If you haven’t been following along, catch up on Odin’s story on the Colorado Horse Rescue website (here) and on our latest blog post from March 5 (here). This was the day where we really got to see the nitty-gritty of Sarah’s training program for Odin. Interested in some training tips? Here are some main points distilled from Sarah’s narration in the video below.
Only Positive Experiences
Because Odin has only had positive experiences and training methods since his arrival at CHR, he is easy to catch and eager to problem-solve when learning a new skill. Odin is willing to try new things because he isn’t afraid of getting chastised. You will see in the video what just a few months of positive reinforcement can do to transform a nearly feral unhandled stallion into a calm and willing gelding.
Odin Says: People used to scare me, but now that I’ve met some nice ones I kinda like ‘em!
Set Small, Achievable Goals
Horses can get frustrated if they don’t understand what is being asked of them. You can see in the video that Sarah is building on the skills that are showcased in earlier videos. Every time Odin reacts the way Sarah wants, he gets praised or a break. When he doesn’t, she patiently keeps asking until he figures it out himself. She only asks him to do things that he has a good chance at success with based on his level of training, and as a result, he approaches training with a lot more confidence than one would expect from his past. The take home here is that setting your horse up for success benefits both of you!
Odin Says: Can you believe I got a treat for walking around a little in my new outfit??
Always Keep the Situation as Controlled as You Can
As most horse people can attest, there is only so much you can do to make dealing with a large prey animal controlled and safe. However, the choices you make in your training can minimize your (and your horse’s!) risk. In the video, you will see that Sarah starts the girth training with a rope looped around the saddle and Odin’s belly. This way, if he panics when he feels the unaccustomed pressure there is an immediate release and you can start again. If a horse is girthed loosely the saddle can roll around creating another scary stimulus. If the horse is girthed tightly, if they explode there is no release and it prolongs the scary situation. Worst case scenario this gives the horse a pretty legitimate fear of saddles and girthing that you will now have to work to undo. Think about how horses might react from fear or lack of understanding before you begin your session and plan ahead for success!
Odin Says: Sometimes I get scared, but Sarah is always there to hold my hoof!
Quit While You’re Ahead
One of the best rewards you can give your horse is a release from pressure or a break from work. Instead of drilling skills over and over, Sarah lets Odin move on when he is successful. In the long term practice makes perfect, but ask yourself if you are rewarding your horse when they show that they are trying, even if it isn’t the full expression of the behavior you are looking for.
Odin Says: Sometimes I like to mull things over a bit with Dart before trying again another day! He isn’t a genius like me but I love the big lug.
Check in with us next week for another visit, more adorable Odin pony pics, and more training tips from the ever-smiling Sarah! This is one smart pony!