using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's story: Learning to Trot in Hand
(April 2004)



Katie and I are spending more time playing in the ring.  We do lots of exercises with cones, poles and my board. We also work on leading on circles and around turns. I am learning to back up and to stop when she stops. If I am really good, I stop when she stops, without her needing to use the lead at all.


Today Katie decided to try something new. We were walking nicely along when she started running in place and clucking at me. I thought this was so strange that I jumped forward and then to the side, hit the end of the lead and stopped.  Katie just came up to me and then asked me to walk forward again. I was a little flustered by what just happened, but I came with her. She clicked me for walking nicely, but then she did it again.  This time I sped up a little bit to keep up with her and she clicked me for it. I had no idea what she wanted and wasnít sure I liked her getting excited.  We did this a few more times and I did trot one or two steps and get clicked, but then when she started running again, I jumped and spooked and decided I didnít like this game at all. I know I am not supposed to jump around and I donít like it when I hit the end of the line, so I decided that no matter how weird Katie got, I would just keep walking.  So thatís what I did. Iím not sure she liked it as I didnít get many more clicks, but I wasnít going to make the same mistake again. No matter how fast she ran, or jogged in place or clucked, I just kept my nice quiet walk.  After a few tries, Katie looked at me and said ďHmmm, weíll have to think about thisĒ and we went back down to the barn. I hope she comes up with a better game. Iím not sure I liked that one.


A few days later she came into my stall and brought a big yellow ball. We walked out in to my field and she put the ball down. Then she went and locked Willy in his stall. I guess he doesnít get to play.   She walked over to the ball and touched it and looked at me. I sniffed it and click! I got a click and treat. I sniffed it again and she clicked me again. After a few times, she started waiting longer before she clicked. I bumped it a little harder with my nose and then she gave me a whole bunch of carrots. Then she bumped the ball a little bit with her foot and it moved. That surprised me so I jumped back. But when Katie didnít seem scared that the ball moved, I decided it was ok.  So now we were walking along. She was pushing the ball and I would walk up to it and touch it. Then I would get a click and treat.


So far, we had been playing on the flat spot outside the barn but now the ball rolled down a little hill.  I was just going to watch it, but Katie started running after it so I started running too. We ran down the hill and when we got to the ball, I touched it and got clicked.  Soon Katie was kicking the ball around the field and we were both running after it. Sometimes Katie clicked me for touching the ball and sometimes she clicked me for trotting after the ball. It was lot of fun but then we had to stop. 


The next day she came out and we played with the ball again. But after a few minutes, she put my lead rope on. Iím not sure why.  I wasnít planning on going anywhere as it was fun to play with the ball.   We walked around following the ball and then Katie kicked it really hard and ran after it. I ran after it too but as soon as I felt the lead rope, I got kind of excited and ran to the side. Katie stopped running and we just walked up to the ball. We walked after it a few more times and then Katie kicked it further and we ran after it. This time I just walked. But the next time, I trotted right along with her.  I was a little unsure of what I was supposed to do but she clicked me and gave me a nice bunch of carrot pieces, so I figured that must be what she wanted.


The next day I saw her carrying the ball up to the ring. Then she came and got me and took me up to the ring. We practiced standing on my board and touching the cones a bit and then she took me over to the ball. We played the same game we had played in the field and I trotted all over the place. Sometimes Katie put the ball down and then we walked away from it and then trotted up to it.


Now I know that I am supposed to trot with her when Katie starts running. I got so good at it that she had Jim come out and take pictures.


Here I am trotting with her:


After we were done practicing our trotting, Katie let me just play with the ball. It was a lot of fun. She would kick it toward me and I would spin and kick at it with both hind feet. Here I am going BOOM!


For the next story, click on The Bath




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