La Vie en Rose: observing the pace

Of course every week at work is interesting but some sessions just twang your heart strings and this last couple of weeks there have been a few.

The amazing Dancer and his (equally amazing) mum had an epiphany (me too) when we stripped everything back to zero. Turns out she had always felt she should have some progress to report, some big achievement at each meeting.

How wrong could she have been! This incredible person who draws on her lifetime of experience to guide her towards the absolute truth from her horse had no need to feel the need to perform.

We looked to ourselves. Our timing. Our tidiness in cues and reinforcing. We changed the environment and watched for the signals from Dancer and acted on them. I have no video but if I had it would be unlikely to convey anything close to the emotion we all felt as Dancer created his own cues for us. Just to observe him setting the pace was uplifting.


Back to Rose where we have been allowing her to lead the pace too. To some it might seem counter-intuitive to allow the horse to control the pace of learning. Increasingly these techniques are being referred to as start buttons which is a great handle and clearly explains how they can be used.

Observation is key. The horse deserves our full attention, how can we expect their attention if ours wanders?

Observation is key. Cuing, re-cuing, throwing of the kitchen sink to get behaviour when the horse’s mind is elsewhere (chewing, listening to things we can’t hear etc) is a pointless waste of time and energy.

Here’s Rose beginning a new behaviour- putting her head into the cordeo. I’m working hard at being the same every time I set up the behaviour, that’s really important. No hand in the food (unless that is part of my cue), no offering the cordeo before Rose signals that she’s ready, no spurious additional tics from me.

At 12 seconds she clearly tells me she’s ready to go again. At 21 seconds she tells me again. At 34 seconds I felt I missed a subtle yes, at 40 seconds I didn’t miss it a second time. The last, at 52 seconds, came after a big distraction but with no cuing from me (aside from the fact that I was there) she came straight back with the continue signal.

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