Monday, September 29, 2008

The Bus

Cali's bus.

With thanks to Nancy Scholz, Manora Labradors, Nancy raises great Labs contact her via Nancy also carries on the legacy of Braken Schipperkes through her newest Champion "Gates"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Details, details, and fitness

So far we're doing pretty well with:
Go through doors
Go around obstacles
Adjust pace - up to trot for me that's a run
Find home (defined as her home for now)
Find mailbox
Over left
Over right

But, within all of these commands there are the details. Like when I click she over rotates around me. That was ok in the beginning but now we need to refine this so that she stays in position. So, that's one detail that we will add in now. Even though she will over-rotate, she still recognizes forward as where I am pointed. So, when I give her the forward she adjusts to find forward based on the flow of my hand and my heading.

Over left is really solid. That's defined as a move to the left while heading straight. Left and right are defined as 90 degree turns moving or from a stop. Since she is over-rotating she doesn't quite get the turns. She is a real trooper at crossing the street dead straight.

And, she has targeting mailboxes dead on. We can find a mailbox, go forward from there and find the next one.

Targeting with the feet is on the agenda now. Targeting with her feet will help her point out terrain changes and curbs. This will be a new concept for Cali.

Her pull is really steady and she is more than willing to pick up the pace. We'll keep at this average pace until we meet with Mona to determine her walking speed. By then, we'll be able to adjust up or down. "Easy" is her cue to slow down. "Easy" goes along with a little pressure on her halter when she gets too exuberant. She loves knowing what to do.

While she can jump in and out of side door of the trailer, she struggles with climbing into the car. That's because she has to pull herself up. Most cars will not have enough room for her to simply jump. It will have to be more controlled. So, we'll go back to climbing the steep ramp as a conditioner.

Along with training Cali, it will be necessary to teach Mona how to handle her. That's because Mona has never had an animal guide. To that end, I gave Cali to my husband today. I instructed him to close his eyes. I gave Cali the "forward" command and off they went. Cali dead on straight. Dave, well..... He'll be a good subject to teach. Cali was a little confused and looked back for me and tried once or twice to find me. That's OK, she'll get it. A click and treat for her. Good girl. That was a good test. She knew what to do but the feel in the harness was different. She will have to learn to generalize and make good choices on what to do even when things aren't completely clear.

Our bus arrived thanks to my friend. It has an elevator for wheelchair access and a reasonable set of steps. I think Cali can climb them. We'll see. We got as far as standing on the ramp facing onto the bus. I could raise the ramp a few inches off the ground. It was the end of the day. So, I decided that was enough for now.

I am so proud of Cali in the relieving department. She has not once offered to "go" while working. Even when we've worked for 3 hours or so.

And, Mona had better not plan on being late for work or she will get a tongue lashing from Cali. Yesterday we were a little late getting started. Just like an alarm clock, Cali started to whinny exactly when we usually work. Very cute and smart.

Cali and cars

Mona asked if it would be possible for Cali to get into a Ford Focus or maybe a Ford Taurus.

We'll see. I'll be teaching her to jump a little higher and to climb in better. She's a fearless climber. This afternoon I thought I'd teach her to jump over what's called a Caveletti. For horse's this is a jump not too big but for Cali it was higher than the length of her leg. I thought she'd jump it. But, not our Cali. One front leg over. There she was straddled with one leg over the pole the other front leg on the other side.

I used a target for this. She loves targeting. No pressure whats-so-ever on her halter. Just the target. She somehow got the other front leg over and then climbed the rest of the way over. So, once she is strong enough, she'll be able to climb into things. But, just what is possible we'll have to see.

After we did that a few times, we went outside to have a little grass because my husband had arrived home. As Dave walked down to say hello, Cali left the grass, went into the arena and targeted a cone. So, we figured it was time to start to teach her Cali's version of Panda Catch. For those that don't know Panda, if a few people come into the arena, Panda will run to a person's side and into "heel" position. For Cali, we took the cone she chose and tossed it to one another and let her run to us to "touch" the cone. Of course she got a click/treat for each touch.

Today, she also "found" mailboxes on our walk down the road. Today, 3 mailboxes where our "directions" to cross the street. Her crossing is really getting good. Very straight. And, she stops square when she reaches the terrain change road pavement to stones at the shoulder.

