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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:47 am 

Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:46 am
Posts: 44
I've introduces myself 5 minutes ago and here I am with a first question :blush: I've been training and playing with Falco, my 10 year old Fjordhorse gelding for about a month now. We've had some really good results and he likes to interact. To give you an idea of where we are at, here's a link to one of our training sessions I caught on film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9o_8Knageo&feature=g-upl&context=G241a2c8AUAAAAAAAAAA

Lately he had been really polite, gently taking food out of my hands, not going through my pockets and him respecting my personal space.

Two days ago however, we had a serious argument. I invited him to play with me and like always, he accepted that request, but the tone he set was completely different... It started when I asked him to follow me: in stead of following, he started pushing me, ears flat and his nose almost up in my neck. I didn't feel comfortable at all! When presenting him with some food, he would almost eat up my entire arm and when asking him to back away and move out of my space, he simply refused. I gave him a touch on the chest to encourage him to back-up, at which point he backed, but at the same time grab my coat and not in a playful way... When I asked again he refused and reared. I do not accept him rearing next to me, so the confrontation was on... Maybe not the smartest of my ideas, but I do not want this behaviour so close to me and as a direct defiance. I do not force him to play with me, so if he is not willing, he should walk away, not confront me and express rude behaviour. After all, I was asking nicely!

I started claiming my space in stead of asking him out. Pushing him backwards mentally. I claimed my food back as well: dropping some to the floor and claiming it by standing over it, not letting him pass. He backed down a little bit, but this was not my horse as I know him. I can't really remember when it happened, but one moment, I think it was after him following me (again too close for comfort), that I asked (and I was really asking) to back up and move out of my space, that all of a sudden he reared really high and right in front of me, gave me a push with one of his hooves and knocked me to the floor after which he just took off (because he knew damn well he went too far). At that point, I was calling the butcher in my mind... I did not physically punish him, but I damn well let him know I did not like this...

I think we experienced something similar to this (read this in another topic):

Quote:
I love my husband. He's kind and good and takes care of me well.
Through some trick of fate, he owns all our resources. He controls the food, the money, the house, the means for me to move outside our immediate environment, and the people that come into it to interact with me. I feel a little uncomfortable about this - I thought we were supposed to be equals, partners, soulmates.. This seems unbalanced. But what can I do?
And he has cookies, my favourite cookies, and he gives me one of those cookies,
every time I do something he likes,
when I play with him,
train with him,
do tricks for him,
repeat actions that I really don't understand and aren't in my natural repertoire,
and sometimes just for no reason except that he likes me...

and he listens to my ideas and opinions, and follows my suggestions for activities, and I get to choose...so I should feel good...

but always, always, always, it is him, holding the cookie bag and handing out the cookies... deciding what and how much he will reward.

I would feel horrendously manipulated.

I would start to hate him. I would resent him. I would feel as if there was some unfair secret reason that he saw me as less than him. I would hate him most in the moments I was weak and went along with his ideas, for the cookies, or for the fun of it, or just because I enjoyed being with him. I would start to dream about killing him and taking over the cookie bag. And I would feel bad about that, because I know he's good and kind.. I would hate myself. I would feel confused at my own emotions. I would feel confused about his motives. I would feel stuck. I would feel helpless. I would feel sick. In my helplessness, I wouldn't want to move, I would give up. I've been in this situation in my past. I know the truth of these feelings in me.

For me to feel good about working, playing and training together in this relationship, I'd need to be allowed to hold a cookie bag too - the currency of power.


It has been recently that I am empowering Falco, making him feel more in controle, giving him the freedom to express himself and I think this new feeling of power is making him confused. Falco is what you would call an unstable leader. Because he had been on his own for a long time, he had to depend on himself, but he has no trust in his own judgement. He does not want the responsibility. He wants and needs to be led (the very opposite of my mare who needs to be in controle for the moment). When I first got him, he was really unbalanced, unhappy and even dangerous. Me taking directions, suited him very well. I think he started resenting me because I planted the idea: "let's be friends", but at the same time did not let him give me the treats. I think it confused him, brought him out of balance. That and the fact that the weather had been crappy for days, so he was in a bad mood to start with.

I am not sure what to do and where to go now. I feel that for him, I have to establish myself as a (good and friendly) leader, not as just a companion, in order for Falco to be in balance, but how to get there again? This action has spooked me a little bit, because I never thought he would do such a thing... I am more nervous and edgy around him. I get agitated and jumpy, which agitates him ofcourse, because he lives in the now and does not know why I am this jumpy for no reason at all (can't blame him for that). So how do we go on from now??? I'm feeling a bit desperate...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:10 am 
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Unfortunately I have no time to reply right now, but in the Links to threads about different topics under 'Control' you will find several threads that deal with aggression when training. Maybe there you can already find something that seems interesting.

