Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Busy Week

It's been a busy week here in New York. I haven't had much time to write.
But, that doesn't mean we haven't done lots.

We had a second visit to the little town of Broadalbin. On the first visit
we walked through the town while I showed Cali all the interesting sites.
She did a great job of guiding straight on the sidewalks, across the
cross-walks. She had just started to show interest in pointing things out.

We have now focused more on pointing out interesting things. We've also
worked more on the pointing out of terrain changes. To do that we worked in
our arena with various objects. At first I took her to objects and showed
her how to target them with her nose. I also showed her how to paw at a
terrain change. A terrain change in the arena was defined as dirt to a
board, dirt to a tarp, up onto a platform.

Later, I sat in a chair and asked her to find interesting things. But, she
could only find the same object once. We are still at the point on our walks
where she would like to point out every post in the guard rail. Very cute
but not very useful. This is an interesting concept to get across to her.
Point it out once. What to her is only once?

The arena exercise went well. No clicks for objects pointed out a second
time. And, she had to come back to me in the chair to get her treat. Then,
she could start out again to look for another interesting object. She found
the tarp, the mounting block, a rope on the ground, the barrels with a bar
across which she could fit under but I could not, a fence placed across the
arena, jumps, a cart and the platform. She had a lot of fun with this. The
one thing that I thought very interesting was that even though she could
have gone under the barrel obstacle on her search of things to touch, she
did not. The importance of this will become apparent.

In another training session, we walked the arena with her guiding. I set her
up to walk along one wall. Then, I let her choose a route. She chose a route
that took us around all the obstacles and went in a square. An interesting
object was the rope on the ground. She had no trouble pointing it out with
her nose. But, then the question of should she walk over it or around it? A
good question. She has a clear idea of what should be gone around and what
can be gone over. I don't. So, for now, I'll trust her. A pole on the ground
should be gone around. The coiled rope can be walked over. We'll continue to
do information gathering on this.

The second walk in town took us up and down the bank steps. The bankers
welcomed her and were excited that we were using their place for training.
We traveled to the post office, we found grates, intersections and cross
walks. She was even able to find the yellow painted curb that indicates a
cross walk. Good girl.

We've also walked in the dark at night several times. There was no moon so I
could barely see a thing. Her route modified only slightly. She stuck less
close to the side of the dirt road. Many leaves had fallen. It was clear
that she was tracking the light part of the road and avoiding the leaves.
She is having a lot of fun finding things. I had to smile and I did reward
the finding of a stump. It could have been a mail box. We can refine as we
go along.

Yesterday we had our longest walk. She did not get tired physically nor
mentally at all. She had enough energy left to get into the car when we got
home. Last week she told me that was very hard. She can only get in without
her harness and from the drivers side. Hmmmm..... More work to be done
there. We went for a little ride and she worked to find a good place to be.
The choice is on the floor or on the seat. Both seemed to do although going
down the bumpy dirt road was a little unbalancing for her. I think she got a
little nervous.

She is happier when I sit with her than when I drive. When she thinks she is
taking care of me, she is all business. When I let her be her, she is full
of fun. I've made it clear that if I lead her from her left, she can be a
horse. She'll trot and play and generally be full of life. When I am on her
right, she is the guide and becomes very serious about everything. Loose she
will often choose my left (her right). I can put my hand on her hindquarters
and even though there is no harness nor halter, she will take me places.
She'll find things and she will guide using the hand signals with forward
and over left. These two she knows well. The other turns not so well but
they are coming. I think she knows go right. But, it's not smooth.

I like that she will find things. That's because Mona says she sometimes
loses things never to be found again. So, if Cali will simply find things,
they can play together to discover what Cali can find. Later, I'll put
smaller objects out for her to find. If we use the "find only once" skill,
Mona can let Cali find and decide if that's what she wants or not. That way,
if Cali doesn't quite understand the "keys" or "gloves" or if Mona loses
something that Cali doesn't know the name of, Cali can still help her find

Next on the agenda is "do nothing". This is an interesting topic. When is
Cali on her own and when is she supposed to simply wait. Suppose I need her
to wait for me. How long can she "wait" disengaged from my active
activities. This is important while Mona works. We started this task. Habit
or patterns will help. Cali understands patterns very well.

I've disrupted her patterns a little the last few days. Horses do like a
pattern like the same feeding time each day. Research has shown that they
can get stressed when their patterns are disrupted. A horse can get ulcers.
If they are fed at 4:00 each day they are already preparing to digest and
the stomach acid starts to fire up. If they don't get fed one day at 4:00
the acid can create an ulcer. That's only one example of a pattern. And, we
can use patterns to train.

But, if we don't vary the pattern enough, the horse doesn't get flexible
enough to cope with changes. Stress occurs. A horse with more experience in
varying situations will become more responsive to now, and not to the
pattern and better able to handle a new situation.

No comments: