by Alexandra Kurland
I have a new favorite morning activity. I recently built a storage box for hay under the barn stairs. Now that all the doors are open for ventilation, it means that I can store a bale of hay there for the day’s feeding and still let Peregrine and Robin have the run of the barn. First thing in the morning the two of them get to go out on grass. Robin takes his grazing time very seriously, but Peregrine prefers to stay up in the barn with me. He’ll go down for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then he’s back up at the barn following me around like a puppy. This morning after I finished the morning chores, I got out my kindle reader and sat under the stairs on the hay box. It’s cool there out of the sun, and today that was especially welcome. The weather has made an abrupt jump from chilly spring to summer heat. So sitting for a few minutes in a cool part of the barn was a lovely treat. Peregrine came over and stood beside me. While I read, he fell asleep with his chin resting on the top of my head. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
I’ve been rereading a wonderful book called “Animal Wise” by Virginia Morrell. It’s on animal cognition which seems like an appropriate book to be reading with my very self-aware horse dozing beside me. If you are looking for a good summer read (even if you don’t have a horse to share it with), this is one I highly recommend.
Peregrine’s nap brings up an important aspect of training. I was wearing my vest. My pockets were full of food, but this wasn’t an offer-me-behavior activity. He didn’t need to back up, or pose, or offer leg flexions, or perform any of the other behaviors that would be appropriate at another time. This was a quiet, just-be-together time, and Peregrine knows the difference. This wasn’t taught by withholding treats or denying him clicker interactions. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve used the clicker to show him how we can both be comfortable in each other’s company. What that gives me is a complete relationship. He is both my working partner and my good friend. It’s easy to get so caught up in the big “fancy” behaviors, that you forget that the quiet little ones are just as important and just as engaging. In fact, this morning as my old friend dozed with his chin resting on my head, I would say that it’s the accumulation of little behaviors that create great training.
Alexandra Kurland will be giving a demonstration with one of her experienced students at the Conference and also addressing the question of “The Complete Clicker Trainer”. www.theclickercenter.com