Happy Endings Rescue Centre
Open Day Clicker Report
Chris and Terry, the owners of the rescue centre work extremely hard and long hours to care for animals who have come in to their care. They also work very hard to re-home that animals that can be rehomed and provide all the medical, training and emotional care for those who can’t.
I was really excited when I was contacted by the centre to ask if I could come along to the open day and do some clicker training demonstrations with one or 2 of the horses. Of course I jumped at the chance.
The day before I was supposed to be travelling was the day the first lot of bad weather hit the UK. Trains were not running from Scotland to England and things were looking bad for me getting to Faversham. however, the next day brought better news and the trains I had booked were all running, and on time. Eight hours after setting off, I landed at Faversham station ready for the open day on 1 July.
The first horse I got to work with was Dolly. Dolly had been rescued in a terrible state and Happy Endings had invested time, money and love in to her rehabilitation. They had done a great job. The second I walked in to Dolly’s stable she engaged with me and immediately started to clicker train with me. She loved it. Then she realised I had lots of treats with me and tried to turn me upside down ! Time for the grown ups are talking (good manners) exercise.
I was taken aback at how quickly Dolly was learning. In just a few sessions she had learned to touch the target, back for treats, stay polite next to me and not mug me for treats (phew !), back up from a lead rope cue, go forwards from a lead rope cue, back around corners and her party piece…..she had learned to put her head collar on herself. We had just started to work on head lowering when we had to go and do our first demo. That was an impressive amount of learning from Dolly in such a short space of time.
When we went out to the demo area, Dolly was a little anxious. She was in an unfamiliar place and there was flappy tape around. So instead of starting off with showing everyone what she had been learning, we had to play touch the goblins (if it scares you let’s go and see what if there is really anything to be scared of). She trusted me instantly and realised what we were doing. Such an impressive horse.
After the demo we went back to the stable and we did more training there. Dolly was having a ball using the kids hands as target to touch, earning treats each time. She was showing off how she had learned to put her own head collar on, which caused squeals of delight from the kids, and “wow’s” from the parents.
Later in the afternoon I started to do some work with Izzy. Izzy had come to the centre with sarcoids (all around her head and ears and a few other places) that had gone untreated for some time. The centre are now on an uphill struggle to treat the sarcoids and, at the moment, are winning the battle. However, they are very bad and need to be checked every day.
As I am sure you can imagine, having her sarcoids checked each day is not something she relishes and instead of letting the staff do the checks she throws her head up. So Chris had asked me if I could teach her to keep her head down to make the process easier for everyone. So I started to teach Izzy to target a ball on the ground.
Using clicker training to prepare a horse for health checks is fantastic, but when the health issue is already there it is definitely more of a challenge to teach the behaviour we want from the horse. Izzy’s training is definitely a work in progress, though she made great steps forwards in just the few short sessions we had.
Training of the horses will be an ongoing project for me which I hope to keep going any time I am back in the area.
If you are in the Kent area and would like to book clicker training lessons with me please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each time I have lessons days planned I will also be back to see the Happy Endings team and will be able to give updates on Dolly and Izzy and their clicker training.