Day Four with Hops I found her in the paddock with Sneakers. This time I was alone, no Ciara to hold Sneakers while I played with Hops. Sneakers stayed close and actually followed Hops after the pony retrieved the carrots from under the three cones.

I had the soft rings with me and decided to toss them, call to Hops and trot to the rings. Hops thought this was a wonderful game. So did Sneakers. I had many tiny cut up pieces of carrots in my pocket and Sneakers learned that when I say, “Good!” there’s a really great chance that he’ll get a treat.

With two horses participating I quickly ran out of treats. Talk about a short session!

At our farm the round “pen” is now totally enclosed. Sunday there was an opening the size of one ten foot panel. Rick Parker said he would bring the missing link Wednesday evening after he was done using it for training.

True to his word he brought the panel (and two extras) on schedule. Ron and Bill were in the arena when Rick arrived and the three got to talking about where the audience would sit and where the gate to the pen should be. We’d tentatively chosen the side closest to the audience. The men rethought that one and placed the entrance/exit at the far side…just in case some big four-footed creature became animated.

Thursday and Friday each horse took a turn or two in the enclosure. Today when I finished riding Zelador I hooked the reins over his stirrups and let him loose. He approached the pen and took a careful sniff of the top rail which is about three feet above the ground. I placed my hand on the rail to let him know everything was safe. He continued investigating with his nose. It was obvious that sniffing this thing was serious business. That’s when I remembered what Bill told me Wednesday evening when he got back to the house. Turns out Rick was at a camera shoot with a tiger. He decided to place the cameraman in a cage and let the tiger roam (after all, Rick and the tiger had an understanding…). So, I’m thinking that this fence that has captivated Zelador must hold tons of “interesting” smells. Perhaps there’s no tiger scent, but I’m sure there are scents Zelador never dreamed existed!

During Kye’s outing in the pen I decided to see if I could teach him the big ball work that Allen Pogue teaches his horses. Because he works in a small area he leads the horse around it while the horse is pushing the big ball. Over a period of time the horse receives a treat ONLY at the start/finish point. A little further along the trick progression Allen is able to stand at the start/finish and the horse pushes the ball around the pen by itself, receiving a treat when he returns to Allen.

Kye and I went around the pen and he received only one treat when we’d completed the circuit. We did this two more times. Kye was starting to figure out how to direct the ball when it got stuck. The classic stuck sequence occurred when Kye had the ball wedged between his nose and the ring. When he pushed, the ball bumped the fence and didn’t move. Kye learned to step back and push parallel to the fence. Allen arrives Sunday. I’ve got two more days to see if Kye can do the circuit by himself.

When I brought Robin into the arena she handled the ring with ease. But, when I asked her to push the big ball she stood quietly. Sniff…I thought she was almost ready to PUSH. Ah…we all have these plateaus!

My trip to the Kottas clinic Wednesday (the first day) was a step back in time. It’s been a while since I’ve heard all the dressage phrases. And, I don’t miss them! The first horse I got to see was behind the bit with a back as stiff as a board. I wanted to walk into the arena, have the rider dismount, take off the saddle and bridle and let the horse MOVE the way nature intended. The good news is: I sat politely in the bleachers and kept my mouth shut. The other news is: it was so very sad to see horses that aren’t happy. Horses that are trying to figure out what the rider wants, but don’t really understand. Horses with no joy. When Rick Parker met Z and Z he laughed and said, “They’re cheeky.” And he and his wife, Sue, LIKED that. I’ll tell you one thing: the dressage horses I saw Wednesday weren’t cheeky!