New Blog: Horses and Permaculture

As I’ve just moved to Vale das Lobas as an intern for 6 months, primarily to study how (if) horses fit into permaculture, I’ve started a new blog specifically for that: www.horsesandpermaculture.org.

I’m going to keep this blog for training though there’ll be some crossover between the two.

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Riding Frankie!!!

Woooooo Hooooo!!!

Yesterday I sat on Frankie for the first time, he was a superstar – you’d never have known it was the first time he’d had someone sitting on him 🙂

Today I marked out a small square with electric fence posts with plastic plant pots on top and we walked around it touching the pots and then the last corner of the square was the mounting block so we did lining up and sometimes me getting on.

At one point I asked for a step of backup like we did yesterday, with me on board and asking with a rein cue – which he offered immediately I asked but he felt a bit wonky so I got off and saw he had his hind hoof up on the mounting block!!! He wasn’t worried in the slightest and had just stood there with his foot up on it, not moving at all. I thought this was amazing not only because he wasn’t in the least bothered, but also because he didn’t lose his balance with an unfamiliar weight on top of him!

So then we did more of this and then I thought it would be OK to ask for some walk on with me on board. The first couple of times I clicked as he responded to my voice cue (I wasn’t sure if he would from me in the saddle) so we just did one step forwards C/T. Then I decided to see if he would walk to the target which he did, at which point I’d decided to get off but he seemed happy enough to continue – not over-eager rushing – but just calm and fine about the whole thing. So we did the rest of the square and I got off at the mounting block.

He then didn’t really want to leave the arena, which he’s never been like before, but we’ve been doing shorter sessions than usual and I think he’s really enjoying this, I’m sure he must be able to sense my massive grin when I am sitting on him 😉

Then he led down the track really well, a little bit ahead of me, a little big energetic, but on a loose rein and no attempt to pull away.

Wooooo Hooooo!!!

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Help me attend the Equine Clicker Conference!

Please help me further increase my knowledge and understanding of positive reinforcement (clicker) training so I can help more horses and humans!

Clicker Training is a powerful technology based on the science of learning theory. It gives us a positive training technique to build a relationship and two-way communication with our horses, and is a fun and effective way to teach anything from basic good manners to high school dressage movements (or even to get your horse to help with the washing up!)

I have been clicker training my own horses for 3 years, and helping others to train their horses for the last year. Frankie is an orphan, who was given to me as a yearling with many issues that meant no-one else would offer him a home. Everyone who knew him then is amazed now at his level of trust and calmness around humans, all taught to him using non-coercive clicker training. He’s now almost ready to be backed, he loves to learn new things and I’ve even taught him to paint! Maurice is in his 20s, and before he came to me was described as a horse who wouldn’t stand still. One of his favourite things is our liberty lunge work, and contrary to his previous description, is now one of the most patient horses I have ever known. Since training them with clicker they will both come running when called, and are always keen to work and learn!

I also help people here in Portugal (and further afield via the internet) with training and horsemanship advice. I publish much of what I am doing & learning on the internet, for the benefit of others who are seeking to understand their horses and work with them without coercion or force of any kind. Traditionally in Portugal, horses are a very macho pursuit, and clicker training is part of a global movement away from aggressive tactics, towards a more thought-out and caring approach.

Attending events such as the Clicker Conference are very important to enable me to successfully play my part in promoting and developing training that benefits horses, as well as their human carers.

To watch horses responding to the calm and precise clicker training sessions is inspiring and offers hope that we can learn to interact with our horses in a more understanding and compassionate way. My continuing journey with horses is part of this inspiring future.

I have attended several clinics with top clicker trainers, and the 1st ever Equine Clicker Conference last year. It is held in the UK and is the only one of its kind in the world, teaching me so much in 2 days of discussion, demonstrations and workshops with some of the leading names in clicker training. I cannot convey just how useful it is to take part in the conference, meeting others who seek better and gentler ways to teach their horses, and of course I play my own role at the event sharing my experiences with those less travelled down this path.

In the last year my husband and I have decided to separate, and are trying to sell our farm in Portugal. With the proceeds, I aim to buy a more suitable farm, to create a co-housing horse centred community with others – where I intend to start sharing my knowledge and experience in a more formal way, to benefit both horses and humans.

At the moment I am not able to raise the funds to attend the Equine Clicker Conference. Since separating finances from my husband, my income has dropped and I cannot see a way to raise the £700 I need to cover the cost of the conference, return flights to the UK, and travel within the UK. Being able to attend the conference would hugely benefit my own education and what I will be able to offer others in the future.