As soon as I have some more time, I will write a proper reply, hopefully this evening or tomorrow. :smile:


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:12 pm 
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I've posted the question in your introduction as well, but I just repeat it here: how long have you been using food rewards with Falco and how do you use them? Do you do clicker training?
I ask this because it is hard to see it correctly on video sometimes...

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 3:29 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:30 am
Posts: 289
Location: Australia
Hi Machteld,

I’m so sorry you had such a scary experience with Falco! :sad:

Quote:
It started when I asked him to follow me: in stead of following, he started pushing me, ears flat and his nose almost up in my neck. I didn't feel comfortable at all! When presenting him with some food, he would almost eat up my entire arm and when asking him to back away and move out of my space, he simply refused. I gave him a touch on the chest to encourage him to back-up, at which point he backed, but at the same time grab my coat and not in a playful way... When I asked again he refused and reared.

Do you know what this instantly reminded me of? Dogs who get overexcited, throwing themselves on people and grabbing, nipping, then some of these dogs go just so far over threshold that they become aggressive - especially if someone attempts to physically control them, or verbally reprimands them. They seem to have no self-control and no idea how to manage excitement or stress properly. I think these dogs do need boundaries (from the human) but they also need to learn how to control their own emotions and actions. While Falco is of course different to a dog, perhaps some boundaries (when I say boundaries this does not necessarily have anything to do with leadership, or do to with pressure) but definitely some self-control. Not enforced by you, but actual control of himself - to know that he doesn't have to behave like that with you.

I don’t think that empowering Falco and also being safe (and you both being happy) is an either/or thing. Of course I don’t know Falco, I only know what I have read here and in your introduction post (Welcome, by the way! :f: ) so what I write here is just from my own experiences. I’m not saying that this is what you should or must do, of course, just giving you something to think about and use if it suits you.

Of course you need to keep yourself safe and make sure that Falco doesn’t become too wound up and show these potentially dangerous behaviours, but doing so doesn’t need to involve you getting angry, sending Falco away, or using pressure. It can if you want it to, but if you’d rather find a less forceful way, it is certainly possible.

Am I right in thinking that Falco is generally comfortable with you being near him? I ask this because with a horse who is uncomfortable with people but coming near just to get treats I may suggest a different thing than for a horse who is happy to play and train but just becomes too full on about the treats. I know you say he was trying to push you, but do you think he actually wanted you to go right away from him and leave him alone, or was he trying to get the treats? The almost eating your arm, and the fact that he did not just take the chance to run away when you first started pushing him and claiming space, sounds to me as if he does want to be near you (and the treats). Of course I may be wrong.

In either case: is it possible for you to work with him for a time with some sort of safe barrier between you? This could be a fence for example. This is just to start with, so that things are safe for you. It will eventually cross over to working without a barrier between you - once Falco no longer feels the need to behave in those dangerous ways. You are still the one in control/in charge in this scenario if that’s what you want – you can walk away and he can’t follow, and he definitely can’t walk on top of you or grab at the treats.

If he shows any of this pushy behaviour or rearing etc. that you don’t want, simply walk away. Assuming he isn’t doing these things because he actually wants you to leave, this takes away any possible reinforcement for this behaviour.

This is to say to Falco (and you could actually say this to him if you wanted), I am not going to continue spending time with you while you are being scary and dangerous.

Walk away a reasonable distance, totally ignore him for a few seconds, but stop where you can still see him, and watch (don't stare at him, just watch casually) for him to show peaceful, calm behaviour. For example ears and face relaxed, nice expression, lowering his head in a relaxed manner. Immediately go back and continue whatever you were doing as if nothing had happened. (Only go back once you are also calm and no longer angry, upset or frightened by his behaviour).

Hopefully two things will happen: one, he will realise that the pushy and dangerous behaviour isn't having the desired effect. and two, very importantly, with you coming back when he is calm, you are reinforcing the calm. Don't click/treat the calm behaviours - just come back to him, and then continue giving the treats in the course of your training.

It won't take long before you see if this is starting to work. He may continue trying to be pushy or aggressive for a while, but if these behaviours increase or don't change at all, it may be the case that he did indeed want you to leave him alone. In which case -

If he is being aggressive because he WANTS you to go away: Same set up with him behind a safe barrier. Approach him, but go away while he is still showing calm behaviour. Next time you come near, come one step closer. Try not to trigger the aggressive behaviour, but if he does show anything but calm/pleasant behaviour, well... you have two choices. 1) You can respect his feelings and back off. This MAY or MAY NOT reinforce the behaviour. He may be happy you have listened to him and the need for him to do this will go away - and the behaviour will go away. With SOME horses this would be my choice. OR, if you want to be more scientific about it, 2) you can stop there and wait until he shows something a bit nicer. Then walk away. And so on. I can go into more detail if you like. (Oh, and yes, this is of course negative reinforcement rather than positive reinforcement. But a much milder form of -R than sending the horse away.)

