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More on Activity Stations (and rearing - who knew?) - August 22, 2022

Today was a short session continuing on the 3 stations (now 4 see below) I am currently using as a warm up for riding or just for the sake of the exercises as they build on each repetition.

The second day run through of these stations saw an improvement in the multiple mat and backing exercises as they have similar requirements of rocking back after the food delivery. Josie today even began the backing to receive the food so is getting it!

I haven't seen an impact on the curling but I know that will take time. She is of course much better without me using the lead to cue walking and trotting. I again put on my constructional training cap and chunked down my requests reinforcing the elevated and off the forehand posture from a stationary position to taking 1 step , 2 steps etc. It tends to fall apart where we expect. Where we ask 1 step too many, too forward (transition to trot) or too long. #constructionaltraining

One very interesting discovery was that we were almost done and she just standing on a mat. I saw Josie stop, look at me and nicker. This nicker cues me to move her feet because I have been conditioned to expect her to rear when she does this at random times. If I anticipate the rearing I act inappropriately and start to fuss with the lead etc. this triggers her and she has reared in the past a number of times in that situation as well as when she is frustrated or she herself anticipates something uncomfortable. So, multiple triggers. As a result I decided to add head down to her repertoire. We have only scratched the surface of head down and I think this is her best replacement behavior for rearing as it is the total opposite as well as a calming behavior. As we know when horses have their head down they are comfortable and in a grazing position. I started head down today using just my hand on her poll to avoid any lead rope triggers and at first I could feel her resist. I asked a few times slowly shaping her until she offered it herself and CT'd that for a few reps. I used the head down behavior with my horse Jessie to replace the emotional baggage he came with regarding girthing. He took a good year or so of practicing this and he did get to the point where he would redirect himself from heading to swipe at me to putting his head down willingly. #implusecontrol #rearinghorses

Click here for a head lowering video with Josie and how it can help you with haltering and bridling as well as calming your horse. #headdown #headlowering #calmingbehaviorsforhorses

My last thought was to see how she felt about trotting some poles with me and halting on a mat at the end of the pattern. I am looking for ways to exercise her as she needs to lose more weight and this seemed like a fun way for her (we shall see lol). If she is on board we will add this (Activity 4) to her daily warm up.

At first she wasn't ready to do this at liberty as she was not sure what it was all about so I put her back on the lead and we trotted together over the poles me running along side her. I CT'd for clearing (stepping over without touching them) and also for ending and standing on the mat. 2 complete reps (loops) of that activity and called it a day. Phew.

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