She found the guard rail again. Now, an interesting conundrem. She kept finding the guard rail. I don't want her to feel wrong as she pointed out each part of the rail. Not every foot nor every inch. But, somehow there was something that she was seeing that seemes worthy of pointing out.

For the second day I also carried a cane. Because I can envison Mona wanting to check out something that Cali points out without walking up to it. So, I didn't want Cali to be afraid of the cane. It took her a little while to discover that the cane was not a target. She wanted to "touch" the end. So, for awhile I'll let her point things out to me. Then, we'll try to refine what she finds. I did name some of the things like "mailbox" for future use as a "find".

"Hup" is coming along as a cue to speed up. She "hups" into trot. Generally a nice day.

Cali - A ride in the car

What an interesting day. Cali was really excited to go today. She started
out trotting along. I would have had to run to keep up. Coming back we are
all up hill and she gets a little tired. We are beginning to find more
options for just the right amount of pull. She seems to understand over left
and over right. She defiantly follows the hand signal for forward, go left
and go right.

Today we decided to start to point out interesting obstacles. She found a
mailbox and targeted it. She found that same guard rail the found yesterday.
I clicked it. Be careful what you wish for because she targeted that
guardrail every few feet. It was cute. Alex always says not to make them
feel wrong so I didn't correct her. I just didn't click the tries.

Crossing the street she goes very slowly and carefully. I think we'll need
to work on that. She seems to be a little confused as to whether she should
cross the lines in the street. Interesting what she notices. She stops
straight when she reaches the end of the pavement. We can then choose a

There was a lot of traffic on the road today. So, it was a longish wait to
cross the street. I decided to cross when I could hear no car noise from
either direction. I closed my eyes at times traveling down the road. I
didn't feel uncomfortable at all. We went straight and true.

Crossing back across the street went well.

Back home again Cali hopped into the car again and we went for a very short

Housebreaking continues to go well except that Cali anticipates when we are
going to work and "goes" before I get there. She hasn't had any accidents.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another milestone

Little things make the heart go pity pat sometimes. I've been stressing about getting Cali into a vehicle other than the trailer. Of course, you know I like to create baby steps. We've done a lot of preparation for jumping into and out of odd places. I even figured out how to make the back of my SUV lie completely flat. You will be surprised to learn that I've had the thing for 2 years and didn't know how to make it go flat. In fact, I assumed it didn't.

Then, yesterday at lunch with a friend it just seemed obvious. Where the heck have I been for all that time. You know necessity is the mother of invention. Since I didn't think Cali could jump in the back of the SUV without help I created the little course you see on the video. Like me, once Cali realizes it's possible there is no stopping her.

Having been in the Bravada she knew she could and she did. We did it just like Alex and Panda did. Panda is another mini horse guide. Alex is Alexandra Kurland her trainer and my teacher. You can see the Panda video along with other clicker training video under the label "We're using clicker training" down on the right hand side of this blog.

I sat in the seat and had Cali target my hand. The next thing you know there she is standing on the floor of the Bravada. Wow! Out was no problem either.

Tonight or tomorrow I go to pick up my friend's bus that is wheelchair accessible. We'll have that right here to practice with. I'm envisioning having a friend drive the bus to the end of the driveway. Cali and I will walk to the bus, get on and together we'll go somewhere to practice walking.

It seems anti-climatic to say that we also extended our "walk". Past the mailbox, down the road facing traffic, across a bridge over a stream (she stopped there to tell me it was a steep drop off), on to the next driveway, stopped there, turned in left, straight (this was good because straight was not the obvious way to go), to a stone wall, turn right, back down the driveway to the road, wait for no traffic, cross the road, stop at the guard rail on the other side, turn right, shoreline up the road facing traffic, stop at another scary drop-off, stop at two more driveways, at the end of the second driveway turn right, wait at the white line for all noise of cars to be silent, cross to the shoulder, stop, turn left, past the mailbox, past my driveway to the other side, turn right, shoreline up my driveway to home, find the stairs, up the stairs, target down the stairs and after all that, load up in to the Bravada. Whew! We doubled the distance we walked at least.

