Nap Time

I think that Scooter has been sending Tonka ESP lessons on napping. Or, maybe it was the January thaw with temperatures in the 40s, and the pasture, finally clear of snow and ice, that induced him to lie down and doze.

Yesterday afternoon, I brought a friend to the barn to meet Tonka, This is how we found him.

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He looked so cute. I wanted to make sure that I got the photograph before he stood up, so I snapped this from a distance. I shouldn’t have worried. As we came closer, he rested his nose and snoozed on.

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Eventually, he drowsily looked up. Oh, he thought, Here comes my person. No need to budge.

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We talked for a bit about the joys of naps in the winter sun.

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And then Tonka did stand up and we went for a very nice ride.

Horse Training Note: Obviously, Tonka was very happy where he was, but I wanted to go riding. I needed him to get up, but I didn’t want to have to yank him with the halter and lead rope, or jump up and down and wave my arms at him to spook him up. I wanted Tonka to get up on his own, because he wanted to come with me, and I knew just how to do that. I’ve been teaching him the “touch” cue and I put it to good use here! I’ve trained him to gently press his nose against the palm of my outstretched hand when I say “touch.”  I mark the correct behavior with a distinct click (using a box clicker) and then I treat with a piece of carrot. Today, while he was still lying down, I asked him to “touch” when I was next to him. Then I asked for a “touch” which required a neck stretch. Then I stood up and moved about 5 feet away, held out my hand and said “touch.” He unfolded himself and stood up, walked over to me and touched his nose to my hand. That willing compliance and calm attitude carries over into the riding. Every interaction matters!


  1. What a beautiful series of photos and story. You are indeed a Horse Whisperer!

  2. He is too beautiful. I know your heart sings every time you see him.

  3. one long ago beautiful very early spring day i walked out to the pasture where my cows were. they had all been cooped up for so long in the barn and i had let them out for what i thought would just be a nice walk but they decided that sunshine meant go find a place to take a nap. which they did
    well . . . . with all that sleeping going on, what could you do? i sat down by maudie just about the way you show yourself in front of tonka and i leaned up against her side and we both napped!
    thanks for the memory

  4. Gorgeous! The clicker training is amazing! Have you ridden Tonka to Little Pond Farm?

    • I’ve only ridden 3 times since I bought him in December. It’s been too icy and cold. In any case, to get to our house from the horse barn would have me cross two busy roads. I might do that this summer, but not now with ice and snow piled on the verges.

  5. Hi Terry, Yesterday must have been a good day for horses, my daughter sent a picture of her horse napping in the sun too. Very cute.

  6. Your story makes me swoon. What a lovely relationship you are building with that beautiful animal.

    And, incidentally, thank you for your other daily stories. You help me to understand and appreciate my own animals all the more.

  7. I hit submit too soon. I knew horses would lay down like Tonka in the pictures but being a “prey” animal I thought they would only sleep standing up.

  8. That is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. The bond between you and Tonka after such a short time is amazing. A true testament to training with kindness and trust. I wish there was a way for all to see what and how you accomplish your training so others could benefit and learn from your wisdom.

  9. Adorable! I used to have an Arab that was getting REALLY fat at the place where I boarded him. Come to find out, the ranch hand took a shine to him and was giving him human cookies and then at noon he would promptly like down and take a nap. His eyes closed, mouth open, teeth showing…he looked like he was dead. :)

  10. Oh, the post about the cookies brought back memories. Obviously, after schooling I knew better about what NOT to feed horses. But before the “formal” training, marshmallows, HoHo’s, and potato chips were on the menu. I even worked with a horse who would do -anything- for a chocolate covered cherry. Both amusing and appalling. The things our dear critters put up with from us humans!

    • If you’ve ever had an Appaloosa, then you know that some horses love people food, and will sneak a sandwich if you’re not looking. I’ve also known a thoroughbred mare that spit out every corn kernel from her sweet feed. I’m trying to keep Tonka on a healthy diet, and so far he’s amenable to the plan!

      • Oh, just tooooo funny! The very first farm I ever worked on as a teenager (3 yrs.worth) was an Appy farm! And, yes, that’s where most of the food beggars were. Sandwich preference? Peanut Butter! :)

  11. Your instincts were right Terry. He is a gentleman. Very sweet the way he nuzzles you. A person must be gifted to have a horse bond that quickly. He is such a pretty marked Pinto. Glad all of you have some sunshine. I have to say I always enjoy jean’s posts. My chooks are doing great and we are enjoying them immensely. Thanks for everything. My daughter gave me your book for my birthday. (The Farmstead Egg Cookbook) Love the photos. Especially of your son when he was younger. You have such a happy little family. Can’t wait to try some of the recipes. I’m starting with the Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Looks so good!

  12. Thanks again, Terry, for sharing such great moments with us. You truly have a knack for Whispering to Animals!!

  13. Beautiful! Both Tonka and your relationship. I love this post. Thank you.

    • If you bred black and white paints, they’d have blue eyes, wouldn’t they? :)
      (For those who don’t know Wendy, she raises the most gorgeous black and white Nigerian dwarf goats, who also happen to be champion milkers.)

  14. The photo of you and Tonka together is truly a “picture perfect” moment. Thank you for sharing it.