About a week ago I thought, “I wonder if the horses can learn to pick up a hula-hoop and place it over a pylon.” They’ve certainly seen us throw them at pylons many times from the ground and while mounted. I started with Zelador. I chose a medium sized orange cone and a pink hula hoop. The two pink hoops are a bit smaller in diameter than the other hoops. I placed the orange pylon (about 12” high) on a low pedestal. I picked up the hula hoop, carried it to the pylon and placed the hoop over it. I said, “Good!” Zelador keenly watched every move I made.
I presented the hula hoop to him and he took it in his mouth. I picked up the pylon and positioned it so the hoop would go over it when he dropped the hoop. My plan worked perfectly and I said, “Good!!!” and gave him a treat. I had my clicker at the ready, but ran out of hands to operate it.
I took Zelador for a mesmerizing walk in a circle and came back to the same spot. This time I had a plan for the clicker. I held it and the hoop in my right hand and had my left had ready to position the pylon if Zelador needed help getting the hoop near it. Zelador happily took the hoop when I presented it to him. I asked him to place it over the pylon. He walked right up to the pylon and came REALLY close to doing it. Click/TREAT!
I put the toys away and led Zelador back to his paddock. I figured I’d play this new game again in the next week or so, leaving GAP TIME between sessions to work its magic.
Today I remembered to practice the game. This time I chose the very tall (probably almost three feet high) pylon that is decorated in pink. I placed it on the tall pedestal and fetched the pink hoop. I called to Zelador (he was at liberty in the arena) and I placed the hoop over the pylon and said, “Good!”
I offered the hoop to him and he walked forward, setting the bottom of the hoop on the pedestal at the base of the cone. He moved his head forward and released the hoop. It settled neatly over the pylon. WHAT A HORSE!!!!!