Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I finally figured out how to start training the "bow" with other than normal tactics!!! Yay!

For some time now, both Mira & I have been boorrred with not being able to ride. Grooming & feeding, grooming & feeding, is nice but lacks... pizzaz and interest. :-) I have been wracking my brains trying to figure out an alternative way to teach a variation of the bow. What I would like is for me to cue Mira, for her to pick up her foot so that her knee is nice and high, and for her to pose that way for a couple seconds until I cue her out of it. I do not intend to teach her the real version of the bow, as that would be hard on her old bones & joints.

(I found an 11 second video of a mare that looks a lot like Mira, wearing the SAME type halter, bowing - here ya go! Link)

I kept thinking and thinking about what would be the best way to teach this trick. There are 2 main methods I have researched:

Traditional: Tap horse on cannon bone (shin) over and over until horse gets frustrated and strikes out, at which you immediately stop tapping and praise lavishly. Repeat until horse can strike leg out every time whip is pointed as a cue. This is also the way the Spanish Walk, pictured above, is usually trained.

What I didn't like - Purposely making your horse that frustrated seems very counter-productive to the overall goals of training. Plus, it works better with male horses. Mira would be more likely to bite if she got that mad!

Clicker Training: Teach horse basics of this method first, and then train horse to bow in many small steps of progression.

What I didn't like - I think clicker training is good for a lot of people, but it doesn't mesh that well with my personality. I do like their rules on not treating the horse if it is being pushy in any way, though.

My Experimental Way: (I am sure someone else has done this with their horse before, so don't take me as claiming to have invented this - I just haven't read about this anywhere is all!)

Goal-train her to move her leg towards a steady tapping that is associated with a verbal cue, "Foot." This will enable me to move her leg in any direction I need it to go, and make it a much more flexible trick than I was thinking originally.

Plan-Tap steadily on back of her front cannon bone, repeating verbal cue, and back her up. As soon as the leg starts to leave the ground, STOP tapping, praise happily, and give her a piece of banana.

Results after one session-Ta da! Three bananas, or about 20 repetitions, and she has already figured out the concept! I am jazzed :-D

I will get pictures as soon as I can borrow a camera again, and keep you guys updated on the progress! For now, I'll just say Mira was more than ready for some training and mental stimulation... I think her dream career would have been showing off several cool tricks daily for adoring crowds. She probably wanted to grow up to be a circus horse. :-D

Anyway, I am typing this in a hurry, so I hope it's at least semi-understandable. Have a good night, everyone!



photogchic said...

I have been wanting to do some clicker training now that Maddy is in the stall. Let me know which of your training tactics work best.

N said...

That's great, L! Starting to teach Mira tricks, eh? Keep it up!

Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds to me like you have a great plan. Teaching her tricks will be something for both of you to think about and work on together without hurting her. Way to go!