This past Sunday was our first (of two) “Get-togethers to Chase Away the Winter Blahs”.

We started at 1:00 with Zelador. His first “act” is to the tune of “Rubber Ball”. Zelador and I passed the large horse ball back and forth, then pushed it around the arena. In the past few days Zelador has shown an incredible exuberance for PUSHING. He’s not taken this to Zeloso’s level…breeding the ball…but he’s definitely having a BALL with the ball.

A trotting pole was set up along the north wall of the arena. We would be using that for Zelador’s second “act”. Well, the ball ended up against the pole during the ball routine and Zelador gave it a gentle push. The ball bumped into the pole and rolled back to him. He studied the situation and on his second attempt he successfully pushed the ball over the pole. He was extremely proud of this accomplishment. He turned away from the pole and trotted to me, expecting and receiving a piece of carrot for this outstanding feat!

A friend emailed me the next day asking, “How long did it take you to teach him to do that?” Um…he dreamed it up all by himself!!!! This “new trick” reminds me of something Allen Pogue ( told me. “The horses come up with tricks that I’d never think of; tricks that are harder than the ones I wanted to teach.”

After playing with the large ball we turn to the small ridged ball. I throw it and he trots to it. Zelador picks it up, then brings it to me. The GOAL is for him to drop the ball into a large muck bucket. To help him out with this I pick up the bucket and try to “catch” the ball as Zelador drops it. Zelador has taken “dropping the ball just outside the bucket” to a high level. In fact, it’s quite interesting to watch him out-maneuver me so that the ball does NOT fall into the bucket. My next job is to retrieve the ball, set the muck bucket down and try again! I toss the ball and Zelador invariably picks up the muck bucket. Hmmm…

The second act is to ABBA’s “Waterloo”. He loves the music and since his first session with it (when he was on the brink of being out of control) he is manageable and happy to listen to me. During this song he does liberty around me.

The third act is to “Stand By Me”. The song has a solid, slow beat which both of us enjoy. During this song he does the pedestal work, finds the carrots under the cones and carries the bunny and frog across the arena to the low platform.

Zelador thinks Kermit the Frog is the cat’s meow. Kermit’s arms and legs are soft and twirly. Zelador delights in swinging Kermit in a circle as he carries him across the arena and steps up on the low platform. Then, unceremoniously, he drops Kermit and waits for a treat. He also twirls the big pink bunny, but the effect isn’t quite the same and he knows it.

When it came time to fetch the stuffed animals I said, “Find the pink bunny.” He walked to the box, picked up Kermit and flipped him onto the arena floor. He ducked his head into the box and came out with the bunny. He carried it to the low platform. Someone said, “He knows the difference between the bunny and the frog. He was listening to you and doing what you asked.” My immediate response was, “Well, that would be a first. Sort of like a husband…” But, on second thought, I know he loves carrying Kermit, but he tossed him aside and fetched the bunny. Interesting…

In the practice sessions leading up to the “get-together” Zelador became more and more impatient as far as the carrots/cones were concerned. I’ve learned that I can’t place the cones with the carrot pieces under them on the arena floor ahead of time. If he sees a cone he loses all interest in me and goes to check it out. For the performance I place Zelador on the low platform facing away from where the cones will be while a helper sets out the five cones. However, Zelador is on the lookout and the second he sees someone with a cone in his hand he leaves the platform and starts searching for the carrots. This past Sunday quite a few people arrived after Zelador was done performing. I promised them that we’d redo his acts after the “get-together” was done. During the first showing he was polite about finding the carrots. But, during the second show he leaped off the platform and trotted to the first cone. Lindsey was setting them out and had to run to keep ahead of Zelador!

It was during this second performance that Zelador had another opportunity to amuse the crowd. I led Zelador towards the box which holds the bunny and Kermit. Ciara was standing a few feet behind the box, filming the show. Zelador went to the box. I said, “Find your Pink Bunny”. He poked his nose into the box, lifted the pink bunny and tossed it in Ciara’s direction. I fetched the bunny and he tossed it further…in Ciara’s direction. I fetched it again and the subsequent toss landed the bunny at Ciara’s feet. You see, he was very interested in the camera. We’ve seen this fascination in the past. On two previous occasions when Bill was filming, Zelador walked up to him to inspect this new thing on the human’s face. Bill’s always held his ground and recorded a very large image of a horse’s nose. Ciara, on the other hand, displayed that she doesn’t have the same level of trust in Zelador that Bill has. Her video shows Zelador approaching her, the edge of his nose, the arena’s rafters and, finally, Zelador walking away to step onto the low platform, pink bunny in tow. While she was filming the rafters Ciara was using the monopod attached to the camera to shoo Zelador away.

Who knows what he’ll dream up this Sunday for our second “Get-together”!