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Marsha Craig’s progress continues

Published: 4/9/2014
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Popular guest columnist, Marsha Craig, took on a new project by the name of Precious, a miniature horse saved from a Camelot kill pen. She details the story, from initial inquiries to training successes here in three parts. Here is the finale to this series.
Read about Marsha and Lily and their therapy work.
Read Part I - Learning to Trust again
Read Part II - Thoughts on clicker training, learning from mistakes

By Marsha Craig

We’d been told Precious would offer up a foot when asked, so when I asked and she attempted a cow kick I was taken aback.  We spent another 10 minutes working with touching her back legs. The moment I touched a leg and she didn’t flinch, click, no words and treat!  When she flinched or kicked I said and did nothing.  

Grooming had not been a daily routine and any attempt was met with frantic movement, and when my hand got close enough, she tried to bite.

Another training session!

It was another hour of work. Jack and I returned to clean stalls, looked at each other and said, “what have we gotten ourselves into?”

Each day was and is a training session. It may be in the stall, grooming area, pasture, during walks on the road or in the woods and during visits in the house.  It is imperative each session end on a positive note and during each session there can never be any form of punishment.  

Training must be positive and fun.  We never let a training session become an all day marathon resulting in her thinking getting beaten and starved wasn’t all that bad!  Once we got past our initial panicky days, the training sessions were limited to 15 minutes.

Her list of fears would bore you to tears but the progress she has made would not.  We have had her 22 weeks and she is a changed horse.  

Don’t get me wrong.
We still have work to do and we’ve had our days of setbacks.  Five days ago, she started cow kicking again.  We’re working on it with training and checking with the vet to be sure it’s not a health issue.   
This morning, we had one flinch but no kick, YEAH!
Precious now comes to the gate when strangers visit. Traffic doesn’t bother her. Tools, lawn mower, snow blower? Not a bother.

We’ve taught her nose touch and foot touch using noisy trash and shaving bags.  If she shows fear, I ask her to touch and without hesitation she touches. That, my horse friends, is trust.  Training taught her to trust.  It didn’t matter how many people cleaned her stall and touched her, she needed to be taught to trust.  

Clicker training isn’t constant treating. Some people don’t realize that.  Training begins with an immediate click ‘n’ treat whenever the correct response is given (even at the time of the slightest correct movement). 

As the training progresses, the timing of the clicks and treating changes.  Once the action is a dependable response then we progress to using words to describe the accomplished action and when that is solid we turn to hand cues.  

Our long range goal for Precious is, being senior citizens, to bring her to a comfort and trust level for re-homing once we are physically unable to care for her.  Our short range goal, is for her to follow in Lily’s hoof prints in also becoming a registered Pet Therapy Animal (hence why the potty training being done now).  

A couple of weeks ago we were asked if several handicap adults could come to the house and visit the animals.  I couldn’t resist telling Precious’s history. Our visitors graciously agreed to let her visit, too. She did an impressive job and Dan seemed to enjoy getting a kiss from her.

If you’d like to watch Precious after two 15 minute training sessions take a peek here.

Keep in mind I got my first horse at age 62, I am not a horsewoman nor am I an expert in training or clicker training.  I’m just sharing what I’ve done with Precious (all my pets for that matter) and hope you enjoy.

Rescuing is an admirable thing to do.  But it is imperative to do more than change the geography of an animal. I hope everyone checks out A Home for Every Horse as their vision and mission to not only rescue but to train prior to finding a forever home is beyond admirable. 

View Reader Comments:

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4/10/2014 Julie
Great article and I am enjoying your record of the journey together with Precious!
4/10/2014 Rhonda
Great article Marsha! Your doing a wonderful job with her.

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