Nap Time

By Terry Golson


I think that Scooter has been sending Tonka ESP lessons on napping. Or, maybe it was the January thaw with temperatures in the 40s, and the pasture, finally clear of snow and ice, that induced him to lie down and doze.

Yesterday afternoon, I brought a friend to the barn to meet Tonka, This is how we found him.

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He looked so cute. I wanted to make sure that I got the photograph before he stood up, so I snapped this from a distance. I shouldn’t have worried. As we came closer, he rested his nose and snoozed on.

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Eventually, he drowsily looked up. Oh, he thought, Here comes my person. No need to budge.

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We talked for a bit about the joys of naps in the winter sun.

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And then Tonka did stand up and we went for a very nice ride.

Horse Training Note: Obviously, Tonka was very happy where he was, but I wanted to go riding. I needed him to get up, but I didn’t want to have to yank him with the halter and lead rope, or jump up and down and wave my arms at him to spook him up. I wanted Tonka to get up on his own, because he wanted to come with me, and I knew just how to do that. I’ve been teaching him the “touch” cue and I put it to good use here! I’ve trained him to gently press his nose against the palm of my outstretched hand when I say “touch.”  I mark the correct behavior with a distinct click (using a box clicker) and then I treat with a piece of carrot. Today, while he was still lying down, I asked him to “touch” when I was next to him. Then I asked for a “touch” which required a neck stretch. Then I stood up and moved about 5 feet away, held out my hand and said “touch.” He unfolded himself and stood up, walked over to me and touched his nose to my hand. That willing compliance and calm attitude carries over into the riding. Every interaction matters!

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