Friday, February 5, 2010

Melt Downs, Clicker Without Food and More on Feeding

Since tomorrow is an owner turnout day, and since I turn my horses out earlier than anyone else, I changed the turnout order a bit this morning. We all know how much trouble some (most) horses have with things that are different. I put Miranda out first today so all the horses would experience today (when I was leading) what they'll see tomorrow. Several of the horses had melt downs while leading out, although they have seen Miranda in her paddock every day when they come into the barn. You would have thought Miranda - who was quietly eating her hay - was a red dragon rather than a red horse. Sugar went berserk, and required some firm handling to make it to the turnout, although she was OK by the time we got there. Misty was higher than a kite - she was flapping her lower lip a mile a minute and chomping her teeth. Fred wanted to cavort and rear. Everyone else was OK with things.

After I was done turning out, I tried a little clicker work with Miranda. Breathe reminded me that it is possible to do clicker without food, provided you know what the reward is that the horse wants. With Miranda, the reward is clearly for you to move away - to get out of her space. So I tried this a bit. I would hold my cupped hands out (I was wearing gloves) and invite her to sniff them over the paddock fence. If she did this with ears up, I clicked my tongue and took a step backwards. If she pinned, I moved her away. She seemed to get the idea pretty quickly that ears up got the reward. We did it in a couple of sets, and by the end the ears were pretty consistently staying up. This may have some promise as a training method to use with her.

Based on my looking into NSC values (see the prior post on this), I'm going to recommend that we stop using oats, since all but one of the horses getting them now are either senior or have metabolic issues. Without the oats, and getting less Purina Senior, Fritz is doing much better. He calmly eats his hay, and there is only a moment of weaving right before I feed his grain. He does a little stall circling before turnout, but nowhere as much as he was doing. And his manure is much more normal - not very loose like it was. I think his system was just overwhelmed by the sugars and starches. I'm also going to call the various manufacturers of senior and high-fat horse feeds to get NSC values for them, so I can evaluate if we need to change any of our other feeds.


  1. I wonder if Miranda had any idea that she had transformed into a firebreathing dragon? You have to wonder about that kind of thing sometimes.

    Interesting results on the clicker training test. Miranda is clearly a smart girl. I'll be interested in hearing how your future work with her goes.

  2. You know, I thought about suggesting c/t with moving away as the reward, but I wasn't sure it would work unless you "charged" the clicker with treats. Glad Breathe mentioned it and it's working out!

    Glad Fritz is feeling better without the oats. I am nail-biting about what feed to buy for endurance ride snacks. Maybe LMF Gold? Ack!

  3. You know, I stopped feeding oats about a year ago, and I haven't noticed any difference in my old guy. He tolerates alfalfa really well, though, and seems to do well on it. I'm just feeling my way through the feed issue year by year, day by day, things could change.

  4. Interesting how they reacted to Miranda. They really are silly sometimes. I didn't know you could do clicker training without treats, I'll be interested to know how it progresses. Glad Fritz is doing better too.

  5. Catching up on some reading as I have been sick! I like that you are incorporating what she really finds rewarding into your training that is such a great idea!


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