With “Family Day” creating a long weekend, Bill and I were able to work with both boys together at liberty for three days in a row. We placed the boys on their pedestals and worked on motions for “Knees Up Mother Brown”. For the verse “prancing up and down” I take Zelador off the pedestal and he piaffes while Bill takes Zeloso off his pedestal and the horse does the Spanish Walk.
We also checked out movements for the Hokey Pokey. Whereas Zelador loves shaking his head, Zeloso is the leader of the pack when it comes to moving his head up and down for “yes”. I’ve presented the “yes” to Zelador and he’s on the brink of moving his head up, then down. However, if I want a shake all I need to do is stand in front of him and say, “Would you like a treat?” and he shakes his head “no”. Hmmm….
Zeloso is starting on his journey for learning the shake. He does it when my fingers get near the hairs in his ear. Hopefully he’ll not need such a close cue and soon respond to the word.
Both boys will show the tongue when asked. After about four requests for “tongue” Zelador lets his come WAY out of his mouth. Got to admit, it’s cute!
With the Hokey Pokey line “and you turn yourself around” we will probably let the horses stand there and we will turn around in front of them. We’ll save the turn-around for “Knees Up Mother Brown” because that song allows enough time for the horses to completely turn on the pedestal.
We tried something new in preparation for playing baseball. I wanted to see if I could create a “trail” for the horse to walk on AND have the horse do it going away from me and coming to me. I placed four poles bisecting the centreline. Each pole was at least ten feet from the next one. I started with Bill keeping Zeloso on his pedestal while I led Zelador on the centre line at liberty (no halter on, no lead line). He did GREAT! Two exercises I’ve practiced (got these from books by Alexandra Kurland) helped us. One is “300 Peck Pigeon” and the other is “Why would you leave me”. Both reinforce the horse walking beside you. When it was Zeloso’s turn the sweetie took off leaping and jumping. Bill fetched a lead line and things improved.
At one point Bill helped Zelador stay on the pedestal while I led Zeloso at liberty over the poles. The key to a quiet walk was to keep Zeloso’s focus. I did this by talking to him, stopping my feet (and his) before his mind wandered and clicking/treating quite frequently.
After quite a few successful liberty walks I tried having Zelador “whoa” at the far end of the arena while I walked towards the pedestal. What a challenge this turned out to be! He waited a little bit, then softly started walking to me. It’s surprising how quietly a horse can move. Since I was walking away I often had my back to him. Often the only hint I had that he wasn’t still “whoaed” was a perception of air moving.
I changed tactics. I placed Zelador on the pedestal and walked towards the far end of the arena. He was able to stay longer. I travelled over one pole, turned, called him and he came. He was also able to wait as I walked past the second pole. The third pole was harder for him. We’ll be able to increase the distance over time.
It was obvious that having a marker to stand on was very helpful for the horses. Bill suggested we use the colourful rubber buckets as markers, but I know what the boys will be doing with those! They’ll go to the bucket, pick it up and bring it back. We need something that they’re used to standing on and not picking up. The easiest thing to do is to place the pedestals where we want them, but the pedestals are heavy and not easy to move. Once the pedestals are in a new spot, they’ll stay there for a while. That got me to thinking, we have small interlocking rubber mats that are 12 inches by almost three feet. These are easy for us to carry. I’ll introduce these markers to the boys.
On another note…when I was bringing in the horses yesterday I decided to let Zelador walk at liberty beside me from the paddock to his stall. He has done this two or three times and is so very proud of himself. First of all I prepared the barn. I closed all the stall doors except Zelador’s and Zeloso’s. I fetched Zeloso and closed his door. I had not latched the paddock gate because it’s big and somewhat heavy. It stays “closed” every day when I bring the first horse into the barn. Well, did I get a surprise! I walked away from Zeloso, got outside the barn, turned to the left towards the paddock and saw the large gate totally open with no sign of Zelador! That’s when I realized there were some pretty substantial gusts of wind coming from the south. One of them had swung the gate to the north…opening it!!!!
I stood outside the barn and mumbled, “Where’s Zelador?” That’s when I heard a light noise to my right. I turned and there he was, coming down the bank of the bank barn with this lovely look on his face. He looked like he was saying, “Hi, Winnie, I’m over here. Is there anything you need? Can I help you?” He walked calmly down the slope and up to me. We entered the barn together and we walked together to his stall. What a boy!
As I went to fetch the other horses (their paddocks are to the right and beyond the barn) I could see Zelador’s hoof prints in the snow. He’d walked past the lower barn (I can “picture” him glancing in and seeing that I was busy with Zeloso), diagonally up the slope for about three metres, turned and walked back to the entrance of the barn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the lovely look on his face as he approached me.