Friday, September 2.
At 2:00 Christi McQuaker rode with me. She’d been in Kentucky for three weeks showing her horse. She received my emails about the boys, the jump rope and BIG hula hoop, but hadn’t see them in real life. So, she and Zeloso stood on a pedestal while Zelador and I jumped rope. He was terrific. He’s only done it once before and that time we realized he had to walk in a straight line so Bill was in front of us, walking backwards, facing us to help keep Zelador straight. Well, today there was no Bill and Zelador walked straight. My hands hold the sticks so the reins are looped through the “chicken strap” on the front of the saddle. My ability to steer is challenging.

Then it was Zeloso’s turn. Zeloso has not jumped rope before. I walked around him moving the sticks and the rope, acquainting both of his eyes with them. I handed the jump rope to Christi and became the person to help Zeloso walk in a straight line. He was amazing! I learned that Zelador lifts his feet an inch or two higher than Zeloso. I couldn’t say “Clear” right away because Zeloso’s hind feet didn’t clear the jump rope in one lift of each hind foot.

Then we tried the BIG hoop with Zelador. Christi pointed out that Zelador is very good at walking onto the pedestal so if I set it up placing the hoop before the pedestal perhaps Zelador would forget about grabbing the hoop and march onto the pedestal. Since I’m holding the big hoop I’m not in the perfect position to cue him to walk through the opening. The first time we did it I had the hoop near the pedestal. That didn’t work very well. Zelador needed a few steps after passing through the hoop and before stepping up onto the pedestal. That worked.

Earlier in the day Zelador entertained several young girls. Two of them are under ten years of age and the other is in high school. The high schooler is a bit afraid of horses. Her class is going to Costa Rico during 2012 March Break and they’ll be doing quite a variety of activities, including horseback riding. Well, she’s got just over half a year to become comfortable on a horse!

She enjoyed watching Zelador do tricks and learn a new one. The new one is the trick that got me interested in tricks/games/liberty over ten years ago. My blacksmith told me a story about an elderly man who always won a performance class at Quarterama. It went something like this: there was a specific amount of time allotted to each competitor. During that time the rider was to execute a specific pattern and fill up the remaining time with something. The winner was determined by a combination of the judges’ scores and the audience’s response (on the applause meter). When this gentleman finished his required elements, he got off the horse, removed the saddle and bridle, lay the horse down, fetched a soccer ball and sent the horse to the far side of the arena. He proceeded to run along his side of the arena and he and the horse passed the soccer ball back and forth. My farrier said the horse was incredibly accurate in his passes.

The crowd loved it!

Yesterday Ann Clifford and I kicked a ball back and forth. Zelador joined in. The ball was a Jolly Ball which has a handle on it, so it wasn’t perfectly suited for soccer. It also had a slight air leak and was very malleable. Zelador was able to pick it up anywhere on its surface. This picking up was much easier than using his foot on a floppy ball. I’ll travel to a shopping centre today and see if I can find a real soccer ball.

Kicking the ball forward with a front hoof is not a natural movement for the horse. Sending the ball backwards with a pawing motion is. Zelador knows the Spanish Walk. Our plan is to start from a standstill, cue one leg to lift forward (Spanish Walk) with the ball positioned so that it is kicked forward. This should be doable. And, after at least a decade this particular dream is just about ready to come true!

At the end of our session with the three girls I asked the high school student if she knew about the book/movie/play “War Horse”. She’d heard about it. I explained that I’d read on the internet that some of the actors chosen for the movie (which comes out late in December 2011) were not familiar with horses. The movie was filmed in England. The people in charge of teaching the actors how to ride and work with horses brought over some “horse whisperers” from the United States. The lessons started with work on the ground. The actors learned how their body language can move a horse. I thought, “Hallelujah! Finally someone is teaching from the ground up!” I explained to the high schooler that we’d start from the ground with her. But, our first exercise would not be with a horse. The two of us would be in the arena and without talking I’d use body language to direct her to a specific place, then she could direct me. We were also going to spend a few minutes watching several horses in the same paddock and discuss how they moved each other.

Over a period of time, she’d ride bareback, then with a saddle. She had a BIG smile on her face and we’re both looking forward to that first session.