equine clicker training

using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people

Zan’s story

May 2004

Hello!  My name is Rosander and I am a Dutch warmblood colt.  I was born and live on a small farm in Pennsylvania.  My horse mom lives here too, although I don’t get to play with her anymore.  Now I play with my friend Willy and my human mom, Katie.   I am lucky to have two moms.  I have never met my Horse Dad as he lives on another farm. I hear that he is beautiful and a great jumper.  Katie says I look a lot like him.  By the way, you can call me Zan, everyone else does. Sometimes they even call me Zooming Zander because I’m so fast. Whee!

I am a year old and have had a pretty fun life so far. A lot of foals just hang out with their friends until they are old enough to be ridden, but not me. I am the only foal here so I get lots of attention and since Katie is clicker training me, I get to play lots of fun games. In addition, she makes my regular horse lessons fun too.  And, don’t worry, I do get plenty of time to hang around and be a foal.

Before I tell you about what I am doing now, let me tell you about all the things I have already done. I have learned a lot of great stuff which I would like to tell you about. Luckily,  I have been keeping a journal since a few days after I was born. Well, I do have some help with writing things down.  Sadie the cat is an excellent typist, when she is not distracted by the mouse or the cursor. Maybe I’ll get her picture some day.  Oh, if you have any questions about what I describe, you’ll have to ask Katie as she knows all the details.

If you want to skip around, my journal is organized with monthly entries. Some of these entries are not complete and I will add more information later.  Don’t forget to read the end of this introduction which has the story of my birthday.

The journal entries are:


I was born on May 1, 2003 at 10:00 in the morning. This was about a week after expected and Katie had been waiting for me. Rosie had never had a foal before and was taking her time. Then when the time came, she was very sneaky. She waited until Katie left the barn (where she had been sleeping!) and went in the house.  Rosie had been turned out in her field, but after Katie left, she went back into her stall and started to give birth to me.   Luckily Katie was sneaky too and she came back out, so both moms were there when I was born.  It was a good thing there were three of us there to help figure things out, because none of us had been through this before.   Luckily everything went really well, although it did take me a while to figure out how to stand and find some the right spot to nurse. I checked lots of places (Rosie’s legs, tummy, tail) before Katie helped me find the right spot. Rosie was very patient. She squealed a bit, but she did let me bumble around until I found the right spot. Once I knew where to go, I was all set.   It might have been easier if Rosie hadn’t decided to give me a bath right away. Right after I was born, Katie was helping me stand up and Rosie started licking me all over.  She got so carried away that she started licking Katie too. Everyone was very patient with me and once I caught on, there was no stopping me.

Here are some pictures of me on my birthday.

I had to stay in the stall with my horse mom for 3 whole days before I got to go out.  Rosie kept a really close eye on me. For the first two days, she stayed so close to me that sometimes she forgot to eat. Katie had to hold the bucket in front of her so she would have some dinner.  Rosie still liked to lick me all over. She licked, and licked, and licked me all the time. I got so tired of her licking me that I started to buck when she licked the top of my rump.

I had lots of visitors during those days.  They would look in over the stall door and say how cute I was.  Katie was there a lot too.  She touched me all over and talked to me.  She would come in the stall and walk up to me and put her arms around me, just like a big hug. But she didn’t hold me tight. She just kept her arms there so I couldn’t run forward or backward and she would find my itchy spots and scratch me. Just a little scratch at a time. Sometimes she really found the right spot and I crinkled my nose all up.  Sometimes Katie sat down with me when I was resting and stroked me all over. I liked it, but I had some very tickly spots.  Sometimes she just sat in the corner of the stall and watched me.  Rosie would go over and sniff her, but I was too shy the first day. On the second day, I went up to her and sniffed her and then jumped away. It was too scary. By the third day, I was feeling brave so I went up to her and sniffed her, and then reared right in her face. I was feeling pretty good!  I don’t think Katie liked that, as after that, she wouldn’t let me come too close. She would let me come near and then ask me to wait and then she would approach me.  She didn’t like it when I pushed her around or tried to bite her.  I guess even little foals have to have some manners too.

Finally, it was time to go out.  I was so excited to run. I made Rosie run all over the place chasing after me.

Here we go:

Zan’s Story: Getting Started

(May 2003)

Today I am 6 days old.  I have been having a great time eating and playing and sleeping. Rosie, my horse mom lets me eat whenever I want and go where I want.  Katie, my human mom, visits me all the time. She hugs me and pats me and sometimes she puts this funny thing on my head.  The first time I saw it she just held me gently and rubbed me all over with it. She started on my neck and then worked up to my head. Then she gently held my head and slipped my nose in the hole at the front.  Then she took it off again.  She rubbed me with it some more and then she put my nose back in.  Next she put up a strap behind my ears. I really didn’t like that as it felt like my head was caught. She just kept scratching me and talking and eventually I settled down.  Then she took it right off so I guess I don’t mind. She says it is my halter and I have to learn to wear one.  My horse mom, Rosie, has one on, so I guess it’s ok.  Sometimes Katie puts her arms around me and scoots me along.  She is not very good at steering, but I am figuring her out. 

Today I figured out how to itch my head. One of the first times I tried, I got unbalanced and almost fell over. Katie was watching and I was very embarrassed.  But now I am pretty good at it and I can balance on three legs and itch my ears too.

I have found a few toys. I like to play with the rubber piece that hangs on the doorway. When we go in at night, it gets put across the top of our doorway, but during the day it hangs down, so I can pick it up and bang it around.  I also like to play with the string on the fence that my human mom uses to hold the hose when she fills the water trough.  The water trough is kind of fun too. I like to run my nose around it.  Sometimes I can hear Finale, the big horse, up on the hill when he bangs his water trough. He is really loud!

The next story is I learn some new rules

Zan’s Story: I Learn Some New Rules
(May 2003)

Today I learned that my horse mom, Rosie, can push me around just as much as my human mom, Katie.  Katie has been working on getting me to move around when she touches me.  She puts her arms around my sides and scoots me along if she wants me to go somewhere.  She has even put a rope around me so that I get used to the feel of a rope on my sides and around my rump. I don’t really like that and it makes me want to buck.  But she always says “good” and scratches my itchy spots when I figure out what she wants so I like to play wih her.

I had been having a great time out in the field with Rosie. I got to do whatever I wanted and she just followed me around. Sometimes I would nap in my favorite sunny spot near my stall door. Sometimes I would wander out into the field and explore. But today, Rosie wouldn’t let me do what I wanted. She made me stay near her so she could eat a big pile of hay. I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I went dancing out into the field like I always do, and she got in front of me and made faces and pushed me until I turned around. Then when I tried to turn around and go back, she blocked my way. I kept trying to get by her and she kept sending me back to the hay pile. She kept this up for about 20 minutes until I stopped trying to go far out into the field.  It was very frustrating. I thought it was my job to plan our day.  So I gave up and took a nap.  Maybe it’s not so good having two moms, if they are both going to be pushy and make me go where they want.

So after some thinking, I have come up with a new game.  It’s really fun. When Katie comes into the stall, I come right up to her and when she puts her hand out to try and pat me, I nip at her. She doesn’t like it and she moves away and then tries again, and I bite at her again. It’s a great game but I don’t think Katie likes it too much as after I started playing it, she left. I tried a few more times today when she came in, but she wouldn’t play for very long.  

Later she came back and instead of allowing me to walk up to her, she waved her arms all around. I thought that was pretty weird so I decided I better just keep my distance. She told me I was very good… how strange.  I was waiting to see if she was going to be even weirder, when she came up to me and put her hand on my nose. I hated that and shook my head all around. I wanted to yell “Help…I’m trapped” and get Rosie to help me.  But no matter where I went, her hand stayed on my nose, not holding it, just stuck there. This was really a problem. I did finally shake it off, but then she put it right back there again.  Finally I stopped throwing my head around and she moved back to my side and scratched my itchy spots. Oh goody, I love that. But then she reached forward and put her hand on my nose again. Agh! What is this? I shook my head all around, but that is hard work so I stopped for a second and she said “good” and scratched me again. After a few repeats of this I started to figure it out. She puts her hand on my nose and if I keep my head still, she says “good” and scratches me. Ok, I can do that.

From that day on, she played that game a lot. That was how she always approached me and how she passed in front of me.  After the first day, she sometimes put her hand on the side of my face and rewarded me for holding still when she did that. I really hate the hand on my nose.  The side of my face is much easier. Once I got used to that, she tried putting it on my nose again and I didn’t mind as much. I really don’t like to have my face touched, but I do love getting scratched so I guess it’s something I can do.  She uses the same method when she wants to walk in front of me. If she is patting me on one side and crosses in front of my nose, I love to nip at her.  But I have learned that if I hold my head still and let her get to the other side, she will scratch me there too. 

Once she is standing next to me, we play all sorts of games. She touches me all over, sometimes in new places and sometimes in tickly places. If I stand quietly, then I get a nice scratch. Sometimes I offer to help her by scratching her back. She must have some itchy spots, but I guess she doesn’t like that because if I bring my head around as if to scratch her, she stops scratching me!  She seems to like it when I keep my face forward.  She also picks up my feet and moves my legs around. She used to touch my feet a lot when I was lying down and I didn’t really mind. Sometimes I even let her move my legs around. But it’s a lot harder to pick up your feet when you are using them to stand.  If I pick up my foot and let her hold it, she says “good” and puts it down and then I get a nice scratch.  Luckily she doesn’t hold it up for very long. Another thing she does is look at my teeth. Yes, I have some beautiful white teeth. I am very proud of them and like to use them to nip Rosie. Rosie lets me do it. Can you believe it? She is very tolerant of me. Katie is often saying that Rosie is way too nice. But how can that be? A mom can never be too nice, especially about letting you chew on her.  I’m glad Rosie lets me chew on her, because Katie sure doesn’t. 

