Fall06collage.jpgThe morning started with a glance at the thermometer. I was stunned. The thing read: minus thirty. In two days the temperature is supposed to be plus seven with rain. That should ice over the landscape!

I did not work either boy in the arena today.

However, I did spend a few hours checking through CDs, searching for music to accompany Zelador’s liberty work and Zeloso’s work in-hand. You see, I’m fed up with WINTER. My answer is: host a get-together in February to chase away the winter blahs. I did this last year, too. Turned out there was a storm and ice. No one in his or her right mind should have travelled anywhere. We figured nobody would show up. Five minutes before the start time there were twenty-five people in our arena, waiting to see the young Lusitanos “do their thing”. All I could think was, “Wow! Twenty-five insane people all in one spot!”

This year we’re leaning on the Lusitanos once again. Zelador will do liberty and tricks. Zeloso and Bill will do work in-hand. We’ll finish with a Pas de deux to Daniel Lavoie’s song, “Here in the Heart of Me”. Then, back to the house for a pot luck.

The music for Zelador needs to be playful and diverse. Part of the time he’s moving at a good clip, trotting and cantering around me. The rest of the time he’s stepping up on a pedestal, rotating, going sideways over a pole, flipping the pink bunny all over the place, etc.

I have a CD with rock ‘n roll music from the 1950’s. I’m leaning towards, “Stand by Me” and “My Little Runaway” for the slow stuff and “Tossin’ and Turnin’” and “The Bristol Stomp” for the fast parts. Zeloso’s work is more elegant. Bill’s in charge of finding that music.

Even with that awful cold spell a week ago (colder than minus twenty for three or four days in a row) I worked with the boys each day. Recently Zelador’s been dreaming up new things. Yesterday I dropped my guider whip on the ground and walked about ten feet away to pick up something. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Zelador. He picked up the long whip and brought it to me. He didn’t GIVE it to me, but I showed him a carrot and he exchanged one treasure for another. Slyly, I dropped the whip a bit later. He totally ignored the thing. Hmm…

When we’re doing the free longeing I often call him into the centre of the circle and tell him how wonderful he is. When I move to his right side, he’s watching me closely. If I step backwards he instantly walks backwards beside me. I added a few more backward steps. He stayed with me. I went backwards in an arc. He mimicked my steps. I stopped and gave him a treat. During this backward game I was about five feet away from him. Usually I’m at his side.

We’re also changing things with the big ball. When we started with it two years ago we walked side by side and we both pushed it. He progressed to pushing it ninety percent of the time with the ten percent push from me. This past week I’ve given the ball a BIG push and started trotting after it. I’m hoping he’ll trot and push with the game evolving into the two of us trotting parallel to each other and rolling it back and forth.

A friend emailed me asking how to teach some of the face tricks. I sent her ideas for the “smile” and a few days later she wrote, “Everyone’s smiling!” At her request I sent suggestions for teaching the “yes”. One way is to stand at the horse’s shoulder and tickle the front of its chest. The horse thinks, “A fly. I’ll flick it off.” His up and down head movement is quickly rewarded. The “yes” is well on its way. Well, my friend had instant success with the “yes”. This bugged me! I’d introduced the “yes” to Zelador over a year ago and got nowhere. He didn’t move his head. This past autumn I tried again. Lindsey was with me and I used the ole imitator technique. I had Lindsey stand beside me and touch my chest. I moved my head up and down in a big “yes”. Zelador thought all this was highly entertaining. It didn’t work.

Months passed. The email prodded me into trying again. I decided I’d work on the “yes” once a day no matter how disappointing the results were. Day after day, nothing got Zelador to move his head up and down. Each day I had to finish our tiny training session with me placing my hands on his head and moving it up and down. When this happened I enthusiastically exclaimed “GOOD” and gave him a treat. Five days into this (I’m trying oh so hard NOT to say “nonsense”) routine he actually moved his head up and down when I led it with a piece of carrot. Wow! I’d used the carrot dozens of times before with no luck, now he was very happy to follow the carrot.

We have a long way to go to get a good “yes”, but at least he’s moving his head! I’m hoping my email friend doesn’t ask for the “no”! Talk about pressure to perform!

Zeloso is actually doing liberty work around me and NOT leaving when he gets interested in something else. Before his injury he would not come into the centre when he was travelling to the right. (The injury is in the right front, just below the knee.) Now he does come in when travelling to the right. I’m taking this as a GREAT indication of the healing process. However, I’m careful to only ask him to come in at the walk. His next ultra-sound is in March.

I thought it’d be fun to see if Zeloso could step off the low platform, then walk sideways over the pole on the ground. He did this once. Since then he gets this look in his eye when I ask him to step off the platform on the side where the pole is. He obediently steps onto the arena floor…still sporting “the look”. As I say “over”, he tosses his head, spins and trots AWAY from the pole. Yep, the boy is having fun.

The two photos were taken in the autumn of 2006. Both boys were two years old. It was quite difficult to get anything but a head-on shot. Every time one of them saw us, he’d come to us. They’re very curious and think people are a source of entertainment. Wonder where they got that idea from?