The snow’s back on the ground…sniff. Due to some cold temperatures we were out of the saddle and back on the ground this past week. The tape playing machine in the arena does not like sub-zero temperatures. It’s quite painful to listen to the tape struggling to advance through the player which brings me to our latest endeavours. Since we couldn’t enjoy pre-recorded music we sang.

The boys already have four choruses of “When You’re Happy and You Know It” so we went to “The Hokey Pokey” and “Knees up Mother Brown”.

For the Hokey Pokey I placed Zelador on the pedestal and asked “put your right leg in,”. No problem. I used the wand to indicate the right front leg and he picked it off the ground. Of course he went into a bent-knee salute stance, but when I continued to wiggle the wand in front of his knee he straightened the leg (click/treat). “Put your right leg out,”. In my version of the Hokey Pokey “out” for this verse means “place the leg on the pedestal”. No problem whatsoever.  “Put your right leg in and you shake it all about”. The boy figured out that when I moved the wand back and forth I was really pleased when he moved his leg, “shake”. Now for the “Do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about.” Zelador is like a mountain goat up on the pedestal (the dimensions for his are four feet by six feet). He’s able to do a complete turn-around while I sing these last lines…if I don’t get excited and race through them. Zeloso, on the other hand, turns more slowly so we just might add a person speaking “The next verse is__________________________” so that the audience can sing along AND Zeloso can finish his “turn yourself around”.

If it appears that the “put your right leg in” is too similar to the “salute” in “When You’re Happy and You Know It” we’ll drop the salute and add another verse. Yesterday Zelador surprised me by tossing a toy. Now that would be fun in “When You’re Happy”.

Back to the Hokey Pokey. I also worked on “Put your head it” which led me to teaching him to shake his head. This was a riot! Ciara helped. We placed him on the pedestal and I had his halter and lead line on. Ciara held a whip that had a flippy bit on the end. She started touching Zelador lightly (like a fly buzzing around him) at the withers. He stood still. She continued up his neck. Nothing. She lightly teased his ears. Not a wiggle. She said something. He turned his head. I clicked/treated. (At least he moved SOMETHING!) Ciara started again at the withers and commented: “I’ve noticed that your boys aren’t bothered by the flies.”

This time when she tickled the cute hairs inside Zelador’s left ear he shook his head. Yippee!!!! I clicked. We both treated. AND we told him he was brilliant. We stopped on that note and hoped that some gap time would solidify the shake.

Well, five hours later I brought the horses in from the paddock. I entered Zelador’s stall, looked at his lovely ears and said, “Shake”. He looked back at me. I raised my hand to his left ear and lightly touched the hairs inside it and said, “Shake”. He shook! Click/treat. I tried again. This time he shook his head when my hand was in the process of rising from me towards his head. Click/treat. At that moment I decided to eliminate any hand cue and only use the word “shake”. I tried it. He stood still for a moment, then shook his head. Click/treat!

Nowadays Zelador OWNS the shake! He’s so proud of it. If you look at him he shakes his head. To say there’s a whole lot of shaking going on would be an understatement! I’ve seen this behaviour many times before. He eagerly offers up something he’s just mastered. I ignore it unless I’ve cued it and, over a period of time, the new thing becomes part of his repertoire and doesn’t dominate it.

So, we’ve got: right leg in, left leg in, head in. We need more verses. Ciara suggested “Put your tongue in”. Zelador already knows “can I see your tongue?” He sneaks it out of the bottom of his mouth. I’ve learned that he sometimes offers it very quickly and if I miss praising him he’s not amused.

Bill said that we should ask for things that look good. He votes to forget the tongue. I see his point, but others have commented that “it’s cute”. The jury is still out.

Another verse could be “put your whole self in”. I’m thinking if only one horse is performing, this is fine. But with two it might be challenging. To put the whole horse in the horse will need to leave the pedestal and then the handler has to have the horse’s attention or it just might take a hike.

I’d love to be able to sing “put your ears in, put your ears out”. So far members of the gang on the hill are super at “put your ears in” (not at “put your ears out”) whereas the boys delight in moving each ear all over the place before placing them forward. I’ll give this verse a try (armed with stud muffins for rewards).

“Knees up Mother Brown” just might have to have a verse or two off the pedestal. The verses I’ve heard are:
1. Knees up
2. Hopping on one foot
3. Prancing all around
4. Whirling all around
Once again if “knees up” is too similar to other verses in other songs, we’ll drop it.

As for “hopping on one foot” I know the jambette is similar (one front leg is raised and the horse does a turn on the forehand around the other front leg), but I’m not sure if I want to stress the grounded front leg.

Prancing all around is easy as is whirling all around.

During our next cold spell we’ll sing these songs again.