If I raise more than the £700 I would also be able to attend the one day seminar “Human Behaviour Change for vets, behaviourists and trainers” http://www.learningaboutanimals.co.uk/hbc2013.html
which will also hugely enhance my knowledge and my ability to communicate the principles, understanding, and implementation of this amazing training tool to many other people.

Any amounts received over what I need for these 2 events I will use to enable me to do more voluntary training work at the only horse rescue centre in Portugal, to give the horses increased chances of being rehomed.

This is cutting edge stuff in the field of animal training and human/animal relationships, and I see myself in future being an integral part of the movement, if you can help during this financially lean period of my life.

Thank you.

Everyone who helps with a donation will receive a scanned copy of a painting by Frankie, and there are other rewards too. I am happy to hear from you if there is a different reward you would like as I am keen to repay people in kind for their donations.

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Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Yes, there had to be a post with this title at some point! We didn’t actually go to Hollywood, but up to the village bar, which was just as exciting and probably a lot more fun 😉

For those of you who know the issues we’ve had leading Frankie up and down the track you can probably guess at how absolutely over the moon I am about our adventure this morning!  Frankie was an absolute superstar. We walked up to the bar (about 1km) along the road and he was totally calm almost the whole way. When all the new stuff began to make him just a little excited we stopped and played “touch the tractor” until he was 100% calm again.  At the bar the horses got buckets of salad and a haynet while we had a drink.

Then we walked home again, stopping when Frankie got a little anxious again (barking dog plus fast car, but he dealt with them really well) we stopped and Maurice got to stand on a pedestal (his favourite game) while Frankie played “touch the rock” and grazed.

I’m very, very, happy! Really fun outing for all of us 🙂

Big thanks to Beth for leading Maurice, and to Kev for being “ground crew”.

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A Walk up the Road!!

Went for another walk up the track today, with Beth leading Maurice and me leading Frankie.  We stopped near the top of the track and let the horses graze. They were both fab, coming down again too.

Then I did more flexions and vebal walk on cue with Frankie which went reall well although we’re finding it a little difficult to build in more steps of walk before clicking, he tends to stop after just a few steps if I don’t click, but we’re getting there and he was much better taking treats today.

Then we went for another walk with Beth and Maurice, this time up the track, cut through the felled woods to the parallel track, up to the road, along the road (about 50m) and back down our track.  Frankie was looking around a bit but he was absolutely fantastic! We stopped to graze every so often – I ask ”whoa” when he is walking calmly and then offer him to graze, so it’s a triple-whammy  of calm walk, whoa, grazing cue ;)

Needless to say I am very very happy again today. Pretending he is Maurice is definitely working. In fact Maurice was much worse behaved than Frankie today (and probably is most of the time if I really think about it!), pulling Beth over to grass a lot.

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Fab Frankie!

Fab session with Frankie today. First I led both him and Maurice up the track, both very calm and we had a lovely outing stopping to eat some grass about 2/3 of the way up. Both fab coming down too.

Then Beth did some clicker with Maurice (she’s teaching him to target his eye to her hand) and I led Frankie back up the track, we went up and down a few times and got ¾ of the way up, he was brilliant! I think it really helped that I decided to pretend he was Maurice! With Frankie I tend to watch his every move and worry that he might try to pull away, it’s basically a lack of trust on my part and of course he picks up on this. With Maurice I realised that he isn’t always perfect, he walks slower, faster, sometimes nudges into me, sometimes tries to pull for grass – but it doesn’t worry me because I totally trust him. So treating Frankie the same really helped and we had a great walk together and hung out a bit with him grazing, then walked some more. Very very happy 🙂

Then we went into the picadeiro and did some more practise of verbal “walk on” cue with me standing at his girth with one arm over his back (simulating riding). This seems to be quite hard for him and he doesn’t take the treats very well from me standing in this position, tending to grab at them and nudge/nip at me. So we worked on this with me holding the treat at my shoulder until he put his head forward (I do this normally if he grabs for treats) and it went well and he improved really quickly. I’m not sure why he finds it hard like this as he takes treats from this position fine if I am on the mounting block and also if I am in this position asking for flexions (which we also practised today and also went really well).

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Frankie has a saddle on!

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Frankie had a proper saddle on today (not the treeless) and again it was a total non-event. He was absolutely calm throughout. We’d done a little session earlier (I have a fab helper here at the moment, Beth) getting him to go between the two of us to touch targets we were holding out, and we did this again with the saddle on, starting very slowly just one step at a time and then we built it up to him going between posts around the round pen. Can’t believe how grown-up my baby horse is getting! 😉

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