Tonight just for fun, Katie took Rosie and me out of our stall. She had Rosie on a lead and let me explore the aisle all by myself. I met some other nice horses. I made baby faces at them and they were pretty nice, although that spotted one did squeal.  I was so busy looking around that I didn’t notice what Rosie was doing. Then I realized she was standing with her front feet on a box.  Her front feet were way up off the ground. Boy is she tall that way. Seeing my opportunity, I walked over and nursed off her. It was great. I didn’t even have to duck my head.

Here I am following Rosie like a good boy:

Zan’s Story:  Leading

(June/July 2003)

Today Katie, my human mom, came in my stall and put my halter on. I am getting used to my halter and sometimes when she puts it on, I get to go out and explore. Last week I wore my halter and Rosie, my horse mom, and I went up to the ring with Katie. We walked around in the ring and I got to see all the other horses in the fields next to it.  There are lots of brown ones and a little white spotted one. I wanted to meet him, but I was too nervous. I kept running up to him and then dashing off. It was fun to run around and stretch my legs.  Of course, I kept getting excited and jumping on my mothers back. I do that sometimes when I am feeling frisky. Katie turned around and waved her arms at me and sent me away when I did that. I guess it’s not a good idea. Oh well, I can do that other times.

But this day, we didn’t go out.  Katie put my halter on and then she patted me a lot and told me I was beautiful.  Of course I already knew that.  Then she put a rope on my halter and rubbed it around on my neck so I would get used to the feel of it. I didn’t mind the rope and thought it might be good to chew on. Anytime it was close to my nose, I tried to catch it. I guess Katie didn’t want me to do that as she started keeping it out of my reach. Soon I stopped thinking about it as Katie started doing something new.  She put her hand on my hip and just left it there. After a while, I got sort of tired of it and I moved my hip over. She said “good” and gave me lots of pats and scratched my favorite itchy spot.  She kept doing this and finally I figured out that she wanted me to move my hip. That was easy.

Then she put her hand on my hip again and I moved over.  This time I moved over and stepped up a bit.  She must have really liked that as she scratched my itchy spot again.  She was holding on to the rope on my halter, but not pulling so I didn’t mind. I do get worried when I think my head is trapped, but I have decided the halter and rope are ok and I am getting used to them.  So I started walking a few steps forward and around. She must have liked that too, as she told me I was good and scratched me again.  Pretty soon I figured out that she just wanted me to walk, sort of like when she had scooted me along. Only this time, she used her hand on my hip and the rope to guide me.  I really had some itchy spots so I was happy to play this game. 

The next night, she put my halter on and took me out into the aisle and left Rosie in the stall. The stall has an open top door so Rosie just hung her head out over the door. I was standing right in front of it so we were touching noses.  I was nervous at first but when Rosie started eating her hay and watching me, I figured it was ok. Katie was there scratching my itchy spots so I decided maybe we were going to play a new game. But actually we played the same old game, just in a new place. She put one hand on my hip and the other on the lead and soon we were walking up and down the aisle together. Luckily it’s a short aisle so I could always see Rosie.  Sometimes I get upset and rather than pulling on my head, Katie just pushes on my hip until I make a little circle and settle down. 

After I got pretty good at leading in the aisle, I got to go practice leading in my field. Katie left Rosie in the stall and we walked down the water trough and back.  I thought that was kind of boring as I can do that anytime I want, but Katie told me it was good to practice leading in a familiar place.   She told me that once I was good at leading, she would take me for walks. 

Today Rosie stayed in her stall and we walked out of the barn around the outside and back in the other end. Rosie got a little worried and called for me. I wanted to turn around and go back but Katie just stood and waited. Eventually I decided to go forward again and before I knew it, we were back at my stall, coming around from the other direction.  This was the first of many little walks. Once I got good at going around the barn, we started to walk other places. I really like to go out and I march right along with Katie. If I get worried, I stop and Katie asks me to go and then waits for me to move.  Once I start walking again, she says good and gives me a scratch. Usually by then I am sure it’s ok so I go right off with her when she walks forward. 

Sometimes I get scared and then I jump forward. Katie just stands still and I usually circle back around her. Sometimes she puts her hand on my hip to make me turn. I usually settle down pretty quickly, although there are some days when I really want to just go out and run around. It’s so exciting to be out of my field.  One day I even got to go for a walk with Molly, the pony.  Katie wanted to take me down to the field by the house and she thought I would be braver if I had some company, so Kira led Molly down with us. I was very interested in Molly and it made me so distracted that I didn’t even realize how far I had gone from Rosie and the barn.

Of course, I am usually pretty brave about going out and I walk right along.  It’s going back that makes me want to jump around. I get so excited when we turn around and I see how far I am from the barn, and that I’m going back to it. Every time I get too excited and jump around, Katie just stops and waits for me to settle. Then she says “good” and I get a nice itch or I just get a chance to walk forward again. Sometimes she is sneaky and I don’t even realize that we are heading back to the barn because she doesn’t go straight back there, but zig-zags across the lawn and lets me look at different things along the way. 

Of course, by now I am pretty good at leading. Although there was that little period when I decided it was fun to rear, but that’s another story and I don’t do that much anymore. I have learned that if I walk nicely I get lots of carrots and I get to go somewhere interesting.  

Here is how I looked in July.  Aren’t I getting big?  Sometimes Katie just comes out into the field and plays with me without the halter and lead rope too. We just hang out together and she knows all my itchy spots. I always am happy to see her and come right up to visit.

Zan’s Story: Head Games
(August 2003)

Now that I am big enough to stick my head out over the stall door, Katie says I have to learn some manners if I want to look out into the aisle. I am so excited to be able to see clearly and watch what is going on, that I like to spend a lot of time looking around. I can see the other horses when they are being groomed and watch Katie when she does her chores.  Rosie and I get to go out during the day but sometimes when we are tired or the bugs are bad, we just hang around in the stall.

When I first got big enough to put my head over the door, everyone else was excited too, because they all wanted to pat me.  I thought this was great because they would put their hand up to pat me and I would try and nibble on them. I didn’t want to hurt them, just taste them and chew a bit. I guess Katie didn’t like this because she told the little kids that they shouldn’t pat me until I learned some manners.

I was a bit worried about learning my manners, but it turned out to be easy. All I had to do was hold my head still, and keep my mouth closed when someone touched me. If I did, then Katie would say “good” and give me a carrot. I just learned to eat carrots and I really love them. We played this game a lot and I learned that sometimes Katie would hold her hand right up to my mouth as if feeding me a treat, but if she didn’t say “good” I needed to keep my mouth closed. If I kept my mouth closed, then I would get a big handful of carrots.  One day someone else offered me a carrot without saying “good” and I wouldn’t even take it. I was sure it was a trick!

Katie plays the same game in my stall. She touches my head all the time. She strokes my ears and looks in my mouth. Sometimes she even puts her finger in the side of my mouth and when I open it, she looks at my teeth.  In the beginning, I really didn’t like her handling my head, but I have gotten used to it. It’s a good way to earn carrots and she is always very gentle and lets me move it away if I need to.

So I guess learning my manners is not so bad.  I wonder what I will get to learn next?

By the way, I still love to play head games with Willy. It was one of our favorite ways to pass the time in the winter. Now that it is spring, we still play when the bugs get bad. Willy hates the bugs and hides in his stall, but he is still willing to play with me if I stand by his doorway.  Here we are, can you tell who is winning?

Zan’s story:  The Box

(September 2003)

I am growing a lot these days. I can’t wait until I am big like my horse mom, Rosie. In the meantime, my human mom, Katie is teaching me to stand on a box so that I can pretend I am big like the other horses.

The first time I saw the box was when I was little and I saw Rosie standing on it. She puts her two front feet on it and then she gets carrots. A little while ago, I learned about carrots. I saw Rosie eating them, so I thought I would try one.  I know some horses take a while before they like them, but I liked them right away. I’m still not sure about those apple things, but carrots are yummy.  Now when I do the right thing, Katie says “good” and gives me a carrot piece. I am not as itchy anymore so I like to play games where I earn carrots even better.

The first thing I learned to do to get a carrot was to back up. When Katie comes into my stall with hay or water, I have to get out of her way. If she comes in, and I back up to give her room, she says “good” and gives me a carrot.  I heard her telling someone that she was so surprised because it only took one time for me to learn that I could get a carrot if I backed up. I had been backing up pretty well already because she would give me some scritchies, but I liked the carrot so much that I started backing all the time. 

Anyway, now that I like carrots so much, I am learning some new games and one of them is how to stand on the box.  When Katie first showed me the box, I thought it might be fun to eat. I tried chewing on it and I tried banging it with my foot.  She tried picking up my foot and putting it on the box, but I wasn’t really too sure about that. Then she took the box and put it in front of my stall. Rosie was in the stall and I was trying to touch noses with her. Actually I wanted to bite her, but I didn’t tell Katie that. I couldn’t reach with the box in the way, so when Katie picked up my foot and put it on the box I was already leaning forward, and I decided it might be ok to put my foot down on top.  So I did, and Katie said “good” and gave me a carrot.  Then she led me off the box very carefully and we did it again. After a few more times, I was pretty happy to have her put my foot on the box, but I wasn’t too sure about doing it myself.  I wish I had had this box back when I was too short to look over the stall door. I remember being so pleased when I was finally tall enough to look out. That was back in July. 

We kept practicing with the box after that and I learned to let Katie put both front feet on the box, although I didn’t help her much.  I did eventually learn to step up all by myself. It’s really pretty fun to stand on it. Sometimes I paw it but I only get carrots when I stand quietly.

Many months later when Katie was taking me up to the ring, she showed me a flat piece of wood and asked me to step on it. I really wasn’t sure about it at all. It was sort of like my box, but not quite the same.  I tried dancing around it and pawing it.  But then I learned to stand on it, just like the box.   We usually go and stand on it when we first go out to the ring to play. I can stand on it and look around and get settled before we start to do some other things.  I like starting out that way as it is nice to know what to do when I get to the ring.

