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Harness & wagon fitting queries - Printable Version

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RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Sanhestar - 03-12-2018

the reversing is to teach them that the pressure against the hindlegs isn't scary and that they can move the weight. Also to build up some muscle in the hindquarter.

To teach I would start with a weight shift backwards.

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - DownUnder Gal - 03-22-2018

Koby had a week off driving practice when we went away for a few days so today was the first lesson in two weeks. I thought he would have forgotten a lot but he did great. He is backing much better now that I am behind him in the cart.  I need to lengthen the reins somehow because they're not quite long enough for me to reach over the back of the cart comfortably.  We are taking small steps forward but always progressing Smile


RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Nanno - 03-22-2018

He looks great!

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - DownUnder Gal - 04-05-2018

Need some advice please. Our current challenge is how to stop Koby from tossing his head up and down when he wants to go in a direction away from where I want him to go. We've introduced the whip and it is working quite well, although I need to practise co-ordinating my own hand movements better.  Koby is SO strong, he almost pulls the reins out of my hands when he puts his head down and tries to go towards the paddock gate where his buddies are.  My current answer to this is to make him halt, then "back" (the latter which he is now very good at) and also we go around another circle of the paddock to show him that kind of behaviour only means more work for him.  I always ensure we end the lesson on a positive note.  Maybe it's time to take him away from our property so that the distraction of his friends is removed altogether.  At the moment I feel it is a battle of our respective wills and the fun factor is waning.  He definitely no longer seems concerned about the cart behind him and you can see his brain ticking over, wondering how he can outsmart me.  I am still ground driving from out back because I don't think I'd have complete control if he really decided to assert himself in one direction.   Any tips?

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Nanno - 04-05-2018

If you can take him away from home until he's really solid on your commands he might behave better. Distraction by buddies is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome and even seasoned goats can forget their manners when they see friends "over there". It's not especially fair to throw it at a goat just learning, but of course you have to work with the situation available to you. 

I like the saying, "Make the right thing easy (or rewarding) and the wrong thing difficult." Remember to use your voice often to praise him when he is obedient, then stop and give a treat so he knows he made the right choice. Use a stern voice "Huh-uh Koby!" when he tries to go his own way or roots at the reins. For rooting the reins I use a "half-halt" motion. This is a quick check-and-release action with just one rein. If you use both at the same time he will out-pull you and can ignore the aid. The check and release motion keeps him from being able to lean on that rein. At the same time, use your whip to tap him on the opposite side from the rein you're pulling. The whip cues him to move forward so he doesn't get "stuck", and using it on the one side also encourages him to move away from it and toward the direction your rein is signaling. It also helps keep him from just turning his head and continuing on in the direction he wants to go. So at one time you are using voice, rein, and whip cues to tell him to continue forward in the direction you want. As soon as he straightens his neck and body and heads in the direction you asked, immediately ease up pressure and praise him. Stop and reward. 

Much of the effectiveness of these aids comes in the timing. I always say to riding students and to Phil, "It's easier to prevent a problem than to correct it after it happened." Look for very subtle body cues from Koby that he's thinking about turning in a direction you didn't ask for. A slight tilt to the head, a tensing in one shoulder, or a flick of the ear might be your first sign, and even though he hasn't *yet* done anything naughty, now is the time to correct him firmly enough that he changes his mind. As soon as he does, praise. Always make sure you release pressure and praise as soon as he obeys, but be ready to apply the aids again immediately if he goes back to his own thing. Consistency is key. If you are consistent in your aids and timing, Koby will soon learn to trust you and your aids. He'll know you mean what you say, and that he will be rewarded for a job well done. When he is doing very well in a particular lesson, end it shorter than usual. It's tempting to do the opposite and make a good lesson longer. 

Always end the lesson at a place away from the one he naturally wants to stop. When we drive the goats we like to get out of the cart somewhere away from the truck and lead them back. Occasionally when they've tried to race to the truck, I've let them do it and then made them leave again, or else drive circles around it at a trot before going somewhere else to end the lesson. This helps them realize that racing to the truck does not equal rest and rewards.

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - DownUnder Gal - 04-05-2018

Wow, thanks very much Nanno - that is really specific advice that I can sink my teeth into Smile I see what you mean by anticipating what Koby is going to do and nipping it in the bud if it's not what I've asked for. I haven't been doing that well, if at all. Actually I think I've been waiting for him to do the "wrong" thing before I attempt to correct it. The complete opposite really. And with the head tossing thing, I've been doing the check and release action but I'm probably not quick enough on the release. I've got so much to learn!

I think I'll work on all that you have suggested before I take him away from the property.

Thanks so much for those tips, which I'm going to try later today during our next lesson.

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - DownUnder Gal - 04-06-2018

Well what a difference following Nanno's advice made in our lesson today! Koby only got to try to go back to the gate once (we averted that) and there was almost no head tossing. One thing that also really helped was my altering my ground driving position to be further out to the side and a bit closer to Koby, rather than hanging over the back of the cart (which previously led to me constantly having to avoid banging into the back of the cart). Koby seemed generally pretty happy during the lesson, which we kept brief and positive. Correcting the unwanted behaviour at the first clue certainly helps a lot. Thanks Nanno Smile

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Nanno - 04-06-2018

Glad you had a good lesson! If you can use mild cues to prevent a behavior from occurring in the first place, you circumvent the need for stronger aids and the ensuing battle of wills that can occur. Sometimes our critters are just looking for a bit of guidance, and if we are lax in our instructions they'll come up with their own ideas of where to go next.

When Phil and I were test driving mini wagons at the carriage shop last month, he was at the reins while I was riding passenger and I got frustrated because I could see an impending argument about 3-5 steps before it happened.

