of the picture. The first few are of him grazing in the other paddock.

I think the Friesian is showing through in these two pictures (above and below).

And some of him eating breakfast.

"Mom, why are you hovering around me with the flashy box?"

Took his halter off. The one he's wearing in the pictures above is the one that belonged to Lady, my Appaloosa growing up. It's a bit worn, but still a good halter.

I love the expression on his face in this one.

Making a pass by check for any last crumbs.

And then he looks all Arabian again lol.

Love this picture!

I love his expression in this picture. That expression is soooo CHROME! I wish I knew what he was thinking. :)

Always gotta get me a neck shot. He's starting to get a crest. I'm gonna miss the stallion characteristics when we geld him in the fall, but I won't miss the attitude lol.

Happy birthday cutie pie!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clicker Training - Getting More Organized - Also Beet Pulp Question

Picture taken 3-16-2010.

I think I'm finally through my slump. I got a bit depressed and sleep deprived after learning about the death of my uncle (as well as losing my goat), but I think I'm finally pulling out of it. I've just been getting through work each day, doing chores and crawling onto the couch to zone out in front of the t.v. until the wee hours of the morning, but last night I finally slept really well, had a good day at work and came home feeling happy and motivated, so I did some clicker training with Chrome.

Last night I was reading Alexandra Kurland's book to review what I've worked on with Chrome so far and to make sure I haven't missed anything. The first thing that became obvious to me is that I'm falling into my usual habits of barely touching on things before getting bored and moving on without getting anything under stimulus control. Since she states several times that the three foundation lessons (target, head lowering and backing) are very important I decided to work on those until I get them really solid. I also realized on the 'grownups are talking' game (I skipped ahead hehe) that his head and neck are supposed to be straight not necessarily turned away, so I decided to work on that too.

Even though I had a long list of things I wanted to work on I chose two. Backing and grownups. I also decided to work with him in the halter because he's been evasive about it. I decided to use my previous pony's old green halter because the red halter that came with Chrome is getting too small, even on it's loosest setting (cool!). Imagine my surprise when I discovered he's scared of the green halter!!!! I guess he's only ever worn red so the green one kind of worried him. I did a few click/treats with him putting his nose in the halter, then I slipped it on. He still wasn't too thrilled, but he'll get better about it. I probably should have changed my game plan and focused on haltering, but it was extremely difficult to juggle the halter, lead, clicker and bucket. Sigh. I'm going to have to get him eating carrots. He drops so much of his feed (even though it doesn't go to waste thanks to my chickens lol) and it's a pain to manipulate the bucket during training.

So after he was haltered I started working on backing. My two goals for backing today were adding a consistent vocal cue "back" and to get more than one step, because he's started giving me lazy, tiny, single steps. I forgot to up the criteria lol. Chrome did really well! Within seconds I had him backing two steps for each click. I can't wait to add more, but I'm not going to get too eager lol. I also gave a clear vocal cue just before giving my hand cue (pointing at his chest), so I hope he catches on to it.

After that I worked on the grownups game. Having the halter on him made this sooooo much easier because I could stop him from walking off. He likes to walk circles around me when he gets impatient. Within minutes he was keeping his head and neck straight. A bonus is that he was lowering it too! Yay Chrome! Hopefully when we start working on head lowering soon it'll go smoothly. :)

Just for something different I took his lead off and did the following game for a bit. He's sticking to my side a lot better and also starts walking with me instead of catching up. He's nowhere near consistent but I don't mind. After making a loop of the paddock I did a couple of halts and he did so well I gave him a jackpot and let him finish his supper. I'm very pleased with how well he did today. I think he's starting to gain a little patience and emotional control. I can only hope anyway. :)

On a side note I'm thinking of adding beet pulp to his diet because we're having difficulties finding sources of hay (they won't start cutting til June) and he needs more higher quality roughage. I'm worried about knocking the calcium/phosphorus ratio off, but what I've been reading says that diets made of grass hay and concentrates are usually high in phosphorus anyway so the beet pulp helps balance it out. Beet pulp is also low on the glycemic index and helps slow down the passage of concentrate through the horse's digestive system. If anyone has any experience with beet pulp I'd appreciate hearing from you. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Broken Toy

Picture taken 3-16-2010.

