A few things:
1. Sue Parker and I introduced “limping” to Zelador yesterday. We weren’t exactly sure how we were going to do this. She mentioned trainers using ropes to lift a leg and we both agreed that we weren’t going to do that. We decided to put on his bridle (I’d just been riding him so the bridle, not the halter, was in the arena with us). We stood him on the pedestal, asked him to lower his head and happened upon “toe”. I showed the toe of my shoe and placed my toe on the ground (as opposed to my foot). I touched his toe. We had the clicker at the ready! I said, “toe” and he moved his hoof, click/treat. We showed him again and he sort of almost touched his toe to the pedestal. He did let the toe touch the pedestal first, but quickly stood on his hoof. Click/treat. Then we led him on a circle, then back onto the pedestal. The circle is very important in training. The horse gets accustomed to the circle (we walk the same route each time during that specific training session), the circle is predictable, the circle is mesmerizing and the time that he’s walking is a short “gap time”. He puts this gap time to good use and always does a bit better when he’s back on the pedestal and we ask him again.
We repeated “toe” and the mesmerizing walk. We took him off the pedestal and us humans demonstrated the “limp”. He already knows “one step” (he takes one step with one hoof). So with his head lowered, we combined “toe” (on the left foot) with “one step” (on his right foot). Zelador understood totally what to do. He stood poised on his toe (which almost looked like a horse with a sore foot!!!!) and when asked, he took a forward step with the other foot. The session was short and he was brilliant! Next time we’ll see where he’s at and decide if we want to introduce hopping. This might not be a good idea…got to think about it. Don’t want to encourage him going “UP”, just shuffling along.
2. Just before last Saturday’s fundraiser Dominique brought one of the blue saddle pads used for the “blue couple” in the square dance to the lower barn. She announced, “We need another horse.” Turns out one of the Blue team horses had shipped out a day or so ago to another farm. Gulp! We have five horses in the lower barn: Blue Executive, Pax, Kye, Zelador and Zeloso. Three of them were already in the square dance (Pax, Z and Z). That left Blue (an appropriate name for the Blue Team) and Kye. We had to admit, Blue was not a good square dance prospect. He did “dance” once. Early on in the routine he did a tremendous buck (hind end way over his head). His owner, Sophie, lost her cowgirl hat, but not her seat! Kye was Blue’s partner and decided after that incident he was going to stay as far from Blue as he could. Their do-si-do was quite unusual…
We turned to Kye. He wasn’t chosen to be in the square dance because he acted up significantly last winter during his first practice. But, he was a lot better last-minute prospect than Blue. And, as usual, there was some good news and some not so good news. The good news: Kye would have a new rider…and that was also the not so good news! Dominique had never ridden Kye and she now had the challenge of riding this highly opinionated horse side by side with a horse he didn’t know performing a routine he’d never done. And, would you believe it?????? After the show, we all had to agree, Kye was a star! I asked Dominique how things went and she replied, “Kye likes girls.” You know, she has probably hit the nail right on the head. Kye likes girls! Whew!
3. Our second fundraiser show is this Sunday. Should be tons of fun. Dominique and I are doing a garrocha pole routine. At one point (pretty much the second half of the routine) we are both holding onto the ends of the same pole. We’ll add having the two horses (Zelador and Zeloso) doing the Spanish Walk for about ten steps before Zelador halts in the middle of the arena and Zeloso and Dominique trot around us (still holding onto the pole). Then she stops and does a turn on the forehand under the pole, goes trotting in the opposite direction, turns again and we go sideways about four steps, line up with the pedestals, drop the pole and step up onto the pedestal. The horses do the Spanish Walk to start the routine, but they’re on opposite sides of the arena, Spanish Walking to a pedestal, stopping the Spanish Walk next to the pedestal and we place our poles on our individual pedestals. I think it’ll be really neat to add doing the ten steps with the horses coming straight at the audience.
4. A few days ago I rode Zeloso (don’t do it very often). I had the clicker. Zeloso’s is Bill’s horse and Bill has a relaxed attitude about many things. I’d noticed that Zeloso was being allowed to walk when Bill was getting on him. This is dangerous! Today I stood on the tall pedestal (we use it as a mounting block) and prepared Zeloso for mounting. I placed my hand on his rump and, of course, he moved. I said, “Whoa” and when he stood quietly I “clicked” and he got a treat. In a very short period of time I could put weight (by way of my hand) on his rump, his saddle, his shoulder, whatever…and Zeloso stood quietly. When I got on, he waited patiently for instructions. Yippee!
Zeloso epitomizes the saying I heard in the 1970’s in Tennessee, “Don’t stand when you can sit and don’t sit when you can lie down.” Whereas Zelador is very open to cues to go forward, Zeloso prefers to misinterpret the cue and slow down. Well, the clicker was my friend. After lots of fun at the walk (all it takes to turn him is a turn of my head in the direction I want him to go) I asked for a bigger walk. He sucked back. I asked again and again, very lightly each time. He offered a bigger step. I instantly “clicked” and he got a treat. The next time I asked for “more” he flowed into the trot. Yippee!!!!
Again and again he went from the walk to the trot with the lightest of aids.
5. The King Weekly Sentinel had an article about the fundraisers and a retired couple from Schomberg called to talk about taking photos of the horses. They came to visit Wednesday and will be returning for the show Sunday. The couple are artists and have recently started painting horses. One picture is of a granddaughter competing at Palgrave. Their blog and photos they took at Winsong Farm can be found here.
6. I’ve taken a second look at an exercise I first tried a few years ago. The person is walking (and later trotting and cantering) and the horse is totally at liberty. The horse stays with the person as the person turns, stops, circles, changes direction, speeds up, slows down, goes sideways, etc. The name of this game: Robin’s Magic Hands. Robin is Alexandra Kurland’s horse. Robin dreamed up the game! Robin keeps his shoulder in touch with Alexandra’s hand. Alexandra Kurland is the horse clicker lady. She taught a miniature horse how to be a leader “dog” for the blind using clicker training.
With Zelador I have the clicker. I ask him to walk to me. Click/treat. Now I’ve got his attention. I ask him to walk beside me and before he can build up much steam, I click/treat. (Now he’s really interested in me because nowadays I rarely do so much clicking!) I keep each thing I do with him really short and we continue with the movements I mentioned. I even threw in trotting and he happily stayed beside me. Sometimes I had my hand on his neck or shoulder and sometimes my hand dropped to my side. He was amazing. Alexandra points out that “Robin’s Magic Hands” works when there are no negative elements. If the horse leaves you, there’s no correction. When the horse comes to you or stays with you, click/treat. It’s hard for humans to be positive…only positive…when teaching. It’s so easy to say, “No!” if the horse turns away or doesn’t do what is asked. But, when the human remembers to only reward it’s remarkable how quickly the horse eagerly joins in and plays the game.
As usual, I can’t wait to spend time with Zelador again!!!!