A friend asked me to describe what Zeloso and Zelador have learned. Here’s what I came up with.

Zeloso was born June 30, 2004. He’s a Lusitano. His sire and Zelador’s sire is Orgulhoso. Orgulhoso’s sire was the top bull-fighting horse in Portugal at one time. I can see this quickness, intelligence, boldness almost daily in these half-brothers. Zeloso’s mom is Misty. Misty’s mom is Banana. Banana is Zelador’s mom. So, it’d be difficult to get two horses more closely related and born in the same year. The word Zeloso means: zealous defender. I’m not exactly sure WHAT he’s defending!!!!

Zeloso is “the fancy one”. He has been since birth. He’s elegant. His Spanish Walk is tremendous. If I let him he’d be on his hind feet all the time. He loves rearing. Bill and I have worked very hard at NOT accidentally encouraging this. In the future, when he’s more mature mentally, we probably will encourage this.

Zeloso is light-footed, quick, happy, joyous, and, a clown! He loves to play. He’s incredibly smart, but doesn’t always use his intelligence for GOOD. He’s capable of learning quickly, but equally capable of spinning away and doing something you didn’t ask for.

Zeloso and Zelador came to us as weanlings. Within a day or so we noticed that Zeloso would stumble every once in a while when leading him to and from the paddock. When he was three-years-old we finally had a definitive diagnosis: a huge hole in the right front upper suspensory (spelling?) tendon. One year and ten months later the vet gave the all-clear for riding at the canter. The rehabilitation was long and slow. It was a challenge to have a youngster on one month stall rest. It was incredibly hard to hand-walk him twice a day for a prescribed amount of time. He wanted to leap and play. As a result of his injury (which probably happened running by his mom’s side) I could not let him go free. No liberty training for him because he would explode and most likely hurt himself or, at the very least, slow down the recovery.

When Zeloso was finally O.K. I let him loose in the arena. Talk about a horse having FUN! It took months to get his attention and have him work with me. We’ve been playing at liberty for over a year and he still says “I’m out of here!” and I stand and smile and think, “He’s not quite ready to listen…just yet.”

When we were thinking about figuring out how to teach the horses to play instruments Rick Parker (he trains all types of animals for movies/tv/etc.) said that I should use clicker training. So this past summer I bought some DVDs and books by Karen Pryor and learned about this type of positive reinforcement. Actually, our training of the horses is positive reinforcement. We just didn’t know about the clicker. With the clicker Zeloso is so much more attentive. For a few weeks he was amazing and could focus for thirty minutes with me. I thought we’d had a tremendous breakthrough, but it was short lived. Once again he delights in leaving and playing his own games. But, he does come back to me more quickly with the clicker.

Zeloso is a calm horse that is a joy to ride. He’s never been agitated under saddle. You can get on his back after weeks of not riding and he’s totally with you. It’s the liberty that is challenging!

Sometimes I think he has the attention span of a gnat. But probably what’s really happening is: he’s much quicker mentally than I am and becomes bored because I’m too slow for him. I have often had the feeling over the years that he wants me to teach him something new. With that in mind I try to vary what I present to him.

One thing he will probably NEVER be allowed to do is play with the big ball. I let him loose with it a few times and he lost his mind! He tries to breed it. So, to keep him from killing himself, the ball is not one of his toys!

At some point I hope to teach the boys to pass a soccer ball back and forth with me. The horses are used to pushing the various balls with their noses. Surprisingly Zeloso was the first one to figure out that I wanted him to use his hoof with the soccer ball.

How has this horse affected my life? I get to share every day with a living, breathing work of art. Zeloso is magnificent and it is an honour to have this horse in my life.

Zelador and Zeloso…talk about the Genius and Generosity of horses!