Teaching tricks and games is a common activity for many clicker trainers. To quote Alexandra Kurland, "Tricks are fun, plus they develop your horse's emotional control...Trick training is an easy way to spook-proof your horse". Since spook-proofing is a big part of training babies, I thought a big blue beach ball would be a fun thing to play with.
I put the ball in the round pen and one at a time brought Ande, Rumer and Percy in to play. My first goal was to get them to target it, which with these guys was a cinch. They are curious and know that touching scary things usually gets them a treat! It's a pretty big ball so I did not hold it for them at first the way I would do for something smaller that they would have to reach down for. They each reached out and touched it quickly and then got 10 trials of touch/click/treat. Rumer had a little confusion because she wasn't sure if it was the fact that she was putting her head down or actually touching the ball that was getting clicked. Several times, she put her head to the ground right next to the ball so was in fact touching the ball and getting clicked.
After they had each gotten 10 rapid C/T for touching the ball, I touched it with my foot to push it forward just far enough so that they would have to take a step to target it. Here I got different responses. Ande followed it easily, and I continued to tap it around the round pen with him following and targeting. He did think he should be with me though so if I kicked it more than a couple feet and stood still, he was hesitant to go to it and would circle around me and I could tell he got frustrated. So I went back to kicking it just a foot or two and stayed with him so he could be successful and we'll work on more distance another day when I take time to teach him to leave me to target something.
Rumer first had to figure out that it was touching the ball and not head down that was what I was looking for. I had to ignore her head down, walk to the ball and she would follow, then she'd target the ball for a C/T so that is where I need to work with her- getting her to figure out that it is targeting the ball that I want- which I will do by holding the ball and moving it around for her to target before putting it back on the ground. She was a little more concerned than Ande about the ball's movement. As long as it went away from her, she was fine, but when it rolled toward her, she would raise her neck and twist her head down suspiciously to watch it and move a foot if it touched her (whereas I think I could have bounced it off Ande's head without worrying him...and I'd like to get to the point where I could bounce it off his back!)
Both Ande and Rumer were a little distracted being in the round pen because I haven't used it all winter due to snow. There is a little left in there but it's great to be able to use it again. But all the babies wanted to explore it! They each wandered off a couple times to sniff at old manure piles or weeds along the edge but would come back within a matter of seconds. Percy, on the other hand, was like a kid in a new playground. He is usually SO intent on playing games with me that I was pleased and surprised to see him decide that targeting the ball was fun, but he'd really rather just look around. I say I was pleased because I was a little concerned that he put too much pressure on himself to figure out the games and would occasionally get frustrated but be unwilling to back off to calm down. So it was nice to see him just be a baby :) He also seemed to think perhaps it was a good place to show off and trot and canter around a bit with his archy little neck. Wish I'd had the video camera!