Thursday, January 28, 2010

OT: Temple Grandin on NPR and Advocacy

One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. Aldo Leopold

NPR's show Talk of the Nation had one of my favorite authors(and favorite people ) Temple Grandin on to talk about her life in the light of a new HBO movie about her life and work. (As an aside I can not believe how believable Claire Danes' performance is! If I had TV I would definitely want to tune in to this! Here is the trailer )
Here is the Latest Interview
I would recommend the interview for any one that is curious about Dr. Grandin. She is an amazing person, and an advocate for both animals and autism. I asked her a question through NPR's blog that was read on air. I will include the written correspondence for anyone that wants to see it and who can not get audio. It is about what she thinks the problems are in animal transportation.

On a personal note--- I really admire Dr Grandin's work because it is something I could never do. I am a vegetarian. I am because of primarily environmental reasons. I would be lying though if I said it was not also for my personal feeling about animals-- my personal ethics. I can not stand the thought of animals living in cages, in factories, and on feed lots. I personally could never kill an animal for my food. I do not want to eat something that came from a process that I could not complete nor do I want to support an industry when I do not agree with their practices. I have chosen boycotting as my advocacy method.

Dr. Grandin has chosen to work within the industry itself and she has made some amazing changes not only in the technology but in the management of the meat we eat. I wish that animals did not have to die. But as long as people still continue to demand meat we NEED people like Dr. Grandin to fight for a humane life and a humane death for our food. Thank you Temple Grandin for doing something I would never be strong enough to do.

Here is my question...
Molly writes: I'm curious what you think about animal transportation in the United States. It would seem the transportation in the trucks I see in transit currently would cause a great deal of stress, pain and fear, especially in high-fear animals like horses. I've seen several news articles about injuries sustained by horses when shipped cross-country to Canada or Mexico. What are your thoughts and feelings on animal transportation? What would you like to see changed?

Dr. GRANDIN: One of the biggest things you have to do in animal transportation is management. There's actually been some studies that have shown a big difference between drivers on things like injuries - I mean, drivers that stomp on the brakes, they stomp on the gas. It throws the animals off-balance, you know, people handling animals going on and off the trucks. There are some cattle trailers that definitely are not appropriate for horses.

But so many of the problems of management with - excuse me - with transportation are bad management. And one way I would go about assessing transportation is bruises, injuries, and - you want to get that down to an exceedingly low level.

CONAN: That should be taken into account, as well as what time did you get the cattle there.

Dr. GRANDIN: Well, that's right. And then you don't do things like park the truck in the sun and just let them cook at a truck stop somewhere. That's another thing you don't do.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Weekend!

I had a great weekend. I went on a trail ride into a neighborhood with some fellow boarders and Bodhi and I worked on clicker work. He will now pick up a cone and hand it to me (to be fair sometimes he hits me with it!) I have also had some really amazing aha! moments for training in general that are still in the works but I can not wait to share. They are about poisoned cues and Natural Horsemanship. But it is Monday and I have work to do so lets roll the pictures of the ride!

Tie also is doing great! He got a bath on Sunday and when I let him loose he took with a canter and a buck and rolled! This is the first time we have seen him roll so he must me feeling better!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It just clicked!

I am reading Karen Pryor's new book Reaching the Animal Mind in which it has a section on her pony training days and "Pony surfing" I will tell you no more but I do encourage anyone interested in shaping and positive reinforcement to pick up a copy!

This long weekend was fantastic as I got to work with Bodhi and the clicker. We are working on three main things and I will try not to move on till we have these on cues (though it is so hard!).

manners cue- to work on his over eagerness during training. I was rewarding him when he kept his head away from my hands and pockets

Targeting- While leading he is the slowest walker in the universe. It leads to me feeling like I am constantly nagging him. We used his targeting behavior to work on walking speed. I used a dressage whip as the target.

Undersaddle we worked on transitions and being forward. I clicked and rewarded for speed in which he responded to my legs and voice to trot and canter. We then worked for a sustained trot and he was clicked when he maintained his speed on his own.

All three areas are well on their way, he responded consistently and seemed to understand what I am asking for. The next step will to put the behaviors on a cue. The cue for the anti-mugging I think will be me saying "Manners". The cue to increase his speed while leading will be "walk-up" The cues while riding will be my same neg reinforcement cues but by using positive reinforcement as well I hope to really soften up my aids. I would like to not use spurs anymore. I have been told by trainers I use them correctly, and I know they can be a good tool I just don't like the feel. I am very excited as Bodhi was more forward yesterday than he has been in a while with spurs. How powerful this is! I think we both have more fun too. Which is after all the most important part.

Tie is well. The picture is of him begging for a carrot. He is such a ham. When I wonder if the things I did to get Tie were worth the trouble and problems in my realtionship with the owner I just to have to look at him to know the answer. I am thankful for Tie and I think he is thankful for me (and Kathy too!)

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.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are we sure this is Florida?

We have ice in our buckets, and frost in our grass. This is just not right! There is actually a chance of snow tomorrow night. It has not snowed here since 1989.

Bodhi is doing fine. I have not had but one real ride on him since returning from the holidays. Two other people have "borrowed" him for trail rides though. All reports of his behavior were positive. Both people did experience some jigging (his favorite trail ride activity) but otherwise he was a perfect gentleman. I am actually glad he is doing it universally. I was beginning to think it was my nerves that caused his antics. In reality I think it is his frustration over how much slower he walks in comparison to other horses. He will soon learn that if he would just relax and lengthen his stride then he could keep up!

Our last ride Bodhi got his left(problem) lead over a pole from the trot three times in a row. He had this determined and tenacious look on his face that made me feel like this lead thing has finally "clicked" for him. We will see. I would like to show him in training level in the shows coming up this month and next but it all depends on this one lead. I am trying to decide if I should take him anyways if he does not get it in time. Taking him into intro again would not be the end of the world. I am really just interested in the experience of showing for him not anything else though I am eager to rise to the challenge of a higher level. We will see.

Tie is in good spirits and seems to be slowly gaining weight. He has received his latest food increase this week and we will see where this leads him. He has been a bit wobbly which has the GP BM and I concerned though our vet says this is a normal thing for an old horse like him to experience. Has any one else had a wobbly senior?