Treats as a Tool
I was watching a few videos from my subscription to Mustang Maddy (Madison Shambaugh's) online library and decided to use what I had seen in our session yesterday.
In Maddy's video, she was using treats to help a horse relax. I like how she explained that it could be a very useful tool to have especially when traveling to shows/new places, where there might not be a lot of time or space for you to get your horse settled down before having to perform/compete.
At first, her horse was addicted to the gate, so if the horse opted to walk by it calmy without the need for any urging from Maddy, she clucked and treated it. Soon the horse was passing by the gate well. Next, she would wait for a nice exhale, or lick and chew before rewarding with a cluck and a treat. In this way, she rewarded relaxation very clearly, and within a few minutes, had a relaxed and forward horse. She did this at the walk, and at the canter...It takes quite a bit of skill and experience to be able to canter, feel the exhale, and cluck, stop, and treat, while riding on a bareback pad! You won't see that with me, but, I hope it will still be helpful!
My gelding Patxi is very herdbound and forward; the kind of guy who wants to please as a way of avoiding pressure. This seems nice, until you want a partner (which is what I want). I have made a lot of progress this year in getting him to "listen" rather than "guesstimate" what I am asking. I've also slowed myself down a lot to get him to "think about the meaning of" rather than "negatively anticipate" my cues.
He is such a good boy, not a moochie kind of guy, either, very respectful of my space, and so I thought I'd try this with him.
Although this clip makes us look awkwardly clonky, I am actually very proud of him, because as I try to adjust my cues to help him understand what I want, he does not (as he might have in the past) rush through and away from my cues, but stays in the moment and figures out what I want. (We walked and I asked for a sidepass; his shoulder was ahead of his hq, so I adjusted that, then transformed the sidepass into a turn on the hq.--I explain it becaause in the clip we are so not such smooth operators, and you might not realize what we are doing!!).
I even love how he takes the offered treat--doesn't ask, and feels grateful for it. He is so humble!
So impressed I am with this boy.