Here I am on my box:

Zan’s Story: Fetch
(October 2003)

I have a new toy. It is red and I can pick it up and trade it for goodies. My human mom, Katie brought it into my stall last night. I didn’t know what it was so I sniffed it and she said “good” and gave me a carrot. Pretty soon I figured out that every time I touched it, she would say “good” and  I would get a treat.   I learned to touch it when it was in her hand and also when she put it down on the floor.

Tonight she came out again and asked me to touch it. I remembered that and was happy to touch it no matter where she put it. Sometimes I had to walk a step or two, or move my head around. But then I touched it and she didn’t say “good” and I didn’t get a carrot. What??? I was so surprised that I nudged her all over as I was sure she had just made a mistake. But she just pointed to the toy again and told me to try again. So I touched it again and this time she said “good” and I got my carrot. Phew! I was worried for a while there. We played this game for a while and sometimes I got carrots and sometimes I didn’t.  I sure don’t understand, but I keep trying because sometimes she says “good” and I do love those carrots.

Katie brought the toy into my stall again tonight. I have been thinking about this game and I wanted to do really well, so I made sure I touched it really hard. She seemed to like that as she said “good” and gave me a bunch of carrots and told me I was smart. So I touched it really hard again, and I even put my teeth on it. She liked that so much she gave me a whole bunch of carrots. Pretty soon I figured out that the more I bit at the toy, the more carrots I got. Once I got so excited I bit the toy and picked it right up. She really liked that!

Now I have figured out that I am supposed to pick up the toy. Sometimes I drop it right away and get a carrot. But sometimes I manage to hold on to it for longer and she takes it from me. Then I get a whole lot of carrots. Sometimes my toy gets wet and dirty and she wipes it off for me.  I hate getting sawdust in my mouth. 

Now sometimes we play with my toy when I am loose in the aisle. Sometimes at night, Katie lets me out of my stall and we play in the aisle. I can stand on my box, get groomed or practice walking around. I am getting really good at picking my toy up and handing it to her. Tonight I went to hand it to her, and she had moved. I was so surprised, I dropped it!  How am I supposed to give it to her if she’s not right there?  I picked it up again and she said “good” and gave me a carrot. Ok..I guess I am supposed to pick it up, but now what do I do?  I am holding the toy again and Katie reaches out her hand and takes it. She is farther away but I guess she can still reach. This is ok.  We do it again but this time she can’t reach, oh, oh.  Then she reaches out and instead of taking the toy, she holds my halter and has me move forward a step. I get rewarded for this. We do this a few times and the next time I pick up the toy, she reaches forward and I just step toward her and give her the toy. She doesn’t even have to hold my halter. She is so happy she pats me all over and tells me I am brilliant.  Now the game is even more fun. She can put the toy down or throw it and I will pick it up and bring it to her. Sometimes I get distracted and she has to restart but it’s a great game. I really like it.

Here I am with my toy:

Zan’s Story: Weaning, a New Friend, and the Cross ties

(October 2003)

I have a new friend named Willy.  He is a Thoroughbred gelding and he plays with me.  In truth, he’s a lot more fun than my horse mom, Rosie, ever was. I have known him for a while as he lives in the stall next to me and sometimes we play head games.  You know, those games where you stand facing each other and try to bite the other horse’s head.  This summer Rosie, and I were turned out during the day and Willy was in this stall which looks out into my field. He goes out at night and sleeps during the day. But he doesn’t always sleep and sometimes he stands with his head in his doorway and plays with me. We stand there trying to bite each other. I play head games with Rosie all the time, but she won’t bite back so I would rather play with Willy as he seems to like the game better. He’s pretty quick and sometimes he gets me on the nose.  Of course sometimes I get him too, but he’s a lot taller than me, so he can lift his head up out of range. I am learning to rear. That way I can still bite him when he puts his head up.

Well, today Willy came out with us. It wasn’t my idea. It was Rosie’s idea. Rosie and Willy are good friends and used to be turned out together before I was born. Maybe she missed him and wanted him to come out with us. He was just standing in his stall and she went up and unlatched his door and opened it. So he came out. I was so excited to have him come out to play, but then Rosie wouldn’t let me. Every time I tried to go see him, she would block me and send me away from him. I tried and tried, but eventually I gave up. So we all went out into the field and grazed together, with Rosie keeping herself between me and Willy.  I did keep an eye on him, just in case he did anything interesting but all he did was roll and eat grass.  Here is Rosie chasing me away from him:

And here we are once we all settled down:

Now that I have a new friend, I don’t spend all my time with Rosie. One day I went out into the field and when I came in, our nice big stall had a wall in the middle of it so that it was two stalls. That night when I got my dinner, I ate in one stall and Rosie ate in another. I got a little worried but I could see her through the bars and the doors were open so it was ok. Besides, this way she doesn’t steal my grain if she finishes before me. 

Over the next month I spent more time with Willy and less time with Rosie. I was worried at first and spent some time hanging around near Rosie, but after a while that got boring so I started going out into the field with Willy. Katie spent a lot of time with me too and she took me for lots of walks and sometimes just kept me company.  I was glad she was around.

To take my mind off things, Katie started teaching me to tie and stand in the wash stall on the cross ties.  She started teaching me to tie by looping a rope through a metal ring on the wall. One end was hooked to my halter and she held the other end.  She let the rope stay slack and just went about brushing me as usual. If I pulled back or forward to make the rope tight, then she asked me to move to put the slack back in the rope. If I put the slack back in the rope, she said “good” and I got a treat.   I don’t like having the rope tight so I was happy to move. It just took me a while to figure out how to put the slack back in the rope.

Once I was good at this, then Katie took me into the wash stall.  She put a long rope through the ring on one side and back and then held me with a rope on the other side of my halter too. If I stood quietly she would say “good” and give me a carrot. This was pretty easy so I got lots of carrots. I think it’s pretty easy to stand on the cross-ties. The hardest part is going into the wash stall as it’s like walking into a wall. I didn’t like it at first. I just didn’t see the point of walking into somewhere when I just had to turn around and go out.  Katie let me just stand there and look around and then she clicked me for every step forward. When I say she clicked me, I mean she said “good” and gave me a carrot. She uses the word “good” with me because it was too confusing for Rosie to have Katie clicking her and me at the same time.  Katie says that Rosie is very sensitive and she didn’t want to confuse her, especially when she was anxious about her foal. Katie was thrilled that Rosie would let her play with me so much me that she didn’t want to make her upset so she used a different marker word for me.  She says “good” in a very special way and I know it means I have done the right thing. 

Once I was more comfortable on the cross-ties with the ropes looped, Katie started tying me on one side. She also taught me that she could move me around when I was on them. If I get too far to the front and start to lean on the ropes, then she backs me up and clicks me. If I stay back and keep the ropes slack for a while, then she clicks me for that. I have lots of ways to earn carrots in the wash stall so I have decided that it’s a good place.

After I was really comfortable standing in the wash stall, Katie started hooking me up to the regular cross ties on both sides.  She always stays with me and makes sure that I don’t get bouncing around too much.  She spends a lot of time grooming me there as she says she likes to make me look nice.  I have gotten so I kind of like it there. I get lots of carrots and I know that the other horses go there too so it makes me feel like a big horse.

Zan’s Story:  Meeting the Vet and Shots

(October 2003)

Today I met a new person. I’m not sure if I like her or not. She was very nice and patted me and told me I was handsome, but then she poked me and made me go OUCH!  It all started out pretty well. Katie came in my stall and put my halter on. Then she took me out and walked me around so the vet could see me walk. They both said I looked nice and straight, whatever that means.

Then we went back into my stall and the vet gave me some shots. Ouch! I suddenly realized that this is what Katie had been preparing me for with all those games where she poked my neck. She started them last week and I had no idea why she wanted to do this. She spent a lot of time teaching me that she could touch my neck with funny things. She touched me with her fist, sort of a bump. She also touched me with her fingernails, just a gentle poke. Then she poked me with a pen, not too hard but enough so I noticed it. She also sometimes held a piece of my skin between her fingers and then poked me.  None of it hurt and if I stood quietly I got a click and treat so I figured that if she wanted to do strange things, it was ok with me.  Now I realize that she had been getting me ready for shots. I sure didn’t like them, but I did stand quietly. The vet said that foals are usually good for the first one but then act up for the second. I did get nervous for the second shot, but Katie kept clicking and treating me for standing so I was willing to put up with it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, then the vet reached back between my hind legs and touched me there. What? I was so surprised I kicked right out at her.  She did it again and again and I kept kicking at her. I had no idea what she wanted and Katie didn’t explain it to me so I was very upset.  I wish she had taught me it was ok to be touched back there. Later after the vet left, Katie spent some time working on this with me. First she touched me on the belly and clicked and treated for me standing quietly. Then she worked her way back until she could touch me all over back there and I didn’t mind. She said she was sorry she didn’t practice this before the vet came, but she hadn’t known the vet would do this. And she didn’t realize it would be so upsetting to me.  I sure wish we had practiced ahead of time too. I don’t like surprises, especially not that kind.

While the vet was still there, Katie asked her to look at the bump on my leg. I have a bump on my cannon bone that has been there for a while. It doesn’t bother me, but Katie wants to know what it is.  The vet wasn’t sure she wanted to touch my leg and she said “what, after he was trying to kick me?”  Katie said she was sure I would be fine as she touches my legs all the time.  She showed the vet how she could touch my leg and I didn’t mind. So then the vet went to touch me and I did try to kick her. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to let her do anything to me.  Then the vet looked at Katie and said “you do that again.” So Katie touched my leg again and I let her.  I am used to Katie touching me all over and I know she won’t hurt me.  I know I will get clicked if I let her touch me, even in places where I am tickly.  Then the vet asked Katie for some carrots.  She gave me some carrots and then touched my leg and I didn’t mind as much. I didn’t kick her or wiggle at all. I figured she must be ok if she was feeding me carrots. But it sure would have been easier if she had explained it to me the way Katie does. I am much happier when people do things slowly and let me know if I am doing the right thing.

So that was my adventure with the vet. Katie said she wasn’t surprised that I was so good when they did things slowly and clicked me as that’s how she does things. But she said she was surprised how reactive I was when they didn’t do that. It doesn’t surprise me. I am happy to cooperate when they explain things to me but I am very sensitive and sometimes I react without thinking when they do something I don’t expect, or something new.