This second method has the potential to be fairly controlling, especially depending whether it is done with the horse in a stall or free in the paddock (free is my choice). Others may have less set up and controlled suggestions - or much more controlled ones. Again it all depends on which direction you wish to go.

Also – just want to point out that it’s perfectly possible to be the one “in charge” (“leader” if you like – I don’t use the term) rather than having a more equal relationship, but still use positive reinforcement, if you want to. You can certainly set boundaries using positive reinforcement. And it needn't be anything like the husband holding the cookie bag scenario.

On AND the focus is on empowering the horse and letting them have a say, and indeed decide the way the training will go, but everyone here does this to different extents, and many, many animals have been trained with positive reinforcement to do exactly as the trainer wishes with not much input from the animal – the trainer choses exactly what criteria to shape and reinforce, all the time, every time. If that animal feels better with boundaries, direction and guidance, they can certainly find that within clicker training. It all depends on what you want and the relationship you want with Falco.

One more thing. Just putting this out there. I very strongly believe that, even if a person is going to use some negative reinforcement in their training (or even for all their training) that driving/chasing a horse away when they are showing stressed behaviour (and I use stress to mean behaviour like Falco’s too, not just “stress” that is related to fear) is very unhelpful and in many cases counterproductive. It may suppress (stop) the behaviour (at least temporarily) but it doesn’t stop the emotions behind it. One of my mares, Bonnie, used to charge me if I went into her paddock. When I was near her, she would threaten to kick and bite. She was, frankly, absolutely terrifying. Walking into her paddock with her feed bucket was something only to be done if you had no wish to keep living. I drove her away from me and told her in no uncertain terms that I would not put up with this behaviour. It just made her worse. Sometimes the behaviour would stop for a little while, but it would always come out again. Then, I stopped using aggression back at her and tried a different way (some of the ideas expressed in this post, plus lots of clicker training) and she has not done anything scary for years. I now trust her very, very much. I trim her hooves at liberty (I used to only do her hooves with her tied up and from the other side of a strong wooden fence! I would reach under the fence to trim the hooves - I had to because she would lash out at me with teeth and heels), and I can sit on the ground in her paddock, for example, and feel perfectly safe. Just to give you an idea of how this can work.

Quote:
I do not force him to play with me, so if he is not willing, he should walk away, not confront me and express rude behaviour. After all, I was asking nicely!

You are absolutely right, but in my experience some horses literally cannot walk away. They don't actually realise that that is an option instead of the rudeness. The "working behind a barrier" exercise can help with that. It may seem that it won't because YOU are the one walking away in the beginning, but it's about helping the horse begin to feel calmer in the training situation so that he CAN think about his behaviour and choose to do something like walking away or letting you know in some other less dangerous manner if he can't cope, instead of aggressing at you.

I hope you find the answers you are looking for. Have a look at the threads Romy linked to, and also I highly recommend this body language video (by Romy) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgazfDHoIvQ


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:39 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:46 am
Posts: 44
Thank you all for the answers. I've been reading the threads Romy posted and they have helped me understand it a bit better already.

@Houyhnhnm: yes I use clickertraining and food rewards. I've done it before (both the food and the click but also just food), but for some reason did not keep up with the clicker. It isn't since a few weeks that I use the clicker as a handy tool. I find it more specific than rewarding with my voice because the timing is more accurate. I use the food to reward positive behaviour and I also taught him to wait for food. I present him with a treat and give him the command to wait ("no" in my case) and I wait a while. Usually he will turn away his head at which point I will click and reward. We have become very good at this trick and he enjoys it.

@Kate: Thank you for your thoughts on the situation.
First of all: I know chasing him off was not the best choise, but honestly, I didn't know what else to do... It was an act of desperation from my side :blush:

You nailed it by the way: he realy likes to be near me and he likes to play with me. He's a true worker. He just goes overdrive sometimes, especially when food is involved. It only has never been this extreme before. I think he was testing his limits to see if he could force food off me. The pushing also was not to chase me off, but a way of seeing if he could agress me into giving him food. I was surprised about this, because he had been showing some pretty good self control the days before. I think he tried taking short cuts on me...

He knows he can walk away. Moments before, when everything was going more or less fine, he went to take a roll and came back afterwards.

I do want to work in a progressive way, using positive reinforcement. I want him to have a voice, and I think that before this situation ocurred, we were well on our way of doing that.

