Last week I asked a few people to give me their reaction to things my horses do. Ann Clifford said she loves it when Zelador lies down. It shows such trust.
A few days later we learned that several documentary film makers were curious about what we do at Winsong Farm. They were due to arrive Tuesday. Ann suggested I show them Zelador’s lie down.
Well, although Zelador is capable of lying down on command, he is not consistent. The last time he did it for me was a few months ago. So, on Sunday (June 6) Bill and I took Z and Z to the arena. We put two bags of shavings onto the arena floor in the northwest corner. I led Zelador to the spot and asked for the bow which would set him up for a lay down. I got a lovely, deep bow which he held for a LONG time. But, when I asked him to lie down, he held the bow.
On to Zeloso. He repeated Zelador’s performance: a tremendous bow!!!!
Tuesday (June 8) arrived and so did Ann and the film makers. Zelador did all of his specialties. At the end, I asked for the bow. He did it. Then, I walked over to the shavings area. He followed. The once BIG pile was pretty much worked into the footing after two days. I checked the area to make sure it was soft and Zelador stood beside me. I motioned for a kneel, thinking it would be GREAT if he’d do that. To get the kneel I stand on his right side and try to get the right leg to bend at the knee. If he keeps the right leg straight, I know he’ll bow.
As I stood there I noticed he was carefully positioning his hind legs a few inches further under his body. The thought raced through my mind, “He’s preparing to lie down.” And that’s what he did. He bent his hind legs and knees and softly settled onto the ground. I told him he was wonderful and gave him a jackpot of treats. He allowed me to do this for several minutes. Ann was thrilled!
That was the beginning of a whirlwind of lie downs! I showed Bill on Thursday. He was impressed.
Friday morning a neighbor came by and she’s never seen the boys do their thing. I took Zelador to the arena and he was very mellow. At the end I asked for the bow near the center of the arena, then took him to the designated lay down area to the north corner and he lay down. In fact, I quickly realized that if I did nothing, he did a great job. If I wiggled, or cued, he was distracted.
Friday evening (June 11) I showed Bill how the boys are doing in the crosstie with the piaffe method Albert Ostermaier shows in his DVD. Both boys were good. Then we took them to the arena and played a bit. They’d been worked earlier in the day. This was Zelador’s third trip to the arena, plus his morning piaffe minutes with me and his evening piaffe minutes (and I do mean “minutes”). Albert does this particular piaffe hind leg raise two or three times a day for about ten days. We’re on day three. Zelador made it clear that he didn’t need me to touch his hind leg for him to raise it and hold it in the air before lightly and politely placing it on the ground. He understood what I wanted him to do and was capable of doing it on his own, thank you very much!
We watched Bill and Zeloso for at least twenty minutes. Zelador was standing (maybe sleeping) on a platform. Finally I called to him and he trotted to the lay down spot. He lay down. Then looked up at me and decided to roll. Got up, went down and rolled on the other side. When we were done playing at liberty I walked over to the lay down spot, said, “lay down” and he did. No rolling this time.
Saturday morning (June 12) I showed Ron. For the first lie down Zelador looked at me for a second then turned it into a roll. He got up, went down again and rolled on the other side. A few minutes later (after doing some liberty work) I took him to the lie down spot and he laid down and politely stayed there without rolling.
Ron left and Zelador and I played with the pedestals, the hula-hoop, etc. Sue and her young son came to the arena door to say “Hi”. Zelador loves children and trotted to them. I got out the musical instruments. Zelador played each one. The child squealed with delight. Then, I asked, “Do you want to see him lie down?”
Sue said, “Yes!”
I began to walk the length of the arena to the lie down spot. I’d taken two steps when Zelador turned towards the northwest corner, trotted, then cantered. He looked for all the world like a child skipping happily to do something he loves to do! He was at the lie down area in a flash. I was still thirty metres away from him and he lay down!
Of course he got exactly the reaction he wanted. Sue and the child cheered. I told him he was wonderful and I gave him the last treat I had…a very tiny tidbit. Sue exclaimed, “He’s so happy!!!”
I was astounded! Zelador performed this lay down based on a conversation between two people. He did not receive a command. He travelled forty metres, on his own, to a designated area and did a specific action. I told Bill and he said, “Zelador’s got a new trick.” I thought that comment was a bit of an understatement.
A few hours later I worked with each boy, individually. Zelador was first. He thoroughly enjoyed all of our games. The finale was a bow followed by a lie down. I stood about ten feet from the lie down spot and he did it on his own. When I brought Zeloso into the arena I could see that he wanted to lie down and roll so I thought I’d encourage him to do it at the lie down spot. He knew what I wanted and decided to create a game where HE picked the lie down spot. After five minutes of playing around the entire arena, he gave in just a little bit and did his lie down about ten feet southwest of “the spot”. Zeloso felt he’d won that game and I was happy to concede ten feet.