I introduced two new horses to clicker training, Jack and Carrie. Much to my surprise Jack was able to walk and trot around me at liberty the first day! He was also good at coming in from his circle to join me in the middle when I called him. The second session I placed a blue tarp on the arena floor. He entered the arena and saw the MONSTER. He was obviously worried about the tarp. Within a few minutes he was stepping across it, not the least bit concerned about the blue thing. In fact, he was pretty sure it was treat-worthy. One of the reasons he accomplished this quick transition from worried to happy was because he was totally free in the arena. We placed treats on the tarp and walked over it several times, stopping, talking with each other and showing no fear of the tarp. He quickly joined us. Accepted treats from us and walked on the tarp, searching for goodies.

A few minutes later he was walking under the tarp. We stood on boxes used for decorating jumps and held the tarp over our heads. Jack’s young owner walked under the tarp nonchalantly a few times. After that, she walked to him, offered a treat, walked to the tarp and he followed. She walked under it and he remained relaxed and followed her. Wonder if Zelador and Zeloso can do that!

At another farm Roany is progressing, too. I took one of my poles to his paddock and asked him to go sideways over it. He preferred that I stayed in his left eye, but with patience and progressing bit by bit he let me stand on his right side and move a step to his left. That was a BIG thing for him! During our next session we started our sideways over the pole game with me on his right side. He sidestepped to the left perfectly…like he’d done it all his life. He had put the gap time between the two sessions to good use! He’d sorted out many things and was able to enjoy the new game.

At home we’re preparing for the two fundraiser shows for Perfectly Stable Farms. Dominique and I are on Z and Z practicing a garrocha pole routine. We’ve chosen the song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” to ride to. I’ll try to get the routine on film and post it here. I’ve never seen any other garrocha riders do what we’re doing.

Today it’s below ten degrees with a stiff breeze. Two days ago the humidex was over 40! The horses are full of energy. I took Zelador to the arena for some liberty work. He bucked, leapt, zigged, zagged and performed some movements I didn’t know horses could do. Dominique saw this and we both figured it’d take a while for him to be able to focus on tricks and games. A human visitor was watching and somehow Zelador was able to find the self-control needed to sit on his bean bag…at liberty (no halter!!!). He also performed his differentiation trick. He picked the “Dominique” name card when I asked him and he trotted to Dominique who was about twenty feet away (perhaps even further than that). It’s very impressive when he travels some distance to deliver a card so I think I’ll keep practicing this and see if he can do it for the fundraisers.

Zelador and I are also working on him doing tiny trot steps during a turn on the forehand and a turn on the haunches. The key is changing his direction of travel very slowly. He caught onto this new version of “almost a piaffe” quite quickly.

Zeloso demanded that he be brought to the arena for fun and games this morning. He LOVES the wind and cool weather. I thought he might have trouble paying attention to me, but he was amazing. He didn’t tear around like a maniac. He watched me and asked, “What do you want me to do?” He even dreamed up a few new moves. I was receptive enough to figure out what he was trying to communicate. He taught me that he’s able to walk straight backwards when I’m at his barrel. In the past I’ve been near his shoulder. Interesting…

Zeloso also demonstrated that he can do a turn on the haunches away from me at the walk, keeping his body almost straight. We did this with me on his left side and Zeloso turning to the right.

Next weekend we’ll have a rehearsal for the fundraiser. We’ll have three couples instead of four in the square dance. This routine introduces the do-si-do for all three pairs. During the week each couple will practice all the movements and we’ll see how it meshes on the weekend.

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