"Phil, why aren't you steering??" I snapped.
Phil was taken completely by surprise.
"Why do I need to steer? They're going the right way!"

But I could see from their ears and the cocking of their heads that Finn and Sputnik were thinking about drifting toward the curb. The funny thing about goats is that they love to be up on any ledge, so there have been occasions when Phil or I have run into trouble when a goat in harness veers off the road to jump onto a curb or rock wall. In fact, a few minutes earlier in the test drive, Phil had already run the wagon into the curb because he didn't make a tight enough turn and he didn't anticipate that his goats would naturally make a beeline for the elevated sidewalk. He'd had to jump out so we could back wagon off the curb and straighten everyone out. In my opinion Phil was driving a bit too recklessly for a street with cars parked along it and sidewalk curbs on both sides to tempt the goats.

It's not fair to let the goats decide where to go and only correct them after you realize you're headed for disaster. I like to think of it as being a proactive driver. I expect my goats to step up to their work and not be lazy, so as a driver I should not be lazy either. We both have a job to do and it's not ok to "fall asleep at the reins".

In Phil's case he simply didn't realize what was about to happen because he didn't see the subtle body language that precedes a turn. In this case, the goats weren't really even going to turn. They were just going to drift a little toward the curb, and incidentally the truck parked in front of it. While Phil saw goats in that second walking obediently straight ahead, I was reading the body language that indicated what would happen several steps later and was therefore already hearing the squeal of scraping metal and envisioning a bill for paint repair on a truck and on a wagon we hadn't yet purchased. Hence the desperation in my voice when I snapped at Phil to "Please steer these goats!"

Our goats don't know where we want to go unless we tell them. A passive driver doesn't realize they're actually letting the goat drive and so they have to correct every time the goat decides to go somewhere inconvenient. A proactive driver anticipates the next several steps and gives the goat the cues he needs in order to know where we want to go. He may still have other ideas, but if you give instructions before he commits to a decision, most of the time he's going to decide to follow your lead. If he doesn't obey at least you know you did your part to tell him what you wanted and so stronger correction aids are justified. Eventually when your goats know their job very well, you can relax more at the reins because your goats will have learned that when they are receiving no signals it means to continue straight ahead. But greenies have no way of knowing that's what you expect so they tend to weave, stop, then suddenly speed up on a fairly regular basis. It keeps us drivers on our toes. Wink

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Sanhestar - 04-06-2018

I'll go one step farther and say that each correction is already one too many. Stay in the "limits" of wanted behaviour and reward as long as the behaviour is correct. Whenever you correct you not only curb the enthusiasm of the learner (look at how you feel whenever somebody tells you "wrong") but it is always another chance for the animal to practice an unwanted behaviour which in turn means it will occur again in the future.

Look closely at what you are doing, your animal is doing, make a plan (with contingencies) that defines what you want to teach/see. If you not sure, practice with a human partner before you teach your animal learner.

RE: Harness & wagon fitting queries - Nanno - 04-07-2018

I have a hard time envisioning how that works out in real life. It unreasonable to think our goats and our training is so perfect that they will never ever make a mistake. I also don't understand what's so terrible about being told "You're wrong." To me it often just mean's "Try something different." 

I like what Alexandra Kurland said about this, and I don't think she even fully grasped her own concept here. Here's the quote: 

"Think about situations in your own life where having some boundaries was helpful. Computers offer us so many good examples.  You want something to change on your screen, but nothing is happening, so you start hitting buttons.  Is it this combination or this one?  When you finally do get the response that you wanted, do you remember what you did?  Can you repeat it without first trying all the errors?  Probably not.  How do you feel?  Frustrated.

But now think about those times when the computer gave you a “not this way signal”.  When you tried something that wasn’t going to work, you heard an error message.  It sometimes takes me a couple of repetitions to realize that that ping I’m hearing is the computer telling me what I’m doing isn’t going to work, try something else.  Oh, right.  That door is closed."

A correction is a "not this way" signal. It can range from almost imperceptible to downright abusive. In fact, I would say that abuse is no longer correction--it's a trainer's way of taking out her anger and frustrations on a hapless animal. The animal can learn nothing from it except fear or rage. But correction is often necessary in the real world where unexpected things happen. If a dog suddenly races out from underneath a parked car and attacks one of my goats from behind, he's probably going to veer suddenly toward oncoming traffic in the other lane. Immediate strong correction is needed to avoid catastrophe. It wasn't that the goat did something wrong--in fact, it was totally "right" and expected given the circumstance. But he still needs immediate strong correction to avoid a major wreck. He will probably never understand that you just saved his life, but he will also learn that you're not going to let him get eaten by that dog any more than you're going to let him run wherever he wants at any speed just because he got a sudden fright (even if it was a totally legitimate sudden fright!). 

Obviously this is an extreme example to make a point, but I do think it's important for our animals to learn that it's ok to be corrected. It's not like we leave them in a "you're wrong" state of mind. Instead we give them something "right" they can do instead. Now we're back on a positive and rewarding track. If we use subtle corrections as we go along, the need for strong corrections is greatly diminished. Corrections should never be based on the trainer's emotions. If you get mad because your goat did the wrong thing, you're no longer training and you're on a fast track to abuse. Something I see in every good trainer regardless of their method is patience, kindness, and an obvious love for the animals they train.  

I appreciate the parents and teachers in my life who told me when I was wrong in my schoolwork. They weren't out to humiliate, embarrass, or abuse me. They just wanted to make sure I knew how to work math problems, spell words, and use correct grammar. Had they never used negative feedback it would have been a long, frustrating process to learn the correct way. I don't think we should be afraid to correct, but it's important to always watch HOW we correct and make sure the level of correction is appropriate to the situation and not done out of anger or frustration.