So here is my assumption. I am going to believe that since I know the alphabet, and I have communicated with my horses that they will know the alphabet. Since my communications with them are with words rather then images, in since I think in words rather than pictures, they could have some knowledge of letters. (This is all very imaginary right now, but if I believe in animal communicators, and, if I believe in all I learned in my animal communication workshops, this could work.)
This morning when I went out to feed, I took two pieces of paper. One had the letter "A" on it and one had the letter "O." I didn't want t make it too confusing by having two letters with similar shapes. I, with the full feed bucket in hand, aske Tucker to tell me which one was the "A." He immediately put his nose on the "A" paper, but then, checked out the "O" paper as well. I repeated the request, and again, he nosed the "A." I told him he was a good boy and fed him.
(Nothing at all proven here as the experiment has a multitude of flaws, but hey, it's a start.)
Then I went to Chance, held up the two letters and asked him to show me the "A." He too put his nose on the "A." I fed him.
Of course all is just coincidence here, but like clicker training, I gave them feed when they made contact with the target. So, for now, they "nosed" a paper and got fed.
Tonight, I repeated the exercise, but first asked Tucker to identify the "O." He did on the first try. Then again, he nosed the "A" and went back to the "O." Chance, on the other hand, chose the "O" and made no other move until I asked him which one was the "A" and he nosed it immediately.
I haven't tried Toby yet, but I will and I am going to add some letters to see what happens. I am not really using rewards, because I have explained to the horses that this is an experiment and I would like to learn how to speak to them, so if they help me by "talking" in my language--since I am so inadequate in understanding theirs--it would be really cool.
All of this is definitely strange, off the wall, and perhaps even stupid, but I do find it a unique approach and a very interesting experiment. At any rate, until we all get bored with the whole thing and we accomplish nothing at all, it's fun!
Had physical therapy today and tonight I went to the county fair. A little storm came through and really cooled things off, so it should be good riding weather tomorrow. It was today, but I am no kind of worn out and my knees hurt.
When I go back out for late night feed, I will try a few more letters.
Addendum: 11:15 PM. Took a "T" and a "C" out to the barn. Showed the letters to Toby and asked him which letter started his name. He would not touch the letters, nor did he come near them. But he did look at the "T." No results there. Then I asked Tucker the same question. He reached his nose towards the "T" immediately but did not touch it. Then I said, "Would you please touch it with your nose?" He did. I gave him his snack. Chance came in all sleepy eyed. I showed him the letters by his door and he paid no attention. Then, I help them up over the partition near his feed tub where he was standing. I asked, "Do you know which letter starts your name?" He put his nose on the letter "C" and headed for his feed tub.
OK, so what's going on here? Could be the horses really are responding? Could be I am giving signals with my body language as to which paper to touch? Regardless, without any incentive except my asking, both Chance and Tucker are putting their noses to the paper. Even that is an interesting behavior since I did nothing to prepare for or teach them how to do what I was asking. As I said, interesting.