Here is how I looked in October.

And here I am doing my best racehorse imitation. Whee!

Zan’s Story: Feet

(November 2003)

A long time ago I learned to let Katie pick up my feet. In the beginning, it was hard to balance, but I sort of leaned on Katie. She started picking them up when I was only a few days old. She also used to stroke my legs and touch my feet when I was lying down.  Back then I didn’t know how to eat carrots so I got my itchy spots scratched when I did something right.  I liked that a lot and I got pretty good at letting Katie pick up my feet.

Once I would let her pick up my feet, she started to pick them out with a hoof pick. It feels pretty funny, but not bad. I sometimes find it hard to keep my foot up for very long, so in the beginning, Katie would just hold my foot up and scrape it once, even if that didn’t get it really clean. She told me it was just practice.  It took us a long time to get good at my back feet. When she first picked them up, she held them right underneath my body, but when she started to use the hoof pick, she had to hold them out behind me a little bit.  That really messed up my balance and I started snatching my feet away from her. I was hoping we could just forget about doing this. But then I noticed that if I didn’t let her finish holding a foot and took it away, I didn’t get my itchy spot scratched.  So I got a little better about letting her hold on to them.

We were doing pretty well and then one day I fell down in the field. It was very slippery and I really smashed my hip.  The next time Katie wanted to pick up my right hind foot, I said “no.”  Well, actually I picked it up, but then snatched it away quickly.  I was too uncomfortable and no matter how many times she tried, I just wouldn’t let her hold it up. Luckily she had seen me fall down so she had some idea what had happened. 

By now I was big enough that I could really pull my foot around and Katie didn’t want to get into a fight with me, so she changed the game. Before, if I moved my foot around, she just kind of went with me. She didn’t try to hold my foot still until I was ready, but she didn’t let go either. Since I didn’t mind her doing my feet, we never really had a problem except some occasional wiggling. But now she started doing something different. If I started to pull my foot away, she just let go.  And if I didn’t want to pick up my foot, she just moved on to a different foot. We were working loose in my stall now.  She would pick up my feet in random order and do different things. Sometimes she picked them out, sometimes she just rubbed them, or moved them around. Sometimes she put them between her legs like the farrier. 

You know at first I thought it was pretty cool that I didn’t have to let her do anything she wanted with my feet. I wouldn’t let her pick up that right hind at all. But after a while I realized that every time I didn’t pick up a foot or snatched it away, I was missing out on a carrot. And after a while I got used to her messing with my feet so much that I didn’t mind it anymore. Not only that, when I let her pick up my right hind she made a big fuss over me and gave me lots of carrots. Any time I did something especially well, I got a bigger treat and she would pat me and scratch me and tell me I was wonderful.  She could come in my stall and just start working on them without putting my halter on or anything.

I had already had a few visits with the farrier and he was already impressed with how good I was about picking up my feet.  He said you can really tell when a foal has been handled.  I thought he should have said how smart I was.  Now that we had spent all this time working with my feet in the stall, I bet he’ll be even more impressed.

Zan’s Story: The Trailer
(November 2003)

Today Katie, my human mom, came and put my halter on and led me out the front of the barn. Instead of just the green grass and trees, there is a big metal box on wheels parked there. Katie tells me that it is a horse trailer and I am going to learn to get inside it.  What?  Why would I want to do that?  She leads me up to it and lets me sniff it all over. I even get clicked and treated for touching the outside, the wheels, the ramp and the doors.  Then she leads me around to the back and asks me to step on to the ramp.  The ramp looks kind of funny. It is not flat, but goes uphill and it is black and doesn’t look like the dirt or grass, or even the concrete in the aisle.  I’m not sure what to think about it, but I know I can stand on my box so I figure it can’t be that hard to stand on the ramp. So I put two feet on and stop. As soon as I put my foot on, Katie clicked and now she is feeding me carrots. I guess it is just like my box.  Then she backs me up and walks me away. We do this a few times and I am getting pretty good at standing on that ramp with two feet.

Then, instead of walking me away after I have two feet on, she asks me to walk forward. I’m not quite sure so, I just stand there for a while. She just waits and eventually I step forward. It reminds me of when I used to be anxious about stepping off the concrete aisle and going out of the barn. The step down used to seem strange to me, so I would just stop at the doorway. Katie would just wait until I was ready to go down.  But, you know, this isn’t so hard. Once I have four feet on, I just keep walking. When I get in the trailer, she has a flat black bucket on the floor and she dumps a whole bunch of carrots in there. I eat them and then we go out and I go back in my stall.

We practiced this a lot over the next few days. I learned to walk right in. Sometimes we stay in and eat. Sometimes I just get a few treats and go back out.  Sometimes I turn around and walk out, other times she backs me out.  One day she has a helper and they put the ramp up while I am in there. I am so busy eating my goodies that I don’t really notice, and it doesn’t bother me anyways. One day after that, they close the ramp and the top doors. Now it feels really different. I am a little anxious but Katie is there with me and she talks to me and I settle down. 

Eventually I learned that the trailer moves after I get in. It took me a little while to get used to it and I’m not sure I like it, but it doesn’t scare me.  And even now, sometimes Katie takes me out and puts me in the trailer and gives me a big treat and then we go back to the barn without the trailer ever moving. 

She says maybe this summer I’ll learn to ride in it with the partition up, and maybe I’ll even have another horse with me. I wouldn’t mind if Willy rode with me. It would be nice to have some company.

Zan’s Story: The Christmas Card

(December 2003)

Tonight I was snoozing in the barn when my Katie, my human mom came out to give us all our bedtime snacks. She comes out every night and gives me a nice pile of hay and a carrot and tells me how special I am.  Some nights she takes me out in the aisle and we play games. I love to play games. She says “good” when I do the right thing and then I get a treat. My favorite treats are carrots. She cuts them up into little tiny pieces and I get a piece every time I hear that sound. 

Tonight she told me we were starting something new.  She had a handkerchief which she held up to my nose. I took a sniff as it was something new and Katie said “good” and gave me a carrot. Soon I was touching it as fast as she would let me.  But then I touched it and nothing happened!  Luckily for me, I knew that I should just keep trying. I pushed it hard, she said “good” and gave me a treat! We played for a few more minutes and I figured out that I was supposed to hold onto the handkerchief. That was easy as I love to use my mouth to play with things.  Then she put me back in my stall and I got a big pile of carrots in my feed bin. Yummy!

The next night I got to do the same thing although this time she taught me to hold onto the handkerchief longer and then give it to her. She started out by having me hold the handkerchief and saying “good” when she took it back. Then I got my treat. Good thing she took the handkerchief out of my mouth as I wasn’t sure how to eat with it in there. I did try to eat the handkerchief a few times, but Katie told me that was a bad idea and pulled it out. She told me she didn’t want to have to call the vet and explain why her horse had eaten a handkerchief. Apparently my mom tried to eat a popsicle stick once and she has been careful since then. But that’s another story…

Once I was holding the handkerchief she would wait a little longer each time until I was willing to hold it for longer and longer. Sometimes I dropped it, oops..Sometimes I threw it around. That was fun, but I didn’t get a carrot..oops.  Once I was pretty good at holding it, she started moving around and putting the handkerchief in different places. Sometimes it was on the floor, sometimes in her hand or on the bench. Sometimes she moved before I could give it to her and I had to move my head or walk over to her.  Sometimes she even threw it so I had to walk over to get it. I had a lot of fun and earned lots of treats. Every time I got confused (which did happen), she made it a bit easier and then I got excited about the game again.

The next night she told me we were going to add something new. She got out my box. I love to stand on my box. This was the first trick I learned when I was little.  My box is a heavy wooden platform about 6 inches high. It is very stable so I can stand on it with my two front feet and enjoy the view. I like to bang on it and paw it too. Sometimes I try to eat it, but I only get carrots for standing on it, so that’s usually what I do.

We practiced getting on and off the box a few times. I get clicked (which means she said “good” and gave me a carrot) for getting on my box, and then I get clicked for getting off my box. Sometimes I even get clicked for standing next to my box and waiting to be asked to get on.  After I figured out she just wanted me to stand on the box, she asked me to take the handkerchief. That was easy. So now I am standing in the aisle on my box, holding a handkerchief.  Sometimes I think Katie has some strange ideas!

The next couple of nights we didn’t get to play. She took Willy and Rosie out instead. I wished I got to go out, but it was ok as I can watch them over my stall door. Willy gets to stand on the box too.  Willy has lots of tricks. I watched him draw pictures with markers, practice Spanish Walk and play games with balls and cones. Willy has a lot of toys. Some day I’ll learn how to play with them all too.

The next time I came out, Katie had moved the box over near the wall. She had me stand on it and gave me the handkerchief again. This was easy. Then she hooked the handkerchief on a hook on the wall.  I tried to pick it up but it was stuck. She clicked me anyway and retied it so it would come off easier. After a while I got pretty good at taking it off the hook. I had to lift it up off the hook instead of just yanking on it. Sometimes it would get stuck and I would start to pull REAL hard. Katie always came and helped me. She would say “sorry” and then put it back on so it was easier.  But you know what, I could tell she was getting frustrated too as it wasn’t quite working out how she had planned. So she gave me a big hug and put me back in my stall with my big pile of carrots. I always get a big treat at the end of the session, just so I know playtime is over and that I’ve done a good job.

Would you believe it? Now she wants me to hold a red and white stocking. It has just a tiny tab at the top. I tried to grab it in the middle, but she said “no, it wouldn’t look right.” That tab sure is small and it tastes kind of fuzzy. Yuck! Oh well, I did my best. She tried hanging the stocking on the hook on the wall, but I kept ripping the tab off when I took it down. Then Katie gave me lots of clicks and treats for trying anyway and then put me away. She said, “back to the drawing board,” as she left. What does that mean? Will I get to draw pictures like Willy?

