using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story: The Tarp
(December 2003-January 2004)




Last night Katie came and put my halter on and brought me out into the aisle to play. I like to do that. Sometimes she brings out some toys.  We mix things up a bit. We might work on leading or yielding to pressure for a while and then do something a little more creative.


Tonight I was down saying hello to Molly the pony when Katie brought out a big brown tarp. It was all folded up into a little square and she put it down on the floor to see what I would do.  I usually like all the new toys so I went right up to it and sniffed it. Katie clicked me, but I was so busy jumping away that I didnít even notice. When I sniffed it, it made a very strange crinkling noise. Yikes!


Katie gave me my carrot and I watched the tarp for a minute, but it didnít do anything.  So I went back up to it and sniffed again. It crinkled but I didnít jump away. I just waited for my carrot. I did this a few more times and then I was getting so brave that I wiggled my lips on it. It crinkled again, but not too much so I was ok. I got clicked for putting my lips on it, so the next time I really grabbed it.  Yikes, this time I crinkled a lot. I did jump away as it was just too scary. 


I stayed away for a minute or two, but Katie was just standing there watching me, so I went over and said hi to her. She gave me a pat and pointed at the tarp so I went over and touched it again. This time I was a little more careful. It didnít crinkle as much and I didnít get scared. I got a whole bunch of carrots for doing that. We played with it for a while longer and I eventually got so brave that I would pick it up and shake it. I didnít mind if it made noise.


A few nights later I got to come out and play with the tarp again. This time, Katie spread the tarp out so it was covering the floor in the middle of the aisle.  I went right up to it and touched it and got clicked. Then I tried to pick it up and shake it. It was too big, but I made some crinkly noises and got clicked for trying. I kept trying to pick it up, but Katie didnít click me. For a while I was having enough fun that I just kept playing with it with my teeth, but then I looked at Katie and noticed that she was holding her hand in a fist in front of me.  I know what that means. It means she wants me to touch her hand with my nose. Iím not supposed to bite or lick her, but just put my nose on or near her hand. I did that right away so I could get my carrot.  We practiced doing that a few times and then she moved her hand around a bit. First she moved it to the side and I touched and got clicked. Then she had me back up and held her fist in front of me so I had to walk a step to touch it. I did that and got a click and treat.  Then she moved it forward again. I started to step forward and then realized I would have to stand on the tarp. I wasnít too sure about that so I just stood there for a minute.  But then I took one step and touched her hand. I got a lot of carrots for that. Once I had one foot on, the rest were easy. Soon I was walking back and forth across the tarp following her hand.  I did snag my foot on the tarp once and scare myself. I was sure it wasnít safe to come back over it, but Katie kept clicking me for approaching it so I decided it must be ok. 


The tarp sure was a lot of fun. Katie says we can play with it some more in the ring when the weather is nice. For a picture of me on the tarp, go to September 2004, the round pen, part 1.


The next story is A new halter.





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