Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mac's first competitive trail challenge!

I've always been curious about competitive trail riding, but there was never an event around me that I could go to (at least that I knew of). A few weeks ago while at the feed store I saw a flyer for an event at the same location where I was planning on doing a schooling dressage show . . . and on the same day! What to do?!

I let the weather decide.

It had been so rainy in February and March that I haven't been able to do much riding and so when the skies finally cleared I did what I could. The closing date for the dressage show was more than 10 days before the date of the show. Which meant that couldn't give me a show forecast! The CTC had a closing date of just a few days before the trail trials, so I could make my decision at a later date. And so the trail won out.

It was great fun!

Mac was amazing - just so amazingly fabulous that I couldn't have asked for more. Well, ok, I could have asked for him to go through the water obstacle willingly within the time allowed, but other than that he was wonderful.

I signed up for the earliest ride-out time, but the starters were running late so everyone at my time slot and the time slot after were all milling about waiting for the go-ahead. Mac made lots of friends (especially with the ladies) during the waiting time and so when it was time to head out he was a bit confused as to why everyone wasn't going together. Some of his new friends went ahead of him, and he left some of them behind. He had his little motor running for the first 30 minutes or so when he wanted to catch up with everyone, but after the first obstacle he had it figured out and he happily kept his own pace between a couple of different groups. He was so well behaved! There were horses jigging, frothing with sweat (well, it was a very hot day), but he just maintained his pace and kept his energy level down (he is a mustang, after all!). One of the riders ahead of us excused herself and left the trail because her horse wouldn't settle - I felt for her, because I've been in that type of situation before and it is not fun!

The ride was 2 hours, 6 miles long, and had 7 obstacles - it was all done at the walk. I'm sorry to say that I thought the footing sucked and on any other horse I would have been worried about pulling a shoe or tweaking an ankle or something, but Mac handled it very well. (The management had disced the fields beforehand, but they disced muddy footing so it was all clumpy and when it dried it dried in clumps - oh well, not much to be done about it. It probably would have been better if they just mowed a trail area.)

The first obstacle was a bridge crossing. We were to walk on the bridge, halt, then walk off. That was fine, we had no problems there. The next obstacle was backing uphill. That was fine, too, although in the rules it said we weren't to be asked to back uphill so I'm not sure what was up with that. We completed that test, but not gracefully. Then we had a looooooong walk to the next question which was a set of 4 raised cavaletti and we were to walk through without bumping them. The judge commented that we were the first to go cleanly through that obstacle - good boy, Mac! The fourth test was to dismount (that wasn't judged) and then mount from a rock. It really sounds so simple, and for us it was, but some horses don't want to stand for mounting, I guess. We were judged on the horse standing still and not walking off or shifting weight as we got on, and our "politeness" in mounting - meaning not jerking the saddle to the side or plomping down heavily in the saddle. After that we went to the water. Let me start by saying that at this point we had already done two water crossings and Mac could have cared less. This time was different, though. We had to go through the water complex used on the cross country course. It had lots of algae in it, chlorine discs dotted all around the bottom, and rubber duckies floating about! The rubber duckies were fine, but the algae freaked Mac out and he did not want to go through that part of the water so he was balking and splashing about, which does not exhibit the polite manner that they were looking for. We timed out of that event but did manage to get through. The next obstacle was to drag a pvc pipe behind us, which Mac did just fine. The last obstacle was to go through a maze that had very sharp turns. That was fine as well. Not very finessed, but we had no problems. We trotted out for soundness at the end then got a big handful of carrots - well deserved!

Mac was such a champ superstar - I was so proud of him!!!

I was also proud of him because after not drinking the water from the hose provided by the host location (I had put a bucket in his grassy paddock and he wouldn't touch it), I took him out of the paddock and tied him to the trailer and gave him water I brought from home. He did drink that and eat hay and hung out at the trailer for a couple hours while we waited for results. I was also very proud of him for that!

I was hoping that at the results they would hand out cards that had our scores and comments from the judges (like dressage), but no luck. We didn't win any prizes, but that's no matter as I couldn't be prouder of him. It was a real bonding day for us and that was the most satisfying thing of all. After I got home I looked up scores on the website and it showed what we got for each obstacle but not the total (I have no idea how they are tabulated). We got 2 10s (mounting and cavaletti) 1 9 (dragging the pole) and then the others were a range of 5 to 8, with a zero for timing out at the water. Both the horse and the rider are scored (when we got our 9 and 10s, both Mac and I got them, but on other obstacles we got different numbers).

Mac will get a couple days off for his efforts, then time to start practicing for our schooling dressage show in a couple weeks!

There was a photographer there who got some good photos, so I'll post them when she sends them to me!

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