I love my colt. He has such a great personality. Anyway, I discovered the other day that apparently Chrome dropped his ring toy (in the picture above) in Jackal's pen (adjoining fences) and the mutt chewed almost through one of them. So now his three ring toy is a two ring toy. Sigh. Chrome still loves it. :) It's wasn't expensive, so I'll replace it when it's been completely destroyed lol.

I didn't do any clicker training or anything with him today because there has been a lot going on. I'll do something tomorrow. Well, he's probably done eating by now so I'm going to go let him out of his stall and give him a big hug. I'm sure he won't mind. Night!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Great Escape & More Clicker

Yesterday evening we forgot to latch the pasture gate and Chrome managed to open it (probably rubbing his head on it). When we went outside we found them by the driveway in the front yard. I almost freaked out because we live so close to the road, but I kept my cool, grabbed a rope and some sugar and headed out there. Chrome let me walk right up to him and put the rope around his neck. He balked once, but otherwise led well. I put him in his stall and went back for Zeppelin. As soon as Zep saw me coming (with a feed bucket) he hightailed it around me and ran back into the pasture. I was so surprised I just laughed, closed the pasture gate and let Chrome out of his stall. Glad it ended so well. :) I'm very careful to latch the gate now.

Today I decided to work on fly spraying Chrome because they are driving him crazy and as far as I know he's never been done before, except for one time last week and he hated it! I decided to try using clicker training. I don't know how well it went and I'm worried I might have been doing it wrong, because I was clicking any time I sprayed regardless of his reaction, so I'm worried I might have been rewarding him for being jumpy. I also didn't have an empty spray bottle, so I couldn't practice with just water (I'm going to get one today so we can try again and not waste expensive fly spray). When I realized I was moving too fast and rewarding his squirrely behavior I took a step back and broke it down further. I didn't want to just randomly spray fly spray all over the place so I started on his mane and only did a half pump. It went well after that, but he was stressed so I didn't push it too far. I'm going to try again with water so I can start further away and slowly build up to actually spraying him. This will be good desensitization for the bath I hope to give him soon too. :) Wish us luck!

P.S. Don't forget the watch the video I posted earlier. I put it up under yesterday's date even though I did it today because I just ran out of time yesterday to edit it. Let me know what you think. Oh and it's kind of long. Sorry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clicker Training Progress Video

Here is a video of our clicker training progress. It was all spur of the moment (because of bad weather) and not at all planned, not to mention I had a borderline migraine at the time and the flies were driving Chrome crazy, so it's not our best by any means, but it'll give you an idea what we're working on.

I know someone will notice and mention that Chrome looks thin. I've already increased his feed and hay. I noticed how thin he'd gotten when he finally shed out his winter coat over his ribs and I started increasing it then. I've almost got him back to where I want him, but I have to be carefully to increase his feed slowly over time so I don't aggravate his joints again or cause other problems.

Anyway, if anyone has any tips, suggestions or anything feel free to comment. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Leading from the paddock . . .

This is a follow up from the previous post where I explained about Chrome not wanting to leave the paddock where I let him graze. I let them graze for a few hours then went out to get them. I could tell they'd been galloping around and were excited. I don't know if something scared them or if they were playing. I went armed with my sugar cubes, expecting a huge fight. The last time I led him from the paddock I turned him loose before I closed the gate because Zeppelin hadn't come in yet and he bolted past me back into the paddock. I lost my temper and chased him around (so he couldn't graze) until he let me catch him and lead him back out, so I wasn't surprised when he started to walk away from me today.

I was patient and didn't chase him. He stood near Two Socks and watched me approach. As soon as I touched him he relaxed and let me take his halter. I put the rope on him and gave him the sugar cube (happy I didn't have to use it as a bribe). As I expected he balked when I tried to lead him from the paddock. Instead of backing him or longeing him I swung the rope behind me toward his haunches. I only had to do that twice and then he led from the paddock. I took him all the way to his stall (gave him his second sugar cube and also rubbed him with the lead rope so he wouldn't get skittish about it) and locked him up so I could get Zeppelin out of the paddock and close the gate.

