I recently saw a youtube video that featured a beagle returning lost items to people. My first thought, “Neat! Beagles are all NOSE!” My second thought, “Horses have huge noses and smell is really important to them. I’ll just bet that a horse can smell an object and take it to the person who owns it.” I thought about how I’d teach this and settled on needing at least one other person to help me.
Wednesday morning three people were coming to the farm. THREE!!!! This was the perfect opportunity to teach “find the person who lost this article” (I WILL come up with a shorter name for the game!). One of them was Lauren Bode. She’s an animal communicator (the real deal) and I knew she’d help the horses understand what I was trying to teach them. The other two were Liz and Carrie. Turned out Liz and Carrie arrived first.
I figured I’d start this game with the person owning the object standing outside of the stall. The boys are often quite enthusiastic when they learn a new game and I didn’t want either one of them bowling over an owner.
I started with Zelador. There are two doors leading into his stall. Liz stood at one; Carrie stood at the other. I went into the stall, called Zelador, he came to me. I held one of Carrie’s mittens for him to sniff. He did. I asked him to find the person the mitten belonged to. He walked to the stall door where Carrie was standing. Good! Click/treat.
I asked Zelador to sniff a mitten owned by Liz. We repeated the steps and he successfully went to Liz.
We repeated the game with a different object (a scarf from one lady and a hat from the other). As we watched Zelador it became clear that he understood the game.
We left Zelador to ponder his success during GAP time and turned our attention to Zeloso. He also has two doors to his stall. We repeated the mitten, then the hat/scarf exercises. Zeloso did quite well. He wasn’t as purposeful in finding the owner as Zelador was, but we could see that he was figuring out the game.
Lauren came into the barn and she was immediately placed outside Zelador’s stall. I commandeered one of the mittens and we showed her the game. Zelador outdid himself. Sort of blew us away. (Had to remind myself to click/treat.) Lauren asked, “How long has Zelador been doing this?”
My answer, “His first time EVER was a few minutes ago.”
My next step will be in a bigger area. One option is in the roundish pen attached to the lower barn. The horse will be in the pen and the owners of the objects will be on the other side of the fence. If the weather isn’t cooperating I can do the game in the arena, but I’ll need people that are “horse people” and won’t be intimidated when a 16+hh Lusitano singles out the owner and proudly presents himself to him/her.
One sentence sticks in my mind. Dominique said it when we were playing the mail-delivery game. She was standing on the tall pedestal and Zelador was delivering her mail to her. She said, “You haven’t lived until you’ve see that horse trotting to you with your name in his mouth!” Which brings up another point. The beagle in the youtube video had a doggy jacket on. This jacket had different sized/shaped pockets in which the lost object was placed so that he could sniff out the owner without the inconvenience of holding the lost object in his mouth. I’ll need to create an outfit for the horse to wear so that the lost objects can be carried securely to the owner.