Hat and I had been preparing for Breyerfest for several weeks. Michele and I decided that since the theme was Carnival – Hat was going to have to learn some tricks. We had taught him to “talk”, say yes and no (sometimes on command?), and give kisses. But of course, Michele and I really wanted something a little flashier. So . . . we started to teach him to lift his front leg up. Actually it was pretty easy. He’s a ham and a sucker for treats. Once we had that down, we taught him the “hold” command – so he had to hold the leg up until we told him to release. Then we started on the “bow.” We would provide the assistance on holding the leg up and then ask him to lean back.
This all went pretty fast – he actually learned most of this within a week. Then it was a matter of getting him to understand where to put his feet on the bow part. He really wanted to tuck both front legs. We were persistent and just kept encouraging him. We never actually stopped him from tucking both legs, but we got very excited when he would correctly extend the one front leg.
Due to the typical busy schedule right before a vacation, I did not have a lot of time to work on Hat’s tricks for weeks before going to Breyerfest. We were just going to have to wing it and see how things went. As usual Hat didn’t let me down.
I was showing off all of Hat’s little tricks to the rest of the Bashkir Curly group, but Hat just wanted to keep lifting those front legs and holding them up. Unfortunately we were on concrete and I didn’t want to ask him to bow. We went down early for our first demo. Jeff’s daughter was there with Wyatt. Michele came up with the idea to put her on Hat for the bow. Donna sent her back up to get her helmet and we put her up on Hat quickly right before we went into the arena. Hat did an almost perfect bow!
When we went into the arena – Hat was in 7th heaven. All those people looking at him. Trust me, as far as Hat was concerned, there wasn’t another horse in the arena. He literally pranced around that arena, hugging the walls so that all the kids could pet him. This was the bliss he remembered. Once our little demo was done and all the other Bashkir Curlies were walking out, Hat and I went to the center of the arena and Mikala came running over for her boost up. Once she was on, I asked Hat to lift his leg and bow. He seemed a little confused and fumbled his bow. So we were walking out and I asked Mikala if she wanted to try again – of course she did! We turned around and once again I asked. This time, it was his most perfect bow ever. There was an aaawwww and then applause. Hat absolutely lit up. He was so proud of himself! Then we had to practically drag him out of the arena.
I think Hat finally found his calling. Every demo for the curlies was the same – Hat would race to get to the arena and then you had to drag him back to the stall area. We would go down early so Hat could get some time with the kids. Every time they would open the gate for another exhibitor to go in Hat would just tremble with excitement and I had to keep a tight hold on him to keep him from flying into the arena. Galviston (a beautiful pinto Irish Draft cross stallion) was before us in one of the demos and I wanted to see the performance so after she went in I went up towards the gate. The volunteer at the gate said, “Oh, are you supposed to be in there.” And began to open the gate, Hat practically leaped at the opportunity – I quickly said no, while fighting to keep Hat on the OUTSIDE of the gate. I told Galviston’s owner about it and she laughed – said we should have come on in, it would have surprised the daylights out of Galviston to have someone else in the ring (he does dressage.)
After every demo session, Hat would perform his bow like a professional. Then we’d go out and stand around in the warm-up area so Hat could get more kid time. He absolutely loved doing his tricks for the kids. I would show them how to cue him and Hat would stand there with 6-10 kids petting him just repeating the tricks over and over. He never really seemed to tire of it. Actually, if there wasn’t anyone paying attention to him, he would wander over to anyone standing around. Apparently, he felt they needed a horse to give some attention to and he wanted to make sure he was there to fill the need!