Thanks for thinking along. I can't wait to try out some of the tips giving here and I am certainly going to work on our awareness of each other!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:05 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:30 am
Posts: 289
Location: Australia
Quote:
First of all: I know chasing him off was not the best choise, but honestly, I didn't know what else to do... It was an act of desperation from my side :blush:


Oh no, I'm sorry if it seemed I was judging you or saying you were wrong to chase him off. It's very easy to say from the outside, that wasn't the best idea, and I don't agree with chasing horses off as an actual training or behaviour management plan - but when you are actually in the situation and feel you have to do *something* right away, sometimes that is or seems the only option. The reason I suggest a barrier is because it sounded as if, even if you tried to walk away in that situation, Falco would just follow or chase you. He may have even escalated the behaviour if you seemed to be leaving or running away. Sometimes for safety in an immediate situation there may be no other option but to chase them away - or there might BE another option out there somewhere (for example perhaps Romy's body language and becoming extra careful and attentive when the horse becomes pushy), but if you don't know about it and think you must either react instantly or be injured badly, YOU still don't have any other option. I may be strongly opposed to chasing horses away, but if I were in a situation where I felt it would be dangerous (to me or others) in that instant to not do so - I wouldn't hesitate. That's why I like the barrier with horses I think may truly become dangerous, as it gives me the option to not chase/aggress back at them them no matter what they throw at me or how much they may want to stomp me into the dirt. (Just to use an extreme example - I don't think Falco wants to stomp you into the dirt at all, sounds like he is mostly enjoying training with you, but just expressing his frustration - in a very not-nice way.)

Can you tell me what you changed in your own behaviour to give Falco more freedom to express himself? Is it that you have gone from using only negative reinforcement (pressure/release) to adding positive reinforcement (treats) to your training?

Is it that you are listening to him more and doing activities that he wants to do, rather than directing the training session yourself?

Stopping the training if he shows signs of wanting to stop (or letting him not do xyz if you suggest it and he says no) instead of insisting he continue?

Or is it more a mindset, just that you had decided to be more of a friend and less thinking "I am the boss" without making a huge change in your behaviour?

Or - something else?

Have you interacted with Falco since this incident two days ago? Your last paragraph in the first post seems to indicate yes. Can you describe what happened during these interactions? You say he was agitated - can you describe his actual behaviour?

Sorry if this sounds like an interrogation - it's certainly not meant to be! If you don't want to answer all of that you can just ignore me. :D But the more detail we have, the easier it will be to suggest things that may help you and Falco.

Another thought: If he was very polite before and just suddenly became aggressive in your training session two days ago, there may have been some sort of trigger for it that was totally unrelated to you. Is it possible that something (without knowing his living situation I can't begin to guess at what) could have upset/scared him very badly that day... and the feelings about it came out in the training session? Perhaps in a moment where he may usually feel only mildly stressed trying to work out how to get the treat, he suddenly felt hugely stressed and awful because he was already feeling very upset. Obviously this is just a wild guess and probably completely wrong, but just another possibility.

On the other hand, some horses do become frustrated and suddenly start to behave like this at some point during clicker training. It may well just be that. In which case it may take a bit of work and patience, but is certainly solvable.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:10 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 11:57 am
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Location: provincie Utrecht
Hi

May i give you some ideas how i look to your film?
I think you do some clickertraining or something like that. I see some little movements to think about.
If you improve them your connection become better.
It is all about timing. Specialy when you use clickertraining it is very important to do it exactly on the right time.

i see you try out several things. I think it is more clear for the horse to learn him one of these to get more polite.
I think that is your goal in the first part of the movie you made. ;)
correct me if i am wrong.

for example
at 0.14-0.17 you give a cookie but he is way to close to you, for starting with clickertraining with a on food focused horse.
Give the cookie more to his chest, so he have to do one step back to get it. So he become more polite in the beginning.
And not grabbing your pockets or eat your hand ;-)

at 0.35 you changes your idea i think and i suppose he have to turn his head away to get a reward. But when he turn his head away there is no reward, so he get confused. And he start grabbing again.
so be quicker in your reaction. Right at the time he turns his head you click and give the cookie, he may not search for it, otherwise you dont reward for turning his head but you rewarding for searching a cookie.

later on at 1.30 you ask for a backup and he comes back and get a reward. What is your meaning about this?
What have the horse to do? Just only back up or backup and come back again?
I think you play this for the first time?
You can better cut the exercise in smaller peaces so the horse can understand you better.
So ask the horse to back up, just one or two steps and give a reward (quickly) ask this again just a few steps.
So he can read your bodylanguage and understand what you do and what his reaction have to be.

As soon he understand this you can ask him the next step; come back to me. Just a few steps, and try to hold him with a bit of distance from you before you give him a reward. Not back up between the "comes to me".
Just only learn him come to me, and walk self backwards and ask again come to me.

If he understand both body signals from you one for back up and one for come to me. Then you can connect it together and ask for a backup and a come to me and give a reward.

If you make the exercises smaller the horse can better follow you and makes it for you more easy to work.
And dont ask too much new stuff after eachother. Learn something new and do an exercise he already know or give him some rest. Repeat this a few times and let it go. Next day you can ask it again. The same exercise with the same cues.
You will see he will soon understand it and he know that he have to work for a reward. And dont get it by grabbing.

When he understand "I have to do something for a reward" you can start playing with food rewards.
Then he start to try out several exercises to see if he get something.
You can see lots of those interactions in the videos of Romy.

