Monday, July 26, 2010

Horse hugs

I don't think theres anything in the world better than a horse hug.
Or hugging a horse.
One of those two.
Photo's in this post by Sarah

But really it's just your horse squashing you with it's head and neck. Or maybe like Indigo they are wanting to smell you all over and investigate what you are all about. Not really affection.
It makes you feel good anyway.

Indigo has always been a really touchy-feely horse. Shes gotta have her nose sniffing all over, licking your shirt and pants and turning her head around to see what you are doing. Last week she surprised me by reaching all the way around and squishing me with her neck. I was at her withers and she sandwiched me for a second before she realized the bug she wanted to bite was out of her reach due to me standing in the way. I moved, she shooed it off her side.

This got me thinking about all sorts of new things I would like to teach her.
I love to feed horses treats, who doesn't?
I do not want to feed horses treats without a purpose because they will indeed become grabby and risk starting the habit of biting.By giving a treat for an asked behaviour (emphasis on the asked part) I have yet to create a nippy horse. The key here is to reward when you ask not when the horse offers a behaviour. I can have a whole huge carrot or handful of horse treats in my hands wile around Indigo and she will not take it or even touch it. She does however beg like mad.
Indigo is a very smart, quick learning, food motivated horse. If theres some sort of morsels involved she will try her darndest to get them from me. This usually starts with her first walking forward a step or two, then she curls her lip up in a flehmen response or "smile" as she has been conditioned to respond to. Then she will turn her head to the left, look back at me, smile again, back up a few steps, hold up her leg to see if I want to shake and probably add a few more smiles in there just for good measure. She goes through a whole routine before standing still and waiting to see what I REALLY want her to do. After a horse knows a trick I never, ever, ever reward a horse for a trick that has been offered without me asking first. This is begging and I look at it like the kid that cleans the whole house and demands double allowance without being asked to do so. Sure it's apreceated but you need to look at how you give your horse treats like how you would give allowance to a kid. Every treat is a dollar. I only reward when I ask for a behaviour the horse knows and get it. This right here is the key to preventing a nippy horse.

Back to Indigo. She learns so fast when it comes to using positive reinforcement I taught her how to give hugs with the cue of me wrapping both arms around her neck and hugging. First I lured her with a treat then conditioned it with the squeeze of my arms around her neck. Of course she tried to cheat and turned her head around when I did not hug her neck and she got nothing out of it but my elbow to block her from actually doing the behaviour because I did not ask for it. She learned this so quickly and very willingly she does it perfectly every time just like her other tricks. Shes a smart cookie.

This brings us to the sort of hiatus Science VS tradition posts. Look in the next couple days for a post on positive and negative reinforcement in horse training. I have used both and have come to some interesting conclusions. For other posts on scientific views of horsekeeping and horsemanship type "science vs tradition" into the blog search bar.

So to get this topic going why do you treat your horses, when, what kind and where (ground or on their back etc)? Do you treat them immediately after they have done something good? Just for the heck of it? Or because if you don't they will bowl you down in the paddock demanding treats? I want to know, it gives me good blog fodder for the next science vs traiditon post on reinforcements.


Millie-jane said...

your amazing syd.

Shirley said...

Those are both great photos; I look forward to reading the upcoming posts.

Sydney_bitless said...

LOL Jo your so funny!

I love the first one. It's very abstract and the setting sun creates a lovely tone.

Mellimaus said...

I love that first picture, too.

I treat...idk. After rides, Daisy gets a carrot, or peppermint, or stale bread (Germans are BIG into saving bread and letting it go stale to give, everyone does it. I just get funny looks and laughs when I do it :P). I started trying to teach Daisy to bow, by holding a treat between her front legs, but she started getting sorta violent with trying to snatch them, so I pretty much stopped. I was teaching her to go over a tarp a few days ago and each time she walked over I snuck one in her mouth...otherwise, she gets one or two every now and then, but otherwise only if she works for it.

