Last summer when Zelador and Zeloso were 3 years-old Bill and I were invited to visit Laurene Winkler near Sterling, Ontario. She has over 150 acres, lots of trails, a pond, a bridge and three mares.
Bill and I drove there with two vizsla puppies (nine weeks old) in the car. Mike Charters arrived at the farm to trailer Z and Z. This would be the second trailer ride in their lives. The previous one occurred when they left their birthplace as weanlings and joined us at Winsong farm.
When Mike was loading Zelador and Zeloso onto the trailer he decided to have them step up because he knew they were used to stepping up on the eighteen inch high pedestal. Zelador stepped on and Zeloso was not to be left behind. Before Zelador had all four feet in the trailer, Zeloso was loading himself.
Mike had plenty of time that day for the horses to relax and get accustomed to the trailer. He had parked it in our driveway under the shade of the trees and let the boys chill out.
The trip to Laureneâ€™s should have taken less than three hours (probably two and a half), but Highway 401 Saturday morning was very slow east of Toronto. Bill and I were in stop and go traffic for sixty minutes. Mike was luckier and went a steady 10 kilometres an hour for a long time. Zelosoâ€™s box stall was at the middle of the trailer. He had the large open â€œwindowâ€ and quite enjoyed the slow pace. He kept sticking his head out to get a better view of the transit trucks and the hundreds of cars. Apparently he entertained the masses. Mikeâ€™s trip took five hours.
Mike said that he couldnâ€™t believe how good those two 3 year-olds were. He said most horses would have been very uneasy in that type of traffic. After two and a half hours he went into a rest area and offered the boys water. He was amazed that they had totally consumed every piece of hay from his VERY large hay nets. He refilled them.
When we got to Laurene Winklerâ€™s farm we waited a bit before we let them off. For the unloading Mike introduced them to the ramp. We were happy to see them calmly accept this new thing. For both the loading and unloading they were relaxed and did not hesitate.
Bill stayed Saturday, Sunday and Monday, then returned to Toronto for work. I stayed at Laureneâ€™s until the following Saturday. During the week I think there was only one day that the horses werenâ€™t worked twice. Laureneâ€™s barn is two hundred and fifty metres from the round pen where the boys mowed down the grass which was over three feet tall that first day. The round pen is adjacent to the coverall arena. The arena is about 80 or 90 feet wide and 200 feet long. There are mirrors and two large hay wagons at the far end. The near end is fenced off and used for storage.
When you enter the building thereâ€™s a trailer to the left and on the right side thereâ€™s a stall. This stall was very useful. Several times we brought both boys to the arena and placed one in the stall while we worked the other one. Other times we worked both together or left one back in the barn. Initially the horses were calling to each other, but that didnâ€™t mess up leading one horse away from the other or interfere with the work we did. Each horse was able to focus on us. And, as time passed, the calling stopped. The horses were familiar with the routine and not anxious.
Z and Z handled all the newness beautifully. My in depth experience with horses is limited to Sherlock. He would have stopped to check out the round pen. He would have needed help getting into the coverall. He would not have trusted us so completely at every step of the trip.
The walk from the barn to the arena included: passing by a chicken coop with chickens squawking, parked cars, the house, crossing a very quiet road with less traffic than my driveway, walking along a dirt vehicle track that had tall grasses and bushes crowding it and finally the round pen and the arena. As Laurene said, â€œThis is a very busy place and these two arenâ€™t concerned at all.â€
Most of the time I had someone to lead a horse with me. But at least five times I led them both together, like I occasionally do when Iâ€™m bringing them in from the paddock at home. At home Iâ€™ve only led them together from the paddock to the barn, but at Laureneâ€™s I led them from the barn to the round pen several times. They did this straight from their stall in the morning, at a time when you might expect young horses to be full of energy and silliness.
On one trip with both horses (only me leading) from the round pen to the barn, both boys stopped (weâ€™d only travelled ten metres). I looked up and saw a doe crossing the dirt road. She was about five metres in front of me, passing from the right to the left. Z and Z were completely calm, just watching her. I started to think about moving them when I remembered that deer usually travel in groups of two (or more). Sure enough, within a few seconds a fawn crossed the road, trailing its mom.
