Trail Obstacle Training

May 13, 2013

Yesterday I took Simon and went to the Saddle Doctor in Timberville, Virginia and took part in a trail fun day.  It was a really fun day!

There were a five of us and Jenny, our instructor who demonstrated on her horse and her husband, Paul, who helped on the ground.  In general there was a lot of backing up, side passing, and general “bomb proofing” involved in most of the obstacles.  There was also a degree of coordination, planning and problem solving to complete them.  The biggest factor was having communication and trust between horse and rider.  Both parties had to think and work together to complete the tasks.

We went through a ton of obstacles.  We started out trotting through ground poles.  One set was pretty basic and the other set was set up with raised ends.  Jenny explained that sometimes they are different distances apart, and might be set up unevenly or zig-zaggy and you loose points if your horse hits a pole with his hooves.

There was another obstacle that involved two barrels set up about 3 or so yards apart.  There was a 2×4 stretched across the barrels, with an end on each barrel.  One end of the board had a rope handle on it.  The rider picks up the board by the handle and walks a circle around the two barrels, holding the rope, and turning the board, so that the other end stays on top of the barrel and it pivots around the circle with the rider returning the end being carried back on the top of the empty barrel, in its original position.

Simon and I kicked butt at this one.

Another obstacle involved side passing over a rail on the ground and reaching into a mail box, removing the mail, showing it, putting it back in the mail box and side passing back over the rail.

In another obstacle poles were laid out in a giant W.  The goal is to side pass through the W with two legs on either side.  There was a fun obstacle in the woods that involved picking a flag out of a bucket on a barrel, side passing to another barrel with a bucket on it and deposit the flag.  The catch was that the side pass was done going up hill.  This was trickier than you would expect.

The side passing continued on the ground.  I dismounted and asked simon to side pass in both directions.  He did surprisingly well on the ground, and also well when I was mounted.  We have some work to do, but I was pretty pleased him.

Simon backs well, but I found he tends to angle to his right.  Something we need to work on.  There was also a lot of backing, including through poles in the shape of an L.  In another obstacle we backed up a small hill, between two cones, around another cone and then back down hill.  It went pretty well for our first try.

Some of the ones that were particularly easy for Simon involved bending through cones, picking up a raincoat and putting it on, putting a spooky decorated hula hoop around his neck while mounted and stepping over logs and pausing with legs on both sides.

We rode over a tarp in the woods, through shower curtains in trees, pushed through and under pool noodles, and rode past wirly gigs.  Simon took it all in stride.  We also rode over the bridge and teeter totter, rocking it back and forth, like we did at the Blue Ridge Games intro to games day we did a month ago.

We also attempted ground tying, which went better than expected (although we were in the ring for that part, so there was no grass to distract him) and we mounted (always make sure a judge sees you check your girth) and dismounted from the offside.  This was much harder than it should be.  Jenny and Paul told us about a lot of different possible obstacles, and challenges we could face at a competition. the possibilities are endless!

One of my favorite obstacles was pretty simple.  There were two jump standards set up, with a rope tied to each end making a “gate”.  You had to, using only the one hand and not switching the rope over to the other, open the gate, ride through, and then close it behind you.  It involved a little backing and side passing.  It was not particularly hard, but it did involve a little more planning and coordination than you would expect.

Simon had two nemesis.  The first was a big tractor tire on the ground.  He walked right through it with no qualms, but that was not the real obstacle.  The goal is to put either the two front legs or the two back legs into the tire, and then side step around it in a circle, keeping the two legs in and the other two legs outs.  Its sort of a combination of a side pass and a turn on the forehand or haunches.  We could get about a quarter of the way around.

Paul and Jenny were very kind and send me home with a tractor tire so I can work on that one at home.

The other big trial for Simon was the big blue fish.  It was a simple blow up pool toy from the Dollar Store with bailing twine tied to it.  The goal is to drag it behind you, and ride off and around a barrel and back.  You might also be asked to back up, pulling it with you, or drag it into your horse and pick it up.

Simon was very interested in the fish.  He bit and wuffled it quiet a bit, and eagerly followed after it when Paul drug it.  So much so that Simon followed it without prompting from me.  He would let me drag it a little ways, but would start to side pass to keep his eye on it, and eventually scoot away from it until I let go.  I am going to pick myself up a fish or some type of scary blow up critter and work on this one at home.

It was really interesting how much Simon enjoyed himself.  He was not working all that hard physically, but being a fidgety pony, he was happy to use his brain.  He licked his lips and chewed a lot, particularly at the fish.

The whole day was really fun.  The Saddle Doctor is a really happy place to be, and Jenny and Paul are great.  The other rides made me feel right at home as well, and it was just an amazing day that left me smiling ear to ear.  Paul found an arrow head in the ring while we were riding, and Jenny fitted Simon to harness so I could see what size he needs and how it should fit him (driving Simon is another future activity).  It was just a great day with great people.  And an introduction to a really neat horse sport I am excited to take part in.

I excited to incorporate some of this into my basic training with Simon.  I can see how it will improve our communication and help in our everyday riding.  Yea!  And I am also excited to try one of the competitions.  the only one left this year that does not correspond with a Mid-Atlantic Games Series competition, is one in June.  The two in the Crystal Crown Series in the fall take place during the last two MAs.  boo.  One thing I did notice is that the Judged Pleasure Rides are mostly on Sundays!  This is fantastic for me since I work on Saturdays.  wooo whoooo!

Thank you everyone at the Saddle Doctor for a fantastic day!
back through the L

back through the L


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