It’s been really exciting to follow @intrinzen (on Instagram) as their philosophy closely matches mine (more then any trainer I’ve ever reviewed) and has been a lot of what I’ve personally been striving towards but without having as clear or developed a training plan as they have.
Their program literally has been a bridge for me to figure out where and how to take Dante to get him stronger and closer to riding! I’d highly suggest checking out their IG account, and if you like what you see, visit them on Facebook.
Panther Walk is a term they have coined for an exercise they teach to help the horse regain his self carriage and pride in himself. It’s a precursor to improving the horses’ movement all through +R. Here is a description by Kathy:
The slow, effortful, exaggerated walk is a near-perfect exercise for mobility and stability/motor control–the keys we need for self-carriage. Imagine yourself balancing by standing on one leg, and then reaching forward and having to catch yourself from falling. This is a “self-balancing” exercise because we do not tell the horse how to move– we give him a goal (like reaching for a target with his front leg) and the horse has to organize himself to keep going without falling. It can take a few months to develop this exaggerated walk (we call it Panther Walk….
I’ve been experimenting to see how I would do that as Dante doesn’t like to move – standing still is more his style 😉 so what he does is instead of moving forward he just keeps stretching and stretching like one of those long slinky Dachshund kiddie pull along toys.
Usually I’m standing at his side, but my videographer needed some space so I’m a bit more forward then I would like to be. Standing in front of him inhibits the desire to move forward; standing at his side gives him more options to move.
Before this video, he had already been exposed to clicker training months back and he had been taught to lift the leg using a short target. Now I’ve changed to a long target (pool noodle mounted on a fishing rod) and I want alternate leg lifts that show some sort of movement forward:
Some different ideas of how to get your horse moving forward after he knows stationary leg lifting:
1.) Ask him to start alternating his leg lifts. Alternating will often move them forward because they sometimes take a step forward when they change legs.
2.) Another direction could include asking him to leg lift once, step forward and then give the second leg lift. Whatever seems more natural to you and your horse.
These techniques above are called Chaining and/or a Behavior Chain: A series of behaviors (alternating leg lifts) linked together in a continuous sequence by cues (me alternating my leg lifts), and maintained by a reinforcer (food treat) at the end of the chain. Each cue (leg lift) serves as the marker and the reinforcer for the previous behavior, and the cue (changing my leg) for the next behavior.
What naturally happened is that Dante knows he gets rewarded for a leg lift. He just keeps lifting the same leg though so what do you do? You ignore. This is a Differential Reinforcer. You can find more Definitions referenced here. So it’s important that you wait and give your horse time to figure it all out on HIS OWN.
My experience is that horses that know X (lift foreleg) start repeating that one behavior RRRR (lets say the right leg only) to get that treat! When you ignore it, he will keep repeating until he tires and decides to lift the other leg L. That is when you Click and give him a Jackpot (bigger number of treats, more favorite treat) as the reward and end the session. Eventually he will figure out he has to do RL not RR or LL.
A big problem for us is when we do standing activities he likes to drop. I’ve got to click when he isn’t dropped because doing so when he is excited in his man parts, literally “marks” that behavior as desired (oh brother).
I decided to work with a long target so he is further away from me (my presence often excites this behavior – I know, I know) and where I can easily see if he has dropped (without bending around and looking under when I’ve just missed the behavior to mark).
If he drops, I have these options: a.) remove the target and suspend the game (ignore); b.) remove the treat reward and give a scratch reward; c.) up the speed – we do a little chase target and when trotting he’ll generally retract; and/or d.) change the game – we go to chasing a ball where he seldom drops.
So the above videos are in no way a completed horse doing the Panther Walk exercise correctly. I’m showing you the beginning of this process and I’ll update as we improve 😉