Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Death Box Training, Part the something

You guys gave me some great suggestions on how to work with Opie's unloading issue--as I knew you would! The blogosphere never fails to lend its collective knowledge and having a fresh perspective on the problem was exactly what was needed.

i feel like these pictures give a good sense of what a shorty opie is
  
It took awhile to get back to work with the trailer as my truck was at home partially disassembled waiting for parts to arrive and Labor to be done with his day job. It needed a little TLC this year to pass inspection. Nothing big or mechanically terrifying fortunately, but we did put a new bumper on and a couple of minor fixes while Hubby had the back end open which took some time on an old, rusty truck.

In the meantime, I formed a plan for Opie based off of the feedback I received. It mostly revolved around getting him to move one foot at a time and then stopping. No more "One step, THE WORLD IS ENDING FLAIL EVERYWHERE RUN FAST."

We practiced in the aisle, the ring, and his stall. On flat ground he was fine. He thought things through and listened to the new game with his usual Will Learn for Cookies attitude. When I took the game to his stall, it was a whole different result.

casually glaring at me

His stall dips down slightly to walk into it. It's covered in mats and is maybe an inch slope. This mimicked the trailer ramp situation perfectly--so perfectly that the second his hind foot stepped down he went flying backwards the rest of the way into the stall and then stared at me like I'd just chased him off a cliff. I was actually excited about this as it gave us a safe, easy place to practice every day while the truck was getting put back together.

Fortunately Opie is extremely food motivated. There's nothing this kid won't do for the chance at a cookie, and he remembers his cookie sessions very well. As in, he still tries to jump jumps in the ring while I'm on the ground if I get him anywhere near their vicinity because of that one time I led him over some scary fill in-hand and he got cookies. (I should also point out that I have a universal "Bite me and die" rule for all horses so no, he's not a nippy prick.)

A few giant carrots stuffed into my pocket and away we went, up and down and back and forth in the stall over and over again. One step at a time. After a couple sessions he grasped the fact that all he had to do was take one step, stop, and a cookie was produced. Best game ever!

Last weekend my truck was ready to go again and we swung into the barn on the way to Lowe's for a practice session.

never any issues with getting on!

Opie and his two friends were in their field having a snorting dinosaur fest at...probably air molecules again, I don't know. There was literally nothing out there out of the ordinary. Opie was a little distracted to start as we were parked in front of his field, but I started the game with stepping just his front feet on the ramp and then one step back at a time. He finally tuned in once he realized what we were doing, but having his hind feet on the ground and front feet on the ramp has never been an issue. He was only freaking out getting his back feet out of the trailer and onto the ramp.

The only way to address that was to get him all the way on the trailer and start the backing process there.

He started off the first couple of times reverting right back to the problem: the second his hind feet stepped out he went jetting backwards frantically, fuck you and your cookies.

Back on the trailer, try again. And again. Finally the cookies started to work on his brain and he was able to step out of the trailer and stop at the top of the ramp. Any further steps and he was outta there though.


Part of me thought about calling it quits there as it was some progress. However, I could see the little wheels in his brain turning. I felt like he was close to getting it. He was wanting to listen, he was just fighting his instinct to runfastbackwards instead.

I had used up an entire bag of peppermints and two mondo sized carrots so I had to raid my trailer for the bag of cookies stashed in there (where we're off to at the end of the above video). Restocked, we tried again.


And that is exactly how I want that to go. Thinking horse, loose lead, no dramatics.

Having a solid equine citizen is where it's at for me. That's really my number one goal at all times. I don't want to deal with drama, or bad manners, or insecurity. I want a horse I can pull out and do anything with at any time. I think that's achievable for any horse if you're willing to put the time in, and honestly I don't buy into the excuse of "My horse is never going to be able to do that." I'm in now way, shape, or form a pro. I don't have any experience beyond basic problem solving--and clearly sometimes I even need to get outside help for that!

