Zeloso and the water jug (actually I put soil in the plastic jug, not water, because of the extremely COLD weather conditions. I figured that dirt freezes flower than water and the jug just might not crack and break into pieces quite so quickly):

As I led Zeloso up to the arena I was thinking about how I would introduce him to the new Working Equitation obstacle: the jug on the three foot tall table (well… not quite a table, but at least it is three feet high).

My plan was simple. Start slowly (first from the ground, then from the saddle), read his reactions and proceed only when he was comfortable. With Zelador I’d led him past the jug several times, starting from ten feet away and ending within two feet of the obstacle. As we got closer the challenge was to keep him from reaching out and playing with the jug. Finally I stood next to the jug, raised it over my head and returned it to the ‘table’. Even though Zeloso understands things a bit slower than Zelador, the plan was a good one and should work.

I led Zeloso through the large half door of the arena, closed it, fastened his reins through the chicken strap and turned him loose while I fetched my guider whip.

In the time it took me to walk three steps Zeloso had made my planning unnecessary. He’d spotted the new thing immediately. By the time I turned around the jug was on the ground and he was systematically knocking down the three blocks I’d placed on top of each other to create the table. Before I could travel the fifteen metres to him, he’d accomplished his task and was looking to me for praise.

Now for the riding part of the plan. Zeloso is one or two inches taller than Zelador and I’d found bending down from Zelador quite challenging. I was wondering how far I’d have to lean towards Mother Earth to grab the jug. AND, what would Zeloso think of these shenanigans. Of course there’s always the unsettling question, “Will he stand still?”

Since Zeloso had demonstrated that he dearly loved the jug I decided to delete riding past it with an ever diminishing distance. I rode directly to the ‘table’, carefully planning the whoa. I needed to stop him just when my toe lined up with the jug. Zeloso listened to me and halted at the correct spot. I prepared myself for the great downward reach, hoping the girth was tight enough for this weight shift. Zeloso stood still. With very little effort I clasped the handle, raised the jug and replaced it. Hmmm…how come this taller horse was easier than the shorter one? Ah…just maybe the answer lies in the breadth of Zelador’s belly. When he was younger people would ask how tall he was and I’d reply, “He’s 15.2 in both directions”. Nowadays he’s taller and slimmer, but he’ll never have Zeloso’s longer torso and svelte appearance.

Zeloso’s been in the arena twice since his initial introduction to the jug. Whenever he’s been at liberty he’s sought out this new toy, sniffed inquisitively at the soil inside it, knocked it to the ground and dismembered the table.


Mark Rashid says something similar to this, “The horse is born with two strong instincts: flight and curiosity. If we can tap into the curiosity, then we can accomplish a great deal.”