What was / is the meaning of the pion i the next part of the video?
If you have more questions please ask :)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:28 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:46 am
Posts: 44
You really make me dig deep, Kate :D It happened in such a short time span! But that's ok, it's good gymnastisc for the brain.

In what way have I let him express himself more? Well for starters by taking the tack off altogether. This incident proved to me that a horse is not dominated by the use of "tools" such as a halter, whip or leadrope... He KNOWS when he is somewhat restricted by a rope or a whip to keep the distance and when he is not. I am sure that, if I were holding (not even using, just holding) a rope or a whip at that time, he would not have lunged at me! He is (unfortunately for me, because it makes him challenging to train) that smart!

Indeed, if I were to walk off without a fence, he would just come after me and possibly even grab hold of my jacket. So I am realy trying the fence suggestion tomorrow :D

I also started the positive reinforcement in stead of the pressure-release system I did before. Because I have no tack, there isn't a lot to push :)

I allow more initiative from him too, but I tend to be careful with doing so.

I have been interacting with him, but I was too jumpy for it to go well. I was too much on my guard and he was actually behaving well. This got him agitated, so I quickly ended the session before it got worse... We ended on a positive note though!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:46 am
Posts: 44
inge wrote:
Hi

May i give you some ideas how i look to your film?
I think you do some clickertraining or something like that. I see some little movements to think about.
If you improve them your connection become better.
It is all about timing. Specialy when you use clickertraining it is very important to do it exactly on the right time.

i see you try out several things. I think it is more clear for the horse to learn him one of these to get more polite.
I think that is your goal in the first part of the movie you made. ;)
correct me if i am wrong.

for example
at 0.14-0.17 you give a cookie but he is way to close to you, for starting with clickertraining with a on food focused horse.
Give the cookie more to his chest, so he have to do one step back to get it. So he become more polite in the beginning.
And not grabbing your pockets or eat your hand ;-)

at 0.35 you changes your idea i think and i suppose he have to turn his head away to get a reward. But when he turn his head away there is no reward, so he get confused. And he start grabbing again.
so be quicker in your reaction. Right at the time he turns his head you click and give the cookie, he may not search for it, otherwise you dont reward for turning his head but you rewarding for searching a cookie.

later on at 1.30 you ask for a backup and he comes back and get a reward. What is your meaning about this?
What have the horse to do? Just only back up or backup and come back again?
I think you play this for the first time?
You can better cut the exercise in smaller peaces so the horse can understand you better.
So ask the horse to back up, just one or two steps and give a reward (quickly) ask this again just a few steps.
So he can read your bodylanguage and understand what you do and what his reaction have to be.

As soon he understand this you can ask him the next step; come back to me. Just a few steps, and try to hold him with a bit of distance from you before you give him a reward. Not back up between the "comes to me".
Just only learn him come to me, and walk self backwards and ask again come to me.

If he understand both body signals from you one for back up and one for come to me. Then you can connect it together and ask for a backup and a come to me and give a reward.

If you make the exercises smaller the horse can better follow you and makes it for you more easy to work.
And dont ask too much new stuff after eachother. Learn something new and do an exercise he already know or give him some rest. Repeat this a few times and let it go. Next day you can ask it again. The same exercise with the same cues.
You will see he will soon understand it and he know that he have to work for a reward. And dont get it by grabbing.

When he understand "I have to do something for a reward" you can start playing with food rewards.
Then he start to try out several exercises to see if he get something.
You can see lots of those interactions in the videos of Romy.

What was / is the meaning of the pion i the next part of the video?
If you have more questions please ask :)


Hi Inge, thank you for the suggestions you make.

First of all, I use the cone/pion as a target. Just letting him touch it, walk over to it... I also use it whan I want him to flex or for teaching him the ramener at this point. I use it to keep his focus of my hands. He would otherwise just start "biting" and grabbing after my fingers. That is one of the reasons I do not let him target my hand yet. It's just something I keep between us as a safety net.

My timing and my awareness have to improve. You are right about that. Bare in mind that this is fairly new for me as well :) I was actually struggling getting the food out of my pocket sometimes so indeed, the reward came too late :green:

Lastly: I have to have some variation in the training, because otherwise he will go: "Lame!" and lose interest. You're right about cutting up the excercises.

Thank you!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:07 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:30 am
Posts: 289
Location: Australia
Machteld wrote:
You nailed it by the way: he realy likes to be near me and he likes to play with me. He's a true worker. He just goes overdrive sometimes, especially when food is involved. It only has never been this extreme before. I think he was testing his limits to see if he could force food off me. The pushing also was not to chase me off, but a way of seeing if he could agress me into giving him food. I was surprised about this, because he had been showing some pretty good self control the days before. I think he tried taking short cuts on me...

Great! Well, not great, of course, but great that we know which it is. This was my feeling from what you wrote - good to see I wasn't completely off.

Quote:
He knows he can walk away. Moments before, when everything was going more or less fine, he went to take a roll and came back afterwards.

