An intelligent horse can be a blessing and a curse -- they pick things up quickly, but sometimes you don't even realize that you have (accidentally) taught them something by rewarding a certain behavior. Fortunately, most of the things Salem has taught himself/me have been either harmless or helpful; for example, he taught himself to halt on the longe line when I square up to him. He taught himself to turn his head away from me in order to get a treat.
And he taught himself that yawning = meal.
Ever since he came down here last April, I've been doing a bit of liberty work with Salem. Nothing fancy, just some basic w/t/c, halt, reverse, etc. at liberty in the arena. Unfortunately, I usually get to the barn when it's dark out these days, so our liberty sessions have suffered quite a bit; but the liberty work we do every day involves Salem standing patiently while I bring his grain out, and standing still until I give him the signal that he can walk to his feed tub and eat. And somewhere along the line, Salem must have yawned while he was standing there, and I inadvertently rewarded that behavior and gave him the "release" signal. So now he stands there letting out these dramatic, eye-rolling, tongue-wagging yawns while he waits for his food. You might have also noticed him turning his head away from me (his "this-is-what-I-do-to-get-a-treat" trick) and then going back to yawning -- you can almost see his little brain working, saying, "OK, which trick does she want me to do? I will run through them until I get it right."
Such a goofball. ;-) I love it.
5 hours ago