Q & A - Volume One
I'm excited to start a new series that will be based on questions I get on either Instagram, other social media platforms, or in person. I will provide both the question for reference as well as a follow up answer.
I want to keep these brief so that I can reference people to my answers without them having to surf through something that would otherwise be nearly the length of an encyclopedia. But I hope you find these interesting as I get some great questions!
Q: I was reading previous comments about when you're planning on starting River, and I was wondering, do you think 2 and a half is too early to start sitting on a horse to get them accustomed with the feel of a rider? Provided they're ready for it.
A: Scientifically, even if mentally they are ready, physically they are not ready at 2.5. Even 3 is arguable according to some research. If you want to start prepping the horse for a rider, consider maybe using a "fake" rider like a stitched together pillow man or something. It'll get the horse used to having something on it's back, but I wouldn't add weight to it until the horse is older.
Q: Do you have any tips on getting a horse to stand still while being tacked up?I have a 3yo who dances the entire time I tack her up,whether I tie her,or have someone else hold her. Plus she's 16hh and I'm 5ft so it's hard to lift a saddle up while she's moving around the entire time.
A: First I would make sure that your horse isn't being caused any pain from the tack you're using. Double checking saddle fit, teeth condition, and the fit of the bit. Also, having an osteopath or chiropractor, and vet check the horse over. If everything checks out ... the way I work with this kind of behavior is to make sure you're rewarding calm and relaxed behavior. Don't reprimand or acknowledge anxious behavior. Instead, you want to set up the horse for success. If you check out the hashtag #csRiverProgress (on Instagram... or River's Training videos on YouTube) you'll see how I teach a horse to stand tied quietly. Starting off with baby steps, just a moment at a time, and rewarding whenever the horse is quiet and relaxed.
Q: How do you keep your horses from being mouthy?
A: Great question. :) I wrote two in-depth blog articles to answer your question. "Clicker Training // How To Get Started", and "Clicker Training // Misconceptions" . But to answer your question briefly it's all about rewarding only desired behaviors. If you reward pushiness or nippy behaviors, then you will have a pushy nippy horse. If you focus on training your horse to have manners and rewarding only manners they will learn that calm, polite behavior is how to earn a reward. This is the same concept with traditional horse training as well. We apply pressure or corrections for behaviors we don't want and we reward the behaviors we want with a release of pressure or a lack of correction. However, especially with food aggressive or pushy behaviors positive reinforcement is proven to be a far more effective and humane way of training a horse to be polite around food. For more details check out the blog articles mentioned above.
Q: I don't really know how to ask this question, but how do you figure out what your horse needs? As in different supplements, a chiropractor, osteopath, certain feed, everything really. How do you find out if there is something wrong or out of place with your horse if you've never seen any changes in them?
A: Such a great, and complicated question! lol. First, it's really important to remember that it can take months to see results from changes. Diet, saddle fit, osteopathic treatments, going barefoot, dental work... you name it. We tend to be very impatient and want to see quick results but it takes the body time to change.... the second part is being very very aware of your horse and it's emotional state. Sometimes a "result" can be as simple as a slightly bigger stride, or an easier time with lead changes, or just a happier over all expression. ... or... the opposite... like for Cash I knew he needed dental help ASAP when he one day threw his head straight up in the air and ran away from me when I went to touch his poll area. It could have also meant he needed an adjustment too, but I usually start with checking the teeth. I could have easily assumed he was just being difficult , but that wasn't an on going training issue so it had to be physical. ... with Candy I recently noticed slightly shortened hind leg movement along with some toe dragging ..and that's a sign of hock/stifle pain so we are currently experimenting with pain management for her .. but it's a three month wait to see if this current product will help her before we try something else.
Anyway, a lot of it is wait and see, try this, and that, work with great professionals, and listen very closely to your horse. -- I'm sorry it's not a simpler answer, but hopefully that answers your question.
Q: What do you recommend if the sound of the clicker is too obnoxious?
A: You can use a sound with your mouth or a unique word that you don't use in your every day vocabulary.
Q: Hi! Thank you for taking time to explain important basics that individuals like myself truly benefit from. You have inspired me and I have been studying hard since as I would like to begin working with a horse I may have an opportunity to lease. I really appreciated the article on clicker trainer - so much valuable detail! Question: Would you be able to provide feedback about starting the basics such as shoulders-in using only positive reinforcement? How do get your horse to do the complex dressage positions to even be able to reward? Thank you!
A: A great question! If you want to DM me (or email is better) I can point you towards some more detailed information or provide it for you, but overall the idea is that you teach basic movements on a basic cues and begin to add onto it. The cues are the same or similar to cues taught with -R , but you use R+ instead. For example, I teach a turn on the haunches by using either a target or a known cue (like lead line guidance) to guide the horse's forehand over while placing a light touch on the shoulder I'm asking to move over (the same cue -R uses) eventually fading out the guidance of the target or the lead line and now I have a horse that responds to the same cue and performs the same behavior as a horse taught with -R but taught with R+. The same applies with all movements, but you'll have to build up and blend the cues to create more advanced movements. I hope that answers your question.
If you have any questions, email them or ask away on my instagram @thewillingequine , I try and answer all the questions I get and who knows, your question might get featured on the next Q&A!