The key here, I think, is that this happened when everything was going more or less fine. Once Falco was over his threshold - past the point where he could cope with frustration/stress in a reasonable manner - he may not have been able to just walk away. Yes, even though he walked away moments before. It MAY be that he was just, as you said, taking short cuts and seeing if being pushy would get the treat faster. I haven't actually seen him do it, so I can't begin to say for sure. But from your description and the fact that this was so sudden and so extreme, it really does sound to me as if he was perhaps a frustrated already (but keeping it down under polite behaviour) and it just boiled over.

Actually, a question - does he often walk off and roll during a session? Was it particularly hot or was he wet or itchy, or have you reinforced him lots for lying down (was he doing it to elicit a treat)? The reason I ask is that perhaps the walking off and rolling was actually an early sign that he was a bit stressed and not coping. A bit of stress relief. You say he could have walked away instead of being rude - perhaps that walking off and having a roll WAS an early sign that he had had enough. The fact that he came back doesn't necessarily mean he was totally fine to continue. Some horses will push themselves for a click/treat even when they may need a break. Many won't, but some will.

Just to clarify, I absolutely don't mean to suggest that he was unhappy or worried by the training. What I mean is sort of... too much of a good thing. Good stress, thinking and learning and solving puzzles (how to get you to click) and happy excitement turns into over-excitement and frustration. The horse may want to keep going or may not know how to clearly say that they need a break. Also, I don't mean that it is clicker training itself that causes this stress - any training can, but with the pressure and release methods a horse may be feeling exactly the same, but any potential reaction has been suppressed by the methods. If that makes sense. Indeed, you said yourself:

Quote:
I am sure that, if I were holding (not even using, just holding) a rope or a whip at that time, he would not have lunged at me! He is (unfortunately for me, because it makes him challenging to train) that smart!

This doesn't mean he wouldnt have been FEELING *exactly* the same - just that he wouldn't have shown the behaviours. But, they would come out sometime when you weren't holding the whip or rope. Also - yes, extremely smart can be more challenging, but once you work out how to get him to really engage his brain in doing things with you, extremely smart CAN also be easier to train. Still challenging, but easier in the sense that you don't have to "explain" things too many times, and also - more potential for you both to have a lot of fun learning amazing behaviours. :D

ONE more question for now (sorry!) - how long had you been training before he pinned his ears and started all the pushing? And then, how long did the unpleasantness go on before the final rear and running off? Obviously I don't think you'd have been looking at your watch while it was happening - but do you have any idea at all? Okay, that was more than one question.

Quote:
I do want to work in a progressive way, using positive reinforcement. I want him to have a voice, and I think that before this situation ocurred, we were well on our way of doing that.

This is fantastic, and I think so too, it sounds like you were well on the way - this is just a blip that you will both overcome and move on to having great adventures together. :f:

Machteld wrote:
So I am realy trying the fence suggestion tomorrow :D

Great! Let us know how it goes! And don't expect absolutely instant results (although you may indeed see them) - do persevere for a while and give it a chance. It definitely can't hurt, and may help. 8)

Also - all of the things you describe doing to let him express himself more sound wonderful to me. In my opinion there is nothing there that would badly confuse or upset a horse or be damaging to your relationship in the long run - quite the opposite. I think that if Falco is unsure and not confident in making his own decisions - you have a chance to actually help him become confident. He can still turn to you for guidance, but he can also become more confident in himself.

Of course he may be a bit confused while trying to work out this new situation, and as I have outlined above, there may also be frustration and stress, and also the fact that you have switched from a pressure/release system makes me think... some horses seem to, for want of a better term, "act out" a bit once they realise they have more choice. It can seem as if they are needing the pressure system back, but I think they are actually getting it out of their system a bit. They can try to walk all over you. I'm not sure exactly what it is. I don't think it's "dominance". I suspect it might be just testing everything out - it is all new. They are suddenly allowed to express their thoughts and opinions (even a mild, gentle pressure training method can suppress some if not all of these) and some seem to feel the need to yell at the top of their voices - and for horses, unfortunately for us breakable humans, this means "yelling" with their bodies. If you can wait it out and work through it they can become excellent and safe with the clicker training. Some just seem to need this adjustment period.

The above paragraph is a contradiction of what I was saying before about thresholds and boiling over with frustration etc. (I think). It could be that, or it could be this. It could be some sort of mix of both. Again without seeing Falco it's hard to say. In any case, regardless of the in-depth reason, the behind the fence work is still what I would suggest.