Now, of course, she was not guiding the whole way. We are, after all, only on week 2. That said, she did a good job of keeping pressure on the harness, finding forward and holding a shoreline. Sometimes she stopped, sometimes I stopped her. So, it was a little guiding and a little teaching. A nice balanced mix. The plan is to start on obsticales this week.

Today, I also carried a walking cane to simulate how Mona might also use her cane to help her orient and find what Cali points out. That way she will know that Cali is right on target or has perhaps made a mistake. In the beginning Cali thought is was a target stick and targeted the tip. When we got to the road I left it behind so as not to confuse her. We did pick it up again and Cali taught me that I could carry it folded and only open it when I wanted to check on what she pointed out.

There seems to be varying opinions from the guide community on whether the guide should alert the handler to an obstacle by stopping or take the handler safely around on her own. Panda guides by taking Ann safely around over heads, poles etc. You can see this on the video clip further down on this blog. Panda stops at changes in terrain like curbs, sidewalks to grass, sidewalk to road pavement. So, it will be up to Mona to decide which she would prefer. Since Mona will be working with a mobility coach, we don't want to rock the boat on this. It's hard for me not to have an opinion. To know one needs an opinion on the subject is the neat part of the training.

Cali - Video at the beginning of Week 2

It's been fun to document the training of Cali. So, we thought we'd do a little video of where she is now. Remember that we are only at the beginning of week 2 of a 9 month plan. As I watch it I can see all sorts of things that will be improved.

Cali's regular guide harness has not yet arrived. So, she is wearing a plain dog harness with a handle I made.

With a good start into getting into cars and busses and "forward" we are on our way.

Cali - Cars, houses, stairs

Each day, we go down the dirt road to the paved road. We turn left and go to the mailbox to pick up the mail. That's the regular route. Cali knows it now. Funny that she's quite happy to continue up the paved road if I don't ask her to turn down our road again. Sometimes horses can be what's called barn sour. Not our Cali. She loves working.
And, on this route, she is out in front with me at her hip. Her pace and pull are getting more consistent.

We got a start today on busses, cars and stairs.We have a small wooden deck with stairs that are open backed. Some dogs have trouble with stairs like that. So, I decided down the stairs where Cali could not see that they were open would be the first step. She came down the stairs like a trooper. She's going to have to come down stairs in a really controlled way in time. I'll be adding a target to help her come down one at a time. But, first things first. We got down 4 steps. And, we went up them too. She was especially careful about going up. I didn't use her guide harness for this work because I wanted her to learn how to do the task. Later, I'll teach her how to do the task while guiding.To get to the porch we took an easy trip through the house. She stopped where there wasn't enough room for the both of us and I had to move a chair. Good girl.

Then we had the big challenge of the day. I wanted her to jump into my trailer through the side door. She's been jumping out that door since the first day But, I needed to show her that in through that door was a possibility. We'll call this the up, up and away day.

We created a ramp up to the side door and Cali just came right in. We went out the other side and with out a thought, Cali jumped in going back the other way. It's a pretty good jump in through a small door. At the same time I wanted to simulate busses and steep ramps. I backed my truck up to the ramp and dropped the ramp so it went up steeply into the pickup truck bed. No problem, she went right up that ramp onto the slippery truck bed. She followed me around the bed of the truck and back down the very steep ramp. The first time I load her into my back seat or the back of my SUV, I'll use the ramp.Into my car is a big jump for a little girl. Only two jumps into the trailer today.We now have a plan for cars. Once she knows she can get in, she is more than willing to try. I've got to remember to let her figure it out and not try to hard to show her. She really is the rule that if she can, she will. And, she's a real thinker.

We didn't do the relieving bag today so Cali kindly went for me while I was cleaning the stall. The girl is thinking ahead. I swear she reads my mind sometimes

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cali's life before

Before going into training as a guide, Cali (Summerfield Mexicali Rose) lived her life ina pasture, visited schools, worked with a 4H'r and somtimes went to shows. Becky thought Cali had that something special. We do too!

