Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Real Confidence Builder

Obstacle Training Day

Our ETI Corral held an obstacle training day last Saturday.  It was 10 bucks and I thought it would be a good experience for Dusty and Jessie and, I hoped we could get Frosty out there, too.  Our friend Susan wasn't feeling well and Frosty could not make it, but we had a very good time.

It probably my low self esteem and lack of experience, but I am always reluctant to give advice about horsemanship.  I would much rather have a "discussion" then "tell" someone what to do.  I didn't think it mattered in this case either way because I was there to learn.  

There were a series of obstacles and twenty horse and rider teams.  There were 3 trainers, each one with a long track record of working with horses.  Each team was escorted through the obstacle course with one of the trainers helping the team when then got into trouble.  

Ranae and I were selected to be in the bottom 10 and it was going to be awhile before we got to go through.  There wasn't a good place to warm up.  I opted to help a woman who had brought two horses by holding one of them while she went through the course.  I had the camera a took a few photos, although it was quite dusty and I ended up putting it back in the truck.

Most of the people were quite inexperienced with working through obstacles.  One gal with a mustang got a hold of and started pumping me for advice.  I did my best to help her.  She had some great horse knowledge, but like many, it was in no order.  She was all over the place.  Asking for respect in some places and not expecting it in others.

Finally, it was my turn and I drew Joanne as my trainer.  Joanne is a salty seasoned trainer who has spent her life around horses.  North of 70 she is still as tough as nails.  We've know each other casually for a number of years.  I look at her horses when I was shopping for a horse and I had seen her at a competition.  She knew Jessie.

The first obstacle was a long cattle shoot with a cowboy curtain at the end.  No problem.  Then a few walkovers.  I had to slow Jessie down a little because I wanted her to be aware of her feet.  Joanne and I took our time at each obstacle and were still catching up to the others so between obstacles we chatted about horsemanship.  We gotpast the mini horse and goat tied up in the corner, then the carport with the colorful streamers hanging off the sides.  She remarked that I made it look too easy.  I asked if she would like to see us back through and she laugh and quickly admonished me.  "You'll discourage these other people if you make it look so easy", she said.

As we were waiting for the next obstacle she said, "I want you to help us get these people through the course.  You are good enough." 

Jessie really excels at this sort of thing and never balked or stopped at any of the challenges.  It makes me think I should do more of this with her.

We picked up Angel, a trainer for nearby Tehachapi who was working with a 3 year old.  I think he had been training for about three months.  The horse was young and, with him being a trainer, I was a bit unsure how much to interject.

We got through the cowboy curtain and the step overs.  The mini horse and goat were a challenge.  I kept coming around them and Jessie and I finally led them through.  The carport with the streamers was relatively easy.  His horse was following Jessie and seemed to take comfort.  

There was a barrel with to poles, one with a flag.  Angel wanted to go straight for the flag.  His horse would start doing these circles and backing away from the obstacle.  He would be halfway across the arena and I  would be waiting for him.  He would work the horse back up to me.  I held the flag and asked that he follow it - approach and retreat.  His horse did great with this and the left eye.  I stopped and said, Try to get your horse to point his right eye on this.  He is blocking you."  Sure enough, he couldn't.  The horse kept spinning away.  Thankfully, Joanne yelled across the arena, "Do it with the pole first, not the flag."

We worked our way through the obstacles.  I offered advice where I thought it appropriate.  Sometimes he took it, most times he said "okay" and just ignored it.  As I helped him through I was surprised at how little I cared if he took my advice.  I was out there giving him help, Jessie and I were good enough to guide someone through, and that seemed pretty good.

We had lunch and the gal with the mustang asked for some help getting her horse through the curtain.  I stood away and coached her as she was trying to drive the horse forward.  Joanne's husband Del, another longtime horseman, looked at me and said, "Why don't you take that horse over to the round pen and show her how to get that horse to move."   Well, okay then.  It was fun working with the horse.  I did it on the lead line.  Del said, "don't you want to turn it loose?"  

"Well, I've rarely work in a round pen.  I don't have one."  

"You don't have a round pen?", he asked incredulously.

I did my thing while he talked to the owner.  I did my point, kiss, whack.  The mustang picked it up quickly and I could hear Del tell her, "See, now he has that horse listening to him."

It seems since I started working horses, I've always felt I've been the least knowledgeable person in a setting like this.  It was a great confidence builder to have been asked to help and to get some things done.  In May we are doing a little presentation with the NorCal Brumbie group.  Getting this little boost was just the shot I needed.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Working Equitation Schooling Show

Last December for our Whoa Podcast about Horses & Horsemanship I interviewed Tarrin Warren.  Tarrin and I had met at a campdrafting clinic in Colorado in 2013.  I learned she was participating in the sport of Working Equitation.  I knew little about W.E. but I'm always looking for new topics for the show.  Tarrin was great on the show and encouraged Ranae and I to attend a schooling show happening a few hours from our home.  I called the vice-chair, Julie Alonzo, of the national organization WEIAUSA and asked if we could participate in the competition and record it for the podcast.  She agreed and gave us a few instructions so we would be prepared.

W.E. combines three "tests" - a dressage test, an ease of handling test, and a speed test.  It was explained to us many times that the dressage test wasn't the big fancy dressage - at least not at the level we would be competing.  We download the test and set up a ring anywhere we could and practiced the pattern.  Of course, it was the blind leading the blind, leading the blind, as Ranae, the horses, and I tried to figure out the nuances of dressage.  We managed to get the path down, the gaits were iffy and the circles were, well, kinda ugly.

For the show we would have to come down the night before, stable our horses at a horse hotel, stay with a friend and be on the show grounds to start at 9 am.  It was also the time change weekend.

The group was having a week long clinic with world class Portuguese trainer Nuno Matos.  Six trainers had been there for five full days receiving training.  When I told Julie we might be down late Saturday afternoon she encouraged us to bring our horses by for instruction.  This was motivation to have us get there around noon.

Ranae got some training with the obstacles and I got a wonderful lesson in dressage.  Everyone was very open and willing to help us.  Ranae competed in the Introductory Level and I competed in the Novice.  I was able to video some of our runs and you can watch them here or on YouTube.

The judges remarks on my scorecard have given me a long list of things to work on.  Most disappointing was the notation of a "lack of bend" and "learn proper bend".  As long as I've been following the Downunder Horsemanship Method one would think Jessie would be as flexible as a slinky.  So, while this was a bit depressing, we competed, we discovered what we needed to improve, and we've started working on it.