December 20, 2015

Trick Training Your Equine: Frisbee

Ever since a video of Jethro playing Frisbee went viral, the most frequently asked question I receive is, "HOW ON EARTH DID YOU TEACH HIM THAT?!?!" Today, I am finally answering the question of how to teach this party trick.

Yup, I taught Jethro how to play frisbee! I think he may be part dog...Follow Jethro by liking The Moody Mare!
Posted by The Moody Mare on Friday, October 24, 2014

Step 1: Clicker training and targeting

Before you roll your eyes and tell me that clicker training will 100% ruin your animal, hear me out and check out these two good reads: Clicker Training Myths and The Click That Teaches.

Clicker training is simply a reinforcement method — something that concisely tells your animal, "YES, that is what I want!" if used correctly.  You can use it with any discipline — whether you are an eventer, barrel racer, or simply putz around — and with any training method such as natural horsemanship. It is simply a reinforcement tool that you don't even have to use 24/7.
  1. Buy a clicker and cut up some carrots/apples/treats.
  2. Choose a target. This can be anything. A cone, a water bottle, a pool noodle on the end of a whip, or my favorite, a Whips-a-Daisy.
  3. Go out to the barn.
  4. Stick your animal on the hitching post or in their stall (with a stall guard)
  5. Stand back. This is essential in the beginning.
  6. Hold out the target.
  7. Wait for them to touch it with their nose.
  8. Upon touching it, click and give them a treat.
  9. Repeat
NOTE: In the beginning, you may notice mouthy behavior. It is important to note that this is just a phase and 100% normal. The animal is new to this method, and thus does not know how to properly take a treat yet. If your horse attempts to mug you, push their head away and step back. Completely ignore them and pretend as if they do not exist. Eventually, they will lose interest and look away. When they do this, give them a click and a treat. Animals are not clueless, if you consistently do this they will likely put two and two together and realize that they do not get treats for being rude. Ypke, my Fjord, was completely horrible in the beginning, though we worked through it.

trick training your equine
Jethro targeting with his Whips-a-Daisy

Step 2: Introducing the Frisbee

Once your equine gets the hang of how to target and properly take a treat, you are ready for step 2.
  1. Purchase a Frisbee. I personally recommend getting one with a hole in the center since it makes it easier for the equine to grab.
  2. Introduce the Frisbee as a new target. Hold it out, have them touch it with their nose, and give them a click and a treat.
  3. Repeat step 2 until they understand the Frisbee is a target.
trick training frisbee

Step 3: Holding the Frisbee
  1. Touch the corner of their mouth, almost as if you are asking for them to accept the bit.
  2. Once their mouth opens, place in the Frisbee.  Immediately give them a click and a treat before they spit it out.
  3. Repeat step 5 until they realize that they are supposed to hold the Frisbee, not just touch it.  This is the most difficult step because with targeting, they are discouraged from biting their target, so they will be confused about why you are allowing this.
trick training frisbee

Step 4: Picking up the Frisbee
  1. Drop the Frisbee at your feet.
  2. Wait for them to pick it up.
  3. Once they pick it up, immediately click and give them a treat.
NOTE: They will likely just try to touch the Frisbee with their nose and become confused that you are not acknowledging their efforts. Simply wait it out, no matter how long it takes.

Step 5: Retrieving the Frisbee
  1. Throw the Frisbee.
From this point, one of two things will happen:

Option 1: They stare at you like you are an idiot. If this happens, walk with them to the Frisbee and point at it. At this point in their training, they have enough knowledge to pick it up. See option 2 for how to progress.

Option 2: They will immediately run after it, pick it up, but just stand there and not bring it back. The first few times they do, physically walk to them and give them the click/treat.  Eventually, you will want to stand your ground and wait for them to come to you. It may take a while, but they will come.

NOTE: It is imperative that you start out by throwing it short distances and gradually increasing the distance as the equine becomes more experienced.  Do not throw it 50 feet the first time you want them to fetch it. This is discouraging.

And there you have it!

Disclaimer because of people: This post is based off of my own personal experiences, and I am not a professional trainer. While my experiences have been positive and these steps worked for me, I cannot guarantee the same for you. Don't sue me if you or your animal suffer negative consequences. Train at your own risk. 

