Hi all, the Chasing the Tiger game is what brought me back to AND. I have had tremendous success by (almost accidentally) teaching, reinforcing, and inspiring one of my horses -- Draumur -- to display proud behaviors. For HIM, it was getting him to arch his neck like a stallion and act like a "badass". It almost immediately changed his attitude and willingness and everything else in his personality, and today he just keeps wanting to build on this. (I recently posted a video of his working on liberty passage).
BUT... My horse Vafi is a different story. I have tried to duplicate what worked with Draumur, but Vafi has not really seemed to get motivated by the arch-your-neck-and-prance show-off thing. I could get him to do it (using the clicker), but it never seemed to be INTRINSICALLY rewarding for him, he was still just going through the mechanical behavior but it did not "wake up" his inner proud horse.
I tried Chase the Tiger a year ago with Vafi, but we never seemed to get beyond the nose-on-ground targeting, and he NEVER got excited... Just going through the motions in hopes of a click/treat.
But I decided to give it another try a few week's ago because I REALLY want to get three things with Vafi, and Chase the Tiger still seemed like the best way:
1. I want him to have a "birdie" to follow instead of having to put pressure on him to get him to move. He does not seem motivated to really move out on his own, even in the pasture, though if a pasture mate DOES finally convince him to run around he always acts like it is the BEST THING EVER. But the next day when they try again, he seems to forget that it can be fun and he just wants to keep eating grass or just stand.
2. I want him to find a way to act PROUD and badass, something that worked SO well for Draumur, but so far have not found that thing for him. He is very low-drama, and is at the bottom of the hierarchy despite being the biggest -- and fittest -- in the herd. He just mostly keeps to himself.
3. I want to develop more athleticism in him in a way that he finds intrinsically motivating, just as Draumur now works very hard to put more energy into the arched-neck-fancy-trot, I wanted to find something that would create this inspiration for Vafi, who does NOT like to use his energy. I ESPECIALLY want him to free up his shoulders. I do trapezius stretches with him daily, but it is clear that he is will very restricted in his shoulders, despite having conformation that supports MUCH more movement.
So, this time, DAY ONE: get him to target it with his nose, click/treat so he knows that is the thing to do. This works, as I expected. But now the question was if I could get it to be anything bigger and more exciting.
Day Two: he puts his foot on it. Click/treat, and he definitely understand that nose or foot. He does this with VERY LOW ENERGY, but still it is a positive move.
Day Three: he puts his foot on it with a little more energy. Not quite stamping, but definitely with some energy. Will use either foot depending on what side it is, and I also can now get him to move away from ME and out toward the tiger (which I have out o the end off long longe whip).
Day Four: More energy!! This is already more than we ever have gotten from him doing anything at all. He clearly is LIKING the act of pouncing on the tiger. Both front legs lifting and striking. This is awesome.
Day Five: bigger movements all around, and he will now CANTER toward me if I run with it. His front legs are showing more movement, and if it gets beside him, he tries to kick with his back leg as well. Hmmm... I have to be careful to stay out of THAT range, but it is SUCH a positive and rewarding thing to see.
Day Six: a little more elevation some of the time, though if I lift it to chest height, he does not want to lift THAT high, but a few times I accidentally timed it where he did sort of rear up and strike with both feet, high energy on attacking the tiger. It is NOT making him want to run around like a maniac, but he is displaying HIGH energy for attacking the tiger. which for him, is AMAZING. I did not even KNOW he could move like this... The range of motion in his shoulders is HUGE and dramatic. My husband watched us, and while concerned that I am creating a monster, he could not believe what he was seeing.
SO... Now I wonder where to go next with this? I want to use it as a path to more collection, so I want to move less toward having him attack it with nose down and on the forehand (though that is a good stretch, what this horse really needs now is more motivated energetic work from behind). I am guessing that if I time it right and suddenly move it back toward him he will begin to lift from behind as opposed to jumping forward from behind. In other words, I want to encourage carrying power over pushing power... and this seems to be so fun for him.
My other comment is that I DO think I have seen a little change in his behavior in the pasture. While playing with another gelding, which he rarely does, I noticed he was doing the same display with his front legs -- really lifting and stamping -- that he does with the tiger, though I have NEVER seen him do this before in the the years I have had him. It could have been a fluke, but I have certainly seen how Draumur now does his proud prance in the pasture all the time where BEFORE we began doing this together he never did that.
What I want most is for Vafi to start acting proud more often as a result of chasing the tiger, and for him to also continue to enjoy this activity instead of just going through the activity to get a treat. I am always worried about this, as I want to transfer them to intrinsically pleasurable activities as soon as possible to avoid the DEmotivating effect of overusing rewards for behaviors that should be intrinsically rewarding.
Thanks everyone. I have read through most of the original long thread on chasing the tiger, and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that this time it seems to be working. Why now and NOT one year ago when I first tried? The only guess I have is that this time he IS in much better physical condition. Not more energetic, but definitely in better overall fitness in his posture, musculature, straightness, etc. Maybe for him he needed to be a little stronger before getting excited about chasing the tiger.