I give her treats in the side of her mouth, where the bit would rest...that way, she holds her mouth open for treats, rather then reaching and grabbing, which could turn into biting.

I love your posts. :)

allhorsestuff said...

Oh that Indigo mare..she is so wonderful! I love the horse hugs in the photo's!

I have been very careful, once I reaiswed my mare was mobbing me for treats...not to have them on me too much. I heard about clicker training and I decided to try for a neck bend and clicking my mouth(the ONLY TIME I CLICK!) She got it and then bowing and then I can click and she will come to me from out in the filed..yea..she loves treats!
I thought the puppydog Romeo horse to bown for a treat...and sometimes..we see him in the fiend...looking between his forelegs..,'A -er-a- where is that works for me sometimes!" he does not get it!hahaha!

Jeni said...

HI Sydney!!! Those pictures are priceless!!!

I treat but like you it must have a purpose. I mostly treat for carrot stretches both left and right and down between legs.

I also treat after an extraordinary effort, maybe with affection over food!

Crystal said...

I used to give treats to my horse until I had one that would eat my fingers if I didnt get the treat fast enough. Now I watch who I feed and I always dont give them when I go out there. But it sure has helped get the hard to catch horse to come whenever he sees me, so we give him a treat after his halter is on.

Jen said...

Ooooh, this is one of those hot topics! Just remember when you get to the end of this monster comment - you asked for it *grin*. I do treat our horses, but we have very specific rules about it (#1 being there is to be no touching of my pockets). I actually just talked to my daughter about shooting a short video clip on it yesterday... weird, huh?
I love doing things at liberty, so treats are a handy tool when asking them to do something for me; if it's for them, then I don't treat because the action is a reward in itself. Since they all (except for Bella) love the body brush, it is reasonable for me to expect them to stand still while I brush them without a treat. In the case of doctoring, spraying or brushing out manes, which they don't particularly enjoy, I still expect them to stand still but give them a treat at the end of it. Sometimes they forget and will start to go for the pocket when it's treat time (pretty exciting stuff, dont'cha know), but I just say "manners" as a reminder, and they know to straighten back out and look forward. I always give the treat to them with their noses straight out in front of them to discourage them from mugging me. Works pretty well. What was really interesting to me was watching Lady learn how to take treats more politely - she was AWFUL in the beginning (you had to count your fingers after; yikes!) I didn't give her any treats at all for a long time, but then I became curious to know if greedy, rude horses could be retrained to take treats more politely and found that they could be. I still remind her each time with a long, drawn out "Be eeeasy", but I imagine I will ultimately be able to phase that out.
I also alternate with scratches in happy places and lavish praise; essentially using my voice in place of a clicker. I found by pairing verbal praise with scratches over time you can actually generate that [deliriously happy] pointy nose via voice; of course I sound like a complete idiot, but who cares? It works (I think I have an old blog post on it: "Pavloving your Ponies" :o) Anyway, sorry for the novel, but you did ask *laugh*

lisa said...

I give treats for incentive, like when I have barrels out for play and want them to put their nose on it, the treat is on the barrel. But I usually use it with my Annie, because she a left brain extrovert and she is very food oreinted!

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Oh the treats. I carry little carrot nibs (I bite them down into tiny chunks, gross?lol) and give them to Laz for small job well done's-in our hand walking training, that is. Example, backing up when I ask. Small treat. Ho, on command..pause, wait...good boy and treat. If he spooks and comes back to me and we re do the task and he does it calmly..treat.
He's quickly learned that treats are for doing things well and calmly. :) I want to treat his brain for THINKING! :)

Sarah Golden said...

Hugs(squashes) from Indigo are the best. Especially since I squash so easily. I kind of rather her hugging me than being slimed at random intervals.

Sydney has gotten me to the point of where I yell at my mother for giving my dog a treat without making her work for it. I lack a horse to give treats to, so my rescue dog is my best example.
(Yes Syd, I am reading your blog at 4:30 AM. What else have I got to do?)

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