This is a fun trick once your horse is good at picking up rags from the ground or off a fence. However, we have to be careful to put it solidly ‘on cue’ or ‘on signal’ so that the horse doesn’t generalize the task to pulling off his saddle blanket if he is a ridden horse.
I call it ‘Kill the Tiger’ because we only do it with the striped car seat cover we used in the video because, again, I don’t want her to generalize the idea to saddle pads or horse covers.
It’s another trick to keep our horse amused if it is too wet, windy, hot or cold to do more active things. The process of putting this trick ‘on signal’ consolidates our ‘wait’ signal. It’s also a lateral flexion exercise.
On request, the horse pulls a large cloth off his back and delivers it to our hand.
- Horse understands a ‘pick’ signal which we’ve taught for picking items off the ground as in Number 73 in the Blog Contents List: Picking Things Up. Click here.
- ‘Zero Intent’ is well established. Number 10 in the Blog Contents List: Intent and Zero Intent. Click here.
- Horse and handler agree on a ‘wait’ signal. Number 65 in the Blog Contents List: The Wait Game. Click here.
- Horse is confident about having large cloths draped all over his body.
#226 HorseGym with Boots: Kill the Tiger.
#254 HorseGym with Boots: Kill the Tiger 2.
Materials and Environment
- A venue where the horse is able to relax. Ideally he can see his buddies but they can’t interfere.
- Horse is not hungry.
- A large cloth or similar easy for the horse to grab.
- Perhaps a mat for parking the front feet to clarify that we don’t want the horse to move his feet.
- Ensure that the horse has a sound understanding of the prerequisite tasks. Give them the time it takes rather than focus on the end behavior too soon.
- Three repeats are usually plenty to start with. The horse will think about the task and be willing to try again next day. If we turn it into a drill, we usually lose willingness to engage again.
- Click&treat with a frequency that keeps the horse being continually successful with the slice of the task you are working on.
- Decide on a specific cloth or gunny sack or similar that you will always use for this exercise. It’s a task we don’t want to generalize to anything we put on his back.
- It’s probably easiest to teach this thoroughly on one side of the horse, then begin again on the other side.
- Ask the horse to pick your chosen cloth off the ground; click&treat. Repeat a couple of times to ensure this prerequisite is smooth and reliable and that he understands your ‘pick’ voice and gesture signals.
- Ask the horse to take the cloth from your hand when you give your ‘pick’ signal.
- Make sure the horse is relaxed with your chosen cloth draped all over his body.
- Lay the cloth over his back and ask the horse to ‘wait’, using your zero intent body language.
- Gently pull the cloth forward with your hand so it is easy for the horse to reach with his mouth and ask the horse to ‘pick’ it off his back. At first you may need to pull the cloth partially off. Click as soon as he grabs it and treat after he releases the cloth to your hand.
- Repeat 5 above a few times each session. As the horse gets to understand the task, gradually use your hand less but make sure the cloth is relatively easy for him to reach. We want him to be successful each time.
- At this stage you will often get the horse keen to ‘pick’ the cloth as soon as you put it on his back (or even before you can get it on his back), so we must emphasize the WAIT GAME from Slice 5 and frequently put the cloth on his back for a few seconds and take it off again without asking him to ‘kill the tiger’.
- When the task is ho-hum for the horse on one side of his body, teach it again from the beginning on the other side.
- Since this is a flexion exercise, routinely do a couple on each side of the horse. If one side feels stiffer, do a few more on that side.
- Ask the horse to walk along with the ‘tiger’ on his back before you ask him to ‘kill the tiger’.
- Gradually extend the ‘wait’ time before asking him to pull the cloth off his back.
- Generalize to pulling a rope off his back.
- Generalize to other venues.