Bill and I went to the final horse show at the Royal today. I certainly witnessed more excitement than I ever thought I’d see anywhere! During the cowgirls’ ride one of the horses had a bit of trouble listening to his rider. Instead of threading the needle neatly between two horses he body-checked one of them. The rider came off and the horse tried his best to maintain his position in the formation. It was an excellent example of how horses learn… through repetition. He had the routine down pat.

The second exciting (rather horrifying) event occurred after the intermission. The Friesians returned with the man riding one and long reining the other in front of him. At one point he had the lead horse go over a jump, then his horse went beside the jump. Things were going along tickety-boo until the second time he approached a jump. Instead of clearing it in the middle the first horse slowed down, took it at an angle and bumped into the one he was riding. The man fell to the ground. The lead horse took off. The horse the man was riding continued cantering. The horrific part is: the man’s foot got caught in the stirrup and he was dragged, bounced (but not trampled on) for what seemed like an eternity. I don’t know why the stirrup leather didn’t detach itself from the saddle. If that had happened, we would only have witnessed a fall.

Finally the horse was stopped by the ring crew. The man got up, climbed into the saddle, took the long reins of the lead horse and recreated the pattern leading up to the mistake. I don’t know how he did it. We could see that he was unsteady on his feet when he was helped up from the floor. He performed a slalom between poles with the lead horse on one side and his horse on the other, criss-crossing. It was done better than the first time. When he approached the jump I thought my heart would stop. The horse went over it perfectly and this time he had the one he was riding jump also. And that was that. He bowed. We cheered and they left the arena.

The show at the Royal started at 1:00 and Bill and I figured it would last several hours. We had arranged for our friend, Ciara, to go to our farm and bring in the horses. Ciara was still at our place when we got home. I hadn’t done anything with Zelador today so she came along with us to the arena and I set up all of our Working Equitation obstacles. I rode them then asked if she’d like to. Ciara had a great time. Zelador didn’t bat an eye with this new person trying to communicate with him. When she opened and closed the gate she said, “He’s doing this all by himself!!!”

Water.jpgWe added two new obstacles. One is the pitcher of water (we chose to put soil in it) on a three feet high “table”. Our table was three of the blok by blok jumping system. Let me tell YOU, three feet isn’t all that high when the horse is over 16 hands. I had to bend way down to get my hand on the jug. Ciara did it beautifully. She positioned Zelador so that her foot was just behind the jug. It was a snap to pick it up, raise it above her head (that’s what we’re supposed to do with it) and place it down again.

The other new obstacle was the bell. The horse and rider go between two poles, ring the bell at the end, then back up. I didn’t have enough poles (we’ll go down to the stadium jumping area this week and fetch some) so we lined one pole parallel to the arena wall. The pole is twelve feet long and I don’t think I’ve ever asked Zelador to back up that far. He was amazing. His body stayed straight. He tucked that hind end and backed like he’d done it all his life.

It was quite interesting to watch my horse being ridden. He can be beautiful at times and silly at others. During their warm-up I made the mistake of having Ciara prepare Zelador for the Spanish Walk (counter-shoulder along the wall with good engagement of the hind quarters, then across the arena with super engagement doing a leg yield, straighten at the wall and BOOM Zelador does a killer Spanish Walk). Every time we turned around he offered it. Zelador’s Spanish Walk was getting bigger and louder with each successive obstacle. I took pity on Ciara and said, “The only time I use my knees is during the Spanish Walk. If you press a knee against a saddle he does it.”

“I’m not using my knees.”

“Well, Ciara, let me clarify. If Zelador thinks you are going to use your knees, he’ll do the Spanish Walk.”

When Ciara carried the garrocha pole and tried to get the ring from the bull’s horn onto the pole she had to circle and try again. Zelador was very polite and didn’t criticize her inaccuracy. When I miss he always says something.

Ciara had never ridden over a bridge. I told her about his LOVE of the bridge. If you’re riding anywhere near it, he tries to cross it. If he can’t out-fox you and get his whole body on the bridge, he settles for one hoof sending a resounding echo through the arena. Anyone within hearing distance knows the score is now ONE for Zelador and a big minus one for the rider.

I set up the pen and positioned poles on the ground around it to create a pathway for the horse. There are supposed to be live animals in the pen (I placed a small ball there). The Lusitanos might be able to wrap their minds around a pen filled with wiggling critter, But I most certainly am not up to it!

Pole.jpgZelador is an old pro going sideways over the pole. Ciara isn’t. Her first attempt was a bit of a mish-mash. Before Ciara approached it the second time I said, “I noticed in some of the youtube Working Equitation videos that the rider looked at his foot. If he was travelling to the left, he looked at his left foot.” She looked at her foot. Zelador and Ciara glided over the pole. “That was amazing. I never would have thought to do that.”

Just for fun I set up a tougher pole formation. I placed two poles end to end, creating an angle where they met. She had to ride over the one, do a few steps turning on the forehand, then finish going over the second pole.

I got on, rode the obstacles, then Ciara rerode them. She’s registered in the Working Equitation Clinic here November 28, 29 and 30. She has just under two weeks before her horse sees things he never thought existed.