“The adult horses that we have pedestal trained have all seemed to enjoy the height added to their stature and also the stretching out of their muscles when the front feet are on the pedestal.” —Allen Pogue, trick horse trainer
“Pedestal work helps to develop physical dexterity while increasing self-confidence and channeled boldness….Pedestal training gives a horse somewhere to go, rather than to just act out on his flight instinct and get away….it gives the horse a place to stay. Quiet feet equal a focused mind.” —Suzanne De Laurentis, trick horse trainer
Mystic has not only conquered the horse pedestal (see “King of the Horse Pedestal”), he is now a pedestal addict. It seems to exert a weird gravitational force on him: he’s like a dowsing rod drawn to a field of energy. I’ve learned not to do ground play near the pedestal because Mystic will inexorably drift toward it. If I stand on the pedestal to climb on his back, he tries to put his hooves on it too; when I back him off, he moves toward it again. “It’s my pedestal time,” I tell him with a slight huff. I mean, sheesh, don’t I have rights too?
So what is it about the pedestal? Why is it so alluring? Kate pointed out that the pedestal seems to represent something different to each horse. For example, her Arab-Friesian mare, Kleo, enjoys the showmanship that goes with it. She knows she looks gorgeous, and she’s happy to share that fact with any admirers in the stands. She’s like a TV pitchwoman showing a product off to its best advantage. Whether the product is the pedestal or Kleo’s beauty doesn’t really matter: you’re ready to produce your credit card without question.
Zip, Amanda’s six-year-old quarter horse, likes the pedestal because it’s a fun toy. He thinks of it as something to goof around with. Sometimes I imagine him chanting “I’m king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascals!” while perching his feet on the pedestal. Or perhaps he’s fantasizing about standing at the top of a playground slide, enjoying the pause before the whooshing trip down.
For Mystic, the pedestal represents some kind of inner soul journey. He’s a little high and glassy-eyed after he steps down, as if he’s been ingesting magic mushrooms or cannabis. I’ve learned not to send him straight into lunging or anything too physically or mentally demanding right after. Instead we do a “sober walk” around the arena, where he can sniff at objects and come back to earth. Asking anything more of him would be like asking a woozy frat boy to name all the US Presidents in chronological order.
Thanks to Mystic, I’ve gotten to experience my own pedestal high. It happened a few weeks ago, when we approached the pedestal after a riding session. I walked him right up to the edge of it, figuring he’d forgo his favorite pastime because of the pesky human on his back. Suddenly…lurch, heave, hidey-ho—up we went! I’ve never ridden an elephant or a camel, but I imagine the thrill I felt was something like sitting on one of those giant creatures as it rises from kneeling to standing. I also felt incredibly honored. It was like having a date take you to his favorite place—a hidden waterfall or his childhood treehouse—knowing he’d never shown it to any other girl. Finally there was room for both of us, and he’d been magnanimous enough to make it happen. I stroked his neck and leaned forward to hug him, but no gesture seemed big enough to thank him.
One problem: now we have several Fiore Farms horses vying for pedestal time. This can and does lead to severe cases of pedestal envy. Luckily horses don’t carry pistols; otherwise we might have a High Noon situation on our hands.
Given the increasing number of pedestal addicts at Fiore Farms, I decided to look into getting another stand. They’re not cheap, I discovered. There’s a sturdy aluminum version from Modern Ironworks that looks like a big dog bowl and costs $399 plus $90 shipping:
The best buy I found was on trick trainer Jackie Johnson’s website. It’s made of plywood and costs $80 (plus $65 shipping).
I also found some interesting homemade variations. One was a dirt-filled tire topped by a plywood cover. Not exactly aesthetically pleasing (the idea of Kleo standing on this is like picturing Gisele Bündchen leaning on a Wal-Mart trash can), but low-cost for sure.
My favorite homegrown version, offered by the same enterprising woman who made the car-tire pedestal, is the one below. It might be cost-free initially, but my guess is that a handyman will be fixing those porch steps sometime in the not-so-distant future. And how do you explain the damage to your insurance agent?
For now we’ll settle for one pedestal at Fiore Farms, but it’s fun to imagine Kleo, Zip, and Mystic lined up on three pedestals, front feet elevated, heads in the sky, luxuriating in pedestal love.