The next night she came out and told me she had a new plan. She took a piece of red cotton fabric and tied it through the loop and made a big knot.  Then she hooked that on the wall and asked me to get it. Wow…this was easy and tasted much better too. Of course, after a few attempts I got the knot all soggy and slimy so it didn’t work so well. Turns out she was thinking ahead as she had lots of pieces of red cotton and she just replaced it with a new one. 

A few nights later she came out with a whole pile of pretty stuff. She had more stockings and ribbons and some red and green decorations. She started decorating the big door next to my stall. I tried to help her by reaching out over the door and grabbing the pretty green garland as she put it up, but that just made her move it farther away. Sigh..no one lets me help with anything.

Then she hung up a lot of stockings all in a row. They all had letters on them. She told me there was one for each horse and that mine was in the middle. She showed me that it said “ZAN” in big black letters.  I can’t read, but I believed her.  Then she stood back and took a picture of the door. Katie is hard to understand sometimes.  

But then I got to come out.  She moved my box over in front of my stocking and asked me to step on it.  I liked doing that because now I could reach all the stockings and I started to try and take one off the wall.  “Wait, wait” she said and took the stocking out of my mouth.  “That’s not yours,” she said as she pointed to a different one. Oh, I had grabbed the one next to mine, so I took mine off instead. I got a click and treat and a big pat.  We played this game for a while until I got pretty good at taking the stocking off the wall.  Sometimes I didn’t even get to take it all the way down before she clicked. I liked taking it down better. Sometimes I would take it down and then wave it all around before I gave it to her. Sometimes I would get so excited waving it that I would drop if before she took it from me. Then I didn’t get a carrot, oops.. I was really enjoying myself but then it was time to stop.

I was so happy we got to play the same game again the next night. This time she decorated the wall and only put up my stocking. After I was pretty good at standing on the box and giving her my stocking, she took me off the box and led me down to the other end of the barn. I was sad as I thought the game was over. But I got a click and treat for going with her, so I was hoping we might have another game to play.

When we got to the end of the aisle, she turned me around and told me to go get on my box. I marched right off down the aisle and stepped up. We had practiced this before when I learned to get on my box last summer. I heard her click, but I was already busy getting my stocking. She came up and gave me my treat and told me what a good boy I was.  We got to play this game a whole bunch of times until I was really good at it.

The next night I was hoping to play again and we did.  This time she had all the stockings up and she was holding her camera. She had me step on the box and get my stocking until she was sure I remembered what I was supposed to do. Then instead of standing next to me to take the stocking, she backed up and looked at me through the camera.  She took a lot of pictures. Sometimes I was holding the stocking, sometimes I was dropping it, sometimes I was just looking around.  If she didn’t click and treat me quick enough, I would start to work on the other stockings. Once I got three of them down before she moved me away. This was great fun. 

She didn’t seem to care too much what I did as long as I was on my box and had my nose near the stocking, but she did tell me it would help if I didn’t take all the decorations down. She told me she was checking to see how the picture would look so it was ok for me to do what I wanted. I did get a click and treat when my nose was on the stocking or when I picked it up.  But then she put me in my stall and told me she would be right back.  I didn’t get my big pile of carrots so I knew something more would happen.

I saw her go and get Willy’s big black feed tub and put it down at the end of the aisle. Then she went in the tack room and I hear the chop, chop of carrots on the chopping board. Oh good, more carrots for me! 

She came and took me out again and led me down the end of the aisle and dumped a pile of carrots in the bin. Then while I was eating, she ran down and stood near the box. What?  Oh well, I ate my carrots and then turned around and she was pointing at the box, so I went down and stood on it. Click! Oh this is the same game we played before, just with carrots at both ends. After I got my carrot on the box, she asked me to touch the stocking by pointing at it.  Click and treat. After that she led me off the box and back down to the bucket where she dumped more carrots in it. Yummy!

We played this game about 10 times. I got so fast that I would eat my carrots in the bucket and zoom back to the box so I could grab my stocking before she could get in position to take my picture.  Sometimes I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even eat all the carrots in the bin before I went to the box. If she didn’t click me right away for touching the stocking, I would wave it around and throw it. She was pretty slow about taking it from me. I guess the camera distracted her.  Sometimes she got so distracted looking at the camera that I would start to take the decorations down while I was waiting for her. Finally she gave me a pat and told me we were done.

The next day she showed me my picture.  She told me she was going to make it into a Christmas card and I was the star!  I thought I looked great, but I was sad we didn’t get to play the game anymore. Luckily, she had lots of new games for me and I’ll tell you about them later.

Here is the Christmas card

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 didn’t 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 didn’t do anything.  So I went back up to it and sniffed again. It crinkled but I didn’t 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 didn’t crinkle as much and I didn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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. I’m 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 wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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.

Zan’s Story: A New Halter

(January 2004)

My head is growing!  I have gone through three halters already and now I have a new one. It is different than my others. It is leather and it has a snap at my throatlatch.  Katie helped me learn how to put on my other halters.  First she held the halter in one hand and I gently slid my nose in.  I used to try and bite the noseband as I put the halter on, but Katie showed me how to let it slide over my nose. We practiced this a lot when I first wore a halter and then we worked on it more later.  She would click and give me a treat if I put my nose in the halter without biting it.  Then she would bring the crown piece around behind my ears and put it through the buckle.  That was the easy part.

But my new halter is different. When she first put it on, I was happy to put my nose in the noseband, but then instead of sliding the crown piece behind my head, she pushed it over my ears. She was very careful but I didn’t like it one bit and I put my head way up high. Unfortunately she could still reach.  If I was bigger, I would have put it way up high so she couldn’t get my halter on. That way I wouldn’t have to feel the leather going over my ears.  She clicked and gave me some carrots when it was on, but I was really not sure I liked this new system.   Then she had to take it off and she had to take it over my ears again. Yikes.

The next time Katie wanted to put my halter on, she did things a little differently. I think she could tell I wasn’t comfortable with the new halter so she spent some time showing me how to put my head down.  She just rested her hand on my poll and waited for me to drop my head. Of course, I thought I would just put my head up and get away from her, but she just left her hand there and I am still too short to get my head up above her reach.  Then I dropped my head a tiny bit and she took her hand off, clicked and gave me a carrot. It took me a few tries to figure this out. When I dropped my head, I also took a step forward, so I thought maybe that was what she wanted.  If I walked a lot, she made me back up, but mostly she just clicked whenever I dropped my head. For a while there, I was walking one step and dropping my head at the same time, but after a while I got tired of walking and just started dropping my head. Wow, I got a lot of carrots for that and then we stopped. She dumped a big pile of carrots in my grain bin and left. I always get a big treat when we end a play session. That way I don’t feel bad when the fun is over.

We worked on head lowering a few more times and then Katie came back with the halter. She asked me to put my nose in like I used to with my old halter. I wasn’t sure at first as I had decided that I didn’t like that halter, but when she didn’t put the new one on, I decided it was ok. We just practiced putting my nose in and out. I earned a lot of carrots and decided that I liked this game.

The next time she had me put my nose in and then she started to slide the halter up my nose. I thought this would be a good time to put my head up, so I did. But then she put her hand on my poll and I remembered that meant I was supposed to put my head down. Hmm…ok, I guess I can do that.  So I put my head down and got clicked.  Then she slid the halter up again and I put my head back up. Again she asked for me to put my head down and I did. After a few times of this I started to keep my head down when she slid up the halter. Katie must have liked this because she told me I was very good and gave me a whole bunch of carrot pieces. Then she asked me to do it again and this time she very gently put the leather piece over my ears. You know what, when my head is down and she can slide the halter up, there is lots of room for my ears and I don’t mind this at all. I guess my new halter is not so bad.

For the next few times I needed to wear my halter, we practiced these same steps until I became very comfortable putting it on and off. Now I don’t even have to think about it when she comes in with my halter. I stick my nose in and wait for her to slide it over my ears and then I get a click and a treat. Yum!

Another new thing I had happen this month is that it snowed.  Here I am playing in the snow:

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.

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 haven’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 can’t 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.

That’s 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 didn’t have to bite the cones, I could just touch them. We moved around from cone to cone and I didn’t 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 don’t. 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 haven’t nipped at her in a long time.  It happened a few times before she realized that nipping meant I wasn’t 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. It’s 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:

Zan’s Story: The Fly Mask

(April 2004)

Today it is warm and sunny. I am really enjoying the warm weather and Willy and I spend a lot of time looking for new blades of grass. But today, there are little bugs swarming all around us. It is very annoying. Willy likes to walk with his head in my tail which keeps the bugs away from him, but not from me. Luckily I have a lot of fuzzy hair in my ears which protects them from bug bites.  I had very long tufts when I was a baby. Katie took a picture of them because she thought they made me look cute.  Here is a picture of me checking out a cone when I was a baby.  You can see the tufts in my ears, and I still have them now.

At lunchtime Katie came out and put this funny thing on Willy’s head. It is black and gray and makes him look like a bandit. I took it off him right away!  Katie told me I shouldn’t do that as it keeps the flies out of Willy’s ears.  Oh well, Willy didn’t mind when I took it off. I even stomped on it and ground it into the sawdust just to make sure it wouldn’t bother him anymore.

Then later, she came out and tried to put one on me. First she held it up and asked me to touch it. That was ok. Then she rubbed it on my neck and I didn’t mind but when I went to get my carrot, my nose got zapped. Katie said she was very sorry, that it was static and she didn’t mean to do it, but I wouldn’t take any more treats after that and when she held up the fly mask, I left. I don’t trust that thing at all. I think it made her hurt me.

