Over 130 people were in the audience over the two Sundays for our Youthdale Riding Program fundraiser in April.

After the first show I asked Morley Batt, our square dancing on horseback caller, what he found interesting. He said, “I couldn’t figure out the cue you gave to Zelador to go back to the mail box and pick up the mail”. (Zelador had gone to the mailbox, put his head in, placed his teeth around the envelope, then left it there and walked to the pedestal. When I realized he didn’t have the letter in his mouth I said, “Zelador, you forgot the mail! We need it!” He spun around and fetched the mail.) I explained to Morley that the cue was me talking to him and asking him to fetch the mail.

I was surprised that Morley was impressed with the mail box. I thought he would be amazed to see the horse pick out the name card I mentioned and take it to the correct person.

Morley called our square dance a few years ago and this year he said several times, “Your last square dance was great. This one is better.” I know we had a lot of fun working on it. This year my friend, Nancy Prime, made quarter sheets/ladies’ skirts for each of the four women. The material was gingham. The colours were blue, yellow, lilac and red. The men wore harmonizing shirts. The red team had really neat red cowboy hats (all the rest of us were salivating…). Each team had complementary saddle pads.

Donny Maida, Bill Stott and Ron Marino did a routine with garrocha poles. These are twelve feet long. The cattlemen in Spain and Portugal use the poles to herd cattle. During their spare time they dream up manoeuvres. Donny, Bill and Ron did a bit of dreaming, too. We have a wooden cut-out in the shape of a bull. Months ago I suggested the men place the 8” diameter ring on top of the bull’s head and spear it off the bull with the pole. Bill said, “We’re not doing that.” My translation of this is: “There’s no way we’ll be successful, so we’re not even going to try.”

I didn’t back off and over a period of weeks I actually got Ron to knock a gymnastic ball off the bull. The ball was precariously perched on the bull’s neck. Ron did a great job. Time after time he knocked the ball off. And, time after time the ball fell to the ground because I didn’t get it stabilized…
Ron said he’d create a cup for the ball to rest in. Within 24 hours the cup was in place and the bull was in the routine.

During the first show the men took turns charging the bull. Ron cantered Pax to the bull, whoosh, the ball was sent flying. Donny cantered Skippy. He missed. Donny cantered again. He missed. Bill cantered Zeloso, the ball went flying. Skippy came at the bull again. Donny swatted that ball!

During the week between the two shows the bull was busy. I’d walk by the arena and there was BULL with the ball in the cup, smack dab in the middle of the arena. I’d look around to see who was riding and I’d find Donny on Skippy. Donny had that garrocha pole in hand and he was practicing.

During the second show Ron cantered Pax to the bull. He missed. Ron cantered Pax again. He hit the ball! Donny trotted Skippy. The ball went flying. Bill cantered Zeloso. He missed. Bill tried again. He missed. On the third attempt Bill slammed his pole into the bull. The ball went flying. The bull went flying. Yep, there’s more than one way to knock that ball out of that cup!

One of my favourite acts was the challenge between Zelador and K-8 (Kate) the Border Collie owned by Cassie Levy. The music was: “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”. Our dress rehearsal was March 23. A few people came to watch and several volunteers with the Youthdale Riding Program attended. Cassie and I had sat down prior to the practice and listed things the horse and dog could do and a few things they might be able to do. During the dress rehearsal we did about 30 things. We asked the audience to pick their favourites. We honed the list to 17. For the first show we did our routine. I’d noticed the time we started and finished. We’d been playing our challenge game for 25 minutes. Gulp! With ten other acts on the program we needed to take another look at our list and shorten it again. During the week between the shows we settled on ten challenges. The audience quite enjoyed the tunnel. Kate sped through it, spun around, went through it again, spun…all at lightning speed. Zelador had his turn. There was no way he could get in that tunnel, but he did manage to put his nose in it. We opted to have him walk over it sideways and jump it at liberty. The tunnel  isn’t all that long and I was pleased to see him enjoy jumping it as opposed to running around it…

One of the challenges was: do the Big Smile. This is a piece of cake for Zelador. He’s been doing it since he was a babe. He lifts his lips away from his teeth and SMILES. Kate, on the other hand, doesn’t lift her lips. She never snarls (which just might give the appearance of a smile) and Cassie was wondering what she could do to help Kate with this challenge. She talked with two of her friends who are animal trainers (for TV, movies, commercials, etc.) and they came up with a stunning big smile. They drew a smile on paper, placed the paper on a retrieving dumb bell and asked Kate to hold it. She did. AND, when she raised her head it looked like she had the world’s BIGGEST smile!

We’re looking forward to our next fundraiser. Haven’t picked a date, yet, but anticipate that it’ll be in September. We’ll keep you posted.