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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Progress and a New Challenge.

I'm getting brilliant feedback from Heidi's owner. I've been doing a lot more targeting with her, getting her to walk alongside me with her head next to me (using the target in my hand) stop when I stop and back up when I circle the target under her chin towards her chest.

For the last two days, instead of shooting off ahead, she has apparently walked quietly up the track to her paddock with her nose just touching her owner's hand. Her owner told me that this has re-established her emotional connection to Heidi, who she said much as she wouldn't part with her for fear of what would happen to her, she was frightened of her and didn't 'like' her anymore (she'd started referring to her as 'The Devil Pony!). Now she's feeling safe with her and affectionate towards her again - RESULT!!!!!!

Last night I also began working with a young TB mare who lives here. Her name is Cali and she came from a racing yard. She never made it as far as the race track because of an injury in training. She is very quiet, easy and laid back for her age and breed except for the fact that she is VERY cold-backed. Her owner, for whom this is her first horse, has had her re-backed by a Natural Horsemanship trainer (male and, if I'm honest, a little rough for my liking, especially for such a sensitive mare, although very clear and dis-passionate). She has come back here still very, very tense about being girthed up and her owner finds that difficult to cope with without getting very, very tense herself (very understandably - 16hands of pent up, potentially explosive tension is not nice to be around!!!).

My mission, and I have chosen to accept it, is to see if clicker training can make her relax and change her attitude to being saddled.

Last night I just spent a few minutes getting her acquainted with the clicker and a target. I loved working with her - she is very polite, gentle and sensitive. She was fine with the clicker to begin with but then decided that she didn't like the noise and became wary of touching the target as the annoying noise happened whenever she did. This tickled me and I quickly switched to using a tongue click which she approved of! Thinking about it I don't blame her as it is an annoying sound but I will go back to it later as I want her to be tolerant and accepting of harmless nuisances.

I was very pleased with our initial session together and look forward to doing a lot more with her and I'll get some photos later.


  1. Some "cold backed" horses are actually "girthy." There is a nerve somewhere in the girth area...not exactly sure where that actually makes my very well schooled now retired dressage schoolmaster buck when he is first saddled. It doesn't happen often so the nerve is not always "active" on him but his reaction is really dramatic. A massage under the belly/breastbone area helps before tighten the girth if I see any flinching. Might be worth a shot with this girl.

  2. I love clicker training. I'm glad you're able to use it to help other people. :)

  3. Hi Helen,

    I have stumbled across your blog in that strange way one does on the internet. I am really enjoying posts I have read so far, particularly as I am re-visiting clicker training with my cob. I also love your photos. That book you mentioned writing sounds like a great idea. I think I know the book on cobs that you read and I had a similar reaction to you.


  4. Thank you very much, everyone! Thank you Jean, will give that a try, and hello and welcome, poniesathome. lovely to meet you!



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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!