Friday, March 28, 2014

28th March, 2014 Volume Control

The engineers amongst you will know that things like sound and earthquakes do not increase in a linear fashion like time. Horse's adrenalin levels seem to increase in the same way; and  increases in adrenalin are not just a product of what you're doing but how long you do it for.

For example, Dear Piglet copes well with having a head collar on now. Yesterday I wondered if he could do it with his head lowered while I was crouched down; I might look less threatening at his own height. Although he would happily put his nose into the nose band and let the crown piece go up the side of his face and over his neck, by the time I went to fasten the buckle he had had to raise his head which effectively put it out of reach.. The neck itself is a wonderful adrenalin graph and gives you all the clues you need to a horse's state of mind. Piglet also likes to push his head to the right to check that the exit is clear in case he needs to leave. 

For the lay people amongst you, this is how David, who is an engineer, describes it for people like me:

In short, a logarithmic scale is non linear, so that each "step" is a multiple of the previous step.
So, a car has a linear increase of speed, but the power required is logarithmic (double the speed requires 8 times the power 2^3 if nothing else changes).
In Piglet terms, this means that twice the pressure equate to 4 times the response (2^2), so 4 times the pressure is 4^2=16 times the response.
^ means "to the power of" in computer speak, so ^2 is squared, and ^3 is cubed (2^3 =2x2x2=8).

In Piglet's case where his automatic, non-thinking, totally instinctive prey responses may have been reinforced by humans. Practising the no, when the no is instinctive, is never a good idea. . The IH methods of advance and retreat enhanced in his case with clicker mean that we have achieved more in 24 hours of training (in instalments) than was achieved in the previous 12 months. Nevertheless there is still an awfully long way to go before Piglet will trust people.

I shall tell Piglet that he is logarithmic today.

This week I have also been out to a New Forest Pony that came with a bit of a shopping list of problems which included kicking and biting if touched while he is loose and eating. My normal response would be to put a head collar and lead rein on so that at least if he tries either of these things you have a bit of control of both ends of the horse. However, he knew the difference between this and being loose and wouldn't do a thing with the head collar on. You could also say well, just don't touch him when he is eating - he deserves to be left in peace. Whilst this is true to a certain extent, you do need to be able to at least approach your horse while he is eating without the risk of being injured.

Of course this sort of behaviour is instinctive, non-thinking, automatic behaviour, designed to defend their food, which is then reinforced when it works, i.e. when it moves other horses or people out of the way. In order to interrupt that reinforcement, it needs to stop working. Once more the trust feather duster came in handy here as it could be used to touch him, at a distance, and could stay put if he decided to kick it. It only moves away again once his foot is down and committed to staying down.

So far, so good - email received today: "I also used my feather duster when I got back, first with the headcollar on in the field and then loose in the field whilst eating his hay, I only did it twice on each side but he didn't even lift his foot or head just carried on eating." SS