We got to stay out all afternoon and enjoy the sun. A breeze came up so the flies weren’t too bad.  At dinnertime, I came in the barn and Katie put my halter on. I like putting my halter on as it usually means we are going to play. But this time, she put it on and then got out that fly mask. I thought it would be best to leave!  But she talked to me quietly and told me it would be ok. Then she asked me to touch it again. No way! I wanted to leave, but she was holding me with a lead and the stall was closed. She didn’t make me come towards her and the fly mask but just waited.  When I didn’t move, she asked me to touch her fist. That was easy. I can do that. I still wasn’t sure about the carrot though. What if I got zapped again? Katie had to hold my halter so the carrot was right in front of my nose and then I ate it.  Once I would touch her fist, she had me touch the fly mask again. Well, ok….Pretty soon I realized that was ok.  Then she started touching me with the fly mask, on my shoulders and neck.  If I stood still, then I got a click and treat. I still wasn’t sure if the carrots would be ok, but no more zaps so I started being braver about taking them.  Soon she was rubbing it on my face and putting it over my head. I got a little nervous when she put it over the top of my head, but nothing happened and I do love my carrots.  Then she put it on me. One of my ears got folded down, but I just waited until she fixed it. I like it when she strokes my ears. She has done that a lot since I was a baby and I don’t mind. Sometimes, when they are itchy, it feels good.  Wow! I was wearing this thing. She checked to make sure it wasn’t rubbing my eyes and then I got my dinner. Hey, this thing was ok!  After dinner, she carefully took it off and told me how brave I was.  I wonder if I’ll have to wear it again. Oh well, maybe I can get Willy to take it off me…after I take his off him….

Here I am with my new flymask:

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 wasn’t 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 didn’t like this game at all. I know I am not supposed to jump around and I don’t 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 that’s what I did. I’m not sure she liked it as I didn’t get many more clicks, but I wasn’t 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 “Hmmm, we’ll have to think about this” and we went back down to the barn. I hope she comes up with a better game. I’m 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 doesn’t 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 didn’t 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. I’m not sure why.  I wasn’t 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!

Zan’s Story: The Bath

(July 2004)

Would you believe that before this summer I had never had a bath! Well, maybe a good soak in the rain, and Rosie used to lick me all the time, but I had never had a real soapy bath in the wash stall like the big horses.

My stall faces the wash stall so I have seen lots of horses get bathed, and I have stood in the wash stall to get groomed.  But Katie had never gotten me wet or used the hose, until this summer.  I didn’t get a bath last summer because she was busy doing other stuff with me and she hadn’t taught me about the wash stall yet.  Of course, I was still with Rosie all the time too, except for our little walks. Since Katie didn’t have anyone to help by holding Rosie or me, she just decided I could wait for a bath. Besides, I had that nice foal smell so why would anyone want to give me a bath!  Gee…last summer, I didn’t even know how to be tied up. I have learned a lot. Over this past winter, I learned to stand in the wash stall for grooming and Katie has spent a lot of time touching me all over and helping me learn to be brave about new things.  Besides, I was ok with being dirty, and even kind of liked it. I don’t roll much and when I do lie down and sleep in my stall and get yucky from that, it just makes me smell even better.

Well, anyway, one day about a month ago, Katie took me out of my stall and put me on the cross ties in the wash stall. I am used to the wash stall as I get groomed there and sometimes we just stand in there and I get clicked for standing quietly in the middle.  She spent some time grooming me and just when I was all relaxed and enjoying myself, she took out the hose. Now the hose hangs on the wall next to the stairs and is not too long, but it looks sort of strange and makes strange hissing noises. Katie took the hose down off the wall and held it up for me to smell. I looked at it kind of suspiciously, but it wasn’t making any noise so I sniffed it, click/treat. Hey, this is easy. I touched it a few more times and then she touched my neck with the hose. I tensed up and wiggled a bit, but as soon as my feet stopped moving, click/treat. Katie rubbed me all over up and down on the neck with it and I decided it was ok.  Then she put me away and gave me some treats in my bucket.

The next day she took me out and put me in the wash stall again.  She had me touch the hose and when I was ok with that (more carrots, yum!), she went back over to the wall and I heard some strange noises and she brought the hose back over, but this time there was water coming out of it. I backed up as far away to the side as I could, as I didn’t want anything to do with that!  So, Katie folded it over so the water was not coming out much and was pointing down. Then she held it up to my nose and I stood pretty still, but I really didn’t like it.  She had me touch it a few times and I did get my nose wet, but I hated that too. I tried to get as far away from it as I could.

So Katie put the hose down and picked up a sponge. She left the hose lying where I could see it and it still had a trickle of water coming out. I was careful not to get too close. Katie came up to me with the sponge and she had me touch it. I figured that out right away and got lots of carrots for touching it. I was so relieved to be doing something easy that I shifted over so I was back in the middle of the wash stall.  Then she touched my neck with the dry sponge and clicked me for standing for that. Since I didn’t mind that, she put warm water on it and touched me again. Now that felt weird and I really didn’t like it at first. But once my neck was wet, it didn’t feel so bad. It was a hot day and the water did cool me down. Then instead of using a damp sponge, she made it wet enough that the water dripped a bit. When she put the sponge on me, she squeezed it and water dripped down my leg and neck. ….Oooh..that was too much…. I hated how it felt running down my leg. I hated the sound of it dripping on the floor. I picked up my leg and then I tried to turn myself around on the cross ties. I even managed to turn enough that I was now facing into the wash stall instead of out of it, but I had the cross ties in the wrong place. I was really stuck. Katie had to unsnap me and turn me around. She told me I was silly, but that I was a good boy to stand and wait for her to untangle me. So she took me off the cross ties and tried to sponge me just holding the lead.  I have to say that I was not very cooperative. I wiggled around a lot and kept trying to leave. I had decided that this whole business was not something I liked. Carrots or no, I would prefer to stay dirty.

After a few minutes when I didn’t settle down, Katie filled a bucket with water and took me out on to the lawn. That was great, except she brought the bucket and sponge with her. She let me stand and eat grass, YUM!  Then she tried to wipe me with the sponge. I wiggled away, but she kept wiping me until I stopped. Then she took the sponge away and allowed me to eat grass.  As long as I allowed her to wipe me with the sponge, I could eat grass. If I moved off, she just moved with me until I stopped. Then she took the sponge away for a minute and started again.  After a while, I was getting pretty damp and I do love grass so I just started eating and let her wipe my neck, back and rump.  I have to say that it wasn’t so bad but I would have preferred to just eat grass. 

When she was done, Katie put me back in my stall and gave me a big pile of carrots. She told me I was the silliest boy she knew to be so scared of everything, but that it was ok, we would work on it.

Well, I was pretty sure she had given up on it.  She didn’t try to give me a bath again for a long time. Instead she spent time grooming me in the wash stall and playing with me in the ring. Oh..she did seem to spend a lot of time getting me used to being touched everywhere, especially my legs, and with lots of different things. She took her dressage whip and stroked my legs. If I lifted my leg up, she kept stroking it. If I put it down and let her stroke it, then I got a click and treat.  Sometimes she used the really tickly end of the dressage whip, other times she used the hard end.  She rubbed me all over with a towel and even with a damp sponge. One day I thought she was going to bathe me, but she just turned the hose on and laid it out on the floor so I could see it and then did her regular grooming. A few times, she filled a bucket with water and dripped it on the floor around but not on me.  To be honest, she did so much weird stuff with the hose that I started to sort of ignore it. Sometimes she just unrolled it and left it on the ground so I had to step over it when I went in and out of the wash stall.

Then one day she took the hose out and started rubbing my legs and neck with it. I was a bit surprised at first, but then decided it was really ok. I had seen it so much that I really didn’t care anymore.  She rubbed me all over with it (turned off) and I earned lots of carrots for standing still when she touched me.

But then one day it was really hot.  She put me on the cross ties and groomed me. I still get clicked for grooming, mostly for keeping my feet on the floor, but also for letting her brush my tickly spots. And I always get a click and treat for putting my head down so she can brush my forelock and I get a click and treat each time she picks out a foot. I am really good about letting her handle my feet now, and she can wiggle them all around without me losing my balance.  Well, on this hot day, she took out a big container of carrots and some other bottles and filled a bucket with water.  And then she started stroking me with the hose again. That was ok and I got clicked and treated for it.  Then she rubbed my neck with the dry sponge, with a click and treat for that too. That was ok too.  Then she put the sponge in the bucket and rubbed my neck with it. I was a bit surprised at first, but it was rather hot out and I wasn’t scared of the sponge anymore, so I stood still and she clicked me. She wiped me all over my neck, back and rump with the sponge and even down my legs. I got lots of clicks and treats for standing still. It was easy.  The water dripped a bit but I didn’t mind as I was used to it by now.

Then she took the hose and held it next to the sponge. I looked for a minute, but then decided it was ok. The hose wasn’t even on. So I let her rub me with the sponge some more. Then she went and turned the hose on just a bit. Now it does make a funny noise with the spray nozzle, but I was used to it from all the weird stuff she had done with the hose before when I was standing in the wash stall.  She held the hose up so the water trickled on to the sponge and then on to me. The sponge got a lot wetter that way and some water trickled down my legs, but I didn’t mind too much. After all that work touching me with strange things, it didn’t seem so bad. I got clicked and treated for being rubbed with the sponge too.

Once my neck and shoulders were wet, Katie took the sponge away and sprayed the hose directly on my neck. It was ok! I didn’t mind at all. She actually sprayed on to her hand and then moved the water around. I liked having her hand there, because then I knew where the water would be coming from and it didn’t surprise me. I also felt better with her hand on me because I am so used to her stroking me with her hands and I like it. I got clicked and treated if I kept standing still while she sprayed me. She did both sides and my legs and even my tail.

Then she rubbed me all over with the sponge and got me soapy. This part was ok too, although I started to get suspicious about the carrots smelling funny. Soapy carrots do not taste good.  Once I was all soapy, she sprayed me with the hose again. I didn’t mind this part, except I did notice that there was a puddle forming in the wash stall and I really, really wasn’t sure I liked that. By the time she was done, I didn’t want to stand in the middle of the wash stall anymore. I like to angle away from the hose anyway when she turns it on, and I didn’t want to be anywhere near that drain. Katie did ask me to move over and then click me for staying there, but I am just not comfortable with that yet.  She told me it was ok and that next time she would let me stand on my mat with my back feet so that I knew where to put them.

