“When a horse is three years old it has three legs. When itâ€™s four, it has four legs. Thatâ€™s when the training starts.” Sounds like a strange concept nowadays with Thoroughbreds racing at two and the Triple Crown awarded at three. BUT, my two horses arenâ€™t Thoroughbreds. Theyâ€™re Lusitanos and the man who spoke those words bred my two Lusitanos. So, seems like itâ€™d be in my (and their) best interest to heed what the man was saying.
Zelador (March 16) and Zeloso (June 30) were born in 2004. Portuguese tradition suggests that each year is assigned a letter in the alphabet. That way you can figure out how old a Lusitano is. My husband, Bill, and I (combined ages over 112 years) welcomed the weanlings to our farm that last day of December. (I actually flirted with the idea of waiting a year so that the youngsters we bought would have “a” namesâ€¦names we could actually pronounce.)
Bill and I were starting an adventure which neither of us ever thought weâ€™d go on. Our other two horses, Sherlock and Kye, were purchased at the sensible ages of eight and seven. AND, in spite of the fact that both were “trained” and “under saddle” weâ€™d certainly had some entertaining (sometimes hair-raising) incidents with them over the years.
What, exactly, were we going to do with Z and Z? The answer? EVERYTHINGâ€¦somedayâ€¦and with this “three leg/four leg” business weâ€™d be walking beside these critters for a couple of years.
2005 was spent leading the boys to and from the paddock/barn and somehow surviving gelding the sweeties (believe meâ€¦that is quite a story in itself!).
Our “EVERYTHING” journey received a jump start a few weeks into 2006. Iâ€™d written two books and created a video and a DVD about Classical Horsemanship. A lady in Colorado (who just happened to have a two-year-old Lusitano) wanted to purchase my stuff. We got to talking over the internet and she told me her horse had been started within forty-eight hours of birth by Allen Pogue, a neighbor in Austin, Texas of the breeder sheâ€™d bought her guy from.
Allenâ€™s website, www.imagineahorse.com was (and still is) mind-boggling. The things he does with his horses! I was hooked and hadnâ€™t even spoken to him, yet. I purchased some of his videos and wondered if my boys would ever learn all those things.
At the end of March I was at his Red Horse Ranch for a long weekend. I had a one-on-one tutorial and tried desperately to remember everything he was telling me. Within a few hours of getting there he proudly showed me two of his young horses, Uno (a full Lusitano) and Dos (half Arab/half Lusitano). They, too, were born in 2004 (Allen was not aware of the “Z” issue) and I was astounded by their demeanor. Here were two TWO-YEAR-OLDS that had a deep inner peace. They were interested in their world, but not overwhelmed by it. They both knew many tricks and worked at liberty, alone and with other horses. I looked at those two and thought of Z and Z. I wanted that demeanor for my boys.
When I returned home Bill was given a few tasks:
- make a low pedestal
- make a higher pedestal
- inflate the big horse ball I bought in Texas
Within twelve months all of the above was completed. (Bill doesnâ€™t always share my enthusiasm or my need to “get this done NOW”.)
Near the end of 2006 I learned about the competition, Working Equitation. (There are several examples of it on You Tube.) Within minutes just a few more items were added to Billâ€™s list:
- build a portable “bridge”
- build a portable “gate”
- create a silhouette of a bull/cow that has a horn that we can place a ring on
To this date we have no bridge, no gate. BUT we do have a drawing on plywood of a bull/cow. Bill says that “soon” heâ€™ll use a jig saw to cut out the critter. Just donâ€™t know when “soon” isâ€¦
In January and February of 2007 the boys were started under saddle by Beverley Chubb. She leases our property and trains race horses. Sheâ€™s also a few decades younger than us!
We were with her every step of the way. Within a few weeks we were riding Z and Z at the walk, trot and canter. Beverley went at just the right pace for each horse. Zelador learned things instantly, then turned them into a gameâ€¦a game that sort of went against what we wanted. Zeloso took a bit longer to learn each step, perhaps a day. It became apparent that Zelador is a horse with a mission and Zeloso is the class clown.
The two are very different in personality and body type (at least to our eyes. A friend said, “They do look quite a bit alike!”) These differences always amaze us. Z and Z are probably as closely related to each other as two horses born in the same year can be. Both boys have the same sire, Orgulhoso, and the dam of Zelador is the dam of the dam of Zeloso (confusing?).
We do realize that siblings (human, canine, equine, etc.) arenâ€™t necessarily the same, but these two are so different.
When people ask about them I say, “If horses could have previous lives then Zeloso has had a thousand. He is laid back, understands things and just goes about his business. Zelador had one previous life and in that one he was a raging bull.”
In April 2007 Richard Lledo (a classical horseman from France) came to our farm once a week. I told him I was interested in liberty training and teaching the bow. Heâ€™d done both and created performances with horses in Quebec. By the time December rolled around Z and Z were doing liberty work together and bowing under saddle. In February Etienne Leroy (Richard says that Etienne is a genius with horses) came to have a three month holiday from his work in France. The lucky Frenchman found himself surviving our coldest winter in decades with more snow than we ever want to see again. Etienne started helping the boys with classical work in-hand. He also continued their education under saddle.
Which brings us to June 2008. Etienne will visit us June 16, 17 and 18, head to Quebec till the end of the week, then return to France. Heâ€™s touching base to help keep the horses he worked with this past winter on the right track.