On this episode, I touch on the common confusion between reward vs. bride when using reward reinforcement. Listen in by clicking HERE for a link to the show!
January 25th, 2011
Bugs and I have been focusing on our flat work. I am working on his progress while also working on my own position and getting all my parts back under control. Riding horses is definitely not like riding a bike. My position and balance have improved drastically and Bugs is also coming along nicely. We seem to be having a great conversation. We listen to each other and work together well. Have I mentioned how well he is doing? Oh yes I have, about 87 times!!
One of my goals is to get back to jumping. Since Bugs is green and done so little, it is kind of a hope as well as a goal. Let’s be honest, Mint didn’t turn out to be a good jumper for me. He likes to hang his legs and crack his back and that makes him difficult to stay with. Therefore, I focused on jumping with my other horses as Mint shined in his role as the star of On Target Training.
It is uncertain how Bugs will handle all the challenges that jumping brings, let alone with someone who hasn’t jumped in quite a while. I am learning too. Im sure you’d agree its not always the best combination.
Marcy, who rescued Bugs and is also my Hunter/Jumper trainer, is a great trainer, she is well educated and very experienced. She is good at minimizing risks and making sure that we don’t move ahead too fast. This is good for me since I have a tendency to be a little too game. I make a point of trying not to set goals as jumping goes, but simply put my progress in Marcy’s capable hands. I try my best to be a true student, listening and learning. This is a funny mix since on one hand I am a teacher/ trainer in my own right. However, my expertise is from the behaviorist perspective, utilizing positive reinforcement. Marcy embraces what I am doing and we work together well to blend the two methods.
During my lesson today, Marcy asked me to jump the little “x” in the ring. Uh Oh!! My eyes got pretty big, but I have to confess so did my smile! That “x” seemed kind of big, but of course, it was barely bigger than a rail on the ground.
Bugs had jumped a little bit with Jenn, who works for Marcy. We knew he was relaxed, game and capable. This also gave him some good rides since… well… at this point he wouldn’t be getting them from me. I had also taught him to free jump. This is with positive reinforcement which means no chute or whip, just him jumping an obstacle in the middle of the ring completely loose. This goes a long way toward building a horses confidence over fences. I will tell you more about that process on another day.
It can be a little daunting to jump for the first time on a horse. Especially one who isn’t well versed in this area, not to mention when you add a new rider to the equation. He went boldly to the jumps (well, it was barely a jump) and I didn’t feel any hesitation or apprehension on his part. He seemed to be responsive to every adjustment all the way through. We had a great time together as he handled it really well! He didn’t get flustered or nervous. He was totally listening and would return immediately back to our flat work between the cross rails. He built up my confidence today. It was a huge step for us both and the beginning of the next chapter. I can’t seem to wipe the smile off of my face.
Here’s a tip on keeping an open mind on business plans for your horse business. click HERE for a link to the tip!
January 5, 2011
I must say Mint is a joy to ride. He is soft and responsive and this makes me feel incredibly effective as a rider. It is a bit of an illusion but I am okay with that. For that bit of time I get to forget that I am struggling to recall how to ride correctly again.
I came to know Mint when was at John and Beezie Madden’s Farm In Cazenovia, New York. He was very green broke. He didn’t know how to go in a straight line or to maintain a pace. Since he had just turned 3 and he was always home, he was available for training, which allowed me the opportunity to bring Mint along. This terrified and elated me all at the same time. I had only been riding for about a year. Well, I had ridden Killer Whale’s but this was different. Riding Mint at that point made me feel useless.
I was at John and Beezie’s to further explore the possibility of positive reinforcement (clicker training) with horses. It was unheard of at this point! As Mint goes, I had some pretty good tools in my tool box, Positive reinforcement and great instruction for traditional training. I was learning how the two could fit together.
One time I had the opportunity to ride one of Beezie’s Grand Prix horses and I remember thinking that this is the nicest horse I have ever ridden. He did whatever you asked, without a fight and he maintained it until you asked him to do something different. He did this for ME, a novice adult rider! It was amazing!
Mint and I were both improving, as the positive reinforcement helped him to progress at a extrordinary rate. He seemed mature beyond his years. One day I realized he was like that Grand Prix horse (okay, not as jumping goes) but as far as riding is concerned, he was a delight and a willing student. I eventually bought Mint from John and Beezie.
Enter Bugs… Here I was with a relatively green horse again. He didn’t feel like Mint at all. He kept his head kind of high and seemed rather stiff. Keep in mind that I had just started riding again after 8 years, so I’m sure my flopping about in the saddle had nothing to do with his defensiveness. (Yes, that was slightly sarcastic!)
It was a little discouraging and I found myself enjoying my time on Mint much more than my time in the saddle with Bugs. I needed to remind myself that there was a day when I didn’t exactly look forward to climbing in the saddle on Mint. That being said, it had been a great journey and look how far we had come! I tried to keep my current discouragement at bay by saying to myself “enjoy the journey, enjoy the journey, enjoy the journey” like a mantra.
Today, I realize Bugs is a lot like Mint! He is soft and responsive. He is a great student who seems to love his job. This seemed to happen so fast. I feel at home on Bugs. I have the same tools: great ground training and of course, positive reinforcement. This short little journey (so far anyway) Has been such a joy it brings tears to my eyes! I know we have a lot of bridges to cross but we are off to a great start. Bringing Bugs along makes me feel that I am right where I am supposed to be. I feel Blessed to have him in my life.
I got to kick off the new year on Rick Lamb’s radio show! Listen to my radio segment with Rick discussing clicker training and On Target Training. Click HERE for the link to the 1/1/11 radio show!