>> Monday, July 6, 2009
Tango makes me happy. All of my animals make me happy, but you know that. I have to remind myself on a routine basis that Tango is NOT A DOG. He is a horse.
Reminding myself of that is important, because as big as Tango is, he could accidentally hurt me when we're playing.
"Playing?" you ask.
A couple years ago, Tango was off for about six weeks. I couldn't ride him or do any ground work with him. I wanted to spend worthwhile time with Tango and so with the help of a friend, we came up with a plan.
"We can teach Tango tricks," I told my friend.
My friend didn't hesitate. She's the best clicker trainer I know. "I'm all in," she said.
The first thing we did was to hang a plastic pop bottle by from Tango's stall. Of course, Tango was curious. Every time he reached out and touched the bottle, we'd click the clicker and give the boy a treat. Oh! One more thing. We always said the word push at the same time we clicked the clicker.
That activity led to Tango pushing a beach ball around the arena every time we asked him to give it a shove.
After that, we taught Tango the word pick. Since Tango's a very mouthy horse, he often tastes everything in sight. We used it to our advantage. Every time he remotely used his mouth on a jolly ball (a ball with a handle) we'd click the clicker and say THE word.
Within a few weeks, Tango was picking up the jolly ball and depositing into a muck bucket. I could have taken him on the road. We could have had a one horse basketball game!
There was more. We taught Tango to bow. We taught Tango to kiss. We taught Tango to back all the way across the arena until we asked him to stop. It was/is so much fun I can't even tell you.
Then we made the mistake of asking Tango to count. His cue to stop would be when we would click the clicker. Somehow, that just didn't work out. Tango kept pawing and pawing the ground. I swear that horse could count to 903! Anyway, we filed that trick away for future use.
Week before last, my sister-in-law came to the barn to take photos of Tango doing tricks that we could put into a slide show (thank you, Sandy). Unfortunately, I couldn't find Tango's jolly ball and the beach ball's long gone. Someone took Tango's balls! Oh well, not to worry. We used cones instead. Tango will pick up anything I ask him to pick up.
That brings me to another point. Tango uses the tricks I taught him for his convenience. He will pick and push and pull and back even when I'm not around. He can open his stall. He can open pasture gates. He can push down fence posts that he shouldn't be pushing.
Tango's the only horse on the farm that has to come in at night. While I feel badly that he can't stay out all night, I understand and want him to be safe. I truly appreciate the extra security they've put on Tango's stall door.