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.
Aw, Romy, thanks.
Personally I think you would have explained things just as well and probably better than I did. I was disappointed to realise that my posts stopped you from writing your own. But Iâ€™m glad it meant that you could focus on writing a great post on another important aspect, something I was thinking after watching the video but had no idea how to put into words. So that seems to have worked out well.
Some things you could work on with Falco:
Lowering his head.
Standing on a mat or just standing still in general
Targetting â€“ maybe use something a bit longer than your cone. I use an empty plastic water or lemonade bottle on the end of a short (longer for fast exercises) piece of poly pipe or a stick. The bottle (or whatever your target is) gives them something to focus on and makes the stick less whip-like so Falco doesnâ€™t think this tool is for pressure cues. However, it does come with one of the same problems as the whip â€“ what if you donâ€™t have it with you? Perhaps you could just use it to help with some initial teaching of behaviours if necessary â€“ but itâ€™s not actually necessary, just helpful.
If you can get these behaviours (especially the backing and lowering his head, as these donâ€™t require any extra equipment), plus anything else you can think of that is incompatible with him crowding you or rearing, and get them to be very strong â€“ reinforce LOTS (these behaviours are your safety net, Falco should think heâ€™s won the lottery when he does them for you) youâ€™ll have safe behaviours you can always ask him for any time you feel unsafeâ€“ and also hopefully some default behaviours that he will resort to if he does get confused or frustrated. I taught Billy, then a stallion, to back up as one of his first clicker behaviours and now thatâ€™s what he tries if he canâ€™t get a treat out of me any other way. Heâ€™s not dangerous, but he used to be quite mouthy and all over me**, and it was comforting to know that when he was feeling pushy and wanting a treat RIGHT NOW, his reaction was to actually back away from me instead of the opposite. (**I actually don't mind my horses coming into my space, even uninvited - I don't see it as being disrespectful or anything, just part of being friendly with each other - of course it's a different matter if they are coming close to me and giving me a not-nice feeling or actually being dangerous. With Billy I got the idea that he sometimes wanted to play rough with me like another horse.
You can shape Falco to back up by waiting and capturing the moment he moves backwards â€“ accidentally, and even if this is only a miniscule *lean* backwards. From a lean he might lean a bit more, then shift one foot back, and so on. Same with lowering his head â€“ heâ€™ll lower it at least a bit at some point â€“ capture that, and then shape lower and lower.
Or, you can help him by using the target, then fade it out.
Or if your aim is decent, toss a treat either: on the ground in front of him (where he doesn't ahve to move his feet to get it) for head down, or for backing: between his front legs, then the next time a bit further under him â€“ if he knows where it has gone, hopefully heâ€™ll step back rather than turning around to get it, and you can click the backwards movement (actually this combines head down and backing up), then after a couple of repetitions, just pretend to throw something, and he should step back â€“ click/treat, and so on, and he should get the idea.
For the backing up you could study Romy's body language video and use her hip movements.
After I click I will actually throw treats to them (only if the horse is practiced in noticing/finding treats on the ground very quickly), this just further cements the backing and staying back behaviour. When there is no barrier, I might still do this, or I might walk quickly to the horse and give the treat from an arm's length away. Of course this lengthens the time between click and treat, but that can't really be helped. You just don't want him backing up and then rushing back to you for the treat. Same with head down - you don't want him putting his head quickly down then jerking it back up for the treat. Another option is putting a shallow pan/container on the end of a stick and presenting that to him while he is still out away from you. Not forever, of course - only for a very short while until he gets the idea of not being on top of you.
Hope all of that makes sense!
I understand why Birgit is urging you to work with a trainer for safety, but like Romy, Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re not going to do this. I definitely want you to keep safe, and thatâ€™s why I suggested a barrier if Falco is going to do unsafe things.
You didnâ€™t say whether you were behind the fence or in with him today? Either way, I'm very glad to hear that things were better today!
Wow... The way you solved the problems with Summy is amazing.
I can't think of a better thing for you to do than to keep reading Romyâ€™s diary and also study her videos. She has a relationship with her horses that I can only dream of with mine.
I always thought that the time between the click and the cookie was less important than the timing of the click himself,
The timing of the click is definitely more/most important, but yes, the food delivery matters a lot too, especially if, as you say, he has time to do something else (especially something you donâ€™t want â€“ even though the click has marked the behaviour you do want, if the pattern goes click â€“ beginnings of pushiness â€“ treat, the pushiness is being reinforced as well.