Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pie Steps Back and Dawn Gets (Another) Pad

I doubt that Pie had ever been hand-fed treats before I got him.  I do feed my horses treats, but I have rules about what they can do when they get a treat, and I use feeding treats as a building block for using clicker training for other things.  I'm certainly no clicker expert and haven't used clicker too much yet, although Dawn and I have made very good use of clicker in helping her deal with scary objects.  A couple of days ago, I discovered that she's quite terrified of the noise made by an aerosol can when you use it.  So we've started using clicker to help her with that.  At the first session, all I did was hold the can out to her and click and treat as she approached it with her nose - she got as far as stretching her neck as long as it would go and just barely touching it with her nose.  That was more than enough for one day, and we'll keep working on it.  The thing I like about clicker is that the horse gets to make a choice and decide how quickly to proceed, which is just the right approach in my mind for dealing with things that are scary.  (If anyone's interested in clicker work, I'd highly recommend Alexandra Kurland's books, particularly The Click That Teaches: A Step-By-Step Guide in Pictures.)

Back to Pie - now that he understands that treats are edible, we're working on his treat-taking manners.  He was clearly one of those horses who was going to turn into a "mugger" if not trained - the type that is pushy about treats and frisks you all over - not what I had in mind.  So now, to get a treat, he has to take a step backwards and wait for me to give it to him.  When he does, I click and treat.  Right now, I'm using a hand signal - just raising my hand, palm out - to signal him to take a step back.  Pretty soon, I don't think the hand signal will be needed any more, as he's a very quick learner and pays close attention. Once this behavior is well-established, we can use clicker for other things - I'm thinking of teaching him to hold up his own hind feet for picking and hoof care - he's one of those horses who puts his whole weight on the foot as you hold it, which I'm not fond of.

In the ongoing search for solutions to Dawn's downhill build and the resulting problems with saddle fit, I bought a Mattes correction pad.  (I was at the saddle shop for other reasons and this pad was just lying out on top of a display where someone had abandoned it - it seemed to be just waiting for me.) This pad has four pockets - two in front and two in back - into which you can insert foam shims as needed.  Dawn will need shimming in front to raise the front of the saddle.  The Mattes pad I got doesn't have fleece at front or back, but is all-purpose so it should work with either my Rodrigo close contact or Kieffer dressage saddle.  Mine came with the shims included (the one I linked to seems to require you to purchase the shims separately).  I'm not a big fan of using padding to fix a saddle that otherwise doesn't fit, particularly as padding can often make the problem worse, but in Dawn's case it may be necessary.  If the weather improves, we may try it out soon.  Here's hoping for a warm up and a drop in the wind!


  1. Kate...glad to see you found a Mattes Pad. There are several different models. Mine also came with all the shims and makes all the difference with Berlin. I will be interested in your opinion.

    Ann Forrester, the saddle fitter we use around here (tho she is based in Florida) recommended it to me because of my horses long, low back. It makes my Albion fit just right...level, no pinching and more comfortable for her. I know many people who use them. You just don't want it if it makes things too tight.

  2. I just looked at your link...have not seen the pad you found. Looks good, I have the one with the sheepskin.

  3. I have seen clicker training used for dressage moves, but not tried it. It does seem to work. I'm interested in learning more, thanks for the book recommendation! Sounds like some good goals for Pie.

    Funny how things just seem to stand out at times, hope the saddle pad works well.

  4. I went through the whole thing of using a shim to correct saddle fit. In my case, even though the saddle fit "by the book", the horse never liked it. I ended up trading saddles.

    I hope it works for you and Dawn.

  5. I seem to have that problem too. You know where things at the tack shop are just lying about waiting for you to buy them?!? hahahaha!

    I'm interested in the clicker training too. Thank you for the link and book recommendation.

  6. I have the Mattes correction pad with fleece (just on the bottom, not the rolled edges) and I'm very happy with it. I've had it for about 3 years now and it's held up beautifully. It's amazing how much of a difference those shims can make -- they look so thin and flimsy, but for a princess-and-pea pony like my older horse, they really can be the deciding factor between comfortable and not comfortable.

    My new guy has some uneven muscling so we use the pad just to fill in those spaces until he get fiter and I can get a saddle properly sized for him. I would much rather have saddles that fit without, but as long as the horses aren't sore or uncomfortable, I don't mind.

  7. I hope the pad works wonders for you! It sounds like there are a lot of satisfied people using it.

    Good idea to use the clicker to have him hold his feet up. I'm glad you posted about clicker training, it would be a good thing for me to do with my boys during this icky winter weather.

  8. I don't see a problem with using a shimmed pad to help balance a saddle. That's a lot different than trying to make a saddle fit with padding. How nice of the "Tack store fairy" to put that pad right where you could find it! *G*

  9. We used clicker training with our horses for despooking exercises and it helps a lot. Other than that the only time we give treats, usually carrots, is after they have worked.

    Good luck on the pad.


  10. Hope the pad works for Dawn. We have a few of these for different horses, they're nice pads.

  11. I'm with Dan, we only treat after a work session or in connection with a "trick" I'm starting to have Smokey take a step back too, I suspect he's getting cookies from others in the barn who are not as strict.

  12. We give treats too. Polite horses (Paj and Boomer) get hand-fed treats. Pushy horses (Reggie) get them in the food bin.

  13. Isn't nice to have a horse that YOU can develope so much in!
    I had to scale back with treats...them employed the clicker"my mouth"training.
    Wa is not looking for anything now..until I click.

    The sheepskin"MATTES PAD" is the one I used in my Thinline bareback pad post. I do have felt Thinline shims in it too. Very good purchase Kate!
    I found padding for a to small/tight/smaller saddle, totally makes it worse. But if you have a wide/larger size, padding can avail you one that fits nicer, without harm.
    Hope that nice pad does work for you!

  14. I have the exact same Mattes pad that I use with front shims on one of my horses. It was my saddle fitter that recommended it and told me how to shim it appropriately.

  15. My horse (and my dog for that matter) take treats so nicely. But there is another horse at the barn whose treat taking manners are non- existent!! He's always rudely demanding them and then almost nibbles your fingers off!!!
    Good luck with the new pad!


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