Go Fetch!

My short, sweet stay at the Lichman ranch had been a healthy dose of “horse-lover’s high”: morning to dusk rides, and all the horsey smells and good times that come with that.

Driving down from Sacramento, I noticed that most all of the experiences My first full day at David Lichman’s horse ranch! Alyson, who is also a working student here, and I decided to teach our project horse, Beau, to fetch a Frisbee! We figured he’d catch on fast, but not that fast… Beau caught on in about 15 minutes! To make it easier for him to handle the Frisbee with his teeth, we used a bucket lid that had a rope tied through it.
Our strategy to get Beau to understand the concept:
– Have a release word (in our case it was “drop it”) –> reward with cookies/rubs when he released the Frisbee.
– Be patient and consistent!
– Take the time it takes! This includes allowing time for the horse to play with the toy and develop interest in it by mouthing it. Remind the horse to pay attention to us, too.
– When working with horses, it is really important to release with your body, so they know they’re on the right track. Don’t wait with this reward (relaxing your body, backing up, “good boy” praise etc.) until they actually reach you: It is most effective if applied in the moment the horse makes the right decision! This can be as early as the moment when they simply look at you with the Frisbee in their mouth, further expressing your approval as they walk toward you.
– If they get distracted and walk away or look at/walk toward you without picking up the Frisbee, simply refocus them to the Frisbee by pointing or guiding in another manner that they are familiar with.                                                                                                  

– It is also a good habit to only reward when they drop the Frisbee in your hand, and not when they simply drop it on the ground. Doing this, will intensify the connection between bringing it back to YOU and a reward.
It was really fun to play with a confident and playful horse like Beau. I’m sure it’s a great, simple challenge for any horse as a confidence builder! As you can see I’ve posted a video, and will post another follow-up video before I leave in less than a week. Enjoy!

Click here to watch Beau learn to fetch!

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