For less than two months Dora has been at Winsong Farm learning tons of new games and tricks. She’s a total delight to work with. She’s happy, brilliant, eager. You name it, she can do it. Dora’s the perfect pupil. We’re really looking forward to the spring show. We know Dora will be terrific and wow the audience.

THEN, out of the blue, yesterday I met “the other side of Dora”. Gone was the perfect pony. Sure, there have been moments when she has an opinion, but these are rarely expressed. She does so by briefly turning her head away and pretending that she’s not on this planet, but almost 99.9% of the time she LOVES playing with me and learning new things which helps shove the opinionated pony episodes into the background.

Yesterday, however, made her previous opinionated statements seem like faraway whispers. This pony was NOT “with me”.

I led Dora to the arena and turned her loose. I walked over to the mail box at the northeast corner of the arena and she travelled to the southwest. Hmmm. I stood at the mailbox cooing long distance to the perfect pony. Nothing. I got out a carrot. Nothing. I clicked the clicker which signifies a treat is coming. The pony turned her head away. Many minutes passed. I left the mailbox, picked up Dora’s lead line and walked the thirty-plus metres to her. She allowed me to lead her to the mailbox. I removed the leadline and she left!!!! I fetched her again. We arrived at the mailbox and I kept the lead line ON. She turned her head away. I made sweet cooing sounds. Nothing. Minutes passed. The old saying, “If you want the horse to change what it’s doing, you need to change what you’re doing.” Fine. I can change. I put the carrot near her mouth and she ate it. For a brief instant I thought she was going to open the mailbox. Nope. She “voiced” her opinion by turning her head away again. Many minutes later I gently moved her nose to the mailbox and she lightly brushed the top. The mailbox opened. I gave her treats and praised her. Now for the mail in the box. Suffice it to say Dora took her sweet time before she nudged the mail with her nose. She actually held it for a mini-second before she spat it out onto the ground. I praised her and kept the lead line on!

Undaunted I presented her with the toy that she loves picking up. Nothing.

I tried enticing her with another favourite. That didn’t work either.

I figured it was time to take her back to the barn so I searched my brain for one little thing that Dora would do which would allow us to end our session on a happy, positive note. Ah…The Big Smile!!! I asked her for one and she did it!!!!

As I led her to the barn I puzzled over Dora’s attitude and then it hit me. There are two other mares on the farm. Faith, the Percheron/Friesian cross is in heat. Spring Song is also in heat. A friend said, “When one mare is in heat you can be assured that the rest of the mares on the farm are also in heat.” When Faith is in heat she isn’t comfortable bending under saddle. When Spring Song is in heat the rider gets off and does liberty with her. Another friend once said, “When my mare’s in heat NO ONE rides her!!!!” So…with all these details spinning in my brain I thought, “Maybe, just maybe, Dora is in heat.”

Five hours later I led her in from the paddock and I noticed that there appeared to be a kinder look in Dora’s eye. Whew!

Twenty-four hours later I took Dora to the arena. I turned her loose. I called to her and she rolled out the carpet. We went to the mailbox. She opened it and took out the mail. Dora stepped up onto the rotating top pedestal and rotated in both directions. She went sideways over the pole, going nicely in both directions. Dora did her best ever Spanish Walk. Ah…the difference a day makes!

So now I’m sitting at the computer, pondering all of this. And, what comes to mind? I know someone who LOVES Dora and this friend has said several times, “When you have a show and Dora is performing she’s going to be the comedian.”

I didn’t understand this interpretation of Dora till yesterday, but I “get it” now! The Dora I was dealing with 24 hours ago certainly required a sense of humour and tons of patience, not attributes that are always readily available during a show. However, hope springs eternal in the human breast. I figure if we’ve got a brilliant announcer Dora just might be sensational.