Stale Cheerios: What happened in 2011?

Wow! I can’t believe that 2011 is already over. What a busy year. I finished my first year of graduate school and started my second, spent another great summer living at the horse rescue, and had lots of fun training all my animals. As I’ve done the past two years, I’ve gone through and collected up my favorite posts of the past year. Rather than just a simple list, which I did with my favorite posts of 2010 and favorite posts of 2009, I’ve organized this year’s review as a timeline.

The year got off to a great start in January when we started Tex under saddle. Tex had been completely untouchable and very afraid of people when he first came to the rescue. I posted a video of his second ride, as well as a follow up post several days later where we worked more with him on moving forward. Later in the month I wrote more about riding Tex with a video of a short ride showing how he loves to have his ears scratched. Starting young horses should be fun and a pleasant experience for both horse and rider!

February brought a ton of snow to north Texas. I got some great photos and video of Ginger playing in the snow. While I was stuck inside, I wrote an in depth post explaining “What is applied behavior analysis?” I also wrote a detailed post about the importance of shaping and training in small steps. Connor, the horse featured in this post, was brand new to the rescue and was very skeptical of people.

We made a lot of progress at the rescue this spring with our young horses. In March several of our youngsters went on their first big outing, a trail walk off of the property! I reported in April about the amazing training progress when several of our horses were fostered by a local high school agriculture program.

It’s always fun working with rescue horses. In May, we had some huge breakthroughs with Beau, one of our sanctuary residents at the rescue who had been badly abused and was previously untouchable. In June I blogged about Gingersnap’s unbelievable transformation. This beautiful filly hated people when she came to the rescue, completely starved, at the very beginning of 2011.

July brought miserably hot weather and an awful drought. However, we still had fun with the horses, especially playing with our new horse obstacle course that a Boy Scout troop built us in June. Chardonnay got to play with the crazy noodle obstacle, Stella gained confidence and learned about ground work with the trail bridge, and Blossom even learned how to do some of the obstacles with a rider.

Blogging in August brought two posts that followed up on previous posts I had written, a follow up post about how long it should take to train a horse and a follow up post on the importance of riding helmets. These are two topics that I think are very important, which is why I wanted to blog about both of them again. Both posts generated quite a bit of comments and discussion. I also really enjoyed reading the comments on the post I wrote about evaluating trainers.

Things got busy this fall when I started back to school and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to blog in September . For those new to the blog, I’m currently working on a master’s in behavior analysis at the University of North Texas. This year, I’m also the president of ORCA, a student-run lab group that does research and projects related to animal training. In October I blogged about how scientists have discovered that fish can use tools.

This fall I’ve been spending a lot more time working with my rats. In November, I shared two of Georige’s newest tricks, going through a tunnel and learning how to spin in a circle. The tunnel video is my favorite, as it shows the step by step shaping process that I used to teach this trick. I hope to do lots more rat training in 2012.

In December, I became the proud owner of three new mice. They made their debut on the blog in this post. They are very shy, but I’m planning on having lots of fun training them in the new year!

I hope 2012 is just as wonderful as 2011. I’ve recently started volunteering at our local animal shelter and am very excited about some of the training and work we are doing with the dogs there. I also, of course, play to keep training my rats, dog, mice, and the horses. In particular, I have lots of ideas brewing for fun tricks to teach the rats and mice this year. I plan to keep blogging, of course, so I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts and adventures with you in the coming year. I’d also love to hear about what you have planned for 2012!

cheers,

Mary

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