So it went about how I expected. I hate that I chased him that day and now he's skittish of me (he seems like a very reactive horse to me and I don't know for sure if that's just his personality or if it's his age), but he was hard to catch when I got him (see earlier posts), so maybe it's just who he is. I know we can rebuild the trust between us and I know things like this will happen as we both learn. I know I'll make mistakes and I'm going to try not to beat myself up about them. It's not like I beat him or hurt him in any way. I don't want a fear based relationship with him, but I also understand I'm a predator and he's a prey animal. There may always be times when that comes between us. We'll work through that. Anyway, another lesson success. Don't you just love how every interaction with our equine friends is a training (learning) experience?

More Clicker

Picture taken 3-16-2010.

I didn't feel like luring Zeppelin into Chrome's stall so I just put Chrome in it and fed Zep outside. He was much quicker to walk up to me and ate his feed without backing away so often. I think he only left me twice this time as opposed to six or seven times. I don't think it'll take long to build his confidence. I've decided when he's completely relaxed eating from the bucket with me still (I've been talking and moving my head but that's it) then I'll start slowly moving around a bit. A shift of my weight, a movement of my finger or elbow, things like that, until I can actually move my hands on and off the bucket. Eventually this should lead to petting him while he eats.

When Zep finished eating I worked with Chrome in his stall. It was weird working with him in the confined space but he's fine. I worked on backing first, which went well. I kept having to move to reposition him which I'm worried he may view as me giving my space to him (he's really testing his boundaries right now). I'll pay close attention to this and to what I'm doing with my body. At one point while I was waiting on him to chew and deciding what I wanted to do next (I know I need to start having a plan before I start so I don't send mixed up messages to him, but I'm not feeling motivated lately) and he raised his muzzle up to give me kisses. Without thinking I clicked because I really want to teach him to give kisses.

I'm not sure if teaching him kisses is a good idea right now though. I don't know that I'm 100% comfortable with him around my face (he's not acting like he wants to bite, but he does get impatient sometimes and hasn't learned self control yet). His teenage hormones are kicking in and he's being a butt lately, so I don't know. After I clicked that one time he started offering it constantly. The problem is we haven't learned stimulus control and I'm beginning to feel completely out of control of our lessons. I know it's good for him to experiment and offer behaviors, but I don't think I like his attitude sometimes. I don't know how to explain the vibe I'm getting. I'm not scared of him and I don't feel in any danger at all. Part of me wonders if it isn't just my old style of training and my unconscious desire to exert my dominance kicking in. I think I'm kind of a control freak. I'm just going to pay attention and be careful with what I'm doing. Eventually I have to figure out what's going on, but I must be patient. I might try to get my husband to video one of our sessions on his day off so you guys can watch it and see if you can see what's going on.

Also if anyone has any tips on teaching him patience and self control please don't hesitate to chime in. :)

I tried working on him touching the Jolly ball because I would eventually like to teach him to pick it up, but he kept offering kisses and Grownups are Talking (turning his head away). I eventually gave up because he was completely ignoring the ball. I ended the lesson with more backing because he's good at it, I couldn't work on leading in the stall and I was getting tired, bored and frustrated. I let him finish his breakfast and then put his halter on so I could lead him to the other paddock where he could graze.

The last few times I've let him graze he's been a total butt about leaving the grass. One day when my husband went to bring him in Chrome actually threatened him (ugly faces and half reared) then turned and galloped away, popping his butt but not kicking out. This upset me really bad because I wasn't there to discipline him, so he got away with the bad behavior. I haven't let him graze since then because I had to get over my anger and think of a solution. I decided I'm going to halter him and lead him to the paddock, even though the gate is attached to his current paddock and technically I could just open it and let him in. Then when I got to get him I'll take hold of his halter, clip a lead on and give him a treat for letting me catch him (going to use sugar because it's high value).

Then I'll lead him out. If he balks or gets ugly I'll either make him back up or I'll make him trot around me. Something to move his feet and get his attention (and hopefully respect) back on me. Then when I successfully get him back to his paddock I'll give him another sugar cube as his reward. This is a combination of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement (or would this be considered positive punishment since it's happening after the behavior??). I'll do some reading (to refresh my memory on the different reinforcements) and see if I can find a better way of doing it.

Oh and sorry for the extremely long wordy posts lately. :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Donkey Day & Chrome's Clicker Training

Picture taken 3-14-2010.

