Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cowboy Challenge #3

"Now is the time to find out whether the lessons you've given him have sunk in, whether he's ready and willing to depend on you as a master and to follow what you tell him.  If he does, you'l know your work has been successful.  If he doesn't, you'll have learned where the weakness lies.  In any event, at the end of the day you should know a whole lot more than you do now, which, to my mind, is the real purpose of going into Trials such as these."   - Margaret Cabell Self,  "The Horseman's Almanac"1946, In reference to Hunter Trials

Even though I went into the day with the above quote in my mind, I don't really think I learned a thing, but... I am afraid my horse did...

The day proved to be cold and wet.  I'm doubtful we broke 50 degrees and the wind was bitter.  I was layered in UnderArmor and Thinsulate so I was mostly comfortable, but the wind was determined to kill us all.  We got to the Park at about 11:30 and there were only a few other trailers.  The Youth Challenge was supposed to start at noon, but they were holding off to see if anyone else showed up.  B and I were riders 2 and 3.  I think we started the 7 riders about 1:30pm and by then we were cold and the horses had been thoroughly spooked by a combination of mini horses pulling carts, a pair of lovely grey Percherons pulling a big green covered wagon, and someone's giant rain shelter tarp blowing off of their trailer.  Junior was on high alert and snorty but I wasn't worried.  We were under control.  Didn't seem like he has much experience with carts, but we were okay.  Much better than poor Zip who nearly crawled out of his skin.

It was a shortened course and didn't look too difficult:

  1. Step Down
  2. Woods
  3. Hay Feeder
  4. Water crossing
  5. Mound of Dirt
  6. Bridge
  7. 2nd Bride with plastic wildlife all around it
  8. Rope Plastic Calf
  9. Pick up trash bag and hang it on the 2nd T post
  10. Gate
  11. Step-up
  12. Dismount and pick up Right Hind foot.

I knew we'd have issues at the gate again. I worked 16 hour days all week and had no chance of practicing.  There was also the roping of a plastic steer but aside from my aim being sucktacular he's never been bothered by ropes, and he was so good last week I wasn't worried at all.

I was the first rider to go.  Just before they called us to start he started hopping around and being an idiot.  I am clueless as to why.  It took some convincing to even get him onto the course.  The announcer even had to grab the bridle and lead us in.  We got about 10 feet from the group out towards the step down and he spun around and refused.  We argued about it for a while with several more spins and false starts until another rider led us down the step.  We headed off towards the woods; the same exact path we took last Sunday, but this time the wind was fierce and he was shaking and snorting.  After some spinning and threats of rearing I eventually got him into the path but when he got to the low muddy spot he refused to go further and after some spinning tripping over the brush on either side of the path the whistle blew and we had to skirt the woods the rest of the way.  Even the hay feeder he snorted at.  He refused to go into the water.  We got over the hill and the bridges fine.  When I was handed the rope he started dancing around and I almost didn't get him stopped in time to throw the rope at the head.  Missed it, of course.  Then we went to pick up a black trash bag full of cans from the first T-Post and that did not bother him at all, of course.  We deposited it on the 2nd post.  We got the gate open fine but didn't get it closed again.  Back up over the Step-Up was fine but he tried to take off while I dismounted.  Lifting up the RH foot was fine.

Aside from the rider who DQ'd we were DFL and not at all surprised.  I didn't bother to look at the scores. We wouldn't have bothered to stay for the results, but I didn't want to seem rude.  It's best to clap for the winners even if you're freezing and know darn well you didn't place.  The guy that won the buckle was the clear winner and seemed pretty nice and had a cute little girl in a helmet on a been-there-done-that large pony.  She ended up with 3rd, I think.  Everyone's horse had an issue with something or other, but aside from the DQ'd horse (went so far off course she just called it quits) we were the ones with the most trouble.  It felt like last week never happened.  I guess we should have left it with that.

The part that's hard for me to swallow, is that he might have just LEARNED that if he refuses long enough he doesn't have to do it.  Because they give you a 30 second time limit on each obstacle you have to move on if they blow the whistle. You can't stay and school the thing, you have to move on.  I get it, of course, but I'm not sure if this will have bad effect on our training.  We've been doing so well with the woods!  So we only got half way through the woods, and he we didn't go into the water at all.  He refused long enough and I had to turn him away. He went through those woods last Sunday on a loose rein with no problems at all, so I know that going there and practicing at the site when it's quiet won't help.  He'll go when it's quiet, but I can't re-create the situation we were in today.  I know the wind was too much for him and he hadn't been worked all week, plus with the rain he's been inside most of the week.   Excuses excuses excuses.  Just not our day.  I fear that we're going to have to spend a good deal of time in our woods this fall in the scary scary wind and see if he can get over it.

Ugh.  What happened to that wonderful trail pony I had last week!?!?! There is no video evidence of today's ride, and believe me when I tell you that's a good thing.  It was not pleasant to watch nor to experience.

The only good part is that he got on the trailer like a grown-up both times so if nothing else, it seems we've made progress there.


  1. That is concerning about the refusal possibly becoming a learned habit. Im sorry you didnt have a great competition like last weekend. I loved watching the video and seeing how pleasant he was. I think your on target though - this winter spend lots of time in crummy conditions and school him.

  2. I'm sorry you didn't have a better ride. Especially when Junior was so good last time. Sometimes horses just have a bad day and maybe it is hard to get them to overcome it during that day. I'll bet next time he does better.

    I received your blog bumper sticker - thank you again! I'm using it as a bookmark (I am always reading one or two books) and since I see it a lot, it is a great reminder of your blog!

  3. I think you can unwind that weekend. He is a smart boy and was just over his limit. Cut you and him a break, and have at it again. Most of my best days follow my worst...