Train your horses, people. I promise you'll thank yourself later.

24 comments:

  1. AHEN sister. Put in the time, you'll get it back in spades.

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    1. That's exactly what I was trying to say. Is every horse going to be perfect? Nope, but they sure can be pretty great if you're willing to do the work!

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  2. You guys killed it!

    You reminded me this is something I have to work on with Annie - not because she flies out backwards, but because I'd like to have that much more control.

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    1. You've already done a great job with her, too!

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  3. Those last two paragraphs -- word! I'm glad Opie's love of cookies helped him find his brain and learn something new. Kudos to you for the patient and methodical way you accomplished it too! ☺️

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    1. I'm super fortunate his love of cookies overrides all else in his tiny Dopie brain.

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  4. that's awesome - nice work! and how freakin serendipitous to have his stall situation so perfectly recreate the ramp but in a safer way.

    also tho. seriously. like you say, sometimes just putting in that time is really the biggest difference maker. it isn't always glamorous but i've legit never regretted practicing some of this basic stuff.

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    1. Absolutely. It might not make them perfect, but I feel like it WILL make them even a little better with each session.

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  5. That last unloading video is perfection!

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    1. Hopefully it becomes the norm. And, you know, he works on that whole straightness thing so he doesn't walk off the side of the ramp. At least it's a very low ramp?

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  6. Nice job! Patience on your side, and a good brain on his solved that pretty quickly!
    I think for the most part you can fix most issues. But it kind of depends on the horse to some extent. Opie doesn't seem to be the anxious sort (except for the backing down thing here) and is motivated by food. But if you have a horse that is very anxious at all the things, and can't be driven by food... there may be certain things you won't fix.
    Rio as a youngster would panic any time he felt pulled on. Like if you grabbed the lead rope and held, or if he got to the end of the crossties. It only went away after he got epm because he's just not coordinated enough to run backwards anymore. Though I guess that was one way to fix it?

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    1. I agree that there are going to be things you can't completely eradicate, but I do think there are things to be done to help lessen the problem(s). Opie still weaves outside for no particular reason, but we've done some changes that have lessened the degree and length of time that he does it and I think (hope at least!) it makes for a little bit of a happier horse.

      I also had a horse that you couldn't tack up on cement because he would lay down. Not even fall down, just slowly lay down as soon as he started getting dressed, and only on cement. Nothing I tried ever solved that, but I worked around it by avoiding those areas.

      So no, maybe not all problems can be wiped from the mat, but I do think never ending, good basic training to make a solid citizen will always pay off in the long run.

      And Rio says he doesn't pull back anymore because he's a perfect angel, DUH. ;)

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    2. OMG, it would lay down? That's nuts! Horses...
      Definitely agree about reinforcing manners too!
      He IS a perfect angel ;) Usually.

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  7. I love this- I used Carmen's stall to teach her to walk in without me (i.e.., self load).

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    1. Yep, that's been really useful for Opie as well!

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  8. Nice work! I totally agree about teaching horses manners to create a solid citizen. It takes time but is so worth it. I always used to laugh when my vet and farrier would repeatedly comment and practically swoon about my mares' politeness and easy of handling until my vet told me stories of the crap he has put up with. I was like whut? People put up with that crap and expect vet/farriers to as well?!?! lol

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    1. Right?? I don't understand how people can deal with bad manners. I would lose my mind--and probably my horse because I would set it free to not have to deal lol

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  9. You get what you put in for the most part. Sometimes I put in a lot and my mare just decides to give me the middle finger anyway but I’m general the overall picture is great

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  10. I love this!! You’re making me want to practice trailer loading again. Too bad it’s tough to find trailers that people will let me practice with.

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    1. I'm sure that's super frustrating! Hopefully the new place helps you out.

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  11. Good, Opie! What a difference.

    Amen to putting in the time! Q had an "incident" over the weekend that has me scheduling some work on this exact exercise in the near future. Rather take care of it now before further regression!

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