When I went outside to feed I found Zeppelin already in Chrome's stall so I just shut him in and started thinking. I knew I wanted to do something with him, but I didn't want to use the clicker in ear shot of Chrome. I've had this problem with Storm and Jackal before too and I never came up with a solution really . . . I just started training them separately, which is impossible with Chrome and Zep.

I got Zep's feed and tried hand feeding him, but he didn't want to come close to me since we were confined in the stall. He probably felt trapped and it didn't help that Chrome was pacing outside. I finally decided to just let him eat his feed out of the bucket while I was holding it. I'll do that for a while until he gets comfortable with me being in the stall with him. Then I'll proceed from there. If any of you seasoned horse clicker trainers have any tips on training them together without diluting the power of the clicker please let me know. I'd really appreciate it.

Picture taken 3-16-2010.

After feeding Zeppelin I worked with Chrome. We did target training first and I discovered something! The reason I'm having trouble getting him to target closer to the ground is because he's associated the outstretched arm with targeting. I forget how tuned into body language they are! I also realized that he probably has trouble seeing the tennis ball (I don't accept touches of the dowel rod as a target, only the ball). I think I'm going to leave that alone for now because I like the distance it creates between us with my outstretched arm and instead I'm going to teach him to target a small, orange cone. I want to eventually get him targeting the cone on the ground so I can work on 'sending' him to it. I'm hoping this will help us with stimulus control and also reinforce the voice cue (which I feel he ignores or barely notices). Anyway, that will be a while (or not considering how fast he catches on).

After that I worked on Grownups are Talking (which has become his default behavior). He has that down perfect. Then I decided to work on something new. I'm going to attempt something I've never done before and never seen done (if anyone knows of a Youtube video let me know). I'm going to basically 'target' his shoulder to my shoulder, so that he automatically positions himself on my left hand side with his shoulder even with mine. I have no idea if I'm making any sense. Anyway it went really well! He caught on so quickly!

Basically how it went is I walked away from him and stopped with my back to him and waited. And waited. And waited. He started out just turning his head away and held it there. Eventually he came closer and turned his head away. As he inched closer he eventually drew even with my shoulder and I clicked. Within minutes he was positioning himself perfectly every time I walked away. Then I worked on the following game. I forgot to work on stopping though. Oh well. All in all I think it went great! And to think when I started out I wasn't in a good mood and didn't even feel like training. I'm glad I did.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Feeling Better

Not much to report. I think my head cold is passing finally. My allergies are still awful and the cough isn't completely gone but I feel better. Not so exhausted or achy. I haven't been doing anything with Chrome or Zeppelin because I haven't felt well. I did increase Chrome's feed because he was getting a bit thin (probably hit another growth spurt). The increase in feed is making him bratty so I really need to start walking him and doing his clicker training again. I also need to work with Zeppelin. He still takes treats from me and occasionally lets me touch his face, but he's so spooky. Any sudden movement sends him scurrying. I've never seen such a spooky donkey. Anyway, I'll try to get started again tomorrow . . . if the pretty weather holds out. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Donkey Day - 5-1-2010

It sure is no fun when little brothers weigh more than you do!

Bratty Chrome enjoys swinging his toys in circles and banging them against buildings and fences . . . and donkeys!!!

How not to desensitize a donkey to empty feed bags . . .

. . . let your colt chase him with one LOL!

On a more serious note, these boys play ROUGH together!

And I'm worried because Zeppelin has sores on his flanks . . .

. . . but Chrome doesn't have a mark on him.

This doesn't mean that Zeppelin doesn't bite Chrome. I've seen him dole out the punishment in their mock fights, but I think Chrome bites too hard. Is there too much of a size difference to make safe pasture/play mates? Zeppelin I would guess is around three hundred pounds and Chrome is close to six hundred. Zep does kick Chrome when he's had enough, but why would he let Chrome cause sores before saying enough?

Anyway the sores aren't too bad. They aren't pouring blood or infected or anything like that. I just don't like Zep being hurt. I was going to get Chrome gelded this spring, but I couldn't get it done before the flies came out so I guess I have to wait until this fall. I don't think I'm going to have enough money to get them both done at the same time unfortunately, but Zep hasn't been aggressive or anything so I might let him wait longer. He turns three this year so it's not like he's going to suddenly turn crazy or anything. Anyway if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them. Thanks!