Spring has arrived in north Texas and with spring comes spring grass!
The arena at our barn has grass all along the edge.
Delicious, yummy grass.
Apollo and I have sometimes struggled with the spring grass in past years.
This year, we’ve been working on a new reinforcement system in the arena with cues for how he can initiate a training session.
When I sit on my red bucket in the arena, it means that Apollo has a choice.
He is free to stay in the grass and graze to his heart’s content.
Or, when he wants, he can approach me and initiate a clicker training session.
During the training session, he is at liberty. He can leave at any time and go back to the grass.
I don’t use “high-value” treats for these sessions.
I use the same food that I use for our clicker training sessions in the barn and in the pasture.
It took a little practice and training for Apollo to work out this new communication system.
Now, what’s really fun is watching him make choices.
He does sometimes choose to spend a bit of time grazing.
However, he frequently and repeatedly comes and asks to do training.
Watch on Youtube: Apollo’s choice: Eat grass or do some clicker training?
What makes this system work is that Apollo enjoys the training and understands the choices that are available.
I’ll be sharing some about this project this month at the Behavior Explorer Summit. I’ll also share more about this project on my blog later on.
One factor that often makes grass such a temptation is that people try to restrict access to it during training.
The horse doesn’t understand when it is and is not available. This uncertainty makes the grass even more tempting and desirable!
If you’re dealing with grass or another really tempting distraction, don’t fight with your horse about it.
Instead, can you let your horse have choices?
Can you establish cues so that your horse knows when grazing is available and when training is available?
Can you teach a communication system so that your horse can choose to interact with you?