Pictures of Cali

This is Cali on our "Test" walk during the busy track season in Saratoga Springs, NY. Throughbred Racing season is a big deal in Saratoga. Our popuation quadruples at least during that time. Although we are only leading Cali during this test walk our goal was to determine if she had the stability of temperment to be a guide.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cali - Housebreaking

Sometimes it's good to write down the plan so as to not forget and be able
to make adjustments down the line. Thanks to Jan Norman for her input on this. More from Jan can be found at: with video on youtube at: clickonsuccess

Here's what we know. Cali will go in the trailer and she'll go with the bag on and she'll go while tied the trailer. So, we'll use these to add a cue.

What we should have at the end of this first phase is a little horse who will go in a bag, while tied in a trailer on cue.

Then, we'll start to eliminate the parts that helped her find the answer one by one. First, we'll eliminate the trailer. This phase may take awhile because what we want is a little horse who will go whenever tied, into a bag, on cue no matter where we are.

Next we'll eliminate the tied. We should have into the bag, on cue no matter where we are. Once this is strong, we'll eliminate the bag so that we only have on cue. We'll still have the bag because that's what Mona will need to pick up. But, she need not wear it. A bag will be much easier to carry than shavings or newspaper. I've spoken to those who get stuck in the horse's location specific cues. I'd like to mitigate that as much as possible because Mona will be travelling with Cali mostly alone. She'll not really have someone to hold her while she uses a rest room. Cali will have to go in with her.

Cali may go too when visiting a rest room and that's fine. But, we do want to be sure we have good control in case a particular Rest Room is not a good place to go.

This morning was a play day. We've had 4 days of active learning. Time to give the mind a rest. So, off we went in our non working halter to the arena to learn how to play. Cali is quiet. That's good in one way. But, to be able to jump up into cars, she may need a little energy. So, today we taught her to target and to go to the target when thrown.We evolved that to going to the thrown target, coming back for the treat and then taking me back to the target with just my hand on her rump. We haven't taught her to retrieve the target yet. Having her take me tot he target
again, will allow Mona to find the target so she can re-throw it. This is a game I expect Mona can play in her back yard.

We picked out her little feet at liberty. Cali didn't seem to want to run or roll while I was there. Although she did roll when we came back to her area. She has a little worker bee mindset. And, for a few minutes we started on the idea of standing by my chair at liberty. A good skill for the house.

Tricky Guide situations

While the normal walking on a street with no sidwalks will be to walk against traffic so that Mona can hear them coming from the front, sometimes, this will not be possible or practical.

The guide must learn to find a shoreline no matter what the direction of traffic is. It would also be helpful for her to find crosswalks. Most safe cross walks will have a painted line markings. Not all painted line marked cross walks will always be safe.

On known routes, Mona may make a choice. Cali will have to respect Mona's choice and keep her safely out of traffic lanes.

Cali Day 4

So how many horses do you know that you can just lift their tails slide on a
plastic bag and bungee it to the harness?
I know one and her name is Cali.

The plan was to go to town today. Cali would ride in the trailer. Trailers
are a place where Cali can "go". So, let's take advantage of that. On with
the plastic bag and into the trailer and tied. Voila! Mini horse goes into a
Wal-Mart bag. Sounds like a head line for the National Enquirer. I was so
surprised that it was so quick, I clicked and took the bag off. A bit too
quick because she needed to go again. No matter, a plan develops slowly and
we now have the start of on-cue pottying because we have a sure thing on
where she will "go". We'll add the bell on the next trial. Not only do I
want her to go on cue, I want a cue for her to tell us it's time.

My friend who has big horses that "go" on cue will load a horse onto the
trailer and since for them too it's usually a "sure thing" she stands right
there with a bucket. Cool. I like it when great minds think alike.

Thank you Becky for your article from the vet who collects pee for testing
and her simple system. No complicated stuff for us either. Just a Wal-Mart
bag and 4 bungees - no problem.

Off to town we go. Somehow my mind "saw" sidewalks in our town. Our town is
1/2 mile long and 1/2 mile wide. That's it. And it has a lot of old people.
But, no sidewalks. Just roadway that's been spread wide effectively giving a
wide shoulder to the road. Cali thought the white line was a good shoreline
and was quite sure we should be on the other side of the road. By the time I
realized my error in routing we had passed the single crossing guard cross
Oh well. Next time I'll do better. We walked to the center of town even
though there were screaming kids, soccer practice, and teenage drivers
gunning their engines. That, not to mention the fire siren going off just as
we got to the town's intersection. Do guide horses stop and "pull over" when
speeding fire engines go by. It seemed logical so we did.

