A trip up north shows my horse training goes beyond ‘cuteness’

I took my horses on the road last week, on a two-hour drive up near the northern Utah border.  It was a rewarding experience all the way around.

Daughter Alicia (right) stands by as a 4-H horse enthusiast does the hat trick with Cheyenne during a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp at Logan, Utah, last week.  (Photos by John Miller)

Daughter Alicia (right) stands by as a 4-H horse enthusiast does the hat trick with Cheyenne during a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp at Logan, Utah, last week. (Photos by John Miller)

Last Wednesday, I did a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp with my trick horse Cheyenne and used Gypsy for smaller tricks herself.  My two trick shows in front of about 25 young horse enthusiasts in each session were a success, and Cheyenne did an absolutely splendid show.  I couldn’t have asked for Cheyenne to do any better.  The fun thing about these shows is that when Cheyenne does them and has absolute joy, it shows in her.  Sometimes Cheyenne steals the show by doing extra bows or smiles, follows me around without a lead rope, or whatever she decides to do to surprise everyone.  Cheyenne loves the trick shows as much as I do.

It has been a habit of mine to at least get the horses to the place where the show is going to be an hour before it happens so they can get used to their surroundings.  We got to the fairgrounds in Logan, Utah, and let the horses out into the arena, gave them the last of the hay I put out for their breakfast and my crew — my husband John, daughter Alicia, and a friend Nastasha, and I — went to eat some lunch that was provided by the 4-H club that day.  We ate it while watching the horses from the grandstands to make sure everything was okay.

After lunch it was showtime.  We set everything up — basketball hoop, horse piano, paintings all in line to show to the crowd, and so on.

Cheyenne shows how she puts the ball through the hoop.

Cheyenne shows how she puts the ball through the hoop.

We did use audience participation for the show.  We used two kids for the hat fetching where Cheyenne walked up to the kid, took the hat from her hands and brought the hat to me.  I took the hat from her mouth and held it on the other side where Cheyenne, after walking around me, took the hat on the other side out of my left hand.  After that she took the hat back to the kid.  At that point everyone seemed truly impressed.

The other thing we did that took audience participation was using a kid to be a live art easel.  Since we had a small horse trailer and a Tahoe to pull it, it didn’t leave us much room to have places to put everything.  So we decided to use live easels.  But I think the kids loved the idea.  I would tease a little by suggesting to Cheyenne or Gypsy to paint up enough to paint the kid’s face behind the canvas.  One older girl suggested not to paint her face.  We chuckled after that.

I used Alicia to climb up on Cheyenne to be able to walk up onto the pedestal and put her arms out to the side and really show off Cheyenne’s ability to stand on a pedestal with a person on her back.  That was quite the dynamic sight to see, and it was exciting for Alicia to do that part of it as well as having the horse bow under her.  Nastasha did a few things to help me as well but she didn’t feel like sitting on Cheyenne for that part of the show.

A group of about 25 4-H youth in two sessions each asked questions that showed their genuine interest in trick training.

A group of about 25 4-H youth in two sessions each asked questions that showed their genuine interest in trick training.

All in all, it went well.  After the show I was given question-and-answer time.  I was amazed how many questions there were.  Some people might think training horses to do tricks or putting on shows is “cute” but perhaps scoff at the notion that it provides any real value.  But doing these things in front of a group of 4-H youth who already know a thing or two about horses and having them respond with comments like “Wow!” when I’m putting the horses through what they’ve learned shows that it goes beyond simple “cuteness.”  There’s some genuine interest and educational value there.  The Q and A session proved that.  I hope someday to be able to do some clinics for tricks, ways to help the kids get a closer relationship with their horses.  Please feel free to leave comments.

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