We’ve started playing with several of our horses with the noodle fingers obstacle on our new horse obstacle course. The noodle fingers obstacle is definitely pretty scary!
The best way to introduce a horse to something scary is gradually, using a shaping process. So, start with something the horse can do, then gradually increase your criteria.
With Chardonnay, we started small, by rubbing one noodle all over her body. Next, we held the noodle against her side while she walked forward. Once she was okay with that, we put one noodle on the obstacle and let her walk through. After she was okay with that, we put two noodles on the obstacle and let her practice walking back and forth.
We ended with that. Over the next few sessions, we’ll gradually add more and more and more noodles to the pegs until she is walking through a wall of noodles! However, it’s always good with something new to try not to introduce too much at once. If a session is going really well and the animal is doing really well, end there. Building a skill slowly over a few sessions can really help build up an animal’s confidence.
One of our young volunteers, Whitney, was the one working with Chardonnay during this session. Whitney did an awesome job giving Chardonnay plenty of time to be curious and investigate the noodles. Letting a horse explore their environment at their own pace is very empowering. Most horses are naturally curious if we give them time to be curious. After checking out the noodles, Chardonnay eventually walked calmly through them. However, she might have been hesitant or scared if we had tried to force her through them at first, without giving her time to think about the situation. In the two pictures above, Whitney is letting her smell the bases and then smell the noodles. Good job Whitney and Chardonnay!