Out in the trap with Buddy

This past Saturday I went out for a hack with Leon’s owner in the trap with Buddy, her driving cob. It was the second time that I have been with them, and makes an interesting change from riding!

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I have to admit that Viv did most of the tacking up while I just stood trying to make sense of the harness – although I did help with hitching up the trap. This blog post contains some of the things that I managed to learn about the tack.

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All of Buddy’s harness is synthetic, so it requires much less maintenance than a leather harness and just has to be washed down after he has been out.

He always wears a thin head collar underneath his bridle – this is in case of an emergency and we carry a lead rope on the trap with us for this purpose too.

The picture below shows Viv attaching the breeching to the shaft. The shafts also have catches on them which prevent them from sliding too far forwards.

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The next picture shows the heel chain – this attaches the traces to the trap.

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When moving uphill, Buddy takes the weight of the trap through his shoulders, whereas when travelling downhill he carries the weight on his hind end.

The video below shows some clips from our trips out – please forgive the chatting in parts!

A quick note: there won’t be any posts about Leon for a while due to the fact that he is going away for professional training – he was previously broken into harness and Viv would like to be able to drive him in the future as she cannot ride him.

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Training ‘step up’

I have had Captain Beaky since I was twelve, and this was one of the first things that I taught him. It is probably the most important command as without I would not be able to move him about or rescue him from potentially dangerous situations!

Beaky

The first thing to do is to find out what the best reward is for the bird – some like to have their heads and necks scratched, whereas others enjoy something to eat. Beaky likes apple, so I have a couple of cut slices that I use here. (Whilst training the reward must always be used, but often now I simply say ‘good boy’ when he steps up for me).

To invite Captain Beaky to step up, I put my hand near to his chest with my fingers together and thumb tucked in, slightly higher than the level of his current perch. My other hand holds the reward in front of him to tempt him forwards.

As he steps up I say ‘step up’ and once he has both feet on my hand he is given a few moments to have his apple and absorb the fact that stepping up resulted in something good!

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I am now working on teaching Beaky to fly to me – he often does this voluntarily but I would like to be able to attach a command to this.

To begin with I am offering him the treat with my hand far enough away that he just has to spread his wings slightly and hop over to reach it.

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As this is a work in progress, you will be able to see this aspect of our training gradually improve over the weeks, so stay tuned for more information!

Agility training with Rusty – 180 degree turns

(Please excuse the make-shift jumps; hopefully one day I’ll get some proper ones!)

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This is a relatively new concept for Rusty – I began to teach her this just a few days ago but she tends to pick up on what I’m asking pretty quickly so is already performing it almost perfectly.

Before I could begin with this technique there were a few other things I had to make sure were mastered; for example Rusty has been trained to work away from me whilst still listening to me and following my commands – if I had to lead her to every single obstacle with her at my heel, we would really struggle with turns like this.

Because she has been jumping for a couple of years now, she also really locks onto her next obstacle and once she is committed to it I can then move on to get ahead of her and keep our round fast-paced.

The diagram below shows two jumps laid out with an angle of 180 degrees between them. There is also a considerable gap between the ‘wings’ of the jumps. What I want Rusty to do is to jump the first jump, then sweep round to the next one – this is difficult because it is easier for her to turn in towards me between the two jumps instead of going the long way round to the second one. To convey to Rusty that she needs to jump both jumps, I began with the second jump at an angle of 90 degrees, and slowly rotated this around until it was at 180 degrees.

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The next step from here will be to increase the angle to 270 degrees – although I am conscious of not rushing the process, so we will continue to practice 180 degree turns both individually and as part of longer sequences over the next few weeks.

If you take a look at the images below, you can see Rusty jumping the first obstacle in our 180 degree turn. In the first image, she has already locked onto the jump and knows she will be jumping it. The second image shows her taking off over the jump and instead of carrying on with her past the jump I begin to make my turn towards the next jump.

The third image shows Rusty landing and looking round to me and where she is being expected to run next.

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The next image shows a similar situation.

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The video below also shows a slow motion clip of one of our 180 degree turns. You may notice that I reward her by throwing a ball – I do also reward her with treats but I choose her reward based on what we are practising and how well she knows it.

All of Rusty’s agility training is interspersed with rests and games of ‘chase’ or ‘tug’ to keep it interesting and fun for her – the last thing I would want is for her to become bored!

Tug of war