Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cowboy Challenge

The second stop on our "Discipline Tour" was in the form of a "Cowboy Challenge" at the Knox County Horse Park. My BO and I loaded up Junior and Ranger and drove up to the horse park. I didn't really know what to expect. I've been to open English/Western pleasure type shows, I've attended shows at Quarter Horse Congress, the MN State Fair Arabian, Open, Paint, and Quarter Horse shows, various county fairs in MN and OH, a USEF Dressage show, a Hunter/Jumper show, a driving show, a "game" show (what they seem to call "contesting" here in OH), and a Welsh Pony show. THIS was a bit different. I am not great at trying new situations like this. I usually stress about everything from what to wear to what to bring to how early should I get there, etc. Luckily, I guess, I was so busy all week and all day Saturday that I didn't have much time to stew about it. I was only at the barn about 30 minutes before we were loaded up and on the road, we got there, unloaded, signed up, tacked up, and went right to the arena. I wasn't sure how he'd do without lunging but he was fine. Too many beans for pleasure class, but he was still one of the calmer horses at the place. There was a HUGE variety of folks. Only a few (myself included) wore safety helmets, most wore cowboy hats. Some had chinks and I saw all makes and styles of western, endurance, English and even saddles I had never seen before. I saw a few horses that were uppity and acting green but I didn't see anything that made me fear for life or limb.

It was FREEZING all day. I wore every layer I came with including my down vest, hoodie, and gloves. It was in the 90's all week and then it barely hits 65? Oh, Hi Fall.

The competition began at noon with the judge riding the course for us to see. It was also posted in a white board and I stupidly neglected to take a photo of it for you. It was hand drawn so it was much more interesting but more difficult to read than the kind. Then they called out the order of go. BO and I weren't until after the lunch break so we just hung out and chatted with people she knew. She practiced roping, I assumed we were a lost cause for that particular portion so we just hung around. It was good practice for him to be standing around in arena with a bunch of horses and just have to stand there. We did a little jogging and loping around the arena for something to do. I'm sure some people were looking at us like we didn't belong there....JOGGING!?! How.... snooty!

I should have taken more pictures. You had 30 seconds at each obstacle and the riding in between was at will. There was a timer but the timer was only to break ties, the scores were what really counted. Some people really booked it, but some just walked. It's going to be tougher to describe the "obstacles" in accurate detail, but here goes. ... First you had to dismount and the mounted guy who acted like a ring steward/announcer checked your tack over to make sure everything looked okay. Then we went over THIS. He was snorty but he went, much to my surprise. Maybe he'll be a jumper after all? There was a fake deer he eyed but decided it was not going to eat him. Next was a loop through some trees. He did NOT want to go in at all. I got him in about 20 feet and he spun around and we fought for a minute and just cut around the trees. I found out later that the announcer told me to wait because the mounted judge was coming to lead us through, but I didn't hear him and figured we'd killed our 30 seconds. Then we went up the hill (the whole course is basically a hillside so the audience can see the whole course, minus some minor tree obstructions) and through a round-bale feeder tipped on it's side and buried into the ground. Aced it. Then we had to get a letter out of a mailbox, flash it to the judge and return it. Then up the hill to a big rope and pool noodle curtain. It was supposed to be backed through but Junior wasn't having that and the whistle blew so we went head first instead. Then a tight box of logs for two 360 degree turns. Then down the hill and across a small bridge, over a mound of dirt and down through what used to be a mud pit but it's been so dry and warm that it was just a knobby ditch. Then a loop around to a lane of poles you had to go into and then back out of. Not so good on this one. Took forever to get him to back straight. Then down the hill to a 2nd bridge. Next a "compass" (picture is actually a failed attempt by my BO at a previous challenge) where you have two barrels and across the barrels is a board with a rope handle at one end. The board is not attached to the barrels. You pick up the rope end off of one barrel and then you have to move your horse around the other barrel, keeping the far end ON the barrel. We failed at this and pulled the board off. We did this correctly at the obstacle practice in August, so we just need to practice. Then we had to tie a piece of ribbon onto a rope hanging from a tree, then we had to rope a calf head. We actually GOT a horn which was lucky and that's only the 2nd time I've gotten the rope around something. Next was dragging a log by a rope. Then picking a bucket up off of one barrel and setting it down on the next one. Then dismount, walk through a gate, remount, and ride back up over the wall we started from and done.

We did not place, no surprise there, but I was surprised to see we got 10's on everything but the back-through poles which we received a 9. Of course we got zeros on the woods, curtain, and compass. The announcer was surprised to find out Junior was an arena horse. I was tickled with how well he did for the day. I had lots of fun and definitely want to go again next year! This is something we can do no matter what other "discipline" we ride. A calm obedient horse with a good relationship with his rider is really all you need to do well. Of course a little obstacle specific practice and some luck can't hurt! They actually give a buckle to first place!

This is the first time we've done an event where he's had to tie to the trailer. I didn't anticipate any real issues and he didn't disappoint. There was some evidence of him pawing the ground but when we came back to the trailer to load up he was standing quietly with his hip cocked. Where he was tied he couldn't see any other horses (just luck of the parking space) and it seemed to bother him enough to whinny a lot. Ranger on the other side of the trailer just rolled his eyes at him and refused to answer so it was a bit unsettling to Junior. I think he dealt with it just fine, but my next investment when I get some sort of windfall will be a slow feed haynet to keep him occupied longer.

And no, he's not that high hipped, he was just on a bit of a slope.


  1. Sounds like fun!! (Minus the cold weather, of course!)

    Lilly is pretty brave when it comes to obstacles and she usually tries her hardest, but if I had to guess, I'd say she would FIRMLY decline the noodles. :) And I know I'd bomb the calf head obstacle... lol We have trail challenges around here but for obvious reasons, I haven't been able to go at all this year. Maybe one day...

    Sounds like Junior did really well both on the obstacles and tied to the trailer. Lilly paws a lot at the trailer too, but if I keep hay in front of her she's usually pretty quiet.

    Are there other trail challenges you can go to throughout the year?

  2. Sounds like a fun and interesting day - getting out and around is the best!

  3. @in2paints - This was the last one for the season. I think they pick back up in May or June and have them once a month.

    The BO made a noodle curtain already and with a few minutes of work I got him backed through it twice.

    I was told the curtain and the roundbale feeder, hill and mud pit are permanent, but there are different obstacles every time. That way it's mostly about the relationship between horse and rider than the obstacles themselves. As Cowboy Rick put it when we were talking about Junior's fear of woods: "You just do it over and over until he realizes that yes there are scary sounds and stuff overhead but Momma's not gonna let anything happen to me."