Grooming is one of the trainer’s favorite activities. In this task, we try to make it equally pleasant for the animal. Signs that a horse is enjoying the session are extending upper lip, closing eyes, leaning into the scratch, lowered head and floppy ears. Try to map out what makes your particular horse feel good.
Task 11 Subtask 1 Stand for CDP(5) with Mustang Tamer Stick 3x *
Objective: The horse will stand relaxed while it is scratched.
The Set-Up: Use a common back-scratcher (available for about a dollar) or one of our special mustang tamer sticks (available for $35 but made from a common backscratcher).
Prerequisite Training: The horse has been touched everywhere on its body (T9) and is generally relaxed (T10).
Protocol: Start scratching the horse at the withers. Be as rhythmic as possible. Your goal is to scratch all over the body (but not the legs) and find the places where the mustang enjoys scratching the most. Randomly bridge and reinforce for any signs of relaxation… sighing, floppy ears, low head, or sleepy eyes. Make the reinforcements big. If the horse is just really just relaxed, you could even allow open access to a pile of hay.
QC: CDP(5) over body with Mustang Tamer Stick 3x with no OMG
- What if my mustang doesn’t enjoy being touched? Try to make sure that you are behaving as another horse would do mutual grooming. Not like a dictator or tyrant. Then keep at it. The horse will become accustomed to it, then really enjoy it.
- What if I have tried but it still doesn’t like being touched. Go back to petting and scratching with hands. Bridge/feed for any sign of enjoyment/relaxation such as slow blinking, lips sticking out and wiggling, lower lip hanging, sighing, ears flopping outwards. Yes, you can condition emotional states with operant procedures.
Task 11 Subtask 2 Stand CDBrushing(5) for grooming 3x
Objective: The horse will stand quietly while it is brushed or curried.
The Set-Up: Have a variety of brushes and try to pick out ones that feel good on the body part you are brushing. Scratchy is good for the withers and topline, but soft is good for body parts like the legs. Experiment.
Prerequisite Training: The horse knows how to relax while it is touched all over its body.
Protocol: Show the horse the brush before you start and bridge and reinforce for sniffing it calmly. Pick out the part of the body you are most likely to succeed with and start there. Your brush strokes should be absolutely rhythmic or you should use a longer countdown such as 10. Brush and bridge/reinforce for calm acceptance. Try to keep it as pleasurable to the horse as possible. Doing this every day is highly recommended.
QC: CDP(5) over body with brush or curry 3x with no OMG
- What if it seems to tickle? Try changing brushes or just using your fingertips. The tickle will become less as the horse is relaxed.
- What if my horse is acting jumpy? Figure out what distractions are bothering him and try to limit them. Change locations if your horse is already leading. Go back and do the hand touches, mustang tamer, etc if needed.
Task 11 Subtask 3 Stand for CDP(5) with guider stick on legs 3x *
Overall objective: The horse should stand relaxed while the legs are rubbed from body to hooves with the guider stick.
The Set-Up: You will need a motivated horse and a guider stick.
Prerequisite Training: The horse should be comfortable about being touched all over its body (T9). The horse should be accustomed to the guider stick (T5). The horse should be comfortable about being scratched with the Tamer Stick (T11.1).
Protocol: Review scratching with the Tamer Stick for a moment, then trade the Tamer Stick for the guider stick. Work your way down each leg with CDRubbing(5). Bridge and feed after every count-down in which the horse does not move. If the horse moves pull the stick off the horse and quit counting. Start over again when the horse is ready.
QC: Stand for CDP(5) with guider stick up and down each leg 3x with no OMGs.
- What if the stick is too scarey on the leg? Try just momentarily touching the hoof with the tip of the stick.