Brenda Marino was our MC for the Get-Together. She put hundreds of hours into all the details that create a successful gathering of people and horses. I asked her if there were any way I could repay her. She smiled. Her eyes twinkled. She said, “I’d love to ride your boys.”

Well, no sooner said, than done.

We saddled both horses yesterday and took them to the arena. Initially I was on Zelador and she was on Zeloso. Zeloso doesn’t walk or trot, he floats effortlessly. Brenda liked that!

I demonstrated Philippe Karl’s walk exercises where you ride a small circle and do the shoulder-in, travers, renvers and counter-shoulder in. She attended the Philippe Karl clinic in King Township this summer and has been doing these exercises on other horses.

I asked her if she’d done any of the Working Equitation exercises on the boys. The answer, “no”. She did do some on the Paso Fino stallion here for the Working Equitation Clinic in May. I got off Zelador and set things up around the arena. I demonstrated each one on Zelador, then we switched horses. She practiced the small circle drill with him, then headed for the bull. I called to her, “Zelador knows how to do each of these exercises. If you allow him to do them, things will go well. Generally speaking, if you try to tell him what to do you’ll only mess things up.”

She laughed, grabbed the pole leaning against the wall and prepared to spear the ring on the bull’s horn. Zelador is used to the rider passing the bull at the walk or trot. Brenda halted him. The horse took this in stride. Then Brenda swung the twelve foot long pole at the bull’s horn. The ring flew through the air. Zelador stood quietly. Another swing of the pole and the bull crashed to the ground. The two large pylons supporting it were also knocked over. Zelador stood quietly. The bull lay dead inches from his feet. The pylons were scattered. The ring was no where in sight.

I, on the other hand, almost slid off Zeloso. I was laughing so hard it was difficult to breathe. I’d never seen the likes of that. And, it was all done at a standstill!

I dismounted, gave Zeloso a treat to munch on, walked into the “war zone”, patted the patient Zelador… still standing quietly, gave him a treat, then restored the bull, pylons and ring to their former glory.

“Brenda, why don’t you try that again?”

She did. This time she speared the ring off the bull without creating a blood bath.

I watched Zelador walking patiently around the arena while Brenda sorted out removing the ring from the pole, placing the pole against the wall and then putting the ring on the bull’s horn. Her movements weren’t fluid. She stopped and started Zelador several times. And that’s when I wondered, “Why is he so nice to her!!!” Whenever I missed spearing the ring off the bull I could almost HEAR him rolling his eyes and muttering, “Here we go again. We’re doing another circle. Just what are the chances that she’ll spear the ring THIS time? Drats. Missed again. Will Winnie EVER get this right?”

Next obstacle: the gate. We do have a lovely wooden gate attached to the east wall of the arena. BUT for the Get-Together we used another set-up for the gate because the people were sitting at the east wall.

We attached a three inch metal ring to a support beam on the north wall. In that we tied a yellow polo. We knotted it to a second polo and created a loop at the far end. This loop was placed over a vertical pole that has a keeper on it to make sure the loop doesn’t slide down the pole and onto the ground. The “gate” is extremely easy to open and close. It is light weight and flexible (no solid wooden structure threatening to bump against the horse’s flanks). Although I’d already demonstrated the gate on Zelador I figured Brenda might benefit from a refresher course. I showed her how to open and shut the gate from Zeloso’s back. I pointed out that when I saw this obstacle being done on Youtube one competitor was very smooth and took very few steps. The rules are: keep your right hand on the gate at all times. This particular rider put his right hand on the gate, lifted the loop off the pole, walked forward, stopped, turned his horse’s body parallel to the gate, stepped sideways and backwards (to the left), stopped, walked forward and shut the gate. Both Zelador and Zeloso know this pattern. They can do it with their eyes closed. And, most importantly, do not need extra signals from the rider.

Brenda said, “Can I show you how I opened and shut gates decades ago in Western Pleasure obstacle courses?”

Hmmm… I moved Zeloso a few more metres away from the gate and said, “Remember the rule: right hand on the gate at all times. And, if you shift your weight or turn your head Zelador regards that as a cue to do something. He’s a type ‘A’ personality and wants to please you.”

I’m sitting here in the comfort of my home trying to remember exactly what Brenda and Zelador did. I can’t. It seemed like things were going well. Every movement was in slow motion. She lifted the polo off the pole, the horse moved forward, the horse turned and then things got complicated. At one point the yellow polo was across Zelador’s chest. Brenda still had her right hand on it, but from where the two of them were at that moment there was no way she was going to be able to go through the gate, then shut it. Zelador surveyed the increasingly ridiculous situation and took the polo in his mouth. I’m thinking he figured she was going to drop it and then where would they be!

I was laughing. Zeloso was laughing. Brenda was laughing. Zelador wasn’t. He had his mouth full.

P.S. (From Brenda after “proof” reading this story): the only thing I might add is that Z is so used to doing these obstacles with one person in a particular way, that when a new person tries it with him, he thinks they should know what to do.  But, instead of getting frustrated with me, he just rolled with it and did exactly what I asked however incorrect it was (be careful what you ask for).