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Reflections on the Connection Training foundation course

Things I learned:

Multiple clicks and Duration: I don't feel I am doing enough of this. It is very easy to just click everything, almost as a method of communication, and forget that you are supposed to phase out the clicker at some point! I don't do it a lot, but he is familiar with it, so this shouldn't shock him too much.

Stationary targets/feeding time: I've never tried it but it does seem clever and useful. I don't feed my horse and nobody goes into his pen except me (generally), so it wasn't priority. I can see other benefits, even just to teach him something new.

Go to the target and stay: I could work more on this, he needs to learn to go and stay. Speaking of cones, he actually made me laugh when I taught him to touch several targets in a row and I wasn't sure if he understood; I walked away and came back to him repeating the exercise on his own.

Mat Training: I've wanted to do this for a while, so the tips are helpful.

Politeness training: I learned that I can go back to "politeness training" at any time, which I have done before, but I thought this was because I screwed up when I first started training him. A long time ago I trained a different horse who learned to be polite right away. I tried to train Aslan like that and moved straight onto targeting. It didn't work so I had to go back and train politeness AFTER conditioning the clicker and teaching him targeting. Oops, wrong order. I feel like that impacted his politeness training since it wasn't first, and the first behavior learned is always the strongest. But I see that other horses also sometimes forget their manners and try to cheat or point at the feed bag. I also found it amusing that Hanna gives the same response I do..."You know that's not how this works!" I don't feel so bad now. I also considered that sometimes it's not just about getting at the food itself but an indicator that I'm taking too long and he wants to START PLEASE. My horse is so impatient.

Start/End cue: I do a lot of what was mentioned except I didn't think about also sometimes carrying treats and giving nothing. Or carrying nothing and having secret stashes. That would sure keep him on his toes. I also noticed that he is impatient to start sometimes. I might have to make sure I don't accidentally reinforce this behavior or it could get worse. He isn't patient at the best of times and it has taken a while for him to become more patient at certain things. It would not be beneficial for me to encourage it, even if I do find it amusing that my horse actually wants to get started! I would also like to reinforce more calm behavior too.

Emotional state: SO HUGE for Aslan. I didn't think much about this and now that I have seen the examples and videos, I'm more cognizant of his emotions and I try to ensure that I am not rewarding too much excitement. I try to bring him back to calmness if he gets too eager. I do love it when he gets enthusiastic but I didn't realize that this could also backfire and produce a horse that is overstimulated. Aslan tends to be very laid back and introverted, so his "excitement" doesn't come of the same way a more forward extroverted horse can be. However he is right brained (reactive) so he can explode quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. Therefore he is very deceptive compared to a horse that wears emotions on his sleeves. Excitement can be such a relative word, but as one of my favorite sayings goes: "A quiet horse isn't always safe horse, but a safe horse is always a quiet horse." Therefore, even a seemingly quiet horse like Aslan needs to learn to manage his emotional state and that comes from ME rewarding the correct emotional state. This has become VERY apparent to me in the last month.

Targeting for emotional balance: I liked this though I always end up clicking before offering the target! But I understand the concept and I'm trying it. I even took him to the scary mirror that grabs his attention and used it as his distraction. Whenever he stopped focusing on it and put an ear on me, he got the target (if I didn't click before that LOL) I should have used this at the horse show where he was so worried and distracted. He was pretty wound up.

Enthusiasm - It's nice to know different exercises in case the horse becomes over enthusiastic or dull. It's amazing how timing your clicks or the amount that you feed can create emotional imbalance!

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