Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trained by a Raven

This morning I went out to the hay barn to find my raven friend perched on the corner of the roof calling down to me.  I repeated the sounds he made the best I could in the same increments as him, and he tilted his head to the side to listen.  When I finished repeating his sounds, he began a new series of sounds, which I memorized, and repeated back to him.  I played this game with him until I had everything I needed gathered to do my barn chores, and then I went into the horse barn and proceeded to ignore him.

The raven sang another song, tilted his head and waited for a response from me.  When none came, he repeated the same set of sounds, as if he thought I hadn't heard him.  When I didn't respond a second time, he simplified his song, as if he thought I didn't understand the first one.

Eventually, he tried single sounds, changing it up after no response, as if thinking, "Maybe she can't do that sound, so I'll try a different sound."

When nothing worked, he got louder, as if he thought I were deaf.

Soon he was screeching at me, and I continued to ignore him, but felt a headache coming on with all the raucous squawking.

I began wondering if that is how our horses feel when we train them.  Maybe they are willing to play the game until they get bored.  Then when we get no response, we go through this series of trying different things and wondering why the horse understood so easily one minute and was completely unresponsive the next.

I'm always hesitant when someone tells me to do a training task over and over until the horse is perfect.  If I had to mimic that raven's songs all day, I'd be bitter about having so much of my time wasted.  Though horses don't have chores to do and errands to run, I'm sure their minds wander to more interesting things when our lessons become too repetitious.

Had the raven done something more interesting such as flying closer to me and adding a little movement or dance to his song, I probably would have kept playing his game.  Maybe all we need to do is increase the difficulty instead of simplifying, in order to hold our horse's attention a little longer.  Or better yet, maybe all we need to do is make the task more fun for everyone.


Katharine Swan said...

I've always thought that, especially with some horses (like Panama, who gets easily frustrated when he doesn't get something I'm asking), it is beneficial to take a mental break and do something else for a few minutes -- something they can succeed at -- before going back to the problem at hand. I don't repeat the exercise until it's perfect, either. I like to also give mental breaks once they give me something closely approximating what I want, and then after a break we can try again to make it a little better.

Brenda said...

Hahaha. That's great that you played with the Raven like that. While not quite the same thing, my brother has an African Grey parrot who will ignore you until you're out of the room and then she'll start chattering up a storm and will whistle tunes she hopes you will repeat. But if you try to do the same, get her to learn something, she'll ignore you or decide which parts of the tune she wants to repeat back.

fernvalley01 said...

I can see your point in a way,interesting insights

Laura Lee said...

I agree about not drilling to perfection.

Sounds like you now have a pet raven :)

strivingforsavvy said...

Interesting thought. I think you are right - we should mix it up for our horses to keep them engaged.