Today I took Dora the pony to the arena. We played a few games. For one game I use four plastic bowling pins. Two of them are green, the other two are yellow. I set them upright on the arena floor. This is often tricky because the pins are light-weight and the floor isn’t totally smooth. I always mention the colour that I want her to knock over with her nose. She loves this game. Dora always enjoys pushing things, horses, people!
Earlier we had picked up some toys and put them in a bucket. The toys are three cylinders, one is red, one is green and one is blue. These were still lying on the arena floor.
The last bowling pin I asked Dora to knock over was a green one. We put away these pins and as we were walking to another game we passed the cylinders. Dora put her nose on the green one. I told her that she was absolutely correct. This cylinder and the pin are both green.
Our next game involved the small cone. We’ve played with it probably only once and that was many months ago. I put it on a pedestal and asked her to touch it. She was about 15 feet from it and I was about 20 feet away. She walked to the cone and picked it up.
As we were leaving the arena we passed a lot of toys. She stopped at a large cone and touched it. I told her she was such a good girl! I said, “Dora, you’re correct! That big thing is a cone, too.”
A project we’re working on in the barn is: teaching the horses to paint a specific line by following a target across the canvass. At first I gave the horse a paint brush to hold. I demonstrated a line from left to right. Horses learn many things through imitation. Zeloso’s response was to flip the brush across the stall. I retrieved it and asked him to lay the brush on the canvas when he was done painting. He did a bit more flipping, then decided to humour me and place the brush on the canvas. Painting a straight line wasn’t high on his list.
I went to Zelador’s stall. He painted a line with lots of wiggles in it, then carefully placed the brush on the canvas. The target I was using for both horses (and the other three in the barn) was my finger.
After a few days of no lines I decided to create a different target. I presented the boomerang toy. All of them like to hold this soft toy and, you guessed it, they all tried to take it from me and hold it. No lines were created.
My next target was a piece of foamboard that I cut to a length of 10” and a width of 2”. All of the previous work had been done with me in the stall with the horse. For the foamboard I was outside the stall. I touched the target with my nose to demonstrate what I wanted the horse to do. Each horse did quite well touching its nose on the target. It was just happenchance that I did this work with me in the aisle and the horse in the stall. Each horse did really well touching the target.
My next step was to move the target and have the horse follow the movement, moving with the target. I’ve only tried this once and the horses are interested in what I’m doing, but haven’t figured out what I’d like them to do…yet. It’ll be interesting to see if the horses figure this out with my current teaching approach. If none of them catch on, I’ll be dreaming up new things to help with this project.