Friday, February 20, 2009

Worms, videos, clicks

I was a week behind my normal schedule, but I got everybody dewormed with pyrantel pamoate. I used the traditional method of luring the horses to me with their usual handful of grain, sticking a halter on each horse, and hanging off the noseband while I convinced each appalled horse that YES, I really WAS going to violate the victim's personal integrity in such a horrid fashion. Then everybody got grain and completely forgave me.

It sounds like I'm making light of alternative horse handling methods, but I'm not, really. I'm lucky that none of my horses actually act violent about dewormer or are terrified of it. It's more like I'm extremely amused by my horses' individual drama queen reactions to the hated wormer.

Champ, who is normally the calmest horse in the universe and puts up with any weird thing I want to do to him, flips his nose up and down as fast possible til I get mad and cuss him. Once I get the dewormer tube in his mouth, he starts actively trying to spit the paste out as fast as I deposit it on his tongue. As soon as the grain appears, he completely forgives me.

Silky is appalled that I am invading her old-lady dignity in such a horrid fashion. She stands perfectly still, but clamps her lips shut as tightly as possible. It's like trying to feed a three year old kid her least favorite food - except I have a syringe, instead of a spoon, so I win. Again, once the halter comes off and the cookies appear, she's back to being a quiet and respectful pocket pony.

Dixie seethes with barely controlled rage. Her ears alternate between pinned-back and focused on me, like she flipflops between "I will kill you for this!" and "Oh wait it's the boss human!" She actually never left all afternoon - she was caught, dewormed, and fed some grain. Then she hung around hopefully until I broke out the clicker, and after I was done clickering her she hung around a little longer to watch me and Poppy.

Since Dixie had gotten over her snit so quickly, I decided to clicker clean her feet again today. IceRyder had asked for video of it, and I tried to oblige. However, my skills at wiring a camera to a round pen panel are somewhat lacking and it's really not all that great. I uploaded it anyway, as proof of how good Dixie was about the whole thing, and how amazingly effective clicker training is.

Dixie clicker training feet from Funder on Vimeo.

The people talking are me and K, Poppy's new owner. The periodic "earthquakes" happen when the dogs, Cersei and Lucky, run under that round pen panel to get in or out of the pen. And apparently my camera only takes 3 minute videos, so yall missed the last hoof cleaning.

I know, I need to wear a belt.

Clicker stuff: I think it's fascinating how Dixie has her ears pinned almost constantly. She really doesn't like for any creature to touch her anywhere under any circumstances, except for humans offering her treats directly under her nose. Well, and she does seem to like me - whenever I offer her the halter, she sticks her nose in it, and she leads great, and whenever I look at her she's got pretty ears. Apparently not when I'm picking her feet! But look at those ears pop forward whenever she hears a click.

For a cue, I'm tap-tap-tapping with a finger on the lower part of the leg I want. It's clear and not painful. When I started her near side, I started adding the "up" verbal cue. I really prefer a verbal cue for foot lifting - it's kind of sweet yet annoying when the horse keeps picking its hoof up for you when you only want to brush off its muddy legs or trim its feathers. I'll keep doing both the tap and the verbal cue for a while, then try to fade the tap.

I'm planning on adding trimming next. I'll bring my makeshift hoof stand out and see if I can't get a second of duration when I put a front foot on the stand. I think trimming should progress almost as fast as cleaning has... I hope!

Clicker people, any critiques or suggestions?

And here's a video from earlier this week, when I was trail riding on Champ. This is the fishing lake, and it's my second favorite of the seven lakes. I think it's just gorgeous out there.

Trail ride, fishing lake from Funder on Vimeo.


  1. Ha! My pants don't fit either! Crack kills.

    Dixie is so pretty, I love her expressions.

    dismick: both dismal AND disgusting, or icky (e.g., Daun's plumber butt)

  2. Good job both of you!

    The only thought I had whiel watching the video, is that you clicked her a few times after you put the food down. I would click while you still have the foot in your hand. That way, you are rewarding the foot in your hand, not putting the foot down. She may (or may not) decide that the game is for her foot to go back on the ground, and start yanking her foot back on you. Then work on duration, holding the foot longer and longer before clicking and putting it down. And alternate duration with softness, i.e., her being really relaxed and not messing around at all while you have her foot, no tension on it, leaning, etc. (I don't know if she does those things, though, so if she doesn't just ignore :)

  3. oh, that's weird, this whole google accounts thing drives me crazy. ShellyCT is me, Michelle from Chestnut Hill :-)

  4. Hahah, Daun, she's so evil. Once my husband finally recovers from the shock of my first tattoo, I want one of Dixie's lovely half-bald face, with her ears pinned. It's her natural expression.

    Michelle - I think my line of reasoning was just to click after the complete action. You probably can't see on my terrible video, but a couple of times she tried to lean or yank and I just calmly held her leg until she relaxed again, then released her foot and clicked.

    I suspect you may be right, though. I'm gonna think about it and probably incorporate that into the next step, putting her foot on the stand. Thank you!

  5. Just got back and I have to worm tomorrow too. My approach is pretty much like yours. Poor Tonka thinks that worming paste is a treat (that horse is very deprived) but Raven is a right wench.

    I know that timing is important with clicker training, but consistency is too. As long as you are not treating her if she pulls away I wouldn't worry too much about getter the treat to her after the foot is down.

    drjaustr: a well educated German jouster

  6. I'm in the club of pants not fitting either...every time I ride bareback I have jeans on and well whatever, atleast they don't fall down when you're sitting on a horse!

    Cool vids! The lake looks like a really nice place.

    Klein will put her head up because she knows I have to stand on my tippy toes to get to her. She'll put her head up and look down at me like "MOM!!!!!! You know I HATE this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Then clamps her lips shut. PUNK! That recent Powerpac was 5 days of fun, let me tell you.
    I have developed the evil plan of sticking a finger in the side of her mouth so she opens up then BAM! Sneak attack! Muwahahaha...

  7. Stacey, that lake totally rocks. There's usually 6-8 ducks and 2-4 Canada geese who go flapping away when someone approaches, and if you stay quietly the turtles will crawl back out of the water onto the rocks and snags to sun.

    How's the Powerpac work for Klein? I keep thinking that maybe I should powerpac Champ - his ribs almost always show. He's not a hard keeper and he's really well muscled, but I can't keep his ribs covered with flesh. :(


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