using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story: The Fly Mask

(April 2004)



Today it is warm and sunny. I am really enjoying the warm weather and Willy and I spend a lot of time looking for new blades of grass. But today, there are little bugs swarming all around us. It is very annoying. Willy likes to walk with his head in my tail which keeps the bugs away from him, but not from me. Luckily I have a lot of fuzzy hair in my ears which protects them from bug bites.  I had very long tufts when I was a baby. Katie took a picture of them because she thought they made me look cute.  Here is a picture of me checking out a cone when I was a baby.  You can see the tufts in my ears, and I still have them now.


At lunchtime Katie came out and put this funny thing on Willy’s head. It is black and gray and makes him look like a bandit. I took it off him right away!  Katie told me I shouldn’t do that as it keeps the flies out of Willy’s ears.  Oh well, Willy didn’t mind when I took it off. I even stomped on it and ground it into the sawdust just to make sure it wouldn’t bother him anymore.


Then later, she came out and tried to put one on me. First she held it up and asked me to touch it. That was ok. Then she rubbed it on my neck and I didn’t mind but when I went to get my carrot, my nose got zapped. Katie said she was very sorry, that it was static and she didn’t mean to do it, but I wouldn’t take any more treats after that and when she held up the fly mask, I left. I don’t trust that thing at all. I think it made her hurt me.


We got to stay out all afternoon and enjoy the sun. A breeze came up so the flies weren’t too bad.  At dinnertime, I came in the barn and Katie put my halter on. I like putting my halter on as it usually means we are going to play. But this time, she put it on and then got out that fly mask. I thought it would be best to leave!  But she talked to me quietly and told me it would be ok. Then she asked me to touch it again. No way! I wanted to leave, but she was holding me with a lead and the stall was closed. She didn’t make me come towards her and the fly mask but just waited.  When I didn’t move, she asked me to touch her fist. That was easy. I can do that. I still wasn’t sure about the carrot though. What if I got zapped again? Katie had to hold my halter so the carrot was right in front of my nose and then I ate it.  Once I would touch her fist, she had me touch the fly mask again. Well, ok….Pretty soon I realized that was ok.  Then she started touching me with the fly mask, on my shoulders and neck.  If I stood still, then I got a click and treat. I still wasn’t sure if the carrots would be ok, but no more zaps so I started being braver about taking them.  Soon she was rubbing it on my face and putting it over my head. I got a little nervous when she put it over the top of my head, but nothing happened and I do love my carrots.  Then she put it on me. One of my ears got folded down, but I just waited until she fixed it. I like it when she strokes my ears. She has done that a lot since I was a baby and I don’t mind. Sometimes, when they are itchy, it feels good.  Wow! I was wearing this thing. She checked to make sure it wasn’t rubbing my eyes and then I got my dinner. Hey, this thing was ok!  After dinner, she carefully took it off and told me how brave I was.  I wonder if I’ll have to wear it again. Oh well, maybe I can get Willy to take it off me…after I take his off him….


Here I am with my new flymask:



The next story is Learning to trot in hand.



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