Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Carrot vs. Stick training

So my grandiose goals of riding 4 to 5 days a week has not happened. First a trip to Ohio, then the cold and now I have a cold! I have ridden my little pony 3 times in the past month. Whoops! He unfortunately seems to be showing this by his loss of aptitude at the canter along with an expanding waist line. The hubby allowed me 10 mins of riding yesterday as I am still in recovery and I took 20 to ride Bodhi bareback and work on lateral work. He has been stiff, spooky and slow, all signs of his lack of work and all things that tick me off. Bodhi when feeling his oats tends to fixate on one area of the arena in which to direct his spookiness. In this arena it is the water pump. We have had many a lovely ride by the water pump before but if he is feeling like being contrary it is the water pump he is going to look at stiffen and balk at. Last weeks ride I really got into him for ignoring my inside aids around said water pump. He got a couple good whomps from my dressage whip finally and of course it went a little like this

Me... "Hey listen here... you don't have to face the pump! Don't look at it... Bend away from it
Bodhi"...I can't hear you... Oh man look at that thing. It has hoses!
Me... HEY over here man there is a phone call for you it is from earth. EARTH TO BODHI.
Bodhi.... I have no idea what your talking about....
Me... *whomp* Listen up bucko!
Bodhi.... OHHHHHH that leg! Sure you want me to bend! Why didn't you say so in the first place!
Then I got a few circles of the best on the bit trot work I have had in ages. GO figure?

I don't like having arguments with him like that. I don't like escalating my aids up to that point and it does not feel like good training to me. With some horses that would also make the situation worse. Not Bodhi though! Sometimes he needs something big and physical to get his attention back on me. He can be really thick. He illustrates this in the pasture with other horses all the time. He is the lowest on the totem pole but sometimes he will just put other horses on ignore. "I can't hear you.." He can be very belligerent!

That being said, I still don't like whaling or kicking or any of those less subtle forms of getting my point across. When he ignores the cue it needs to get louder that is just how negative reinforcement works, that is what makes it reliable. I think I am going to be more consistent with clicker training though. Bodhi responds really well to it and it is so much more....positive!

Back to my ride yesterday. Armed with a click and some treats we worked on the water pump area again. He was still stiff and spooky. But I worked on Starting at the quarter line and leg yielding into the rail. I got the exact same results that I did at the end of the other ride and I think we both felt better about it.

1 comment:

  1. You know, don't feel bad about putting your foot down...always remember that their skin is pretty thick, and they count on us to remind them what the rules are. A secure horse is a happy horse. Keep up the good work!