Today it’s August 30, 2015. On July 31 I started showing six horses the letter “A”, Zelador, Zeloso, Spring Song, Kye, Blue and Pax. On July 31 I set a challenge for myself: to present the letter “A” to the horses every day for 30 days. Today after Bill and I brought the horses in from their paddocks I took each horse outside to photograph the ability to find “A” amongst three letters. The horses had never played the “A” game in the small paddock attached to the lower barn, but we headed there because the lighting for pictures is so much better there than in the stalls.

I also added another new thing: I placed each of the three letters on an object. Two were on muck out bins and one was on a feed tub. (Little did I know that putting the letter ON something was going to provide so much fun for several of the horses.)

The flies were buzzing and bothering the photographer, the horse and me. But I had a pocket full of carrots, my clicker and the firm resolve to get this on film.

Probably the main distraction to our endeavour was the fact that they’d just gotten into their stalls and had hay waiting. Obviously the ritual of coming into the barn and munching on hay is a highlight of the horses’ day. In retrospect I’ll not be interrupting this ritual again!

Zelador was the first one to be filmed and he made it incredibly clear that he wanted to be somewhere else.

He knocked each letter off its perch. He knocked over each perch. He pushed the letters and the perches with his nose, scrambling them. He picked up every letter EXCEPT “A” and tossed them mightily! He checked out Bill, got in real close to the camera. He strolled around the paddock. He pretty much did everything BUT what I asked him. Finally Zelador played the game I was interested in. Of course, Bill was laughing at all of Zelador’s antics and missed shot after shot. But I persevered and Bill stopped chuckling long enough to get some good photos!

The other horses were infinitely better than Zelador. Kye who’s general outlook on something we ask him to do is, “You can’t make ME do THAT” was a pro! I said, “Kye, touch ‘A’” and he did. Boring. Blue was also a no-nonsense horse and instantly walked over to “A”. Spring Song really wanted to go back to her stall and EAT, but she cooperated long enough to get a photo or two. She did enjoy hearing the clicker and eating a carrot, but preferred chewing the carrot into tiny bits as opposed to holding the letter “A” in her mouth.

Zeloso played around, not as much as Zelador. BUT he added a new twist. After we got some photos of him he decided it was time to run, jump, leap, spin, canter and NOT let me put his halter on and lead him back to his stall. The flies (and Zeloso) were victors in this new “you can’t put the halter on me” game. I looped the leadrope over Zeloso’s neck and led him into the barn.

When Pax walked to the letters he promptly knocked each one off its perch. Proof yet again that the horses talk with each other. Pax had been listening to Zelador and Zeloso and showed me he had total command over the new game, “Knock things down!”

     
Bottom line on the “Thirty day ‘A’ challenge”? I do believe each horse knows what “A” is. Now I’ll challenge myself to teach the group of six to leave me, go to “A” and bring it back. Blue is the only one in the group who does not know how to carry an object. I might have to modify his challenge.

 

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