using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story:  Leading

(June/July 2003)



Today Katie, my human mom, came in my stall and put my halter on. I am getting used to my halter and sometimes when she puts it on, I get to go out and explore. Last week I wore my halter and Rosie, my horse mom, and I went up to the ring with Katie. We walked around in the ring and I got to see all the other horses in the fields next to it.  There are lots of brown ones and a little white spotted one. I wanted to meet him, but I was too nervous. I kept running up to him and then dashing off. It was fun to run around and stretch my legs.  Of course, I kept getting excited and jumping on my mothers back. I do that sometimes when I am feeling frisky. Katie turned around and waved her arms at me and sent me away when I did that. I guess itís not a good idea. Oh well, I can do that other times.


But this day, we didnít go out.  Katie put my halter on and then she patted me a lot and told me I was beautiful.  Of course I already knew that.  Then she put a rope on my halter and rubbed it around on my neck so I would get used to the feel of it. I didnít mind the rope and thought it might be good to chew on. Anytime it was close to my nose, I tried to catch it. I guess Katie didnít want me to do that as she started keeping it out of my reach. Soon I stopped thinking about it as Katie started doing something new.  She put her hand on my hip and just left it there. After a while, I got sort of tired of it and I moved my hip over. She said ďgoodĒ and gave me lots of pats and scratched my favorite itchy spot.  She kept doing this and finally I figured out that she wanted me to move my hip. That was easy.


Then she put her hand on my hip again and I moved over.  This time I moved over and stepped up a bit.  She must have really liked that as she scratched my itchy spot again.  She was holding on to the rope on my halter, but not pulling so I didnít mind. I do get worried when I think my head is trapped, but I have decided the halter and rope are ok and I am getting used to them.  So I started walking a few steps forward and around. She must have liked that too, as she told me I was good and scratched me again.  Pretty soon I figured out that she just wanted me to walk, sort of like when she had scooted me along. Only this time, she used her hand on my hip and the rope to guide me.  I really had some itchy spots so I was happy to play this game. 


The next night, she put my halter on and took me out into the aisle and left Rosie in the stall. The stall has an open top door so Rosie just hung her head out over the door. I was standing right in front of it so we were touching noses.  I was nervous at first but when Rosie started eating her hay and watching me, I figured it was ok. Katie was there scratching my itchy spots so I decided maybe we were going to play a new game. But actually we played the same old game, just in a new place. She put one hand on my hip and the other on the lead and soon we were walking up and down the aisle together. Luckily itís a short aisle so I could always see Rosie.  Sometimes I get upset and rather than pulling on my head, Katie just pushes on my hip until I make a little circle and settle down. 


After I got pretty good at leading in the aisle, I got to go practice leading in my field. Katie left Rosie in the stall and we walked down the water trough and back.  I thought that was kind of boring as I can do that anytime I want, but Katie told me it was good to practice leading in a familiar place.   She told me that once I was good at leading, she would take me for walks. 


Today Rosie stayed in her stall and we walked out of the barn around the outside and back in the other end. Rosie got a little worried and called for me. I wanted to turn around and go back but Katie just stood and waited. Eventually I decided to go forward again and before I knew it, we were back at my stall, coming around from the other direction.  This was the first of many little walks. Once I got good at going around the barn, we started to walk other places. I really like to go out and I march right along with Katie. If I get worried, I stop and Katie asks me to go and then waits for me to move.  Once I start walking again, she says good and gives me a scratch. Usually by then I am sure itís ok so I go right off with her when she walks forward. 


Sometimes I get scared and then I jump forward. Katie just stands still and I usually circle back around her. Sometimes she puts her hand on my hip to make me turn. I usually settle down pretty quickly, although there are some days when I really want to just go out and run around. Itís so exciting to be out of my field.  One day I even got to go for a walk with Molly, the pony.  Katie wanted to take me down to the field by the house and she thought I would be braver if I had some company, so Kira led Molly down with us. I was very interested in Molly and it made me so distracted that I didnít even realize how far I had gone from Rosie and the barn.


Of course, I am usually pretty brave about going out and I walk right along.  Itís going back that makes me want to jump around. I get so excited when we turn around and I see how far I am from the barn, and that Iím going back to it. Every time I get too excited and jump around, Katie just stops and waits for me to settle. Then she says ďgoodĒ and I get a nice itch or I just get a chance to walk forward again. Sometimes she is sneaky and I donít even realize that we are heading back to the barn because she doesnít go straight back there, but zig-zags across the lawn and lets me look at different things along the way. 


Of course, by now I am pretty good at leading. Although there was that little period when I decided it was fun to rear, but thatís another story and I donít do that much anymore. I have learned that if I walk nicely I get lots of carrots and I get to go somewhere interesting.  


Here is how I looked in July.  Arenít I getting big?  Sometimes Katie just comes out into the field and plays with me without the halter and lead rope too. We just hang out together and she knows all my itchy spots. I always am happy to see her and come right up to visit.




The next story is Head games.



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