Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Stupid Horse Trick

There are god blogs, sex blogs, poker blogs, and knitting blogs. But I've yet to run into any horse blogs.

So here's another contribution to the void.
(BTW, "stupid"=me, not Nikster.)

I'm teaching the Nikster to play fetch. Why? I dunno. Because I can? Because it's the only thing to do when it's hot enough to cook an entire meal on the sidewalk?

Regarding the nuts and bolts of training: I use a hodgepodge of natural horsemanship methods from the likes of John Lyons, Pat Parelli,* et al. And I oonch it up a notch with clicker training. Info here and here.

*As with writing, there are no miracle cures, nothing will guarantee success, no matter what any trainer claims.

Unlike golden retrievers, horses aren't known for their desire to manically chase balls. But Nikster is an Arabian, with a surplus of energy, and he likes having a job to do.

I've broken the behavior into smaller behaviors.

The first, "Go away; come back," he already does. I can point to a target (orange pylon) and he will move to it, touch it with his nose and return. Next is getting him to pick up his stall ball. Although the ads for these toys show horses happily carrying them about, Nikster bites, kicks and shoves his, but won't pick it up.

Step one: get him to bite the handle. Nikster is mouthy, so this is easy. He chomps on the handle and click, he gets a treat. I let him do this three more times rewarding each time. Then no more clicking.

"Huh?" he seems to say. "No clicks? What the hell?" But Nikster knows this game and being smarter than the average bear, starts to experiment. He pushes the ball, bites the side. Nothing He resorts to his "Be nice," posture, neck arched, chin tucked toward his chest. Nothing.

Frustrated, he bites the ball handle again, and accidentally lifts it an inch. Click! I can see the gears turning in his big bony head. He fiddles again, getting to the lifting part a little quicker this time. Click! Horse-sized light bulb shines over his head. Big yellowy teeth chomp on the handle and he lifts it again. Click

Since I like to stop at a good point, I put the ball away.

The next day, he gets to lifting quickly. But, irritating human that I am, I stop rewarding for that. I want him to lift it higher. This time, it only takes a couple of tries and he's lifting it a few feet off the ground. Click! He seems rather pleased with himself. Almost smug.

Next. Get him to hang onto the thing longer than a second or two.

Probability that he will discover the joy of bashing me in the face with the ball = HIGH

Work on revisions of story that was rejected with "happy to see this again if..." comment. Got some good ideas via the writing chat with Kristin.

Continue on Book Two. At the "dead body on the floor," Now what? point. Need to brainstorm a little to get past this particular hurdle.

Probably going to see Batman this P.M. J-man took the week off before starting new job and needs to be entertained. So...got get writing now.

Happy Thursday,


Graphics and Content Copyright © Patricia Kirby 2005