Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Thought

On this day when we traditionally take stock of our blessings, I want to share a powerful statement with you. It was uttered 150 years ago by one of our most beloved presidents, a man who was burdened with pressure, self-doubt, and personal tragedy.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln.

The truth of this statement has been proven to me over and over. Happiness truly is a choice and when you make that choice, life often gets better. I can't explain it but I know that visualizing the person you want to be and the life you want to have makes it far more likely to become reality. Act happy and you will begin to feel happy. Be thankful for the blessings in your life and you will begin to see more of them at every turn.

Have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving from all of us at The Horse Show.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hand-feeding Treats - Part 2

I have mentioned several times a game that we play with our horses that reinforces the right way to receive a food treat. We call the game, “Pretend you don’t want it.” I’ve been asked to explain it in print, so here goes. I’ll use my mare, Candy, in the example.

I have Candy in a rope halter with a lead rope so I have a measure of control over her. I step in front of her and ask her to stand quietly and look at me from a respectful distance. I hold the treat up, say her name and make sure she is looking straight at me. Then I say, “pretend you don’t want it.” She swings her head around to one side, almost looking at her tail. I say, “good girl!” and give her the treat. (Going away from food is not instinctive to a horse. It must be learned. We also require our horses to back up at feeding time, but that’s another story.)

Teaching this game is no different than teaching any other cue. You reward the slightest try, and each time you expect a little more. You give her time to think about it between attempts, and you find a good note to end on. Don’t expect her to learn this perfectly the first day and don’t repeat it too many times. Better to work on it a little every day. Final tip: she will start anticipating you, meaning she will start swinging her head around before you’ve asked for it. Do not reward that! We don’t want to reward a horse for anticipating our cues, even if it’s to do something good.

Oh, yes – and this goes back to the actual technique of hand-feeding the treat – Candy is not allowed to move her feet toward me to collect her treat. I reach toward her and she stretches her neck out to gently take the treat from the palm of my hand.