When she was all done, she scraped me off with the sweat scraper. That felt funny. I did twitch my skin a bit, but I didn’t mind until she got to my legs. She took her hands and put them around each leg and squeezed the water down and off. It felt pretty weird, so I kept picking my leg up.  I also thought she might want me to pick my leg up, so I tried that too. When she did my front legs, she just kept her hands on my leg and clicked me for putting my leg back down. I did get used to it. But with my back legs I kicked out a few times. Instead of holding on to my back leg, she just kept her one hand on it loosely and rubbed the water off. That way when I kicked, she wasn’t holding on. A person can really get hurt holding on to a hind leg and it can panic a horse to have their leg held when they are not comfortable. It is much safer to just not hold on hard. I thought it would discourage her when I kicked, but she kept on trying and then I realized I wasn’t earning any carrots, so I started to think about it. Katie always rewards me for putting my feet back down when I wave them around, so I decided to try and keep my back feet down. Well, I tried that and then I earned a lot of carrots.  And she told me I was a good boy, wow! She said she was so happy to have the clicker to communicate with me so that she didn’t have to worry about me learning I could take my feet away when I wanted.  Instead of getting in a fight over whether or not she could hold my foot, she waited until I was ready and able to let her hold it. 

So that was my bath. She even put detangler in my tail so that she could brush it all out. Did you know I used to hate having my tail brushed too? Katie said I was worse than a little girl with snarly hair. Yikes!  She has clicked me a lot for brushing my tail a little at a time, but this is the first time she brushed it all out.  Now that it looks so beautiful, I’m glad she did it and wish she had one it sooner!  I looked so beautiful that she took a picture.  Here I am.. Don’t you think I am getting big too?

Here I am during my bath…  

And here I am the next day, still clean and look at that nice tail!

Zan’s Story: The Round Pen part 1
(August 2004)

This summer Katie and I have been playing in the ring. She made a little fenced in area where I could be loose and we could play games. She doesn’t want me to trot or canter around in it, so she has it full of lots of interesting stuff and she keeps me busy. She says this game is called “the line of trash’ and she learned about it at a clicker clinic. The idea is to teach your horse to walk over or be touched by all sorts of odds and ends. This helps make horses braver and more confident. Sounds good to me!  Katie started with some easy things I already had seen and then worked up to more unusual things. Here are some pictures from our first session. I was still learning to be brave in this session but I thought it was a lot of fun.

Here I am touching my ball..that was easy.. and accepting the broom on my back, oooh, it feels weird..

Then I had to check out the tarp and Katie had me looking in the muck bucket, is there any food? don’t you like my windswept hair look?

She even tried to brush me with a pool noodle.  I’m not so sure about that, maybe I’ll be braver next time..I think I’ll leave now. But then I got a special treat at the end. Here I am enjoying some nice green grass.

I guess Katie didn’t like her temporary round pen because one day I was in my stall eating lunch when a big truck pulled up to the end of the driveway. It is usually pretty quiet at our farm, so a truck is an exciting event.  Some men got out and started moving these big metal things off the truck and on to Jim’s trailer. They were very noisy! Then the truck left and Jim and his brother Geoff drove the trailer right up to the ring.  I have a pretty good view of the ring from my stall so I watched to see what they were doing.

They unloaded a big pile of gates on to the ground and then carried them up to the ring and started lining them up. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing, but it involved a lot of banging and shouting. Finally they finished what they were doing and went back down to the house. I wondered where Katie was. I wished she would come and tell me what was going on. I like going up to the ring and if they are changing things around, I want to know!

When I got turned out that night I peeked over the fence but all I could see was a big circle. It looked like a ring within the ring, hmm…  I can’t believe Willy didn’t care, but he said he has seen a lot of stuff and he was more interested in going to look for some grass.

The next day Katie took Willy out and walked him up to the ring. I watched from my field. She walked him around in it and then let him loose and he trotted around a bit. I could see she had moved all the cones and poles into the ring and Willy was getting to play with them. I wondered when it would be my turn. 

The next day it was my turn! Katie took me up to the round pen and walked me around. She told me it is called a round pen and it is for working horses loose. Then she told me that it is going to be my playground and we would set up all sorts of fun games in there.  For today she just let me look around. I have to say that I got a bit excited and ran around. I am not used to being alone and I like to work in the end of the ring closer to the barn. My new playground is in the middle of the ring where it is a bit scarier. Since I was running around and looking worried, Katie went and set out my board so that I could stand on it. I love to stand on my board. She just put it down and when I stood on it, she clicked me. If I stayed on it, she clicked me again and she patted me and told me everything would be ok and I was not to worry.  When I had settled down a bit, she went and got my big yellow ball and we played push the ball around. I love that game. The pen is flat so the ball doesn’t roll very far but I was doing a good job pushing it around and I earned lots of carrots.  I think the round pen is going to be a lot of fun.

Katie took me up to the round pen every few days for the next few weeks. We worked on pushing my yellow ball and on the board. I got really good at standing on the board with my front feet or my back feet. I even learned to back up onto the board. At first, I didn’t like it and if I felt the board, I would put my foot down off to the side, but once I learned I got a carrot if I put my foot on the board, then I started to put my back feet on right away.  We also played with touching cones and one day Katie took her target stick out and had me follow her around the pen with it. I am still sort of nervous in the pen, especially on the side away from the gate and I really don’t want to stand with my hind end toward the far end of the ring. I need to be able to see down there in case there is anything scary. 

Another day Katie took me up to the round pen and let me loose to run around and explore. I must have been feeling anxious or full of beans because instead of settling down, I just ran and ran. I ran and kicked so hard, that Katie decided it was safer to be outside the pen. I hated it even more when she left. Now I was really alone. Then I realized she wasn’t really leaving, she was walking around on the outside of the pen. I went over to her and said “hi” and she clicked and gave me a carrot piece. I zoomed off again but pretty soon I saw her and ran back. After a few more minutes of running around, I settled down and we walked together around the round pen, Katie on the outside, me on the inside. Once I was staying with her most of the way (there were still a few scary places), she came in the pen and walked with me. She was careful to walk so that she wasn’t in my way if I wanted to zoom off. She even picked up a cone and carried it and used it as a target. If I walked next to her and touched the cone, I got a click and a treat. I got pretty good at this and would walk with her as long as she was on the outside of the circle. There was no way I was going to walk between her and the side of the round pen. I was staying on the inside where it was safe. She said it was ok, she was glad I had settled down and it wouldn’t be so scary another day. After that, Katie decided that I probably wasn’t going to just come out and be calm every day so she needed a plan to get me to settle down and work off my board.

For the next week, we practiced head lowering in my stall. I had already learned about it last summer, but just a little bit. Katie had spent some time free shaping it, which means she just stood next to me and clicked me for lowering my head. I remember trying to figure out what she wanted. I tried walking forward and backward and doing touching her and other things, but then I figured out it had something to do with my head and after that it was easy. Katie says I am a genius because I am so good at figuring things out.

All that head lowering practice sure came in handy because soon after that, I was in the round pen with Katie when Caius and Natalie came up to play in the ring. Caius and Natalie are Katie’s human kids. I like them, especially Caius. He is 4 and likes to come up to the fence and pat me. He is always saying “Rosander is such a nice boy.” No wonder I like him. Katie watches me and tells Caius to be careful I don’t nip him, but I wouldn’t do that. Natalie is 6 and she pats Buster more than me. Oh well.  Caius and Natalie came up to ride their trikes and dig in the screenings. Caius has a lot of cool dump trucks up here and he makes roads and moves screenings around. I like to watch them play and it really made it hard for me to concentrate on what Katie wanted. I got so excited to see them, that I ran around a lot. Finally Katie put my lead rope back on and we went and played on doing head down. I learned a bit of this in my stall a few weeks ago, and now Katie had me do it while standing on my board. It sounds really easy, but it’s not. She puts her hand on my poll and I drop my head. I guess that part is not so hard, but then she wants me to keep it down. I like to look around so I find it hard to keep my nose on the floor. Luckily she knows I am still learning so she never asks for me to keep it down for too long. This was the first time we practiced doing it in the ring.

Since I was distracted, she put me on my board where I could see the kids (so I wasn’t peeking or turning my head to see them). She asked me to put my head down using her hand on my poll as a cue. I ignored her for a minute but then I dropped it a bit, click and treat, yum.  We worked on it for a while and then I decided that maybe I could leave it down for a little while. I also noticed that she was sliding her hand down the lead as she went to put her hand on my poll. If I put my head down as she slid down the lead, then I got extra carrots. This was even better! Katie says it is good to have lots of cues for every behavior as it makes the behavior stronger. After a while I was getting so good at this, that Katie let me walk a bit and then stopped me and asked for head down. She was starting to teach me to walk with my head down. I actually kind of like this as I could see more when I was moving as we were walking in a circle.

Another day I learned about horseflies. In August, our farm has these giant horseflies. Katie’s farrier jokes that they are big enough to carry off a small sheep. They are huge and they like to bite us right on the top of our backs because they must know it’s hard to reach them there.  They really hurt and they make me sort of crazy. I run and run when they land on me. Luckily they are only out during the day and we are in our stalls during the day in August. But when Katie takes me for a walk or up to the ring, they come after me.  She usually carries a dressage whip and flicks them off, but today she decided to see if I could learn to stand still so she could kill them. She explained to me that all the horses have to learn that if a horsefly lands on them while she is with them, they need to stand still and she will get the fly off. This is important because we are not allowed to buck and run when we are being led or ridden and that’s the only way I know to get rid of the flies. The thing is, to kill them Katie has to whack you really hard. I’m sort of a sensitive guy and the idea of being whacked is not something I like. The first time Katie did it today, I jumped sideways. But then I realized I was ok and the horsefly was gone. The second time she did it, I hardly minded at all. It’s so nice to have my own personal fly swatter.

Well, those were some of my early adventures in the round pen. I will write more later when we start doing some new things.

Zan’s Story: Clippers

(September 2004)

Katie has a new toy and I really hate it. It is noisy and scary and just makes me want to leave!

