Sunday, March 30, 2008

The grand plan

After reading about my dilemma with Alan, Billie over at camera-obscura directed me to the Diary of DaVinci, a fearful horse who didn’t want to be touched. From reading through that, and thinking back to Victoria’s story of clicker training her horse Siete, I have come up with a training plan for Alan. And after our first session this morning, I’m very optimistic.

For my clicker-training target, I am using an object that he has never seen and has no reason to fear. It’s a Chuck-it that has very good karma, as I used it to launch a bazillion tennis balls to my beloved yellow lab Annie.

Alan picked up on the touch the Chuck-it/hear a click/get a treat concept in about two seconds. The treat is a tiny piece of carrot or a pellet of equine senior that is so small he has to lick it out of my hand. Once he’s completely comfortable with the Chuck-it and associates it with only positive things, I will use it to scratch his neck and keep progressing until I can scratch him all over. And some day, of course, I hope to be able to rub him with my hand instead of the Chuck-it. I’m committed to three short training sessions every day, and I’m confident this is going to work.

Shorty the farrier was here this morning, and George behaved like a seasoned veteran for his third trimming. Then I had Shorty hold the lead rope while I gave George his spring shots. I was shocked to discover how thick a burro’s skin is compared to a horse’s. I had to really push to insert the needles. But George was a trooper and stood quietly for all three injections. I can only hope that Alan will do the same eight weeks from now.


  1. Yay! I hope this plan goes really well - sounds like you're off to a wonderful start. And I love that your target is something that already has good karma - it can only help!

    Interesting about the injections with donkeys vs horses. I do the Adequan for my horses but usually have the vet do the other stuff. Right now little Rafer's neck is so tiny I can't imagine sticking a needle in it.

    Keeping good thoughts for Alan. If he's responding to the clicker training so quickly that has to bode well overall.

  2. Sounds like a good plan and I think it will work. Keep us updated on how things are going. We are thinking of trying clicker training on one of our horses (Donnie) who was abused and has some riding/girth issues. Good Luck.