Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Verbal Whoa Improves

Dawn and I have been working on a verbal whoa cue both on the lunge and under saddle. It's been going OK, but the whoas lacked sharpness - she would whoa, but took her time about it - I think in part because it was hard for her to tell precisely what I meant for her to do. This seemed like a perfect exercise to use clicker with - I don't use clicker all the time but have found it very helpful with a number of exercises. It works especially well with Dawn, because getting and keeping her attention can be a challenge, and clicker gets her full attention. She's far from a treat hog (but then I've also taught her not to be) but the precision of the click for the correct response seems to make her happy - she's a horse that really wants to do things right and to know that they're right - it makes her secure and calmer.

Before I worked with Dawn, Maisie and I took a very brief trail ride - her hinds seem a bit less sore today but we won't do anything more than short walks under saddle until she's completely sound again. The bugs were so bad, despite sprays, that I decided not to work Dawn under saddle, but just to work on the lunge. So we groomed, put on the fuzzy nose halter with the lunge line and went to the arena. We walked, and I asked for whoa. She sloped into a whoa after a bunch of steps. As soon as her feet stopped moving, I clicked and walked over to treat her. After a couple of repetitions, she got the idea - Dawn is no slouch in the brains department. After only a few minutes, I had an immediate halt within a stride in both directions.

So, since things were going so well, we did the trot. Immediate halts in both directions - I'm not talking sliding stops here, just nice halts quickly executed. So, canter: why not? She cantered beautifully in a relaxed manner in both directions, and instantly gave me the halts I wanted in both directions. I gave her a jackpot of treats and praised her lavishly, and we were done with our work. I think tomorrow we'll work on improving the quality of the halt - its straightness and squareness. Clicker will be excellent for that too. The best thing was that Dawn herself seemed very pleased - not just with the treats, but with the fact that she could successfully respond and do what I asked. I walked home with one of those silly grins on my face!


  1. Hmm. That gives me an idea...

  2. Kate I LOVE your header photo!

    I understand the lack of sharpness with the whoa. I'm working on the halt transition from saddle using just my seat and core muscles. The hard part is waiting out my mount. Typically if I wait out the first one, all the rest are perfect so the reward is more than worth it!

  3. It was a clicker training day! Isn't it crazy fun?

    Sounds like the bridge of the clicker is really working for Dawn - so exciting!

  4. Awesome work with Dawn! Your so clever :) Love your photos from the previous post!

  5. It is so nice to have so many tools to work with. When one does not work try another. Sounds like it was such a positive experience for the both of you. I think I need to do a little clicker training with Corrie too.

  6. What a GREAT idea! I'm going to take my que from this and incorporate in our trailer loading practice.
    I taught the first two horses we had to turn away from treats and stand with clicker training a couple of winters ago when it was too cold to do anything else, but then sort of forgot about it.

  7. The clicker is a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox, it can really help horses learn certain things in a way that keeps them comfortable and eager to learn.

  8. Great use of the clicker. Bodhi also has a better attention span and gets less frustrated with the clicker work. I think they appreciate the positive feedback and information about what you want just as much as the reward.

  9. Good going. I use a "Purr" instead of the word, "Whoa." That way, I can use it in the show ring and no one can hear it.

    Dawn seems to pleased with her successes. That's a nice attitude to deal with.

  10. I love it when you get to that point where you discover just how far to go with your horse, so they not only understand what you want them to do and seem to be enjoying themselves, but they're also not frustrated, bored or annoyed.

    Way to go! Love those big silly grins :)



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