On Friday, I rode Spring Song in the Bitless Bridle. Dominique told me some of the obstacles that might be in the show Sunday at the Orangeville Fairgrounds. We’ll be entering a beginner trail class. One trail obstacle is a box (about 10’ x 10’) that the horse goes into and turns around in it. There will be a bridge with no side rails. There will be cones that mark where you start a trot or a walk or halt. There will be a gate to go through.

We set all of these in the arena and Spring Song and I played with them.

Because Spring Song has learned each thing on the ground before being asked to do it under saddle, the rider has to be very relaxed and still. The more the rider moves the worse things get! She knows her job and she wants to do it.

This evening Ron couldn’t be here in time for his lesson with Alex Reinfels because he was at work quite late. So I took Ron’s spot with Spring Song. Bill joined in. The session was devoted to helping Spring Song learn some things on the lead line. Alex held Spring Song while Zelador demonstrated. He opened the mailbox, fetched the mail (I wanted Spring Song to see the carrying of the mail). He did the rotating top pedestal. He sat on the bean bag. He got up on the tall pedestal (all four feet). I tossed a toy and he fetched it.

When he was preparing to step on the rotating top pedestal he demonstrated to Spring Song that when he put his hoof on the edge, I started him again. Secondly, when he put his hoof across the entire top, I had him start again. It was obvious when he did these two placements that he was very deliberate about where the hoof went. He wanted Spring Song to know there were places she was NOT to put her hoof.

During our session Spring Song came very close to that final bending of the hocks which allows her to sit on the bean bag.

She got all four feet up on the tall pedestal.

She got her front hooves on the low rotating top pedestal. We tried teaching this on the arena floor. We decided to change the approach and do what Bill and I did with Zelador years ago. Bill stood on the platform in the corner. We placed the pedestal at the base of the platform. Spring Song’s prompt front leg is the right one. After a few attempts to get her to stand up with both feet on the pedestal Bill pointed out that she was always offering her strong foot first. We should ask her to place the not-prompt hoof (the left one) on the pedestal. Then, when Bill asked her to step up to him to receive a treat she would happily put her prompt hoof on it. The idea worked beautifully! (I always love it when that PhD in Physics produces something GOOD!)

She carried the Frisbee with the leather tab at least twice. During the carrying of the Frisbee Allen Kalpin came past the arena on Blue. Alex pointed out that Spring Song remained focused on us and continued to carry the Frisbee. This ability to stay focused is very rare with young horses and extremely rare when teaching something new.

She was a riot with the feed tubs that have a hole cut out in the bottom. She saw Zelador do this a week or so ago. When we asked her to step forward she pawed and pushed the tub under her. We didn’t scold her or say “no”. We just repositioned the tub in front of her. After a while we let her continue with what she was attempting to do. Turns out she had her own very special version for putting her foot “in the middle” of the tub. It’s something no other horse here has thought of! (I’m wondering if Zelador encouraged her to offer new things.)

Spring Song’s NEW technique for stepping into the tubs is to do it while moving backwards (she LOVES going backwards). A few times she had her front knee bent and the tub was hanging on her hoof. She held it there for quite a while, very pleased with herself.

Several times during all of these exercises she looked at me and raised a front hoof. She wanted me to ask her to do the Spanish Walk. I told her I knew it was one of her favourite things and we would be doing the Spanish Walk. When we finished doing the new things I got a short wand and cued the Spanish Walk from in front of her. Then Alex cued her. She did a GREAT job.

We talked about all the things she’d done at 7:00 P.M. Alex said she’s relaxed, not stressed. Earlier I told him that most people teach a horse to stay on a pedestal by chasing the horse when it gets off without being asked. The horse is in a very small area and quickly figures out that standing on the pedestal is better than running. I don’t use this technique. I work in a big area and reward the horse when it gets on the pedestal. Slowly, over a period of time, the horse chills out on the pedestal. Here at Winsong Farm it’s so neat to see the horse calmly standing up there because it figured out all by itself that the pedestal is a great place to be.

Yesterday when Spring Song was relaxing on the pedestal I introduced lifting her tail and saluting. I was very surprised that she could move her tail when cued! A funny thing happened with the salute. She was moving a front hoof on cue, but not raising it. No big deal. I cue, she moves a hoof, click/treat. However, Bill came in with Zeloso to demonstrate the salute. Zeloso’s salute is horizontal to the ground (sometimes higher) with a straight leg. Before Zeloso could “salute” Spring Song raised her front leg HIGH and almost straight! Lauren Bode, an animal communicator who helps us with our horses, told me that the animals communicate with mental pictures. Zeloso presented a mental picture of the salute before he had a chance to show his salute to Spring Song. Need to remember to practice those again.