The second stall on the right in the lower barn has bags of shavings against the far wall. I decided to set up the piano in there. That way I could close the stall door if necessary. Practicing the piano in the aisle presents many delightful distractions to the horses.
I brought Zeloso in. The piano was resting horizontally on several bags of shavings. In front of him at chest height was the piano with four wooden keys. I said, “Touch” and pointed to a key. He raised a foreleg. I said, “Touch” and he tried to bite a key. I said, “Touch” and he bumped a key. It produced a tone, click/treat.
Even though he was confined to the stall he found things to play with. There was that strand of hay on the floor, some interesting smells on the wall, but he didn’t try to check out the open doorway.
The bottom line? Zeloso sort of activated the piano, but not where I indicated.
Out went Zeloso, in came Kye. I learned from Kye that the piano was insensitive. He touched the keys many times with his nose and no sound happened. He even picked a key and wiggled his nose from side to side. No noise. That’s when he bit the wood and took off a splinter of the key.
Out went Kye, in came Zelador. He could NOT focus with the stall door open behind him. I shut it. He got down to business. He was able to touch the keys and get a tone. I touched his nose and said, “Use your nose”. I did this several times. He sort of tried to use his nose, but quickly began biting them. I backed him up, said “Pretty Face”, he held his head “on the bit”, click/treat. (I asked for the back-up and Pretty Face hoping that would distract him from destroying the piano keys. Although I got some lovely back-ups and gorgeous Pretty Faces, he did not stop gnawing on the wood.
One time he was lightning fast and took a chunk out of a wooden key. That’s when I said, “NO! No teeth!!!!” From that point on he did not try to bite anything. He used his nose. I was stunned!
So…obviously there’s a new thing I need to teach Zelador (and Kye and Zeloso). What could that be? Body parts! It’s time to teach each horse the following words: nose, ear, knee, teeth, foot (think they already know that one!), tail and head. With those words in their vocabulary I can be clear in my requests and, perhaps, we’ll be one step closer to playing a tune on the piano.
If I’m not successful then we’ll need to find “easy button-like” surfaces that the horses use their teeth on.