Going back we were on the correct side of the road and walked comfortably on
the shoulder. Using the white line as our guide. A nice teacher from the
school caught up with us and we had a nice chat about how one walks the
roadway in town. What's safe and what do most people do.

Once back at the school we travelled around that roadway past young ladies
playing soccer, and "found a door" to the school. They were even going to
let me into the school but I passed on that this day. Soon though. At home,
Cali had been ready for be more in front. But, the rigors of this experience
kept her closer. It was a little stressful for both of us. We made it
through and loaded up to come home. Horses don't get trained in a few days.
Each experience builds on the previous one.

This morning I had someone come for a lesson and as we walked to the arena a
little whinny told me that Cali thought she should be coming too. Going to
the arena is like comfort food. We added another trip down the driveway.
This time I set some cone obstacles in our way. Cali pointed them out and
went around with no problem. On the way back, she thought she should point
the out again even though they weren't in our path. To her they were.

Another good day although a bit mind boggling as I thought about just what
does a blind person do in some situations. I'll be dropping a note to my
friends with dogs and horses to ask.
Just for fun, here's the scenario. You are at a school baseball field
parking lot. There is no crosswalk to cross the street. You are desiring to
go to the market that is a right turn and 1/2 mile from where you are. There
are no sidewalks. You can't cross to go against traffic. Your only safe
option is to go on the shoulder with the direction of traffic. There is a
crosswalk 1/2 way to the market. Do you cross there or continue to the
market on the same side.
Mona, what would you do with your cane?

I'll let you all know what they say.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cali Day 3

Forward is cemented. And, she loves it. I was able to move back towards her
hip. I didn't have a handle so I couldn't go back much. But, I'll be able to
do some crafts tonight and get us set for tomorrow. Her real guide harness
won't arrive for a few weeks still. And, her "Guide in Training" id hasn't
yet arrived. I'll make a temporary one for starters.

She led us down the driveway, back up. Found the door to the arena, followed
a shoreline around the arena and avoided obstacles. She pointed out
interesting things. Hmmm. Click that? We'll see. Not yet. As we followed a
shoreline by the barn we came across the water hydrant. She pointed that out
to me. That did get a click. "Forward" from there took us nicely around it,
around the tree and down the driveway. Her space perception is outstanding.
We shore lined up toward my kennel building. She discovered some 4 x 4's blocking our way. She stopped and pointed those out to me. Click. "Forward" from there took
us on a right turn which would take us past my goose neck trailer, she led
us wide past that. Tomorrow I will set up an obstacle on our normal route
and see what happens.

I sent her to the trailer she arrived in. I asked her to go "in". Seemed to
me that this would simulate a bus. Previously, she'd been led in to the
trailer. This time she took me in. We turned around and I asked her to to go
"out". I stopped her at the beginning of the ramp and pointed out the
difference. I asked her to go slowly down the ramp and stop at the end. She
learned "wait" today. "Forward" again and we were off down the driveway
again. Perfect. I'm also planning to use the ramp skill to help us get into
other vehicles.

I haven't yet taught her to get into a vehicle. I'm wanting to be sure that
she will never again potty in a vehicle including the trailer. At the moment
she thinks that the trailer is a suitable place to go. Or, she did when she
came. I can't be sure now.

So, even though we are ready to go to town, my town, not any big town, the
real learning for Mona will have to be on sidewalks and cross streets with
traffic and such. But, before I do that, I've got to be sure she will not
potty. She has not potty'd while working at all.

With the new more controlled feeding schedule she is going on a more
consistent basis and not as frequently. I think at first she was nervous and
her poo's showed that being a little loose. At first, because she was used
to grazing 24 x 7 she seemed hungry. But, now she's being fed 4 times a day
and she didn't finish her last meal all the way. She "saved" some for later.
Of course, the hay stretchers she gets while working help her too.

I wanted her to understand that she could still graze but only when she
wasn't working. So, I took her out last night to graze on a special halter
and line. She won't ask to graze in her working outfit although I was able
to send her to grass so she could have a few nibbles. Even though she
doesn't have grass and we were passing a lot of grass, she never once put
her head down to reach for it.

