Princess Fancy Pants and I went for an outing yesterday - first time since October! I've been working on trailer loading again for the past few days to prepare, and yesterday morning she just walked right on. Good girl! We went to a place that is very close to my house, which makes it very convenient for going before work.
There are 16 or so horses at this place and they are all outside in paddocks, so Pony was very interested when we got there. I put her in the round pen so she could have a look-see and take it all in while I chatted with the trainer. Pony ran around with her tail up in the air and tried to get everyone's attention, but they didn't really pay her any mind. The owner's dog crawled under the round pen fence to snatch a piece of poop that Pony so kindly deposited, and I told the owner that we have dogs at home but they are on the other side of the fence so I didn't know what Pony would do. Well, she went right after that dog! She chased it around the round pen for a few laps before the dog had enough time to squeeze under the fence and get out. Hmmmm....maybe some day we can move cows for fun!
Owner left us alone to do our thing and so I just did some attention-getting stuff with her - as in, get your attention on me and not everything else. I remembered some things from my Harry Whitney clinic a couple years ago and so put that to work. Basically, whenever she looks away and puts her attention on something else, move in such a fashion to draw her attention back to me. If that doesn't work, add some sound (so, slapping my thigh), or another larger stimulus (flag or bag or jumping up and down or something). She caught on to that very quickly, and it didn't require running her around in the round pen.
Since I've done clicker training with her and had my bag of goodies on me for trailer loading, I thought I'd see if I could use that to keep her attention and shape her behavior to something new. There was a tire in the middle of the round pen with a platform mounted on top of it (it was stable). I wanted to see if I could get her to put a foot on the platform without me trying to lead her by halter to do so (her halter was off). So I stood with the platform in between us and just waited for her to do something. She put her nose down to check it out, so I clicked and gave her a treat. She knew it was training time. (Side note, this is how I usually start out with something - get her to touch it with her nose - so she's used to this pattern and she'll lower her head to do so, which is a relaxing posture.) She tried that a couple more times and got click/treats. Time to step it up a notch. I next wanted to get her to just touch the tire/platform with her foot. Since she's prone to pawing, shouldn't be too hard. As she was leaning forward asking me to give her a treat, I'd back up so that her body weight would come forward and she's shift her legs or take a step. By "mistake" she'd touch the target with her foot. Click/reward. But she didn't clue in right away so she kept trying to get a treat from me. We sort of circled around the target a couple times and then when she stepped toward it again, click/reward. Accidentally kick it, click/reward. Lift her foot up, click/reward. Put her foot on the target, click/reward (big reward of a cookie - small rewards are a few pieces of alfalfa pellets) and lots and lots of praise and the end of the exercise.
I put her halter on and we went to the arena to just walk around. They have a bigger platform there, so I tried it on that one just to see how it would go. Much faster this time, and she would hold her foot up there for longer. We didn't do that but for a minute or so. Called it a good first outing and went home.
I think she was a bit confused as to why we went there because she wasn't so anxious to leave, but we'll go back next week and soon hopefully it will be old hat!