It’s January 2013 north of Toronto, Ontario and we’re several days into a cold weather warning. The temperature yesterday did not get above minus seventeen. Today it’s a bit warmer, but there’s a wind which places the windchill at minus 25. Brrr…

However, there are so many interesting things I can do with the horses in their stalls where the temperature is above zero!

There are five horses in our bank barn (referred to as the lower barn because another barn is up a slight hill…our upper barn). Each horse in the lower barn has his name written in chalk on the stall wall. I’ve placed the letters over twelve inches apart so that when I ask a horse to touch a specific letter there’s no ambiguity.

Both Zelador and Zeloso have played this game at least ten times. At first Zelador thought I was really confused…asking him to leave his slow-feeder haynet to play a game. But once I fetched some delicious stud muffins he was 100% with me!

I also have large letters spelling out his name. These letters are 5″ x 10″ with a leather tap attached to the top. The leather tab makes it easier for the horse to pick up the letter.

Sometimes I play the “let’s spell your name” game with only the chalk letters, other times with the leather tab letters.

Here’s how it goes: I call Zelador to me. He leaves his slow-feeder hay net and walks a few steps. Zelador’s stall is two stalls made into one. The depth is over eleven feet and the width is about twenty feet. I ask Zelador to touch “ZED”. We live in Canada and “Zed” is the letter “z”. I’m happy with this because “Zed” sounds different. “Z”, on the other hand, sounds like several other letters in the alphabet.

Zelador hears the word “good” and receives a treat when he puts his nose on the letter.

When we play with the leather top letters I have used two approaches: one is to show him a letter and ask him to touch the letter on the wall that matches it. The other variation is to place the seven letters in his name against the back wall and have him fetch a specific letter.

Today I’m determined to introduce another stall game. I’ve created cones that are about seven inches high, made out of poster board. I’ll take four cones and place the letters “c”, “o”, “n”, “e” on individual cones. The game will be: fetch the cone with the letter I’m asking for. When all four are fetched I’ll show Zelador the small orange cone and reward him for spelling the word “cone”.

Another game I hope to create today is dependent on me getting to the store and buying foam board. I plan on writing a sentence on the board and asking Zelador to fetch the sentence, then I’ll do what the sentence says. For example:” I would like a stud muffin.” After a few fetches of the stud muffin sentence I’ll create a foam board saying, “I would like a carrot.” Once he has that sentence figured out I’ll place both foam board sentences along the stall wall and do whatever the sentence he brings asks of me.

Yep, lots to do in a deep freeze.

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