She came in the stall the other day and put on my halter and lead and showed me this little tiny machine. It looked so harmless. She gave me carrots for touching it and letting her touch me with it. I wasn’t too sure about that. It is not nice and soft like my brush or gentle like her hand. It felt kind of funny. She just touched my neck with it, but I think she should take it back to the store and get something better. Maybe a new fetch toy or something to push around.  To make things worse, then she touched them and they started to make this funny noise. Now I really felt like leaving. She wasn’t even holding them near me but I decided to leave and turned and looked out the window.  This put my hind end in front of her, which I never do..that’s how upset I was. Luckily she knew I wasn’t really threatening her, I was just trying to get away. So she turned them off and patted me until I settled down. Then she gave me a big pile of carrots in my bin and went next door to Willy’s stall. Oh no, poor Willy! Willy’s stall is separated from my stall by bars so I could watch what she was doing.

But, what was really strange is that Willy didn’t seem to care. She rubbed those things (clippers, as I learned later) all over his head and neck and he didn’t even flinch when she turned them on.  She talked to me while she did it and said she was sorry she scared me. That she had no idea I would find them so scary and she should have worked on Willy first so I would know they were ok. I don’t know if it would have mattered. I would have hated them anyway.  She tells me I am silly to be so sensitive but it’s ok, I come by it honestly. What does she mean by that? I think just that my mom is sensitive too, so she shouldn’t be surprised that I am that way. When she was done with Willy, she went down to Rosie’s stall. I couldn’t see what she was doing but it sounded pretty quiet except for the noise of the clippers, clicking and Rosie eating carrots. I guess Rosie must have thought it was ok too.

Almost every day for the next week, Katie came in my stall and had me touch the clippers. She would just ask me to touch them a few times and then she would rub my neck with them. She didn’t try touching my head with them, even when they were turned off. She let me choose to touch them, instead of just having me stand still while she touched me with them. I am very sensitive about my head and she can see that I am still worried. She never turned them on, and I got carrots for touching them so I stopped worrying about them so much. Sometimes she stood outside my stall and turned them on and off. I didn’t really like that but after a while I decided it was ok as long as she was out there.

One day she came in the stall and had me touch them which I was happy to do. I was munching my carrot and waiting to try again, when she turned them on! Yikes! I backed up. She didn’t move but just stood there. When I didn’t move any more, she clicked and turned them off. Then she did it again. When I was comfortable at that distance, she came a little closer and clicked me for standing still with them turned on.  Then she had me touch them again while they were turned off. I was a bit worried about this because they seem to turn on when I don’t expect it, but after a few tries, I did sort of put my nose toward them. I got a click and treat. Ok.. I can do this again.  Then something strange happened. I noticed that when my nose went towards the clippers, they turned off. Now, this was cool. I tried again. Yes, I was still getting the click and treat, but what I really liked is that I was turning them off. WOW!

Soon I was eagerly touching the clippers so I could get them to stop making noise. Once Katie was sure that I really understood it, she gave me an extra big jackpot and left. The next day she came back and we played the same game again. I remembered it really well and touched them right away. A few days later, we played again and this time she touched my neck with them and clicked me for that. Then she turned them on and when they touched my neck, they turned off. So, now I can turn them off by touching them with my nose, or by letting her touch me with them. I thought this was ok.

We kept working on this a bit at a time over the next week and by the end of the week, Katie could touch my with the clippers running and I would stand quietly. She never let them run long enough that I needed to turn them off with my nose, but I liked knowing that I could do it if I needed to. I guess they’re not so bad after all.

Here is a picture of me turning them off, and Katie rubbing my neck with them

Zan’s Story: The Round Pen part 2
(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

Zan’s Story: Fun and Games

(November 2004)

   Katie and I are playing a new game while she grooms me. She grooms me almost every night. She said my coat was getting dusty and I looked unloved. Sheesh, doesn’t she know how dirty I am has nothing to do with how much she loves me. Anyway, it’s fine with me as this means she plays with me for a few minutes almost every night. In the winter, she feeds us dinner at her dinnertime and then she comes out after the human kids are in bed and plays with me. Sometimes she plays with Willy and Rosie too, but I always beg to have her play with me first. I am very polite about it. I don’t bang my stall like Rosie does. I don’t take my halter off the hook and throw it on the floor like Willy does. Although I have to confess that I might if I could reach it.  Katie gives me my hay and instead of eating, I just put my head over the door and wait for her to come play.

    She usually starts by coming in my stall and cleaning it up a little. I’m really pretty neat for a horse, but she likes to clean it up so I can have a nice soft bed to sleep on. I still lie down a lot. Every morning when Katie comes out, I have shavings in my mane and tail and sometimes even on my face and in my ears. I do love a good nap.  She used to clean my stall and then get her brush and hoof pick. But recently she has a new game. She puts the brush and hoof pick down by the doorway and starts to clean. When I pick up and hand her the brush, then she stops cleaning the stall (she does finish later) and starts grooming me. I like getting groomed. I have lot of itchy spots and I get carrots for standing still.

    Recently during grooming, Katie has been working on having me keep my RH leg on the floor. I have gotten into the habit of kicking out with that leg when she grooms my right side. It all started one day when I slipped in the field and banged my right hip. Katie was watching and when she went to groom me that day and I kicked out, she realized I might be sore. I sure am glad she knew what had happened and didn’t scold me for being so anxious about having my leg handled. For a long time after that, she ignored me kicking my leg a little and just clicked me when I was standing still. But I got so used to moving that leg, that it sort of became a habit.

    Then one day when I kicked out a little too much, she said “no.” Now Katie almost never scolds me and it is usually only if I do something where I am not being careful and might hurt her, so I knew she didn’t want me kicking that leg. I stood really still for the rest of the session. The next time, I started to move my leg and she stopped brushing me and turned away. Oh boy, that was a time out. Now I knew I really needed to learn to keep my leg still. I did some experimenting. I tried keeping my leg still but that was hard and sometimes I would start to kick and then change my mind.  Katie actually told me I was good and clicked me for trying to keep it still. I think she knew how hard I was trying. Then one day she clicked when I was resting that hind leg, so I decided that was pretty easy and I would just do that. For a few sessions, I stood resting my RH leg while she groomed me. Then one day she groomed me and asked me to shift my weight so I was standing square behind. I got clicked and treated for standing with weight on that leg. I guess you might think this was confusing but now I had two choices. I could rest the leg, or stand quietly.  Allowing me to stand with my leg resting for a few sessions turned out to be a great idea. It helped me learn to relax that leg and broke the habit pattern of wiggling it. After that, it was easy to hold it still. Now I get lots of carrots for standing quietly on that leg.

    Once she is done grooming, she does my feet. That is easy. I am so good at lifting and holding them that she can do it when I am loose in my stall. Then sometimes we play another game. One day she spent time working on my mane and tail. I don’t really like that but she just does a little bit at a time.  Another day we practiced head lowering with scary objects. She had me stand and put my head down and then she brought in a crinkled up brown bag. She let me sniff and touch it and then she held it way up high. I thought she wanted me to touch it, but she asked me to put my head down instead. It turns out that she was teaching me to calm myself down when I see something scary. So now I know that if she holds something up high and waves it around, I should put my head down.

    Speaking of scary things. I used to be afraid of the shavings bag. Can you believe that? That was before I learned how much fun they could be. Katie started by clicking me for touching it and then for biting it. Now I have learned to pick it up and hand it to her when she is done shaking it out. Maybe some day she will teach me how to squish it down. I see her jumping up and down on it in the aisle to flatten it before she puts it in the trash. It looks like fun.

    We have lots of other games we play. Katie is teaching me to put my head down so she can brush my face. I started to get a little nervous about having my face brushed and was lifting it up. She could still reach it but she decided there was room for improvement.  She started by clicking me for holding it still, but then she decided that she really wanted me to put it down when I saw the brush coming. I am getting better at that and I do like to have my ears brushed. It’s just that I get nervous around my eyes. Sometimes we play games in the stall where she has me back up and move my hindquarters. Or she has me bend my neck and move my front end over.  I am pretty good at this and she doesn’t even need a halter. She can just rest her hand on my head and shoulder and ask me to bend. She says it is good practice for when I need to learn to bend around corners.

    She also taught me to walk past her into my stall. I know that seems trivial but I liked it better when she went in first. My stall is connected to my field and at night she used to put my dinner in my feed bin, I would come in and then she would go around to close the outside door. Or she would walk in and click me for following her. Then she would latch the door. Now she has decided to have me walk past her into the stall so she can close the door from the outside. She says it is good practice to learn to go ahead of her and she likes to teach me new things to keep my brain thinking and busy.

    We are playing a new version of fetch. Katie brought a nicely wrapped box into my stall the other night. It looked just like a Christmas present..for me? No, it turns out to be empty (so she says). She wrapped it up and tied cloth ribbon around it so I can practice picking it up. She says she wants me to learn to carry it so I can give presents to my friends. I am getting pretty good at it, although sometimes I like to shake it around. Is she sure it’s empty?

    I think my brain is busy enough. I have lots of fun games that I have made up myself. Sometimes I find things to play with like little sticks in the field, or the tank heater. But most of them involve ways to get Willy to play with me. My favorite one these days is to walk up to him when he is dozing in the field and bite at his face. If I am lucky, he will play the “bitey face game” with me. If not, then I back up in front of him until my butt is right under his nose, then I wiggle around until he bites my back, I do a mini rear and zoom off. Then I come back and do it all over again. It’s so much fun.

    As you can see, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do out there. I really enjoy the little training sessions Katie does at night and I hope she keeps coming up with new ideas. If not, I’ll have to come up with some ideas of my own. I’m pretty good at that….

Here’s a picture of me that Katie made. She takes lots of pictures of me because I am so beautiful…

Sadly, Zan was injured in his field in December and was humanely euthanized. I’ve always debated about whether or not to remove his story from the site. But, he was important to me and I learned a lot from him, so I’ve left it. Hopefully anyone who is reading this will realize how special their own horse is, and how much enjoyment comes from training together in this way.