March 14, 2005
The "Touch" Game - Part 4
It has finally gotten warm and dry enough here that I can start conditioning and training my donkeys for the summer show season. While they are getting better, my donkeys are still pretty out of shape. This last week I did training lessons with my gelding, Andy, almost every evening. After a little harder workout Wednesday evening, he really didn't think he was too happy about having to work.
When I got him out for a lesson Thursday evening, I knew he would be tired, so I decided to just do something fun and easy that he could feel good about and enjoy. I decided to do a short ground driving lesson with him. But Andy didn't know that I was going to be easy on him that day, and he was still pouting from the day before.
Andy doesn't usually do anything wild when he's not excited about something. In this particular case he let me halter him and take him to the barn with no complaints. But I could tell that even though he had come with me willingly, he didn't want to "talk" to me. I'd talk to him, and instead of turning and looking at me or moving closer to me for attention and treats, he just looked the other way and sort of grudgingly nibbled up the treats I offered him.
I knew that with Andy in that kind of a mood, it would be hard to have any kind of productive training lesson, so I had to find a simple and easy way to get him excited about playing with me that evening. This is where I find the "touch" game to be so helpful. It's easy. It's simple. And tired Andy could do it well and feel good about it without having to work much at all.
So I showed Andy that I had treats with me. Then I asked him to touch my hand. At first he just wanted to ignore me, but after thinking about it a little bit, he decided to reach out and touch my hand. I immediately gave him a great and lots of praise. Within a matter of a few minutes he had almost forgotten his tired muscles, and was happily doing whatever I asked.
I was careful to keep our lesson short and do easy things that wouldn't be to tiring for him that evening. By the end of the 15-20 minute lesson Andy was in a much better mood, and was still ready to play more when I decided to quit on a good note and put him away for the evening.
In this case the "touch" game was a simple and easy test to see where Andy's mind was and to help him become interested in working with me instead of stewing over how tired he was from the day before and how hard he thought I was making him work.
Just use your creativity, and I'm sure you'll find many applications for this handy little tool.
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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at March 14, 2005 08:13 PM