This is the story of a horse and her person who I had the privilege of working with this year. It is not often we come across horses who have such extreme behaviour and so I wanted to share Maya’s story with everyone. I hope it inspires.
Many thanks to Julia for agreeing to share Maya’s story and for writing this blog.
Maya’s Story – My Clicker Training Journey Part 2
I guessed that the sound of the clicker would be a problem to Maya, so I introduced it to her a fortnight before the course began. I held it in my palm to dampen the noise slightly. The first time she heard it she ran to the back of the box with eyes like saucers, snorting and shaking. I just stood still (by the door in case she lunged at me), and clicked a few more times and then left the stable quietly. Over the next few days I repeated this until she eventually came to see what the click in my hand was. It still made her jump for a couple of weeks but she could tolerate it!
Next was to introduce the treat. Maya would not accept any food from your hand and regarded carrots/apples/treats as poison even if they were in her bowl of feed. Initially Maya worked for scratches, which she liked even then, and over a week I introduced carrots.
It seemed to take her a long time to associate the click with a treat – it seemed like she didn’t see the point of it, which was just the whole problem in the first place. Then suddenly she wanted a carrot and SNATCHED it from my hand (minus my fingers thankfully). After just 1 day I was having to work with carrots over the stable door as she was mugging me for them, biting and kicking. After 3 days over the door, and then me able to go in to the stable (exiting if she got too angry), she learned how to earn and receive treats nicely.
Once the online training got underway, it was clear that emotional control was going to be key to Maya and me, that unless she had this it would be difficult and maybe even dangerous to continue. We learned GRUPS (grown ups are talking – good manners around food) very early on and still practice this a lot.
I have managed to reduce rearing by about 90% by teaching her this. Whenever she looked like her energy was getting high, I would ask her to do GRUPS, and click/treat +++, then move into a favourite game like targeting. When she did rear, I quickly told her ‘no’ got round to the side of her and asked her into GRUPS – it worked every time, with no repeat of rear. Once we had the energy back down I would ask her to do some targeting, and I would mix in other things; walk-on, back up, GRUPS.
The biggest step forward was 2 weeks after the course started, when she stood in the stable after a clicking session and sniffed me all over, head to toe, really getting to know me – no biting, head butting or kicking. It was the first time she had ever done this and I felt quite emotional. Maya now displays a remarkable level of self-control which would have been impossible 2 months ago, and as a result we have moved clicker training out of her ‘safe’ stable into the yard, and even sometimes into the first 10 metres of the arena, although she finds this really scary. Clicker training has totally changed the relationship I have with Maya, and has given her a voice – just as an example, yesterday I was grooming her and as she is very ticklish she finds this quite difficult. Previously she would have bitten or barged me, but this time she swung around to face me screwing her head around and made faces. Instinctively I offered her the brush and she took it and threw it on the floor!!!!! FANTASTIC. She would never have had the confidence to tell me this before. I laughed and kissed her nose (never would have been possible before), and she definitely laughed back.
Check back soon to read the next installment of Maya’s story about her Clicker Training Journey.
To join an Online Applied Clicker Training Course please visit http://www.clickertrainingcollege.com or email email@example.com for details.