She does like the arena. It must seem like where she's used to when she went
to shows.

So, after working we developed a plan for the next steps. Pottying on cue is
high on the list. And, riding in a vehicle. I will likely take her on her
first trip to town in my little trailer. I went shopping for her today and
bought her a reflective vest, a stall ball, and some parts to make a
relieving harness. Because Mona lives in town, there may be times when she
won't be able to find a suitable place for Cali to be able to "go". And,
since it's only healthy for her to wait a certain amount of time being able
to relieve in a bag which can be wrapped up and put in the trash will be
important. This will allow Cali to go places where Mona cannot control the
times to go out like train, bus and airplane trips.

I got her a bell for indicating that she has to "go". And, a rug for her to
stand on a mat in the house.

Like a puppy her first foray's into the house will be very controlled. Stand
on a mat. Stand tied. Just stand, like when I write this update. We'll ring
the bell before going "out". That way, she can find the bell to ask to go
out in time.

We tried on her new vest and she didn't mind that it had elastic that goes
around her loin. That will not be the final set-up but I was pleased that she
didn't mind the "dressing up".

She pee'd for me right on time. Good girl. Now to start logging this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cali Day 2

Wow is all I can say. I told Becky that Cali wanted to be a guide. And, she sure proved it today.

Yesterday I said that forward would be our theme for a time. When I went our with halter and harness Cali immediately lined up on my left side for her harness after I put on her halter. Very cool. Forward with a tug was no problem.But, we circled a bit in the driveway because she was not sure where to go.

Once she thought she'd take me over to the grass. But, my lead was as if I held a rein on my riding horses. So, as she started to put her head down she encountered the lead and her head popped right up.I took the lead and sort of headed her down the driveway.

We have a 1/4 mile long dirt driveway with grass on both sides. Every time I picked up the harness Cali had no trouble putting a little tug on it and taking us forward. Every few steps I'd click and she would get her treat.

Pretty soon though she had the idea that the word "forward" meant to put a little tug on the harness and head on down the road. So, when I clicked she didn't stop.What I figured out was that she understood the word forward meant head on down the driveway with a tug on the harness. So, in order to get her to stop for her treat I had to let go of the harness. She happily stopped for her treat.

Her understanding of "forward" would become more apparent later.We went all the way down the driveway and for a good part I was able to close my eyes. Boy do you loose all sense of where you are going with your eyes closed. At times I was certain that we had drifted from the side of the road. But, when I opened my eyes to check there we were right beside the grass. How humbling.

Trust her I told my self.We got to the end of the road. Ann told me that on a road without a sidewalk one walks against the traffic. There was no traffic when we got to the road. So, we turned left. Cali decided that the shoreline would be the white line which put me in the traffic lane. It was a valid choice based on the way we'd come down the driveway.I helped her over to the other side of the white line and discovered that Cali has a wide idea of obstacles. So, her idea in going around the mail box was to take us very wide. We'll refine that later.

Then, the coming home from work traffic seemed to appear from nowhere. Motorcycles, trucks, cars all speeding in both directions. Cali was unperturbed but I was scared to death. If I'd been riding, I'd have headed inland off the road.Since that was more traffic than I wanted to deal with, I decided to cross the street and go back towards home.

An interesting puzzle. Do you cross the street where there is no walk-way? Mona what does your mobility coach say about that.Well, we crossed anyway. She happily took us up the other side. Interesting that going back seemed to her to be a different skill. So, she kept hesitating. I decided to lead her back to my driveway.

Now all of a sudden the traffic picked up even more. Cali was unsure where the traffic was and stopped and stayed stopped when she heard traffic of any kind. Good choice. That will have to be refined later too.Once the traffic calmed down I told her forward and she happily took us back across my driveway and headed down the driveway. So interesting that she had decided that forward meant going down the driveway away from home.

Since Mona will want to take walks in the park and then let Cali help her find the way home, I decided that I could start that process by giving her a cue "Find home".She'd been heavily reinforced for going down the driveway and we were a little stuck in going up the driveway. So, I dropped the harness and decided to show her going up the driveway each time I adjusted her and said "find home".C/T when she continued on her way. A few times she started to cross over to the "down" side of the driveway. I just said, "Find home" and corrected our direction. She got it. And, pretty soon I had my eyes shut again as we traveled"finding home".

