using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's story: A Trip to the Ring
(March 2004)



It is a nice day today, for March, so Katie takes me up to the ring for a little playtime. I havenít been up to the ring much so I sometimes get sort of excited.  She takes me in and just starts walking toward the cones. I remember the cones from last time. A few days ago, we came up to the ring and I got too excited. I started rearing and jumping around. Katie was very surprised as usually I am good and lead nicely.  Maybe I have spring fever, but I just want to run around and play.  The ring looks like it would be a great place to run really fast and I could visit all the horses that are turned out next to it.


When I was rearing, Katie didnít really seem to like it. I like to rear up and sort of land so that I can bump into her space and maybe that way I can get her to let go so I can zoom off and play. It didnít work very well for me. Instead of letting go, she just held onto the rope and asked me to bring my head around toward her. This makes me come down and then I canít push into her. If I listened and stopped rearing, she would click me and give me a carrot. I liked that but I still thought it would be more fun to escape.  After I was walking again she would click me for walking nicely next to her, but I kept getting distracted and trying to escape again.


Thatís when we started playing with the cones. She told me I needed something else to think about so we went over and played touch the cones.  There were a lot of them lined up in a row and she had me touch the first one.  I touched it right away and thought maybe I would even pick it up. She clicked me and then let me touch it again. After I touched it and got clicked a few times, we moved on to the next cone. We did the same thing with this cone and then moved on. After a while I figured out that I didnít have to bite the cones, I could just touch them. We moved around from cone to cone and I didnít even realize that we were walking all over the ring.  Not only that, I had forgotten about rearing until it was time to go in.


So, today when we went to the cones, I knew right away what to do. We played with the cones and then we went and stood on my board. I like to stand on the board. It is just like my box, but flatter. Sometimes I stand on it and Katie walks around in front of me or off to the side. I think she is testing me to see if I will stay there. Sometimes I do and sometimes I donít. Sometimes I just get distracted and want to go do something new, but I am getting better about waiting for her to tell me to step off. 


After the board, we worked on halting and backing and she even worked on having me bend and step over to the side away from her while we were walking along. We had been practicing this a bit in the stall, but it was different doing it in the ring. I have a hard time figuring out if I am supposed to move sideways or forward. I think she wants me to do both, but my feet get tangled.  I was concentrating so hard on all these little exercises that I only tried to rear once. It helped too that Katie let me have a longer lead. When I get anxious I like it better if she is not holding me on a short lead as that just makes me feel trapped. I can listen better if the lead stays loose unless she wants something.  Sometimes if I am really anxious and she has me on a short lead or gets too close to my face, I nip at her.  The first time I did this, Katie was really shocked as I havenít nipped at her in a long time.  It happened a few times before she realized that nipping meant I wasnít comfortable with what we were doing. After that, she learned to give me more space and make things a little easier or do something else for a while if I got flustered. Itís nice that she understands me.


Katie says it is better to have a plan and keep me busy. I think she could just let me go and I would be happy to keep myself busy, but I had fun doing it her way too.


Here is what I looked like in March:




The next story is The fly mask.




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