With Zelador and Zeloso I’ve used chalk to write their names on their stall wall. The letters are wide apart so that I can discern if the horse is going to the correct letter. The boys are really good at “spelling out” their names. Zelador also has the numbers 1,2,3 and 4 on the short wall of his stall. I’ve just created poster board cones, held in place with Scotch tape. I’ll write a letter on each cone, e.g. “treat” and when the horse brings me all of the letters in order he’ll get a treat. I’d like to think of a luscious short word that they already understand. “Hay” springs to mind, but hay isn’t a huge treat.

I’m also going to write a sentence on foam board. I’ve used foam boards for the names of people and horses and they hold up relatively well. The horses have gone to the name I mention, picked it up and taken it to the correct person. The sentences will give the horses a way to communicate with me via the written language. For example: “I would like a treat.” “I want a stud muffin.” “I want a carrot.” I think it’ll be great fun for the horse to figure out which sign corresponds with which treat. I’ll start with one sign at a time and go from there.

The reason I’m on this particular journey is because of the question: did the Beautiful Jim Key really spell words? One way to find out is to see if the horses here can learn to spell words. There was no reference to Jim Key communicating with sentences, so exploring that will be fun! Jim Key did do math and make change. Perhaps someday I’ll try that.

Because Jim Key was performing at different venues that weren’t necessarily created for a horse his owner, Bill Key, had to figure out a way to present Jim Key is a setting (day after day) that the horse was familiar with and comfortable in. The result was: a classroom and a schoolroom. After a fire at one site Bill Key had Jim Key in a halter and on a lead line. So…although an arena is a joy to work in, the horse can do tons of stuff in a stall. At our place the arena is up the driveway. I take the horses there every day, but am not terribly keen in the winter to do this additional times. However, working in the stall before the boys are turned out, after they come in and again at night-check is really convenient and fun for all of us.

Back to the letters on the stall wall. Zelador’s stall is across from Zeloso’s. I played the “find the Zed game” with Zelador probably three different times before I wrote the letters on Zeloso’s stall wall. Well, Zeloso hadn’t missed any of that special attention Zelador was receiving. Even with a hay net filled with hay in his stall Zeloso left the hay and came to play the game. I was really surprised that he could focus under “eating” conditions!