using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story: A New Halter

(January 2004)




My head is growing!  I have gone through three halters already and now I have a new one. It is different than my others. It is leather and it has a snap at my throatlatch.  Katie helped me learn how to put on my other halters.  First she held the halter in one hand and I gently slid my nose in.  I used to try and bite the noseband as I put the halter on, but Katie showed me how to let it slide over my nose. We practiced this a lot when I first wore a halter and then we worked on it more later.  She would click and give me a treat if I put my nose in the halter without biting it.  Then she would bring the crown piece around behind my ears and put it through the buckle.  That was the easy part.


But my new halter is different. When she first put it on, I was happy to put my nose in the noseband, but then instead of sliding the crown piece behind my head, she pushed it over my ears. She was very careful but I didnít like it one bit and I put my head way up high. Unfortunately she could still reach.  If I was bigger, I would have put it way up high so she couldnít get my halter on. That way I wouldnít have to feel the leather going over my ears.  She clicked and gave me some carrots when it was on, but I was really not sure I liked this new system.   Then she had to take it off and she had to take it over my ears again. Yikes.


The next time Katie wanted to put my halter on, she did things a little differently. I think she could tell I wasnít comfortable with the new halter so she spent some time showing me how to put my head down.  She just rested her hand on my poll and waited for me to drop my head. Of course, I thought I would just put my head up and get away from her, but she just left her hand there and I am still too short to get my head up above her reach.  Then I dropped my head a tiny bit and she took her hand off, clicked and gave me a carrot. It took me a few tries to figure this out. When I dropped my head, I also took a step forward, so I thought maybe that was what she wanted.  If I walked a lot, she made me back up, but mostly she just clicked whenever I dropped my head. For a while there, I was walking one step and dropping my head at the same time, but after a while I got tired of walking and just started dropping my head. Wow, I got a lot of carrots for that and then we stopped. She dumped a big pile of carrots in my grain bin and left. I always get a big treat when we end a play session. That way I donít feel bad when the fun is over.


We worked on head lowering a few more times and then Katie came back with the halter. She asked me to put my nose in like I used to with my old halter. I wasnít sure at first as I had decided that I didnít like that halter, but when she didnít put the new one on, I decided it was ok. We just practiced putting my nose in and out. I earned a lot of carrots and decided that I liked this game.


The next time she had me put my nose in and then she started to slide the halter up my nose. I thought this would be a good time to put my head up, so I did. But then she put her hand on my poll and I remembered that meant I was supposed to put my head down. HmmÖok, I guess I can do that.  So I put my head down and got clicked.  Then she slid the halter up again and I put my head back up. Again she asked for me to put my head down and I did. After a few times of this I started to keep my head down when she slid up the halter. Katie must have liked this because she told me I was very good and gave me a whole bunch of carrot pieces. Then she asked me to do it again and this time she very gently put the leather piece over my ears. You know what, when my head is down and she can slide the halter up, there is lots of room for my ears and I donít mind this at all. I guess my new halter is not so bad.


For the next few times I needed to wear my halter, we practiced these same steps until I became very comfortable putting it on and off. Now I donít even have to think about it when she comes in with my halter. I stick my nose in and wait for her to slide it over my ears and then I get a click and a treat. Yum!


Another new thing I had happen this month is that it snowed.  Here I am playing in the snow:




The next story is A nice walk.




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