I haven’t taught Zelador anything new in a while and figured it’s probably time to learn how to teach him to kneel. When I was at Allen Pogue’s Red Horse Ranch he showed me how to do this. It’s a prelim to the lie down. He has a huge pile of soft shavings for these tricks. He had knee pads on the horse, ropes here and there and lots of padding on the lower front legs. The apparatus (even though he carefully explained things to me) was overwhelming. I knew on the spot that I wouldn’t be putting all that stuff on a horse or using ropes. They’re way beyond my abilities.
Daniel Nummer (a horseman and trick trainer in Michigan) is also careful to inspect the ground where he asks the horse to kneel. But I don’t recall a pile of shavings for the site, or ropes.
So, Bill brought in two bags of shavings and we placed them on an already soft area in the arena. I led Zelador to the shavings with a halter and lead line attached. I was on his left side and asked for the bow. For the second bow I asked him to hold the bow position a bit longer. He had no trouble with this. The key was in the position of his head. If he moved his head upwards while bowing on the left knee the next move was Zelador standing up.
It was a bit cold (minus twelve) and Bill left. I removed Zelador’s halter and lead line.
I’ve seen Daniel Nummer, Ciara and Allen cue the kneel by standing to the side of the shoulders, facing the horse and alternately tapping the inside of the front legs. I did this and Zelador somehow figured out that I didn’t want him to back up or go down on his right knee. He went down on both knees. I gave him lots of treats and lots of praise. We tried this two more times and he kneeled, but not perfectly. His right knee was bent and the foreleg was lying on the ground. The left front leg only had part of the lower leg on the ground. I tried to get one more kneel, but he wasn’t interested in doing it. Horses always have a reason for what they’re doing. I figured I wasn’t clearly communicating what I wanted. We went on to something else and ended the session.
This was around noon Thursday. I turned Z and Z out in the roundish paddock attached to the lower barn because Christi was due at 2:00 for a free jumping lesson with Zelador.
These two hours between sessions gave Zelador an excellent GAP period. Zelador had time to think and so did I. I realized that the alternate tapping which produced the final product for Allen, Daniel and Ciara actually starts with a tap on one leg. You wait and the horse moves that hoof. You tap the inside of the other leg. You wait and the horse moves that hoof. Once the horse figures out that the tap is a cue to move the foot the handler then taps alternately. The horse shifts his weight and happily bends his knees and kneels slowly. I hadn’t totally understood the beginning of the tapping.
An interesting note is: Zelador already knows the Spanish Walk. This movement also started with a tapping on a front hoof. However the positioning of my body and my energy is totally different. For the Spanish Walk I’m picturing the walk with a high raising of a straight front leg with tons of energy shooting forward. For the kneel I’m crouched down a bit and picturing Zelador on his knees. The energy is downwards and calm.
When Christi arrived I asked if she’d like to see if Zelador would kneel. I led him to the pile of shavings (no halter or leadline attached to Zelador) and tapped the inside of one leg and waited. He moved that hoof an inch. I tapped the other hoof. He moved it. Then I tapped lightly alternately. He kneeled like he’d been doing this for me all of his life! When I’ve seen other trainers cue the kneel it looks like the whip/wand is “stinging” the inside of the front legs. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s certainly how it appears. I personally don’t like this. So it was very comforting to be able to point at the inside of the front leg and have Zelador kneel.
We did the free jumping and at the end I brought him to the shavings pile and asked for the kneel. I barely did anything and he kneeled.
Friday morning he showed-off his new trick to Randy and Lindsey. What a horse!!!!
Today around 1:00 I took Zeloso to the arena to let him move about before I turned him out. Bill came in and we decided to see if he would enjoy bowing on the pile of shavings and perhaps learning how to kneel. He bowed, but the kneel was a slow back up. Bill fetched Zelador and we placed Zeloso on the south pedestal and Zelador kneeled on the shavings, once. He held the kneel position for a few seconds and it became obvious that he was ready to lie down. The cue I gave him for the kneel was: I placed him on the pile of shavings and stood at his right side. I was holding the wand, but don’t remember touching him with it.
We put Zelador on the north pedestal and asked Zeloso to kneel. He not only kneeled, he laid down and if Bill had been quick enough he could have WHOAed Zeloso into a sit (as Zeloso was returning to his feet). We repeated the sequence (one time kneel for Zelador and one time kneel for Zeloso). On the third and final sequence Zelador was very interesting. I was on his right side and he very purposefully performed a magnificent bow on his left knee. I said, “Not now” and he stood up. I asked for the kneel and, once again, he bowed on the left knee. I repeated, “Not now” and as he was getting back onto his four feet I could almost hear him saying, “Ah, that’s what I thought you meant” and kneeled.