22-26 Horses with Problems - Boldina 5-7

In this clip we are working with Boldina again. Now we are teatching her to stand still for saddling. This is a part of a series from the film Horses with Problems by Ellen Ofstad
The first clip in the series can be seen here:
The previous clip in the series can be seen here:
The next clip in the series can be seen here:

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Comment by Mary Ginn on May 29, 2010 at 11:06am
Thanks for writing back. It means a lot to have a person of your abilities correspond with me. :-) I do use food treats with my voice as the "clicker" saying good-boy in a long drawn out way in a certain tone. They seem to know what that means now, even without a treat. Would love to make a video, even just for myself, but just don't have the equipment...yet!

Well, off to ride! I'm sure you'll hear from me again. :-)
Comment by Ellen Ofstad on May 27, 2010 at 2:04pm
Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback, Mary :) I'd love to see a videoclip with your horse when you are playing with him!
As far as scratching as a reward; if the horse doesn't consider it a pleasant thing it simply isn't a reward (your good intentions doesn't help even if I think the horse appreciates you trying to please it.) They are like us; some people loves getting a foot rub for instance, and others can't stand being touched on their feet. It's not the person doing the rubbing that decides if it feels good or not...

This means you just have to try out rubbing and scratching in different places and with various pressure and you'll either get a positive response on it... or not. If not, you have to find something else the horse likes (little hint; lots of horses likes food...).

I trained a horse once that didn't care for rubbing, petting, scratching... OR praise or even treats. I even tried putting carrots/sugar/apples etc in his bucket and he had little interest... he would end up eating it over night, but was in no hurry what so ever. I was at a complete loss because I find the use of a positive reinforcer so important to my work, and I just couldn't find anything that I could offer him. He preferred being left alone (would allow me to pet him, and politely wait for my antics to pass...).

After a couple of weeks I found it... I rubbed his tongue! (that should give you an idea of how far my search went). At first he tensed up, but then.... THEN... he got soft in his eyes and relaxed, sighed and got really into it. From that moment on everything changed. When he did good I stopped and rubbed his tongue and he loved it. Even when we rode, he would turn his head around and reach out his tongue so I could reach it.

The funny thing was that after I started doing this he started appreciate my praise, too. I thought this was only because he associated my sweet-talk to the tongue-rub, but it was more than that... soon after he showed appreciation for regular patting and scratching, too. And then he even started enjoying treats :)

In return he gave me the most wonderful rides on the beach and in the desert, with only a halter and a lead-rope. Despite being a stallion we could ride right pass the mares and he really stayed with me. I don't know why the change was so big, but I always thought it was because he understood that it was important to me that he enjoyed the training, too. That finding his pleasure was something I cared about... but I don't know what he was thinking of course...
Comment by Mary Ginn on May 27, 2010 at 8:49am
Thanks! That makes good sense. It also brings to mind an unrelated question. My horses rarely seem to respond to scratching. I've tried many times, many places and they don't act like they know they are getting a reward. Any ideas?

By the way, and I've said this before, I love watching you work. A million thanks for posting your video clips on Barnmice. I've learned a great deal and I wish I could somehow show you the progress I've made just this spring by applying what I've seen you do. My gelding's self-carriage is more rounded and I've had a ball playing with him, trying to get him to mimic me. I still have a mare who is a reluctant loader, but I'm hopeful we can overcome that as well. Anyway, just thank you, thank you, thank you!
Comment by Ellen Ofstad on May 27, 2010 at 5:12am
What a great question!
When the horse moves back it's to get the person in the position by the head. In order to stop the horse from backing one could either move forward and ask the horse to come along in a forwards motion, or one could drive the horse forwards from behind. In the first case (moving to the front) that would encourage the horse to back up (provided the reason for backing is to get the person in front - or if the reason for the backing is to get the person away from the saddle position). In either case; the horse would accomplish what it wants by backing up (person moving to front/ person not being in the saddle area).

With the second option; driving the horse forwards from behind - the horse would get pretty confused; since we have told her not to move forwards.

The third option, the one we are using here, is to wait for the horse to come to a stop. Backing is not something a horse likes to do for long and if she is not met with a fight, and not getting the person to get up by the head/moving away from the saddle area, she soon will stop backing on her own since it doesn't accomplish anything. When we add on some wither scratches and praise for standing still, the horse will figure out that this is what we want much easier than by trying to correct her for backing up.
Comment by Mary Ginn on May 26, 2010 at 10:19pm
Can you explain to me why the person follows the horse when she backs up? Shouldn't that be corrected in the same way as moving forward when being asked to stand still?

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