Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Horse jail

Lisa wanted to see my ghetto horse jail. :)

There's hot tape on fiberglass poles fencing off the run-in, the hay feeder, and a bucket of water.

The corner poles needed a little help so I tied them to nearby bushes with hay strings.

It's maybe 30 x 30, with the run-in taking up most of the space. If she gets too frisky, I can always make it smaller, but I wanted to leave room enough for her to roll and nap in the sun. So far, she's not moving around a lot.

Yesterday I hoped Dixie was just tired, but today I'm sure she's a little depressed. She knows she's been locked in horse jail, and she knows her leg hurts, but I really don't think she understands that she's locked in horse jail so her leg will heal. PLUS her human keeps squirting utterly vile stuff in her mouth. It's just a lot of inexplicable suckiness in her life.


I felt really bad for her when I had to bute her this morning, so I brought some carrot slices. She kept trying to eat them - she'd take a piece of carrot in her lips, carefully crunch it up with her front teeth, taste it (but only taste the Bute in her mouth), and spit it out. Then - this just kills me - she'd give me a hopeful look and take another carrot piece from me. Only three more days of Bute, sweetie.

I bedded down both "stalls" of the run-in with fresh shavings, in case she wants to snooze there. And I'm trying to get her interest with the clicker stuff. Today I worked on targeting different shapes - "box" and "bucket." Then I put the box up and tried to get her to move the bucket around. I know she's perfectly capable of knocking a bucket on its side then back up on its base when it's full of grain, but she was just so listless about playing with it. But I eventually got her to stick her nose in the tipped-sideways bucket and move it a bit and that was good enough for lots of treats.

Later on, I went out with more carrots and shaped her into the beginning stages of picking things up. I tossed her green nylon halter on the ground and lured her into touching it. Then I just gradually shaped her interactions with it til she was biting it and picking it a couple inches off the ground. By that point we'd almost run out of carrots so I jackpotted her last good try then scratched her neck for a long time.

She did get frustrated and paw a couple times. I really don't want to reinforce that; she does it enough on her own! Plus it's probably terrible for her leg. So instead of just passively not-reinforcing it, like maybe I "should" have, when she'd start to paw I'd spin around and really blatantly cut off contact with her for a few seconds. It seemed to work to indicate that's not what I'm looking for, without shutting down her desire to interact with me.


I don't have a cue for whatever we're doing to the poor green halter. I guess I'd like to put "pick it up" on a cue, and if we're really bored / she's a real prodigy, I'll combine the verb (touch / pick up) with the nouns she's learning (box, bucket, halter). I've always been super jealous of people who have horses that will pick up what the human drops under saddle. Maybe this is our shot at it! Anyway, I think I'd like to shape it a little longer without a cue before I put words to picking up the halter.


Any thoughts on the c/t stuff?

I've got some good/bad points from the ride (GAH! my saddle pad failed me) and some thoughts about risk of injury. Maybe tomorrow for that. Thank you all for your comments/emails/texts/etc - it really means a lot. :)


  1. I did a lot of clicker training just to keep Jesse INSIDE her pen when she was young. Before I had any classes on clicker training, I used a verbal cue as I was shaping the action and Jesse picked it up just fine. "Pick it up" is my cue and I point at whatever I want picked up, then "give" or "give it to me" means put it in my hand, so she very quickly learned to hand me lots of stuff, including my hat when I would throw it on the ground. The hardest actually was getting her to turn loose of the item once she had her teeth on it. I finally got her to turn loose by holding the treat right under her nose as I would take hold of the item (we played a lot of 'tug-of-war first). This all translated to being on her back with no problem at all. She quickly learned to turn her head around so I could reach my hat, straighten her head out, then reach back again when I clicked the clicker to get her treat.

    It surprised me at the clicker clinic when they said it was a two step process to teach the trick, then teach the cue. I still teach them together. Dixie will start feeling better soon; she's a smart horse and you are giving her something to do.

  2. Haha!! Thanks for the pics!!

    To be honest, I use hot tape to tape off areas in my yards and I haven't even hooked them up to make them zap yet... And I don't want to cut the tape so I just rolled up the extra and put it on the other side of the fence. It's pretty bogan (aussie for redneck) of me!! So your ghetto yard is not as bad as that!

    I think turning around and ignoring her when she pawed was the perfect way to handle it.