And now I am finally going to shut up and sleep!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:19 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:03 am
Posts: 760
There has been lots of advice already. I just want to confirm the message: be safe, stay behind a high barrier/fence.
Horses can kill people, even accidentally because striking hoofs do much more damage to another person than to a horse. If he aimed at you before he may do it again and it could be far worse. You may not be able to chase him away the next time because he may prevent that by trampling you. Please do all your training while protecting yourself from now on. I would also make sure that someone else experienced is around while you work with him.
P.S. I just looked at your video. I see him crowding into your personal space many times and sometimes you back away when he does it, even if only a step. Until he has learned to respect your personal space, I would suggest at least a 3 foot circle that he should not enter with his nose or any body part .I would not work on anything else , always with a barrier, especially not have him follow you, until he has learned that lesson. Since he was allowed to do it probably for a long time it might take a long time for him to be consistent about him respecting your personal space. When you ask him to back and then invite him back in he should still stay several feet away and only get a reward if he does not crowd you.
The rearing is just crowding taken one step further.
Please be safe. :f: :f:
Birgit


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:36 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:30 am
Posts: 289
Location: Australia
Machteld wrote:
My timing and my awareness have to improve. You are right about that. Bare in mind that this is fairly new for me as well :) I was actually struggling getting the food out of my pocket sometimes so indeed, the reward came too late :green:

(I didn't go to bed. I will in a moment. Just wanted to add to this.)

Bob Bailey says: training is a mechanical skill.

He's right. Lots of the training stuff we talk about here on the forum has not much to do with mechanical skill, but the actual clicking and food delivery is very much so. Something that helps is practicing away from the animals. (You might want to do this away from human observers too ;) unless you have someone willing to coach and time you, in which case definitely enlist their help!)

Someone once suggested bouncing a ball and practice clicking the instant the ball hits the floor, to improve your timing.

Also, practice the click and reaching for and presenting food. The click is the marker and some say it doesn't matter if the food comes a few seconds later, and the training certainly still works, but quicker is far better. ESPECIALLY when wanting the horse to stay in position or stay out of your space. So practice click, present food, click, present food, to an imaginary horse, holding your hand with the food out at the same height and position as when Falco is actually in front you of. As quickly as possible. When you're actually with Falco you may have to do it more slowly at first if he could potentially feel pressured by your hand zooming toward him at high speed, but gradually get faster if you can, up to whatever he is comfortable with.

I feel your pain about pockets being difficult to get food out of! I feel my training would progress much faster if I didn't keep losing my treat bags. :blush: My timing is still off sometimes (yep, not enough practice- very embarrassing considering how long I've been doing this) but much worse is the time between click and treat. It's often horrendous, all thanks to my pockets!! :funny:

P.S. I'm only replying to what you have said here, not your video - I started to watch but haven't seen it all, I will have to watch it properly tomorrow as my computer is being silly. And I really do need to sleep now. :yawn:


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:08 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:03 am
Posts: 760
Another thought on the clicking. Forget about the clicker for now. You need your hands. Use a short word like "good" instead that you reserve for that purpose. An open food container that you set down somewhere on your side of the fence may be a good way to start. :smile:
Birgit


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:53 pm 
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Kate, you have no idea how happy I am to have you here. Not only are your posts great as usual, but you also saved me lots of things I wanted to write (and then I could not have explained it as well as you did). So now I can focus on another aspect. :smile:

Machteld, what I am going to write now might or might not seem relevant to you in relation to your current situation. If you think I am off track, you can simply ignore it. ;)

I just watched your video, and in general I think you two are on a very good path! :clap: But as I watched it with my focus on pushiness and invading personal space, to me it actually looked like this was mutual in your interaction. ;) With this I do not mean that you were forcing Falco to do anything, not at all. But maybe watch the yielding parts of the video again and imagine your partner was not Falco but another human. Would you have approached him differently?

I know that many trainers would give you the advice to be even more determined, even more direct, especially with a horse like him. They sometimes speak of focus, intent or clarity, but what it basically boils down to is this: if you want the horse to move away from you, do not show the slightest sing of hesitation but walk towards him as if there was not a single doubt that he will make room for you. This indeed can work, and actually I have been teaching it to people myself years ago. Back then I still was training with pressure and its release as the main motivator, though.

However, I think that problems can arise if people mix different ways of interacting with their horse. That is, they want their horses to have more control over what is happening in their interaction with humans (so they encourage and reinforce the horse for voicing his own opinion) but at the same time some the old habits form pressure training remain. Or to be more precise: whereas they give the message to the horse that he can choose how and when to react, they still move around as if there was no doubt that the horse will react in the way they want him to.

Translated into the verbal domain, this would be like saying "Move over, NOW!" to someone who was told to be an equal partner having a right to make his own choices just a minute ago. But then the mixing of interaction styles goes on, because if he does NOT move over, the human simply waits or retreats (because after all, he wants his equine friend to have a choice). Now how would you react if (1) your boss asked you something in a rather rude way (and I mean the prototypical dominant boss, not your own one whom of course I don't know), or (2) your friend asked you something in the same rude way? And what if your friend continuously did that, without reacting to your small signs that should be showing her that you don't feel too good about it? What if you had a bad day and she still did it? On the other hand, how would your reaction or feeling about her request differ if she asked you in a nice polite way?

