You won’t believe what we did today.

This morning we put two hula hoops together so that the BIG hoop was 5 feet in diameter. The hoop we use for lifting over his body is just a wee bit over 4 feet in diameter.

Brenda got two clips (the ones we use to attach a water bucket to the stall wall) and some binder’s twine. She attached the twine to the hoop (a small
loop) and the clip to the binder’s twine. We brought out the heavy metal standard that we use for the Working Equitation gate and attached one clip to it and the other clip to a ring on the arena wall. Within seconds Zelador was ducking his head and walking through the hoop, first from one direction then from the other.

Our “walk through the hula hoop” is blue and white. Our “take the hula hoop around the horse’s body” from front legs to back legs is red and white.

On to our next new thing: playing jump-rope. Brenda, Ciara and I tried using a longeline to skip rope. The two women were at each end and I led Zelador to the rope. He walked over it and continued walking away from the rope. They swung it up behind him. No problem. Then I led (of course my “leading”
is with no halter…) Zelador under the rope, they brought it forward and he stepped over it and they brought it up behind him.

We even asked Zelador to hold one end of the rope. I stood beside him with one of the women holding the other end. The other female jumped as we circled the rope. Zelador did hold the rope, but not for long. We figured we’d need to get something for him to hold onto and we’d attached a swivel to it so that he could hold it still and the rope would be able to make big circles.

Later, just after lunch, I was riding Zelador in the arena and Bill joined us. I decided to tell him my latest idea: jump rope while riding Zelador. We tried several ropes, but none worked. I rode Zelador, looped his reins through the chicken strap and I swung a LONG skipping rope as Zelador walked along. The rope went over the horse’s head, he walked his front feet then his hind feet over the rope, then I swung it up and over his rump, over my head, over his head… At least that was the plan. Once the rope was behind Zelador I had to lie back with my head almost on his rump and give a mighty SWING to bring the rope up and over us. After my third attempt I announced, “This is not going to work!”

That’s when my PhD Physicist (a.k.a. “Bill”) came up with an idea: he attached the rope to two wands. What I needed was a firm stretch of “rope”
near my hands so that I could flip it from behind the horse on the arena floor up over his tail, over my head, etc. The light weight rope we’d tried was a disaster! The coily blue rope kept coiling (rope memory was its strong point). Talk about “impossible”.

The two wands were PERFECT!

We finished our session and I took Zelador back to the barn, mentioning more than once that he’d done a superb job with the hoops and the rope.

I was leading Zelador to the paddock when Ann arrived with about five to seven family members. I told her what we’d just done and, of course, I had to show her. We started with the “walk through the hoop”. (This trip to the arena was Zelador’s THIRD one of the day and it was just 2:00!) 

Before I could place Zelador’s halter and leadline along the arena wall, Zelador went to the hoop, put his nose down and pushed the hoop forward, rotating it and started to walk UNDER the hoop. He stopped and backed up. (The plan was not unfolding exactly as he’d anticipated. He was pretty sure that the hoop was getting stuck on his withers.)

Then he walked through it properly but raised his head and got the hoop caught on his withers. This time he did not stop or back up. He kept walking forward, dragging the big metal standard and he popped open the hoop. His hind feet were still in the thing. He nonchalantly continued walking as everything came apart behind him.

Obviously Zelador had put his “gap time” to good use. He was becoming way too creative.

He kindly went through the hoop properly from both directions. The key (unless we make the hoop bigger) is for him to keep his head low the entire time he is travelling through the hoop.

Well, since I’d been leading Zelador to the paddock to turn him out he did NOT have a bridle or saddle on. Luckily my helmet was still in the arena from an earlier outing.

We fetched that and Bill was instructed to lead Zelador while I rode bareback and worked the skipping rope. Bill went to Zelador’s right side. He’s probably led the horse twice in seven years from that side. I said, “Go to his left side.” It took a bit of “discussion” to get the PhD to do what he was asked!

I figured we needed to keep as many things “normal” as possible what with me riding with no bridle or saddle, me swinging a rope from his back for the second time in his life…

So, with Bill leading we skipped rope. Bill didn’t want to lead or be anywhere near Zelador’s head just in case the horse waxed creative…

And that, in a nutshell, is what we did today! However, things went smoothly. No surprises ‘cept that Zelador walked up on the low platform and halted. Quite proud of himself!