Conversations and Two Happy Ponies

I’m in Houston this weekend to audit a clinic with horse clicker trainer Alexandra Kurland. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to one of Alexandra’s clinics, so I’m excited. I’m sure it will be an action packed weekend with lots of good clicker training conversations and demonstrations. I’ll be sure to post my thoughts and notes when I get back from the clinic. These clinics always give me plenty to think about!

One thing I love about blogging (and reading other people’s blogs) is that blogging generates lots of good conversations about training. I love reading the comments people leave on my blog. Your comments often lead to interesting discussions and plenty of things for me to think about and then try with my animals. If you read my blog, please don’t hesitate to comment on the posts! I love getting to hear what you have to say.

My friend Kyley, from Painting Pony, left a great comment last week in response to my post Does your horse “have to?”

Here’s what she said, in case you missed it:

I had a situation over the summer where we had just gotten a new step-up trailer (our last trailer had a ramp) and although I had spent a week working with all the ponies to familiarize them with the new trailer – during an outing at a fair Minnow decided he really didn’t want to get on the trailer to go home.

During my first few attempts to load him like normal he had drawn a large crowd around the trailer – which just made matters worse because it started to make him very nervous. My family was in a hurry to get home and wanted to push him onto the trailer with a leadrope behind his rump. Knowing that this would make matters worse for my little pony who had come from a “rescue” situation and to this day is still very sensitive – not to mention this isn’t really my style of training, I convinced them to give me a little time to work on this in my own way.

I unpacked Minnow’s pedestal from the trailer and placed it in front of the step-up. His pedestal is a place of comfort for him & it makes him feel bigger and more confident. Immediately he was standing on it at the opening of the trailer. I then stood inside with a target stick & encouraged him to touch his nose to it. I kept inching him closer & closer to loading and working on getting him to tune out the chaos that was going on behind him with the crowd and focus on me.

Eventually I was able to load him while he was calm and relaxed. I spent the next month at home loading him onto the trailer just to eat his dinner/breakfast and hang out in there. He’s gotten much better and more comfortable with it now – but every month or so I do a refresher course to remind him it’s a safe place to be.
Sometimes it can be hard in situations like those where you have pressure all around you to “get the pony on the trailer”. It might of been different had it been a life or death vet thing – that I needed him on there, but I’m glad it didn’t come to that and I was instead able to deal with the situation in the best way possible for my pony.

I think this is a great example of how to think creatively and stick to a philosophy of positive training, even when faced with a difficult and stressful situation. (If you’re not familiar with Kyley and her Chincoteague ponies, you should check out her website and blog.)

Now, one more story about one more pony. I posted twice in January about our pony Luna. I bragged a bit in the first post about how much progress she made in 2011, thanks to plenty of attention and positive training, and later in the month I shared some awesome photos of Luna being brave and walking through a hay ring.

The rescue recently found an awesome foster home for Luna, as well as for another mare, Stella. They are doing great in the foster home and their new foster mom adores both of them. Good foster homes can be great for our rescue horses because foster homes give the horses the opportunity to visit new places and interact with new people. Learning how to interact with lots of different people is especially important for horses like Luna, who were originally scared of people. Here’s a great picture of Luna at her new home that her foster mom recently posted on facebook.

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