Still lame and very cold


I thought Dante had recovered enough to be let out to the big pasture, but the next day it was obvious that no, he was still sore on his stifle, so back to stall rest. (this photo shows that we had a little deer visitor overnight)

Saturday it got extremely cold and while we had a cold drizzle and a very small amount of snow, I was lucky that I could still get out to do the horses (feed, check the water etc…). Dulce had ice balls packed into the hooves and we were fortunate enough that she stood still long enough to let us get them out.

Between weather and lameness there isn’t much to do at the barn except chores.

However, I am doing a R+ exercise that is different then what I usually do. For example, if I am training Dante to stand quietly at the mounting block, I use a target to lead Dante to the mounting block and then reward when he stands still. I am encouraging a certain type of behavior to happen through shaping and targeting.

This training exercise, is instead looking for a behavior that Dante spontaneously offers such as a stretch where he puts both of his forelegs far forward and then bends his chest down to the ground. He loves to do this on his own. He sometimes does this when I show up at the barn in the morning to feed as a feel-good-wakeup-stretch and each time he has done it I have given him big praise and a bonus treat.

I’ve been doing this for 8 weeks and probably have only caught him about 5 times. I am waiting to see how long it takes him to figure out that if he does this behavior on his own he gets a treat. I’ll know when he figures this out because he will start offering this behavior outside of his regular time and will do it more often.

It’s an interesting time-test on shaping vs.rewarding spontaneous behavior. What is particularly interesting to me is a comment I read that training in this way will stick with the horse longer (because he has to use his on intellect to figure it out) and you often see more motivation from the horse because it is a horse-offered activity. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.


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