Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 1 with David Lichman

This was a tough day for Z and I. I had a bit of an attitude and was struggling with not feeling like the best student in the class. There were a few students who were L4/5 and I was having ego-issues. LOL. Once I admitted it to myself, I could address it. Emotional fitness, Tia!! I went home after the first day and really put myself in check. I'd paid for the clinic, I had the time off from work, it was up to me to get the most from the 4 days. It was entirely up to me.

The first day, we talked in the basement, watched some videos and then headed out to do ground work. The 12 students were split into 2 groups - L2/3 and the advanced group - L3/4/5. I was in the advanced group. A couple of the students are working on L5 stuff, so quite advanced. We started with figure 8's on the ground and Z was having a hard time driving away from me. She could come into me just fine, but driving away was a challenge. We were the only ones with that problem. Typically the problem is with the draw, not the drive. Dave had Z and I work on the S-pattern to fix our figure 8. We went out into the pasture and built the S-pattern. It was going nicely after about 30 minutes. I was very pleased.

With the L2/3 group, he worked on the Touch It game (target training). He talked a lot about reinforcement and using a 50/50 schedule so the horse is always wondering when he'll get rewarded versus expecting it every time.

Some other notes I took:

The first pattern is touch it. Why? Because it teaches FOCUS! The human learns to focus and the horse learns to read the humans focus. Use positive reinforcement so they're motivated to follow our focus.

When Dave lays a horse down, he gets the bow, but then he holds the leg up and tucked until the horse goes down for comfort. I'm going to try that with Rain and then Z. They can both bow nicely, but I haven't ventured to the lay down yet. It's time to do that.

We discussed the 6 methods of teaching: mimicking, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, manipulation, scan and capture and ?? (shoot, missing the last one). Positive reinforcement uses bridging and target training.

Dave made a great point - you should be able to drive from zone 3 and play touch it before you ever ride a horse. I'll be working on that with Tina next. I also think Chrissy could really benefit. Dave had the early students using treats to enforce the touch it game. The treat on the object they were headed so the horse started to like the game.

Dave showed us sideways on the circle to get the horse thinking about the human. He demonstrated teaching the horse to circle with their eyes on their human. He disengaged the hind everytime the horse looked away and after a very short time, the horse (Ray's horse) was circling him in a nice curved way with her eyes always on Dave.

He talked about bonding exercises such as letting the horse rest the front of their face on the humans belly. He also talked about teaching the horse to rest it's jaw bone on their humans shoulder.

For teaching target training, hold the treat in 1 hand closed. If they touch the target, open the hand and present the treat. If they dont touch the target, keep the hand closed. They will learn quickly to seek the target!

Dave talked about clicker training and the problem with it: the click is terminal. This means that when you click, the behavior should end and the horse is rewarded. How do you encourage the try with clicker training?

Dave does a ton of voice command training and he also uses voice to encourage try. I do that as well and I know my horses respond.

Dave made a big deal about teaching horses their names. He also talked about how to teach a horse what his name is NOT. This way, you can single a horse out when playing with multiples. He said you need a group name, too - like ALL. Each horse has two names, their own and the group name.

He praised Alexander kurlin's book on clicker training and he talked a lot of the sea lion training done by a group in Florida (google: Slewths).

It was an interesting first day.

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