Saturday, August 24, 2013

Toy Box

 We have moved.  It's been a crazy summer but we are finally relocated.  Someone recently asked about toy recommendations on my Facebook page so I'm going to jump right in and discuss that.  

When Percy and I visited Alex last fall, she had a wonderful toy storage area. Moving into our new barn this month, I realized that was something I had thought about but never resolved.  We had an old boot box which had been in our previous sheep/cattle barn and been used to store cat food, bird food and miscellaneous things.  It was stinky and gross but it got moved along with everything else.  Somehow it ended up in my barn aisle, with the lid propped open to air.  I had vetoed bringing it into the house.  

Frustrated at not having a tack room big enough to store everything, I started to eye
the box hopefully.  I did a sniff test and decided it had recovered well so I pulled out the shop vac and whisk broom and decided it was my new toy box.  At least for now.  The box is in the front left of the photo above.  It also makes a nice seat!

So what is in our toy box?  Cones for one thing.  Various shapes, sizes and colors.  The biggest are in the arena and the middle sized ones are currently waiting to go to the arena but in the box is one little very sturdy orange one that makes a great target, as Percy is demonstrating here.  Personally, I have not reinforced retrieving cones because I find that it becomes such a default behavior that it's problematic if you want to use the cones for anything else, like marking a circle.  The other cones currently in the box are the flatter "soccer" cones.  I have a large stack of them in many colors.  These are the ones Alex used to teach Percy his colors 2 years ago.
 Percy loves to retrieve and it was a great outlet for a mouthy little boy when he was younger.  We have a jolly ball in the smallest size, his "loopie" toy which is washable fabric and has lots of places to grab onto and some "dumbbells" for dogs.  Dog toys make great horse toys much of the time!

We also have a pinwheel in our toy box- the cheap kind from the grocery store.  It's shiny and whirly and potentially scary which is why I bought it.  The first day I presented it, he tentatively reached out to touch it, got clicked and I immediately turned it into a target to get him on the trailer.  In no time, he was following that scary thing right into the horse trailer.  It was such fun to see two potentially scary things become simple tools for a fun training session. 

Other scary (or not) items are blue tarps- a smallish one for easy tucking under an arm or holding down with rocks on a windy day, and a bigger one for walking over.  I also have some plastic chain, frequently used around dressage arenas.  It's light, really not dangerous and good for desensitizing.  

I have many tennis ball targets- a tennis ball stuck onto a dowel is a very workable toy.  We also have empty plastic jugs to use as targets which hang nicely from a fence to send a horse to.  They also get retrieved.  Different horses have different targets so they can go to "their" station.  

We have a beach ball and a large blue ball.  I have kept my eye open for a child size basketball hoop as I drive by yard sales but haven't found one.  Oh, and we have mats- wood mats of all sizes and pieces of rubber mat and a door mat.  Mats can become teeter-totters and ramps and all sorts of fun things.  I have a hula hoop for fetching and standing in, and though I've not taught anyone to fling it over their head, I know others who have.  I have tires for rolling and hanging and standing in.  

As far as  toys go, we are only limited by our imaginations.  And even then, our horses can help us!  Some of Percy's favorite things are things found around the barn.  He loves leading Mariah in by her lead rope.  Unfortunately he also loves the electric fence.  He frequently taunts me by playing with it with his nose..."see, it's not on right now".  He'll even pick up the gates by their handles for me.  

And he loves to play the game where he gets to choose the grooming tool.  If he is cross tied, I choose the tools.  If he's loose, he picks out the brush he wants me to use and I use that until he hands me something different.  He's partial to the grooming mitt- especially during buggy times of year!  But he has handed me the hoof pick.  It's hard to put something down when I'm only half done with it but the rules of the game are that when he hands me something, then I have to move on.  When he's done, he picks up the entire brush box by the handle and then we're done with that.  

And of course, I am the biggest toy of all.