Some people came to see the horses play. There were two young children so I scratched the plan to have Zelador demonstrate things and fetched Kye from his paddock. At one point I said, “I’ll show you how I teach something. Kye has never been taught the ‘fetch the tissue when I sneeze’ trick. In fact, he’s never seen another horse do it.” I placed the large tissue box on the arena floor about six feet in front of Kye and draped the cloth handkerchief over it. I stepped back (about ten feet) and commenced sneezing. Wouldn’t you know! Kye stepped forward, picked up the cloth and brought it to me. So much for showing how I break down a trick into tiny little bits, rewarding each step…
I’ve started playing with five of my neighbor’s horses. We’ve only worked in their stalls. The interesting thing about their barn is the stalls are in a “u” shape with a large, open middle area. Each stall door has the open section for the horse’s head to stick out. When the door is open there’s a stallion guard across the door.
The first day I presented the orange cone. Each horse was able to touch the cone when it was in front of them, low, high and several steps along the stall’s front wall. The horses were also able to walk a few steps in the stall to touch the cone on the floor.
I played this game, along with “touch the toy” a few days, then brought the big ball that I got from Allen Pogue. Someone asked if the ball was an exercise ball with a cover. I explained that whenever possible I have equipment specifically created for horses.
The owner of the horses was there for my first “ball” day. I stood in the open area and walked around the ball, moved it slowly, backed up and kept an eye on the horses’ reactions. One mare was snorting so I kept things low-key until she quieted down. After a few minutes the owner and I slowly rolled the ball back and forth to each other. The horses soaked this in. They are incredible readers of body language and they got a good picture of two relaxed humans playing with a big ball.
A few minutes later I slowly rolled the ball a bit closer to each horse. No problems. Next step, let each horse touch the ball (click/treat). The barn set-up is wonderful for teaching. Each horse learns from the others. By the time I get to the fifth horse that individual is very comfortable with whatever I’m presenting.
The second day with the ball the mare was pawing at her stall door, wanting her turn! One gelding actually rolled the ball with a push from his nose. Three rolls later he gave it a BIG shove and it went all the way across the middle to the stalls on the other side. Wow! Pretty soon we’ll be calling out a horse’s name, rolling the ball from over ten feet away and the horse will roll it back. Great fun!