This morning:

For the first time in a long time I took Zeloso to the arena before I worked with his brother.

As I was setting up the blocks to create a goal on each side of the arena he followed me. When I was done I glanced at the first two blocks I’d positioned along the wall. Zeloso had knocked over each one. I reset the goal.

I brought out the ball. Zeloso remembered that I preferred that he push with the nose (not the hoof). With the clicker at the ready, he was clicked every time his nose went towards the ball. After a few clicks I waited till he touched the ball with his nose and finally he did tiny nose pushes.

I haven’t had him play with the mailbox for a long time. I walked to it and called him. He was halfway across the arena thinking about playing with the soccer ball. He came over and happily opened the box, fetched the letter and carried it to the pedestal.

I took him back to the barn and brought out Zelador.

When we got to the arena I showed him the white card with his name on it. I stood it straight up in the arena footing and asked him to fetch it. Zelador walked to the card, knocked it over with his nose and expected a treat. (Once the flat card is on the ground it’s difficult for him to pick it up).

I showed him the ‘Winnie’ card. It’s printed with a different colour. I set both cards upright in the footing and asked for the ‘Zelador’ card. He brought the ‘Winnie’ one. I said, “That’s the ‘Winnie’ card, I want the ‘Zelador’ card.” He brought it.

For the first time I showed him the ‘Zeloso’ card. He loved it! I placed it in the footing and he picked it up and brought it to me before I could finish saying, “Could you bring me Zeloso’s card.”

Then I set all three in the footing. I asked for one, then another, then the final one. He didn’t miss a beat. He fetched the correct one each time.

I practiced pushing the “soccer” ball into the goal. Zelador’s very happy to push it with his nose. He can push it several metres. However, he hasn’t quite figured out how to redirect it towards the goal when it goes off course. I’ll take a step backwards and practice rolling it back and forth between us.

This afternoon:

Christi arrived to ride with me. While we were tacking up the boys I pointed out that the horse’s name was written in chalk on the back wall of the stall.

To finish our session we practiced with the jump rope. Both boys are very good at it. We took turns starting at the far end of the arena. We both were able to walk along at a steady rhythm ‘jumping’ the rope about four times before we climbed up onto a pedestal. A key factor is having an on-looker call out “CLEAR!” so that the rider knows when to bring the jump rope over the horse’s tail, over both the rider and the horse and down onto the ground in front of the horse. We both agreed that a heavier, more substantial rope would probably work better. We’re using a child’s jump rope purchased at a Dollar Store. It’s very light weight and when it’s on the ground it doesn’t lie flat. Occasionally the horse’s hoof doesn’t cross the rope or the hoof lands on the rope, thus adding extra steps to the “jump”. Bill and Ron were talking about the jump rope (neither has ridden with it) and they thought it’d be a WONDERFUL idea if the horse actually jumped the rope. I reminded them that the reins are looped through the “chicken strap” at the front of the saddle. “No problem,” says Bill, “we can make extra long reins and the rider can hold the rope and the rein in each hand and JUMP.” (I repeat, neither has ridden with the jump rope!)

Christi said, “I would like to see Zelador with the name cards.”

I removed his bridle and placed a card into the arena footing saying, “This is ‘Zeloso’s’ card.” As I was putting the ‘Zeloso’ card into the floor he picked it up and brought it quickly to me. (Yep, he loves his brother!)

He was letter perfect each time I called out a name. Then we asked him to pick up a specific name and take it to Christi. Of course she was riding Zeloso and he wanted to get into the act. Zelador had to maneuver around a “helpful” Zeloso. Zelador dropped the card a few times before he was able to get it to Christi’s hand. When she finally got it we told Zelador we were very proud of him!

Hopefully there will be a few people at the farm at the same time this weekend and we can play the name card game. We’ll be upping the ante and challenging Zelador to select the right card and take it to the correct person amongst more than two or three people.

I also want to have someone stand with Zelador at the pedestal while a few of us pass the soccer ball back and forth to the goal. I think that once he understands the game he’ll be very good at it.

I’ll also take a few minutes to introduce the name cards to Zeloso. That should be interesting!