December 12, 2015

Small Business Saturday: Frilly Fillies

What is your horse getting for Christmas? 
"All Frilly Fillies Bonnets are handmade in the U.S.A. These luxurious and durable bonnets are made of specialty yarn in a variety of vibrant and stylish colors and designs. Each bonnet is custom designed for you and made to order, creating a look that will ensure that your show horse catches the judge’s eye and is the envy of your barn."

Frilly Fillies, a small business owned and operated by Nancy Dein, specializes in making quality custom fly bonnets right here in the United States (California to be exact). It all started back in 2012 when her daughter wanted a bright red bonnet for eventing.  After searching around, she couldn't find quite what she was looking for.

Custom fly bonnet

Nancy, considering herself to be somewhat crafty, picked up her crocheting hook and set to work at making a bonnet that was just the shade of red they were hoping for. However, she soon realized that coming up with the perfect pattern for a fly bonnet was no simple task. After much trial and error, she finally had the formula of how to make a stellar bonnet.

Custom fly bonnet

As people around their barn, Dragonfire Farm, began noticing the bonnets, Nancy received great feedback. The bonnets even caught the eye of Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett, who was leading a clinic at Dragonfire at the time. Soon enough, she had a small business on her hands! Upon her son and nephew building her a website, orders started to pour in. In fact, she outfitted the U.S. eventing team with bonnets for last summer's Pan Am Games, and she is supplying the U.S. eventing and dressage teams with bonnets for the Olympics.

Custom fly bonnet

A crucial part of her business model is customer service. Since she doesn't keep bonnets "in stock," all orders are custom made. Due to this, occasionally customers accidentally measure incorrectly [side note: aka totally me], and thus the bonnet doesn't fit. If you order from Frilly Fillies and your bonnet doesn't fit, Nancy guarantees she will fix it free of charge, no big deal.

Custom fly bonnet

While Nancy primarily does the bonnets by herself, when there are copious amounts of orders to be filled she enlists the help of a friend to work on the base pieces.  Despite some assistance, Nancy prides herself in working on, inspecting, and packaging each individual bonnet.  She always cuts the ear fabric herself and enjoys working on the decorative trim, piping, and rhinestones.

Custom fly bonnet

Along with her special pattern, each bonnet has unique, quality materials.  She only uses the softest bamboo jersey and all ear materials are four way stretch with multiple varieties: jersey, velvet, Ice Fill Cool Mesh (yep, that's the stuff Kerrits uses!), and small hole mesh.

Shhhh, don't tell Ypke, but she is getting one for Christmas. Can't wait to see how swanky and stylish ponykins looks sporting her new fly bonnet! 

Be sure to like Frilly Fillies on Facebook, so you can stay up to date with their latest designs!

December 5, 2015

3 Things My Donkey Taught Me

In honor of Jethro's rapidly approaching second birthday, I figured it was time to recognize the life lessons he has taught me + share some ear pictures.

1. Accept imperfection
I have always been an over-analytical perfectionist, but the fact of life is that you won't always be 100% successful at everything you do... and I finally accepted that. Give 110% effort into whatever you do and don't quit, but acknowledge that things won't always work out and there is no use in dwelling over the doors that closed. Use those unsuccessful attempts for motivation.

Sometimes things seem to be going really well, but then suddenly your baby donkey goes into "I hate the world and everyone in it" tantrum mode and nearly tramples some toddlers. It is okay (as long as you don't get sued) — you can work through those baby stages and laugh about it someday.

2. Choose your battles wisely
Know when to step up or step down. Not everything in life is worth fighting for, and some issues that seem super important at the time are quite insignificant.

If your baby donkey takes a couple of small steps when asked to halt (while still new to the concept) you should *probably* not draw even the slightest attention to it otherwise a huge fit due to Short Man's Syndrome may occur. Like I said before, accept imperfection, particularly when starting a new concept, and know that the issue will likely solve itself in time.

3. It is okay to ask for help
One thing I have gotten way better at this year is asking questions. I once had a teacher that said "don't fail silently, ask questions" and five years later, I have finally heeded that advice. While the thought of admitting confusion used to embarrass me, I realized it is okay to not have all the answers. Sometimes you have to seek out people who have more knowledge than you in a given area.

While training Jethro from scratch has been mostly smooth sailing, there have been bumps in the road where I wasn't sure why we couldn't master that one showmanship maneuver. After asking for advice, he is a pro at something that once seemed unattainable.