using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story: A Nice Walk
(March 2004)



Today Katie took me for a little walk. I hadn’t been out of the field for a few days and it was a bit nippy so I was very excited to go out. But I was on my best behavior and we went all the way down around the house and back. On the way, we checked out the chicken coop, which is empty but still smells funny.  Did you know we used to have two roosters?  They were really annoying and chased the little kids so they went to new homes. One of them chased me once, but I chased it back.  That was fun. I don’t think it liked that very much as it never came back in the horse field.


Then we went by the trailers and sniffed them both. One is mine and I ride in it when I go places. The other is big and flat and they use it to haul tractors. It is kind of scary as it is shiny and black and the floor has lots of holes. We crossed the driveway. The first time I had to cross the driveway, I was sure I couldn’t do it. It looked so strange with those colored stones. I am glad Katie was patient. She just stood and waited for me to decide it was safe. Then she clicked and gave me a carrot every time I took a little step. She told me the story of when my horse mom, Rosie, had to learn to cross the driveway. Rosie was scared of it too. Katie had to get off and stand in the middle of the driveway and wait for Rosie to decide it was ok.  Rosie got a click and a carrot every time she came a little closer so eventually she decided it was ok.  Oh, did I mention that I got clicked for touching the chicken coop and trailers? I love to see new things as it always means I have a chance to earn some goodies.


We were walking along nicely when my mom stopped and picked up Kinney’s dog toy. It is a round pink spiky thing and wanted me to touch it. I know about touching things so I touched it and got a click and treat, but then I was ready to move on and she put it in front of me and I was so surprised that I jumped backwards. Pink, prickly things are not supposed to suddenly appear in front of your nose. What a surprise! Oh, I am supposed to touch it again.  We did that a few more times and then went to check out the swing set, slides, porch steps, trash cans and trash can lids. I even got clicked for sniffing a large rock.


Back in the barn, I got to play with my toy by picking it up and giving it to Katie.  She said “good” and gave me a carrot piece. She even said “thank you.”  I am learning to fetch my toy. First my mom taught me to touch it. Then she taught me to pick it up off her hand and hold it.  Then she taught me to pick it up off the floor and give it to her. Every time I pick it up and give it back, I get a carrot.  I am still figuring out how to walk and carry it at the same time but I am getting better at it. I get pretty easily distracted and then I drop it.  Oops…


Next I get a good brushing and she cleans my feet. I really enjoy the grooming as I have lots of hair shedding and it makes me very itchy.  I don’t mind getting my feet done because I get a carrot after each one. Sometimes I get impatient and try to take my foot away too soon. If I do that, I don’t get my carrot, so I am trying to learn to be patient. Today Katie started telling me to “wait” so I would know she wasn’t done yet. Sometimes it’s hard to balance on 3 legs, but I am getting better at it.  Katie has been working on this since I was born so I am used to having my legs handled but sometimes I still get the fidgets.  Then I go back in my stall and get a nice handful of carrots in my grain bucket.  Willy is out eating hay so I go out into the field and tell him about my adventures.


I am hoping he will tell me what he did today. I saw him and my mom up in the ring where the big horses work. They were playing with cones and poles. It looked like fun.  I had some fun with a new toy the other day too. It was a big bucket that I found in my field. I rolled it around and jumped on it, and kneeled down and tried to climb in it.  Unfortunately by the time Katie came out with the camera, I was done with most of the fun, but here I am with my nose in it.



The next story is A trip to the ring.



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