Sunday, October 2, 2011

Key Concepts: The Patience Game

I got to thinking about how I've never really gone into the philosophy I'm using to train Starbuck... in other words the "why" of what we do.  And now that I think of it, it's probably not as self-evident as I think it is.  So for some of the upcoming posts I'll be going into some detail about some of the "key concepts" that guide everything I try to do while training or even just hanging out with my babygirl.

The first and most important since it comes into play in any and all situations is the Patience Game.  I found this article by Cheryl Sutor online when we were first starting out and it's really helped me to stay constant, unemotional and focused when otherwise I would probably get frustrated and either give up or get mad.  Basically the idea is that every time you ask your horse to do something with a signal you want her to learn or think she already knows, if she doesn't respond at first you must be constant and keep applying the signal until she responds correctly.  Otherwise the horse learns that if she just ignores you long enough, you'll stop applying the signal.

So without further ado, here are some excerpts from the article:

"Would you like your horse to become more responsive to your cues? Have you ever applied a cue to your horse, only to find that he is completetly ignoring your request? You know for a fact your horse can feel the cue, but he is simply ignoring and/or refusing to obey to his full potential. We call this the "The Patience Game", all horses have played this game with their owner/trainer, some more than others.

The horse knows that he does not have to obey the cue, he thinks if he can just ignore it or pretend it's not there, you will give up and release the pressure. You must teach the horse that he will never again win at this game. "

"If you release the pressure from your cue before the horse responds as desired, you will have taught him that your cue means 'do nothing' or 'do the wrong thing'. If you just stick in there and show your horse that you have more patience than him by steadily applying the cue until the desired result is met, he will soon learn that he will not win at this patience game! The result is a much more responsive horse."

And here's a practical example:

"A trainer is teaching a foal to be halterbroke. The trainer applies pressure forward on the halter to ask him to step forward. The foal does not step forward, instead he steps backwards. The trainer then releases the pressure and decides it will be easier to ask him to turn first, to get him going. HORSE WINS! Trainer loses! Ha Ha!

Ideal scenario: The trainer instead keeps the pressure applied until the foal takes a step forward, then immediately removing the pressure as a reward. TRAINER WINS! Horse loses. Yay!"

--From The Patience Game ( by Cheryl Sutor 

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