  3. i cannot find your home improvement blog: (

  4. Picking things up still eludes the Peanut. He has an enormous rope dog bone that fits his mouth perfectly and he loves to grab, but he will pick it up for a moment and drop it. When I reward the picking up, he's usually dropped it by then. Gah. If I wait, hoping that he will hold it until the click, he drops it and I lose his attention.

    I'm using the verbal cue "fetch" with that one. Not that it's getting me much of anywhere....

    He has a hard time learning to hold a trick. It took years to get him to pick up a leg and hold it until I said so. He loves clicker sessions, but he's impatient.

  5. It seems to me that sensitive horses like Dixie are much more effected by changes in their environment that others. It might take her a little while to get used to the smaller area, but fortunately she doesn't have to be in jail for too long, she's got the goats for company, and you're spending lots of time with her. Give her an extra kiss on the nose for me and tell her to heal quickly!

  6. If this is an option for you: My vet gave me powdered bute that I can just mix into food. Much easier than the syringe.

    Pawing can be self-reinforcing for some horses. My mare pawed like crazy when I was trying to teach her to stand on a mat. I'd either ask her to back up a step or have her just walk forward away from it and try again. Redirect the energy. I think you're doing the right thing by walking away, though if she keeps pawing at it I'd pick up the halter first and then walk away with it.

  7. Juanita - emailed you :)

    Lisa - LOL at your yard!

    lytha - I abandoned it in despair when I thought I was going to move to SF. I will put the link back up today.

    Sara - I can't get duration either! It's something else I'm Going To Work On.

    jen - no goats in horse jail. The little ones got sold (again when I was going to move to SF) and the big one pisses me off.

    sma - I specifically asked for paste; I've never had a horse willing to eat food with powdered drugs in it. And after all the electrolyting recently, syringing is dead easy. I ended up mixing the paste with sugar and applesauce and got something palatable this morning.

    Pawing is definitely self-reinforcing. I'll have to remember to pick up the object when I ignore her if she keeps pawing, thanks!

  8. Not gonna lie... I got a huge kick out of horsey jail.

  9. The first trick I always teach is "look away". I don't use a clicker anymore (because I'm too lazy to carry it); I either click with my tongue or just say "gooooood girl!" followed by a treat.

    "Look away" is handy for horses with body-crowding issues (the dragon) and/or with food issues (again, the dragon). I don't even give the verbal cue mostly anymore--if she wants something, she stands with her head pointed farfarfar away from me.

    I taught Story "Get it!" which was anything from "pick up the brush I just dropped" to "go fetch the bunny toy I just tossed across the arena." Alas, Story wasn't very food-motivated, so it took a long time to teach her with treats, and also she was never really eager to perform.

  10. Aarene, I haven't found one of my real clickers since we lived in Ohio. Tongue click works ok for us. I reserve goooood girl for when she's extra wonderful :)

    Dixie's default is head-down. She doesn't have much duration, so she kinda drops it then pops back up to see if I saw her then drops it again - probably looks about as funny as Fee giraffing her head far away in the hopes of a treat.

  11. I'm a little late to the game here, but I'm really sorry to hear about Dixie. :( I'm glad that the diagnosis was minor disruption in the fibers, rather than something much worse. I sure hope she does well with the rehab and is good as new soon!

    Sounds like you have a good plan going, and all horses and injuries are different, but I'll throw out my two cents anyway. With Lilly's injury, we gave her time, time, time, time... I got sick of giving her more time, and she got sick of being stuck in the stall. Dixie isn't stuck in the stall, so that definitely helps, but Lilly's ligament just wasn't healing on its own. It was better, but it needed help to go the rest of the way to healed.

    I've become a huge proponent of shock wave, not only because it made such a HUGE difference in the healing process, but also because of the amount of scar tissue that was reduced. The before and after ultrasounds were amazing. We did in less than 2 months, what we had been trying to do in a year and a half.

    I hope she's back to normal in no time and everything goes great, but keep the SWT in the back of your mind just in case. Hugs to you and Dixie from me and Lilly!!

  12. I'm sorry to hear of your misfortune with Dixie. You did the right thing with an ice pack.

    I use powdered bute, but then I have very greedy horses who would eat almost anything.

    The new horse has learned pawing in no time from the old one. How quickly they learn bad habits!

  13. Did I miss something?

    You aren't moving to SF now?

  14. I have to second BECG. I feel like I've missed something.


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