Zan's Story  go back to THE BEGINNING


The ROUND PEN part 2 - introducing the whip (October 2004)

    I have been having a lot of fun in my playground. Katie takes me up there every few days and we play with my big yellow ball, the cones, my board, the mat and sometimes she uses a target stick.  I have learned to go from cone to cone around in the ring. Katie walks with me and points at the next cone. I know which cone to touch by watching where Katie is pointing. I am pretty good at touching the right cone. I used to try to pick them up, but I finally figured out that I just need to touch them.  She uses the cones to keep me busy and get me used to working in all the parts of the round pen. I still get nervous when I am at the end away from the gate.

    I also get to stand on my board a lot. Katie uses it as a home base for me so that when I don't know what to do, I go and stand on my board. She has a doormat up there too. I can stand on that, but it's harder as sometimes I get it all crinkled up with my feet and I like the board better because my feet make such a nice noise. Have you ever met a kid that didn't like to make noise?

    One day Katie taught me to go from the mat to the board and back again. She placed them a short distance apart and after clicking me for standing on the board, she walked to the mat and asked me to stand on it. Then we went back to the board again. Sometimes she asked me to put my head down when I was standing on the board or on the mat.

    Then Katie decided to teach me how to follow a whip cue. I have seen her use the whip before. She has a short one that she uses for the ground work and a long one that she uses for lungeing. I like the long one. Sometimes she leans it against the wall in front of my stall and I can take my little teeth and pull the lash into my stall. Then I can chew on it and if I really get pulling, I can make the whole whip bang against the wall. It's a lot of fun. I have tried to chew on the short one too, but it's not very interesting.  She used the short one to desensitize my hind legs back in the spring when I was feeling anxious about things touching my back legs. She was grooming me and my winter coat was shedding out. When the hair came off the brush and hit my back legs, I would kick out. I was that sensitive! So Katie spent some time tickling my back legs with the whip until I didn't mind anymore.

    So, when Katie took me up to the ring with the short whip, I didn't mind at all. She put it down beside the fence in the round pen and I even picked it up and offered it to her. She said "no thanks" and put it down farther outside the fence line. Gee, I was just trying to help. On this day, she got me started going from the mat to the board and back again and then went and got the whip. I was standing on the board and she tapped me on the haunches. No problem, I am good at ignoring tickly things on my back legs. Hmm. she tapped a few more times and I started to wonder what was up, so I turned and looked at her and shifted my weight a bit to the other side. Hey, I got clicked for that. She tapped again and I stepped over with my hind end and got clicked for that. Wow, this is easy. I know how to move my hindquarters over because Katie has done a lot of work with me on yielding to pressure. Then Katie walked over toward the mat and asked me to follow. I went and stood on the mat, click and treat. Then she tapped me with the whip and I moved my hind end over, click and treat. She walked to the board and I followed her. This time she tapped me and didn't click me when I moved over. Instead she just started walking toward the mat. I followed her, click and treat. After a few more times, she started tapping and pointing where she wanted me to go instead of walking ahead. Then she would click me when I walked off. Oh..I get it. She is clicking me for walking forward. The whip means go forward.

    The next time we went out, she brought the whip again. I started out on my board and she tapped my hindquarters and I walked right off, click and treat. We did it again and this time she didn't click right away so I didn't know what to do. I kept walking but circled back toward her. She clicked me for that and I decided the game was to walk off the board and then back to her. So the next time, I did just that. She clicked and treated.  We did this a few more times and then she tried walking toward my hind end while I was walking toward her. We got all tangled up. She was following me and I was following her and we were just going in circles. Finally she stopped me and laughed. She gave me a big pat and said "oops, I guess that doesn't work."   Then she walked down along my side until she was almost behind me and tapped my hindquarters. I walked straight forward, click and treat. She stayed behind me and tapped again and I kept walking out away from her. Now I was walking along and she was following me, slightly behind and to the side. I got clicked for walking out in front of her. She would click me, and then go back along my side and tap me so we could start off again. I think I get it!

    This led to a lot of new games. One day we played with making figure 8's in the round pen. She set up my board in the middle and started me on my board. She used the whip to send me off out around her and then pointed me back to the board. I got clicked for stepping off, and then again for returning. Then she switched sides and we did the same thing in the other direction.  When I was pretty good at this, she decided to teach me how to turn off the whip cue.  She started out by having me step off the board, but then she backed up and put the whip in her other hand so it was angled across my path. It wasn't totally blocking my path because it was angled, but it made it so I couldn't just walk straight without running into it. I stopped and looked at it. Then I bit it. Katie wiggled it out of my teeth and then wiggled it again. I turned and looked at her. Click and treat and she lowered the whip. Then I was back on the board. The next time I walked up to the whip and looked at Katie, click and treat. The next time, I walked up to the whip and turned and walked to Katie, Wow, I got a jackpot for that. Pretty soon I realized that I was not supposed to go through the whip, but should just turn when I saw it out in front of me. Katie said I was very smart and gave me a big hug.  Another day she had me standing and wiggled the whip in front of me to see what I would do. I backed right up. I love to back so it was easy to do. She was surprised I figured that cue out so easily, but hey if you had a whip wiggling in front of you and you couldn't eat it, what else would you do?

    In addition to the whip games, we did a few other things. Katie taught me that she didn't like it when I raced up to her and slammed on the brakes and stopped right in front of her toes.  I used to zoom off every now and then, and when I came back to her, I would run right up to her.  I knew I wouldn't hurt her, but it seemed to make her nervous. She told me it wasn't polite to approach her that way, so she taught me to stop if she raised her hands when I ran up to her.  I would stop a few steps away and then walk up to her. In the beginning, I used to stop and rear because I was so excited but since I only got clicked when I stopped nicely, I gave up the rearing. Sometimes now she even asks me to put my head down before I come up to her. That is just if I seem too excited.

    Another game we played was learning to come to her when she backed up. She started this one day when I was getting pretty good at going out. I would go out across the pen toward the rail, but I was excited by the horses on the hill so I kept turning away from her and going off around the round pen in the other direction.  Then she would walk across the ring and turn me with the whip cue. Sometimes I just stopped when she asked me to turn but she would hold the whip up and wait. Eventually I would turn to face her and then she could send me back the other way. I always turned by turning in to face her.  Katie said that was good and she was happy I never thought of putting my hind end toward her.  After getting turned a few times, I realized that she wanted me to make a circle around her instead of changing directions and going to see the other horses.  They were pretty distracting but I did get lots of carrots for going the right way so I guess it's ok. I can watch the other horses later.  Once I got good at this, Katie asked me to go forward when I was already walking on the circle. I had no idea what she wanted until she started running and then I trotted right along with her.  I like following her better than running away from her. Once I even got so excited that I cantered when she tapped me with the whip. She stopped running and laughed and said "whoops, not quite that fast." Why not? I like to go fast!

    Well, I guess I've learned a lot. Katie says she is taking it slow with me because I am so sensitive and she is having fun figuring out how to teach me things without having me get upset or run a lot. She says she is going to set up an obstacle course so we have some new things to play with. I can't wait...

Here are some pictures of me in the round pen. I can stand on the board with my back feet as well as my front feet, or with no board at all.

Here I am practicing head lowering and cantering back to the board

and I can walk and trot nicely

Of course, I also like to shake my head and zoom off, Yippee!

The next story is Fun and Games