As I stood between the two Lusitanos the vision of Sherlock in exactly this situation flashed through my mind. No doubt about it, Sherlock would be in Texas. He wouldnâ€™t stand around quietly while a doe crossed the road. I base this on our only encounter with a deer over ten years ago. Sherlock and I were on a trail. He stopped. His head was high and his ears were riveted on something to the north. I looked in that direction and finally made out the shape of a deer standing in a grassy field about 100 metres away. Talk about the horseâ€™s heart pounding under my calves!!
But the Lusitanos were just stood there, totally relaxed. I decided the deer parade was probably over and asked them to move forward. Zelador responded instantly and Zeloso said, â€œI thoroughly enjoy standing still.â€ Zelador was to my right and Zeloso was to my left. I turned to the left and circled the horses in an effort to get Zelosoâ€™s feet moving. The circle was very small because of the thick vegetation crowding the laneway. We got back to the spot weâ€™d been in and Zeloso stood. Rats! I circled them again. Finally they both walked with me to the barn.
Laurene had a mare that was bomb proof. The idea was to introduce the boys to her (one at a time) and have the Lusitano follow the lead horse. Only one little problemâ€¦the lead horse was a MARE and she thought the boys were very cute. Essentiallyâ€¦she walked backwards so that she could be close to the Lusitano GELDING. Well, each boy is over 15.3 hands high and the mare is probably 15. We passed the lead horse!
Each boy (with the non-leading mare) went for a walk in the field beside the arena. Each boy handled it well and didnâ€™t need the lead horse for security. Laurene was able to walk the mare in one direction and the Lusitano went in another, albeit within thirty metres.
Zeloso was the bolder of the two Lusitanos. Bill rode him behind the mare through the field, through the hedgerow and into the next field. Bill felt the horseâ€™s heart rate quicken while in the hedgerow, then settle to normal.
Zelador and I only rode in the first field.
Once while riding Zelador in the arena, Laurene noticed that when Zelador started to trot, I stopped him. What they didnâ€™t know is: I didnâ€™t ask for the trot. Their comment was: â€œdonâ€™t stop forward movement. Youâ€™ll regret it down the road.â€ My thought was: this horse is to do what I ask for, not offer up an evasive movement. After a few more minutes of calm walking I asked for the trot and Zelador was calm and willing. When heâ€™d gone into the trot on his own accord I could feel him tightening up and ready to do some hippity-hops/little bucks. These are not in the agenda. I was very pleased that when I felt that he was ready to trot, he did trot and he did not attempt anything other than the trot.
When Bill first led Zeloso in the arena he introduced him to the mirrors. I, on the other hand, ignored them when I was working with Zelador. My thought was: Iâ€™ll keep Zelador focused on me and the mirrors are not of significance.
Both horses acknowledged the mirrors, but did not overreact. Zelador thought the horse in the mirror was very interesting as he was moving past it. I didnâ€™t allow him to stop and play with the mirror.
Laurene introduced both boys to the longeing cavesson. The longe line was attached to the ring located on the centre of the nose. At first each Z wondered what the pressure on his nose was, but within a few circles ignored this new thing and settled into listening to the human. Laurene prefers this type of cavesson. It is light-weight and has rings in several different areas. She prefers the centre ring with youngsters. If the horse leaps about it is more difficult for the horse to get his legs tangled in the longeline. Zeloso is quite athletic in his leaps and in flinging his forelegs high in the air. During one of his â€œfrolicsâ€ it was readily apparent that if the line had been attached on a side ring or under his chin he could have gotten tangled in it.
For the trip home Mike brought the trailer that had a step up and a ramp. He said, â€œLetâ€™s see if theyâ€™ll use the ramp to load. If they arenâ€™t comfortable with it, weâ€™ll use the step up.â€ He led Zelador to the trailer and the horse never hesitated. Zelador walked up the ramp. Once again, Zeloso would not be left behind and I had my hands full reminding him to stay with me, wait JUST A MINUTE and then go up the ramp. I expected the horses to stop at the ramp, look, think and then step forward when asked to do so. No, not these two. Even Sherlock with years of experience trailering, pauses at the base of the ramp before going on any trailer.
The trip home was delightfully uneventful!