...from kindergarten. He has demonstrated that he can tie his own shoes.
When we got home from the clinic a week ago, I put Tex in the small arena instead of back out in the boys' pasture with Flash. The small arena is next to the barn. There is a walkway, about a tractor's width wide, between the arena and the goat area fence line and the boys pasture. He wasn't isolated, but he was alone. The sand is very thin in that arena because we don't use it for riding much, preferring the large, open dressage court. Grass struggles to grow through the sand but isn't very successful. The arena is a decent size -- larger than a small dressage court -- so he had plenty of room to roam. It's also perfect for rolling. So, it isn't like he was in jail or anything.
Being isolated meant it was easy for me to control how much hay he was eating. It also meant he was a bit bored. As a result, Tex was always happy to see me. When I took him out, to hand graze and treasure hunt, he was reluctant to go back to the safety of his paddock/arena. As we got closer to the gate, he would slow and then stop and I had to encourage him to go back in. Being with me was preferable. Yes!
Wednesday after work we went on another treasure hunt. I love treasure hunts. I put treats in areas that are a bit hidden, or unpopular. There were carrots on the stall mat in front of the tie rail -- and there was a bucket with all sorts of goodies inside the trailer door. We grazed in a few spots, rich with dandelion leaves and grass, before going to the tie rail. Initially he stopped and almost balked (which is the usual response) -- then I walked onto the mat and said, "Oh, look, Tex! Carrots!" He inched his nose out and took a closer look -- then walked onto the mat and ate them. We continued on.
Another one of the things I learned is to approach the scary place/thing, reward, and then leave. In the past, I've always tried to keep the worried horse in the scary environment until they realize its safe (which doesn't work very well). Robin taught me that it is better to go in, have a very positive experience and leave. That way, the horse develops a desire to go to that place.
After the stall mat and another grass interlude, we approached the back of the horse trailer. It isn't hooked up to the truck so I didn't want to load him, in case it shifted. The back doors were shut. With Tex on a loose line, I opened the back of the trailer. I wasn't careful or quiet about the whole deal. Tex blinked when I swung the door around and latched it open. And he braced. I looked in the trailer and said --"Wow! Look what's in here!" -- Tex knows that particular bucket and what it holds. He came right over.
I decided to put him back in the boys pasture after that. Sure, he still flinches once in awhile. He's been known to step back after snatching a bite from a bucket. When he does, I step back and before I can turn, he has stepped back forward. "Please don't go. I didn't leave. See, I'm right here."
I think that qualifies as tying his shoelaces. I think he's ready for elementary school.
When I removed his halter in the boys pasture, I expected him to turn and go to Flash. If not that, then to wander out to his favorite back corner and graze. But, no, he stayed with me and even followed me back to the gate.
Thursday morning, I was in the house getting ready to leave for work after doing the morning chores. Brett opened the back door and said, "Come here. I need to tell you something."
He told me he was in the boys pasture mucking. Flash and Tex were grazing or eating hay or otherwise occupied. He left the manure cart and went to the goat area to open their gate and let them into the pasture. He removed the barrier so the horses could get in and help eat the grass, that has once again grown high. Goats do not eat grass. sigh. He went back to picking up manure and then realized that Tex had come over and was standing behind him. He asked Tex to follow him. Tex took a couple steps and paused. Brett thought, "oh, well. It was worth a shot." But, then Tex continued on and followed Brett all the way over to the goat area, where he was rewarded with access to the thick grass in their area.
I don't know; maybe Tex is ready for middle school...