Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Stopped the Show

Well, the clinic anyway.  Sunday we trailered down to San Diego County for a clinic on trail competition obstacles.  The clinician is the trainer for the San Diego Mounted Police unit, in addition to being heavily involved with trail trials.  We thought for sure the clinic would be cancelled due to rain, but this morning we woke to grey skies, but no rain.  The storm was heading in from the north and the clinic was two hours south, so Brett packed the trailer, I packed lunch, and we loaded our horses and left at dawn's early light.

Before the clinic started I walked around and took pictures of the obstacles.  There was a photographer there and if she puts those pictures up I'll post them later.  Especially ones of us stopping the show.

Ready to go.  Notice all the white hair on the ground.  He's a shedding machine.  I think he got some in his mouth...

We started off in a large arena with just a pile of stuff in the middle.  There were only 15 or so participants -- many people didn't show, expecting a rain cancellation.  During the walk and trot warm up, Jackson did his camel imitation and Flash went into melt down when Jackson and I ended up half way around the arena from them.  Jackson, for some reason, loses his confidence in an arena full of other horses.  So, I was concentrating on establishing contact with my outside rein, holding steady, and trying to get his brain back.  It worked.  Phew.  In the meantime, Brett was wrestling with Flash who was dancing and prancing and doing the moon walk.  I caught up to them and Flash settled when he was back next to Jackson.  Which is odd -- Flash is the alpha horse.  But he is the one who couldn't deal with separation.  Flash is used for mounted patrol so he does this stuff weekly.  This was Jackson's first sensory clinic.  But Flash was having the meltdown.  sigh.

After the warm up, the horses were all approached with jugs full of rocks, cow bells, pool snakes, and plastic bags on a stick.  Both Jackson and Flash were ho-hum about that stuff.  Brett is forever sacking them out with bags and waving noisy things around.

Next we lined up in columns of two to ride to the big arena with the obstacles.  Jackson wasn't too stellar at this.  We were the front pair and it took quite awhile to get everyone lined up.  Jackson didn't want to stand stirrup-to-stirrup with 4" between the shoulders.  He kept walking off.  tsk tsk.  This is something we have been working on - standing still - and clearly something we need to work on more.

Jackson was very good.  He tried everything.  Poor Brett....  Flash was done before we started.  This was Flash's third day in a row trailering out for work and he was just done.  I think his tummy hurt too.  He has a history of ulcers and he was pretty tight and sucked in at the back of his gut.  Brett was having a hard time himself getting the nasty monster of competition under control (the monster won).  Flash can do this stuff in his sleep.  He should have been the star, the demonstration horse, the apple of the clinician's eye.  But, Flash was having a hard day.  He was still dancing around.  He did do all the obstacles -- just not to his usual level.

Trash pit -- no problem

Stand next to the balloons, pop one with a pin on a stick.  Jackson flinched.  That's all.  Good boy.

Walk across a mattress.  I though he'd balk at this but he trucked right on over.

Water crossing.  Piece of cake.  We do a lot of water at home.

We spent a lot of time on this obstacle.  You pick up the red end of the pole and walk it in a circle around the other end (like a clock, you are the end of the minute hand, starting at 12 and ending there).  The trick is to have the horse move calmly off your leg while while the scary pole is at their side.  We progressed from taking two steps to getting 3/4 of the way around before losing the pole.

Then, it was time for the car wash.  We've done this before at trail competitions with no problem.  However, it was very windy and cold.  The strips were flapping and whipping in the wind.

The object is to enter on the right and exit on the left.  Flash and Brett walked through a few times and we watched.  Jackson wasn't sure.  Not sure at all.  After a few minutes, I asked him to go through.

We got into the middle doing a cross between prance and brave, when one of the pieces wrapped around Jackson's face.  He freaked and exited stage left.  Unfortunately, there isn't an exit stage left.  So we just took the obstacle with us.  The bar with the yellow streamers was under his neck, above his chest, as he charged blindly down the arena.  Thankfully, the obstacle fell apart and onto the ground.  Thankfully, Jackson was relatively easy to stop.  Thankfully, we didn't run into anybody.  We were instant celebrities...  For the rest of the clinic you would periodically hear over the PA system: "Where is show stopping Annette?"  Not my idea of fame...

After that we worked on "easy" obstacles to get Jackson's confidence back.  Going over tarps and bridges and pieces of wood bore him to tears.  So we did this one next.

He put one foot on the piece of wood and jumped.  Heavy sigh from me.  (heavy sighs from me, audible heavy sighs, tell him it's okay to relax).  We tried again and he was fine.  We went through the other easy stuff again, including carrying this stuffed guy around:

When Jackson was relaxed, I took him back to the car wash which had been reassembled.  We took our time, and he went through.  Straight through.  I praised him to the moon and he arched his neck like Mr. Grand Prix Dressage Star.  He was so pleased with himself.  Have I said before that I love my horse?

Then we took them for a walk on the nearby trail/track encircling the riding center and called it a day.  By this time it was getting very windy and cold.  We gobbled our sandwiches sitting in the truck, loaded the horses, and headed home.  As we turned into our community, the rain started.

Overall, I am very pleased with Jackson.  We survived our "wreck" with no injury and I'm hoping, no loss in confidence.


  1. I'm so impressed with Jackson. Also, so glad no one was hurt when the 'car wash' wrapped around his face. Before I even read that piece I took one look at the picture and knew that would be the one that would undo Rogo. You're very brave to go through again!
    Sorry to hear Flash wasn't feeling well. Poor Brett. We all have those days though.

  2. I've always wanted to go to one of these. I think Ozzy would rock it.

  3. Cool! I'm going to try the pole on the barrels--that sounds fun and I have poles and barrels. In the picture it looks like the carwash leads right into the fencing with not much space in between. Did they want it that tight? Poor Jackson, I'm sure that scared him to death. Pretty impressive that he went through again with no problem!! Sounds like a fun day.

  4. That was some challenge! I can't imagine Berlin getting through it. Good for you guys.

  5. Wow what an interesting day. Sounds like you guys did great! Even if you guys ran away with the What a good experience.

  6. None of my horses would have even tried that obstacle course. I'm pretty sure Spider would die of a heart attack just looking at the "car wash". Jackson and Flash are very good (and brave!) boys! You should be proud of that, even if you did stop the show. Hey, that could be Jackson's new show name: Show Stopping Jackson!

  7. Brave Annette, NOT "show-stopping Annette" ;o) And brave horses. They KNOW when they are good and "do the right thing." Two horse rescues near me hold "back to back" trail trials as fundraisers, and I guess they are very successful. Riders don't need special equipment to participate, and everyone has a great time. Don't know about your weather after you got home, but it was a windy wet mess here (south of Barstow).

  8. Thanks for all the "atta boys" everyone. The car wash exit didn't go into the fence - that's just the angle of the picture. It does look that way in the photo but it actually exits halfway down the arena, next to the fence, so there was a lot of room. And, I was too busy thinking "I hope he doesn't get hurt" and "I hope we don't run into anyone" to think about being brave.

  9. Well done Annette! Never as easy as it seems.

  10. Wow what an exciting show! I'm glad no one was hurt and that he was confident enough to try again. You did the right think letting him calm down and regain his confidence before trying it again. I don't think it'll cause any lasting fear. :) I'm glad the rain held off too. I hope Flash is feeling better.


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.