At one point our path comes to our Trailer garage and the beginning of a stone wall. True to form Cali decided these things needed a wide path. I wanted to see what she'd do. Sure enough once we passed the building she was back to the shoreline.Now yesterday, we'd gone to the arena. So, what does find home mean. A good question. Mona's home will be much more distinct than what we have so far. And, later when Cali is living in the house, find home will become more meaningful. So, she wasn't wrong to head for the arena.

At the entrance to the arena, I decided to test what Cali thought "forward" meant. So, I gave the cue "forward".Cali happily turned us around and headed back down the driveway. Smart girl.We turned back around and started home again. At the end of the driveway where all our out buildings, my dog, my stallion and the trailer and car were I decided we were done. I dropped the harness and Cali moved fluidly into leading mode. I think this is a nice skill to keep in place for when Mona is wanting to follow friends and wants Cali to just come along.

On the housebreaking front, Cali has been at pasture. It's only been one day where her food is given at controlled times. Like a puppy, I think to house break it is critical to control feeding times. It might be more normal for a horse to graze all the time. But, in winter, our horses are fed at certain times and don't have food all day. If they did our horses would be blimps. Panda gets fed 4 times a day. So, it seemed like this would be a good plan for Cali too.She's getting hay stretcher pellets for training so it's not like she will be hungry.

Tomorrow will be two days on the controlled feeding and I'll start to document more exactly when she goes. At this time she is poo'ing within about every 2 hours. I'm certain that she could hold it. But, before I ask her to do that I want to know what's normal for her. She pee's about 3 maybe 4 times a day so far. I have a plan in place to put the potty'ing on cue. But, we'll hold off on that for now.

She does not go while working. So, we have time.

Cali has a ball. She plays with it by pushing it around with her nose. I see it move throughout the day. I saw her play with it when she was finished working. But, mostly if I show up she's right there ready to go to work.

Like an endurance horse or a sled dog, we want to build up her ability to work just as you would build up your own body with exercise. You don't start running by going out and running a marathon. We call that Long Slow Distance or LSD for short. Cali will need to work up to working all day with breaks. That will take a little time. I'm comfortable with the time frame we set for our first shadowing session with Mona. By then, I think Cali will be in shape mentally and physically for the work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cali Day 1 - Session 2

We had a second session this evening. Working on forward with a pull. I'll take forward anywhere. Click.
Once we get consistent forward, we can begin to train choices of where. Cali's used to being led. Taken where we want her to go. This is her "first toe in the water" of making decisions. I let her decide where to go. For a little horse, that's confusing. So, it's natural that she would choose to go the places she is used to.

She chose the trailer, the car. When asked to go forward from there she deftly turned to guide along the side.

On the way to the arena, she followed the normal route that horses take day in and day out here. There was no confusion. Clearly the answer was not to continue down our driveway. The better choice was to go where people and horses had gone before. How did she know? She's never been here before. She knew though.

Cali's First Day

Cali is settling in well. She's was a little nervous at first and she and my old mare scared each other.

We had a first lesson: Putting on the Dog Harness I got her. I'd opened the large dog harness as large as it would go.
Sigh... our perceptions are so weird. The first thing I had to do was to make it smaller at every angle. She was patient even though the wind was howling.

Next, I let her take me where she wanted to go with a little tug on the harness. She didn't pull hard and stopped a lot to check things out. I clicked when she went forward using the word forward. We walked up to my cart which was in the arena. She stopped. Good girl. Turn to go around and off we went again. The hardest part of this is to trust her. Allow her to see what she sees. As soon as I get a steady forward, we'll go off on walks in town.

She walked happily on the left. She'll learn to wrap around in that direction in time. I didn't worry about that right now.

She's in a bank of two 12 x 12 stalls with a 12 x 24 ft outside yard. She has only gone in the yard area. She also knows about going in the trailer. I put her in tied her and she poo'd right away. She didn't even think about going while we were working. She seems to understand inside and outside and prefers outside or the trailer. I will likely use the trailer to help us put it all on cue.

She going to be a good teacher.