As usual, Kye was cute, really cute. He went to the piano, touched a black key and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” rang out from the piano. Kye walked over to me (stepping in time to the music) so I decided to walk around the pedestals. He followed me. I walked around the teeter-totter. Kye followed. The sound of the music is sweet and child-like. Here was “Mary” (me) and her “lamb” (Kye). Couldn’t keep the words of the song out of my head… “everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.” Yep, Kye was cute!
Rick Parker (http://www.canadianwrangler.com/) stopped by for a few minutes and suggested the horses learn some new words and demonstrate that they understand them. He hinted that they could differentiate between the bells and a tambourine. Enough said. As he drove down the farm laneway I fetched Zelador. I turned him loose in the arena while I attached the half-circle tambourine to the support beam west of the bells.
The entire time I was organizing this new musical instrument, Zelador was helping. He quite enjoyed putting his nose between me and the knot I was trying with the binder’s twine around the beam.
I had a clicker in my left hand and a pocket full of carrot treats. Let the games begin!
I stood quietly at the beam. Zelador looked at me. He looked at the tambourine. He nosed it. Click/treat. He quite likes turning me into a vending machine. Within a few minutes it was clear that he understood that touching the tambourine was a rewarding experience. I added the cue: “Where’s the tambourine?” No problem with that set of words. He nosed the instrument/click/treat.
We took a short break and practiced putting toys into the plastic garbage pail. He’s not “letter perfect” on this, but he gets the toys into the pail often enough to keep me happy.
I walked to the bells and asked, “Zelador, are you ready? Can you ring the bells?” He did. I led him to a point equidistant from the tambourine and the bells. I asked, “Zelador, are you ready? Can you ring the bells?” He looked at me and walked to the tambourine. He played with it. I was quiet and stood still. He played and PLAYED. I remained silent. He played some more, then walked to the bells and rang them. Click/treat. He played this new game five times. Each time I mentioned the bells and each time he tested to see if I knew what I was talking about. After dutifully teasing me with the tambourine he always ended up at the bells/click/treat.
Thinking back on the session I’m quite amazed at his game. He knew what the word “bells” means. He understood to ring them. BUT he wanted to have a little fun, so he went to the new instrument to see if I’d “break down” and reward him for this new trick and forget what I’d asked him to do. After not receiving a click/treat from me at the tambourine he could have walked to any place he wanted to in the arena. He could have gone to the half door and gazed out at the farm. He could have called to his brother to find out what he was doing in his stall. But, no. Even though Zelador had his own agenda, he still acknowledged the “rules” (try really hard to do what Winnie asks). Amazing.
I brought Zeloso up to the arena and introduced the tambourine. We moved to the bells and finished with me asking for one, then the other. The class clown went to the head of the class. Each time I asked for something he went to it. No mistakes.
Rick Parker also suggested that I put the driving harness on the horse and practice long reining/ground driving with the horse wearing the harness and the bridle with the blinkers. Well, sounded like a good idea. I asked Brenda to help me. The harnesses are hanging on the wall in the arena, protected by old bed sheets. Surprisingly the harnesses were dust free and they’ve been hanging there for many weeks. I know precious little about putting a driving harness on a horse. Rick showed me ONCE while we were fitting each harness to each Lusitano. Brenda knows less. We placed the harness on the two low pedestals. One piece was totally unrecognizable so we ignored it. I thought one set of straps looked like they should go over Zelador’s head with a section of the gizmo against his chest. Brenda wasn’t all that sure. Turned out, that’s the first and last thing I got right.
Zelador was pretty good about all the shenanigans. We successfully put the bridle on him after at least four major adjustments to the numerous straps. The first two times we held the bridle beside his head. This was a pretty smart move on our part because if we’d been successful getting the bit in his mouth we would have learned that the blinkers were at his cheek bones. I’ve always known that Zelador’s head has “depth”…
Somehow we got the croup piece on and the girth. But there were straps here, straps there and we were lost as to what to do with them. We congratulated ourselves on getting all but that one piece of leather on the horse and decided it was time to take everything off and return the leather to its old bed sheet. We did not bring Zeloso to the arena to see if we could get his harness on him. Yep, we have two harnesses (single horse harnesses). Rick Parker fitted each harness to each horse. With my “trained” eye the only way I can tell which harness goes on which horse is: one of the bridles has some fancy stuff on the browband. That is Zeloso’s harness and since Zeloso is our “fancy” Lusitano (always does everything with a flourish) I have no problem remembering: fancy goes with fancy.
Going to need some help harnessing each horse…
Rick Parker also took a look at the floor piano which is on the plywood on top of six bags of shavings (three under each side). “I don’t think they can see the keys.” He had a point. The mylar covers and protects the piano. It also clouds the image (white and black keys). The contrast between black and white which we see without the mylar is greatly reduced. This could explain why Zelador delights in sliding his nose across the keys, sort of like someone sliding a finger along the keys. He knows I want him to touch something. He can’t really figure out what he’s touching and he isn’t quite sure how he creates the sound because he doesn’t feel like he’s pressing anything. However, he loves the noise that the piano makes.
Rick said, “Why don’t you put a button on the key then some wood above the key. The horse can see the wood. When he touches it he will feel that he’s moving the wood. He will then hear the sound. Then the horse will understand how the sound is made.”
I thought this was an excellent observation. That evening when I relayed the information to Bill I ran into a brick wall. Bill has a PhD in Physics. Often his brain gets in the way of him doing something I’d like him to do…like put a button on a key and wood on top of the button. Or does this resistance have nothing to do with science and everything to do with THE WIFE asking! I’m pretty sure if Bill and Rick talked about this conundrum, Bill would find a solution.
Rick Parker also talked about creating a car console with the windshield wiper lever, a horn, a steering wheel…
I can see this in my mind’s eye: Zelador at the wheel. A ball attached to it so he can easily turn the wheel. I call out, “Turning left!” And he activates the turn signal. Of course there’s no problem honking the horn!
…And to think that Rick said, “My wife and I are always saying, ‘Winnie has way too much time on her hands.’”