Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nigel and The Trailer and The Game of Standing Still.

Probably the biggest thing I've learned from Linda Parelli* this year is "make it a game". Make it a game!!! How simple right?

Nigel is so amazing I very much want to take him places. As a result I am highly motivated to solve this bloody trailer issue. Thank heavens because my brain has been smoking for over a year.

To recap...issue number one is that he is not a fan of standing still when it is not his idea. Particularly in the trailer or in his stall. He can throw an absolute Left Brained* temper tantrum. Not a drip of sweat after piaffing, levading, kicking and pounding for hours and hours.

Issue number two: (which we just yesterday got to start working on) is that he is Right Brained* afraid of driving away and leaving the herd. He breaks into a full body sweat as soon as we leave the driveway. Literally dripping with fear. The Right Brained issue just needs approach and retreat. I already knew how to do that. The Left Brained issue was the one giving me fits.

About the second week in July I figured out that I could use the clicker to mark the standing still and reward him for it. So we've built up from less than a 5 1 7 minutes. Then I decided I'd see about the trailer.

Let me just say that not only am I working on Nigel standing still...I'm working on myself. It is not easy to be still for a Right Brained Extrovert like me. I gathered a few tools to help. Blackberry for emailing and texting, hands free for talking on the phone, Dick and Felix Francis' new book Crossfire on the Ipod, the stopwatch for visible progress and the magic clicker. LOL. Pretty funny but painfully true! Well, the pain has been worth it. We have made real progress. Over the last week Nigel made the leap from standing in the trailer with the back door closed, tied with the front door open. At first I had to sit with him. Now I can push wheel barrows around and pick blackberries. Perhaps I should get the weedwhacker out. He easily can now do 20 minutes.

Over the last few days I've been starting to close the front door. With the door closed, we're starting from the beginning building from one moment. But it is going much faster. He starts to paw when I close it but then obviously remembers that the answer is standing still. He's up to still for over a whole minute.

I figure once he can tolerate that, I'll start rattling things and tapping the trailer.

Yesterday is the first day since we started the clicker that I moved the trailer with him in it. I think it went superbly. I can say without a doubt....that if I can solve this...if he and I can solve this...and become confident enough to travel around town will be my biggest horsemanship success.

Here's where we started:
Yesterday Part One:

Yesterday Part Two:

*see glossary at the bottom of the page.


  1. way to go!!! what you lack in patience you definitely make up for in determination! love the pix of your "tools". :)

  2. Hi Emma
    Firstly - Nigel is so gorgeous - he reminds me so much of Garbo - especially in the stall and the float (trailer)... Garbo jumps up and down like that (almost exactly) when he's in a confined yard and 1.another horse is taken away or taken out of view or 2. a new horse has just arrived and he therefore can't boss them around - even the biting at the other horse was the same.

    You have done a fantastic job with the clicker training and increasing the time and adding the doors closed one by one (and starting over).... that's really awesome. Well done - marvelous savvy.

  3. lisa, ha! oh yes. you know it.

    vicki, isn't it fascinating??? i'd love to see vid of garbo.

  4. this is great progress Emma! really really great!

  5. thanks so much beth. at least you know i'm committed right?

  6. Hi Emma
    Well here is a video of Garbo (pre Parelli) there was a stallion on the side of the arena - looking at it now I can see how distracted he was - and forgive the riding please... but you'll see the same "throwing his toys out of the playpen" LOL

  7. Love the pic and videos... Good play! The comment about the blackberries made me think of the climbing blackberries in my parents yard when I was a kid in Germany. Big, black and juicy. Hmmm.... I can only dream of them here on top of the mountain :-) Well, there is always Citymarket downtown, but still - not the same.
    Hope you had a safe and easy trip back home....

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Trainee Instructor
    Parelli Central

  8. petra! it was sooooooooo great to see you and give you a big hug! i think i ate at least a cup of blackberries last night. lol. nigel and key had quite a few as well.

  9. vicki! i've been trying to watch your vid. it keeps crashing and won't let me see. boo!

  10. Try this link Emma - this was pre Parelli...