And then, besides the boss/friend distinction, I think there is something special about these strong horses who are often perceived as being pushy. People often say that with them you need to be extra clear and extra strict. But from my limited experience, the opposite works best for me and they become more and more careful as I am acting more carefully myself. I have written about this in much detail in the Encouraging politeness sticky, so I won't repeat it here and make you all fall asleep. Just one tiny thing: what is important when asking them to move away from you, I think, is that from the very onset of your signal you are putting it as a question, and then really watch out for the slightest sign of a reply from the horse. This is different from putting it as a cue aimed at eliciting the corresponding "correct response". Perhaps the main difference is that in the first case the horse is actively doing the move, whereas in the second case he is merely reacting. To me it seems like those strong horses are just way better the more own action they have to put into the training, and that in contrast it is much easier to annoy them by simply making them react.

I think Kate's suggestion to work from behind a fence is a great one, because it prevents you both from moving into each other's space without invitation. If you ask for the kind of yielding exercises you do now, it will also show you how small the cues can be for Falco to still understand them.

Looking forward to reading what will work best for you two! But as Kate already said, I think this problem is definitely solvable and you two will come out of it being an even better team than before. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:29 am 

Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:46 am
Posts: 44
Thank you guys (girls) so much for thinking along!

@Kate:
Quote:
does he often walk off and roll during a session? Was it particularly hot or was he wet or itchy, or have you reinforced him lots for lying down (was he doing it to elicit a treat)? The reason I ask is that perhaps the walking off and rolling was actually an early sign that he was a bit stressed and not coping. A bit of stress relief. You say he could have walked away instead of being rude - perhaps that walking off and having a roll WAS an early sign that he had had enough. The fact that he came back doesn't necessarily mean he was totally fine to continue. Some horses will push themselves for a click/treat even when they may need a break. Many won't, but some will.


I've never reinforced lying down... I imagine him dropping down with me on top just to get a treat :ieks: When I teach him something new, he tends to exaggerate a bit and then he'll have a period in which I'll be asking something different and he'll do the new and way cooler trick. So no, we are not at the lying down/rearing on command stage 8)

It was actually the first time that he did this. It wasn't hot (it was stone cold actually), he wasn't wet. I think he was just happy to find a dry patch because the paddock is really wet. Before the rolling, I was only just targetting for like a minute or so. So we were just getting started. Right after that, the pushing and shoving started.

Quote:
I am sure that, if I were holding (not even using, just holding) a rope or a whip at that time, he would not have lunged at me! He is (unfortunately for me, because it makes him challenging to train) that smart!

This doesn't mean he wouldnt have been FEELING *exactly* the same - just that he wouldn't have shown the behaviours. But, they would come out sometime when you weren't holding the whip or rope. Also - yes, extremely smart can be more challenging, but once you work out how to get him to really engage his brain in doing things with you, extremely smart CAN also be easier to train. Still challenging, but easier in the sense that you don't have to "explain" things too many times, and also - more potential for you both to have a lot of fun learning amazing behaviours. :D


You are absolutely right. My main aim is that he feels good with himself and with me. But what this implicates is that the windmilling strategies and something of an object to be able to keep him at a distance (I read about them somewhere in another topic) aren't going to do the trick. They would just shut him up and the problem would reoccur when I would forget to bring my "tools" along.

Code:
ONE more question for now (sorry!) - how long had you been training before he pinned his ears and started all the pushing? And then, how long did the unpleasantness go on before the final rear and running off? Obviously I don't think you'd have been looking at your watch while it was happening - but do you have any idea at all? Okay, that was more than one question.


I think we had been at it for about a minute or so when he started acting up. Between the pushing and then rearing it couldn't be more than 3 or 4 minutes... I have the feeling that he was a bit cranky to start with and that he felt it was time for HIM to controll the cookies. I could be wrong though.

Thank you for the tips on getting my timing right. I always thought that the time between the click and the cookie was less important than the timing of the click himself, but it's true that me being clumsy and struggling to get the cookie out triggers him to start "looking along" and sticking his nose out... That has to improve as well.

@Birgit:
I know he can kill me and that is a very confronting thing :ieks:
really dumb question, but I have no notion of what 3 foot is...? How many metres is that?

@Romy:
Wow... The way you solved the problems with Summy is amazing. I've been reading a bit about him in your diary and I see a lot of similarities. Also in the way I used to see and (ab)use Falco. He looks like such an amazing horse.

You are right about me mixing methods and how that is confusing. It's hard to let go of old habits and it's good that you're making me aware of this! I am indeed perhaps "bossing him around" too much. We really need to work on that awareness of each other. Me of him and him of me as well. Thank you for your thoughts.

I have some questions though:

while working with the fence, what excercices can (and more importantly SHOULD) I do with him?

And how do I keep him out of my space without the use of "tools" most of the time he completely ignores my early signs and we end up with me having to touch his skin in order for him to go back, but that means he's still too close to me, even whilst backing up.


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