Have to tell you about Pax today… and yesterday.
We’ll start with yesterday. I was leading him up the driveway to the arena and he was so very slow! I was sweating by the time I got him up there… and a bit cranky! I had on way too many clothes to work with that horse.
Today the trip to the arena was at a leisurely pace, without me breaking into a sweat. Of course it was ten degrees colder with the wind chill.
We did our usual walk around the arena with the lead on. I asked him to circle me at the walk. I was very pleased to see a spring in his step. When asked to pick up the pace he eagerly trotted forward, changed direction, etc. I removed the lead and he followed me to the big ball. He’s very good with it. We went to the rope with the bells. No problem. I picked up the ringed, stuffed toy and he held it.
A bit later I left him on the northern platform so that I could put away the wand and fetch his lead line. He stepped off the pedestal and strolled the few steps over to the box of stuffed toys. He had this grin on his face (really!!!). He picked up the ringed toy and gave it a bit of a shake, then dropped it. He moved to the left and took the bell rope in his mouth and rang the bells. He was so pleased with himself and his many talents. However, I called him to me BEFORE he could show how he can take apart the low pedestal with one swing of a huge hoof.
Mr. Kye: Yesterday I did the Pavlov routine at the bells. I rang them, he looked at the rope, I said he was brilliant, he agreed, I gave him a treat. I repeated this four times. Today he actually touched the rope with his nose when we were “practicing”.
Kye has decided that given enough encouragement (TREATS) he can push the big ball really far. However, if he does several pushes in a row and there’s no food forthcoming he puts his nose on the ball and wiggles it.
Kye is not a horse that loves to pick things up. That being said, I’ve been introducing the stuffed rings. My approach is: toss the rings (often ten metres), call Kye to come with me, energetically approach the rings, then stand near them. Kye joins me and puts his head down near the rings. When he touches them (ever so softly with his nose) I say, “Good” and give him a treat.
Today I added a new element: I waited. Yep. Just stood there over the rings… waiting. Kye waited. I waited. Kye waited. I waited. Kye nosed the rings two or three times. I waited. Kye opened his mouth and moved the rings with his teeth. Wow! He got a treat and tons of praise. We did this several times. Kye’s on the brink of picking the rings up off of the ground. He’ll be so pleased when he does this because he’s going to receive a huge mouthful of treats.
Zelador: Even with the wind whistling through the arena’s roof, he was laid back and curious…a perfect combination for doing tricks. I contemplated introducing the lie down, but that required me leaving him in the arena and fetching several bags of shavings so that he’d have a super soft spot to lie on. I decided I wasn’t that energetic.
I did think his calm demeanor might be perfect for playing with the big ball. Wrong! His first push was lovely. The second was wild. He gets tremendous pleasure out of herding that ball all over the place. He canters; he spins; he bites at the ball. I figure all of this exuberance is because he can’t herd his brother. He used to be able to push him, but then around age three-and-a-half, Zeloso grew taller than Zelador and the “who’s in charge here” slipped away from Zelador.
And, I always thought, “Zeloso is the brother who delights in being up on his hind legs. This move doesn’t really appeal to Zelador.” But twice today when I called to Zelador to WHOA with the big ball he went up on those hind legs (sort of a half rear, nothing like the height Zeloso gets to), came down at the edge of the ball and looked at me to see if I really meant what I said. He was “reading” me, looking for a miniscule lapse in my attention. He had a thread (a thin thread) of respect for my WHOA and my body language, but if he thought he could get away with it he was going to send that ball flying.
Miss Robin: Years ago we taught Z and Z how to stand with all four hooves on the tall pedestal. It is eighteen inches high and three feet by three feet wide. Several horses (Pax and Socs) have shown us that they are very interested in getting up there, but the size of those two has us a bit leery. Thoughts of these hulks tipping over the two-hundred pound pedestal are foremost in our minds. We don’t need a tipped over pedestal and a big, surprised horse. No sir!
At least a year ago Zelador approached the tall pedestal a bit fast and got his front feet too close to the far edge and it tipped. Zeloso charged at it and it also tipped and these two horses are light on their feet and very accomplished at standing up there. We’ve learned to make sure each of them approaches the pedestal slowly.
Robin, on the other hand, is a lovely lady. She’s very conscious of her feet and where she puts them. She also does NOT bull through things. So, I do have the nerve to ask her to learn how to stand on this tall pedestal. We’ve approached this the past two days. Like almost all of the horses she likes being up on things. (Zelador, Zeloso, Picasso, Pax and Socs love being on pedestals. In fact, it’s difficult to walk or ride close to a pedestal without one of these horses stepping up onto it). In contrast, Kye is not a pedestal-seeking-devise. Kye’s approach to something “new” is, “You can’t make ME do that!” Later, when he can do the new thing, he is so very proud and extremely good at it.
Back to Robin… Yesterday I invited her to step up on the tall pedestal. She placed her front feet on it and received praise. She was on a lead line and I gave her plenty of slack so she could decide how to get her front feet off of the pedestal. Several times she stepped her hind feet up, then stepped down with her front feet. Some times she stepped backwards off it.
She was totally at ease with this new game.
Today we repeated the procedure. Soon I’ll combine the low and high pedestals (mentally). I’ll start with Robin stepping up onto a low pedestal, whoaing, receiving praise, stepping off, then going over to the tall one. Slowly but surely (and probably sooner than I think) she’ll stand up there. If it looks like she needs some help, I’ll place one of the low pedestals against the tall one, making the step up shorter. I’ll also set both of these pedestals against the wall. The pedestals were in this position when we taught Z and Z how to get up there.