Pax is a five-year-old Canadian owned by Ron. Ron’s the one who used to start and ride racing Thoroughbreds.
Ron is doing a ground driving demonstration for our Get-Together next Sunday. The music is sung by Chubby Checker. It’s “The Stroll”. Strolling perfectly describes how Pax moves.
I do tricks and pedestals with him several times a week for about ten minutes. A little while ago I introduced the circus bow or reverence to Pax. He puts his front feet on the low platform and I encourage him to put his head between his knees and bow.
At the end of Ron’s routine he has Pax approach the side of the low platform, put his front feet on it and stand. Ron removes the surcingle that he used for ground driving, then has Pax bow.
Yesterday I practiced this last movement. I learned that when I show Pax a longish (about four or five inches) and skinny carrot (I place it just under his nose) while he’s standing there, then approach him from the left side and place the carrot under his belly/chest, tap the area and say “Pretty Down” he “gets it” and bows for the carrot. Then he stands still with his front feet on the platform. I ask him to step all four feet on it. He does. After a few seconds I have him follow me (the command is “with me”). He steps off and we walk in a circle which brings him back to the original front feet on the platform position.
The third time we did this I noticed that Pax stood with a wider stance for his front feet. The clever fellow was preparing for the chance that I might ask for a bow between his front legs. Needless to say, his bow was even deeper and happened more quickly when I asked for it.
We did the circle/bow thing another two times. On each occasion he placed those front feet wider apart to facilitate a bow.
I’ve learned that Pax is very smart: a great brain in a slow-moving, relaxed body. The “gap” that Daniel Nummer talks about (1. ask the horse to do something, 2. have a gap allowing the horse to assimilate what you asked, 3. the horse responds, 4. you give feedback) is very important with Pax. I need to slow things down because all of the tricks/liberty/platforms are new to him as opposed to the quick responses I get from Z and Z. That being said, there is the continuous PAX problem of: if you get within 1.5 metres of any pedestal he tries to get up on it!!!! He’s a platform-seeking-device AND trying to divert that huge hunk of horseflesh is not easy.
Another interesting thing about Pax is he almost instantly figured out the exercise where he is free and travels around the perimeter of the arena, then changes direction across the diagonal. One other horse, Socs, also did this well almost from the get-go. None of the other horses did. That includes the two Lusitanos, an Andalusian, a paint, a Quarter Horse/Appaloosa and a few Thoroughbreds. This is one of the first drills we do with a horse and Pax and Socs let showed us immediately how easily they learn new things.