Disparate thoughts and updates

Blogging

According to WordPress, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, it is 5 years ago today that I registered with them. Wowzer! I wonder if WordPress and I can make it to 10 years together.

It makes me think that there’s quite a lot of my life documented here – does anyone know how I could (easily and ideally for free) back up all the posts I have here? I’d be upset if something happened to it.

Lameness report

Drifter is moving much better. We’ve had a couple of little rides in walk (as prescribed by the vet) and while the first felt awful, as if all the legs were trying to go in their own directions, the second felt much more normal.

Clicker training

As an addition to my anti-boredom campaign for Drifter, I started clicker training him. We’re working on touching his nose to a target stick. I bought the clicker and did some internet reading before I started and somewhere read the advice to begin by getting familiar with the stick and clicker and treats before I got anywhere near the animal I wanted to train. Had my husband been at home I would have practiced with him, but as he wasn’t, I used the cats as guinea pigs. (Metaphorically.)

They didn’t really get it. The internet tells me you can clicker train cats but they didn’t really catch on. They did give me plenty of practice at handling everything and getting my timing right though and that was the point. They also gave me the feeling that I might need to be very patient with Drifter and not expect too much.

But Drifter got it, and got it really fast. It occurred to me that horses, unlike most cats, are used to the idea of being asked to do something, doing it and then receiving a reward. They’re also used to the idea that humans might want something both specific and apparently pointless and will keep you at it until you get it right. By the end of the first session (only a few minutes) he understood that he had to touch the black bit at the end of the stick to score the treat, and could target it every time it was in an easy to reach spot. He was more challenged when I held it up higher or lower, so we worked on that during the next few sessions. One thing that does confuse him sometimes is that the handle is also black and the same texture as the target at the other end. If my hand is closer to his nose than the end I want him to touch, he goes for the handle and then gets frustrated because he thinks he did it right. As long as I keep the handle further from him than the target, he gets it.

It’s also been really interesting as an exercise in how he sees. When I hold it in some places which seem easy to touch I realise that he’s ignoring it because he’s not noticed it. Practicing at the door where it’s bright he’s much more accurate than in the relative gloom inside the stable.

Unfortunately, since our time together once more includes exercise as well as entertainment, clicker-training is not so much of a focus. The best time for him to be interested in clicker training was just before the night-time hay nets were handed out. Now I tend to ride/hand walk at that time and when we get back he has a haynet, which he’s more interested in than my treats (my treats are deliberately small and lower calorie to avoid clicker training adding too many calories) so he’ll only choose participate with the clicker training if I make it really really easy. (i.e. the target is really near his nose!) While I could take his haynet off him, that would be a negative thing for him to associate with clicker training. I think it’s probably detrimental to try to train when he’s more interested in the hay, so we may just play with the clicker on weekends when the timing works better than in the week.Β  Another solution would be to click first, exercise later but that doesn’t work so well for me.

I haven’t really decided whether I’m going to take clicker training any further than being a game we play in his stable with a stick, but I’m impressed with how easily he picked it up so far.

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7 thoughts on “Disparate thoughts and updates

  1. liascott says:

    It can be fun to play with a ball, and teach them to “fetch”, which amounts to rolling it back to you. I did that with our Coffee.

    If you don’t mind spending a few pounds, go to epona.tv and find the videos with Angelo Telatin, particularly parts 4, 5 and 6 (it’s pay per view, but very reasonable). You might also find him on YouTube. He does clicker, and in those videos you’ll see the progression of teaching fetch.

    Have fun!

  2. HippoLogic says:

    Cats and horses are so different to train. Horses are highly sociable herd animals which made them easy to domesticate (will to please). That isn’t the case with cats. I have trained horse over 15 years with clicker training and I just started more seriously with my cats. I must say, it is a challenge.

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      I meant to mention your blog in my post but I wrote it in a hurry so I forgot to say that your clicker training posts were probably what made me think of trying it in the first place. In particular the advice on chosing a targeting stick was so useful, thank you.

  3. If you’ve not read it, I recommend the fascinating and often very funny ‘Don’t shoot the dog’ by Karen Pryor. It’s not a clicker training manual, but SO worth reading for anyone interested in animal training…including human training and behaviour and relationships!

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