All natural horse care in the west of Ireland

Know When to Stop
Saturday, 06 December 2008

Today I decided to try practise the figure eight pattern around two barrels with Polly, Magpie and Harley.

I started with Harley and it was slow going but we were making progress.

Harley was offering lots of answers to start with but not the answer to the question.

Eventually, he got it and he done a wonderful figure eight around the barrels.

But did I stop there, NO!!

Because it was so good I asked him again and the next time he stood in front of each barrel and knocked them down.

I couldn't stop there as he would have thought the answer to the question was to knock the barrels over.

As we continued to try and get the right answer again he went through his vocabulary of answers, lifting his legs in turn, knocking barrels, standing on the podium beside me, and even stepping over barrels that he knocked over.

I was getting so frustrated because I knew I should have stopped when he gave me the right answer rather than pushing him for more!!

I asked my young friend Annalice to help me guide him around the barrels as I directed him from the podium.

We done this a couple of times then I asked him the question again and he done it without the help of Annalice. We stopped there.

Had I have stopped on his first successful try I would have saved us both having to go through the whole process over and over again.

I KNOW that you are supposed to reward the smallest try but I think human nature took over, or maybe it was pride, but when Harley got the right answer I wanted more but I should have STOPPED!!

Next, was Magpie. She got it straight away and so did I.

She done the figure eight and I resisted the urge to keep going. We stopped immediately, she got her reward, an apple treat and a stroke. She seemed pleased that she got the answer straight away and I was happy that I made the question clear enough for her to understand. This time I knew when to stop, I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.

Then Polly's turn. Not as quick as Magpie but we got a circle around each barrel and stopped there. We will try to improve on that in the next session.

Lesson: reward the try.

A horse learns that he/she has the right answer when you stop asking the question.

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