Thursday, December 27, 2018

Merry Christmas!

 I tried to keep my spending to a minimum this black Friday, so aside from the Myler bit and a few small items my only other purchase was a new half pad.  I had been using a sheepskin Christ Lammfelle, which was pretty nice but a bit long and didn't really lie smooth on the pommel.  I got a Rambo sheepskin half pad, in pony/cob size.  I got it in black, mainly because it was on sale and the white wasn't.  :p  It is very plush and seems to fit my saddle better, I hope Cupid likes it!

I also got something pretty neat and unique from my trainer: stirrup covers with my name and a glittery dressage horse on them!  What an awesome gift!

Cupid and I are continuing slowly coming back into full work.  I still have to keep most of my rides short, but we have been able to do a little cantering and even popped over a few small jumps.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Cupid's break ended last week, and though I'm sure he was a little disappointed he's been a very good boy going back to work.  We did ground driving and lunging the first few days to gently ease back into it, but since he was turned out every day there were no fireworks. 

The first day ground driving we were doing a bit of the drunken sailor walk, wiggly lines and cutting corners.  I'm still not experienced with the lines and find it harder to steer compared to riding, but I'm guessing the answer is still the same: if you're not straight you're not forward enough.

Cupid looked pretty good on the lunge line.  At first I thought he still looked a little tight, but he has gotten all his leads correct each time.  It's hard for me to look objectively when it's in the back of my mind that his left shoulder may be tight then that's all I see.  He seems good, though I am having the body worker come out just in case. 

I got a Myler level 2 bit during the Black Friday sale, something my trainer and I had discussed trying.  It doesn't look very different from the level 1 I was using previously (except I got an eggbutt instead of a D-ring.)  I haven't ridden in it enough yet to see if there's an improvement but at the least Cupid doesn't mind it.
Myler level 2 Comfort Snaffle

I was very happy to get back in the saddle, and our first few rides have gone well.  I've been riding early in the morning, and have had to keep my rides to about 30 minutes to get back home to the baby.  So it's been forcing me to really make the minutes count and not just loaf around.  My main focus has been towards improving responsiveness, and I try to pick one or two things and execute them well.  We've done transitions within and between gaits; halts; square turns, leg yields, bending.  We haven't done much canter work (so far just a short bit on the right lead), he's not clipped and I don't want to get him too sweaty and not have enough time to cool him out. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Goals Report

I hope Cupid is enjoying the last of his break because I'm planning to start back up this week, maybe some ground driving tomorrow.  :)  But first, I am going to look back at the goals I had for this year and start thinking about some for 2019.
Pigpen, enjoying his time off
1) Develop a more effective leg.  I resort to using my upper body too much.  Even when I try / think I'm using my legs, like to keep Cupid straight when I know he's thinking of shying away from something, he ignores me so I know I need to be more effective.  Plus I let him break from the canter way more often than I should!
I'll give myself a B- for this one, there has definitely been progress though still room for improvement - especially in making sure I don't let my leg get short.  Several lessons on the lunge line helped as well as a lot of practice leg yielding.  Both my leg and intention have gotten stronger, especially when riding in the spooky outdoor arena.  Not breaking in the canter has also gotten a lot better, except at the end of the year when I think we were dealing with a bit of soreness it was pretty hard keeping him going on the left lead. 

2) First level dressage by the end of the year.  Of course that means rocking training level first.  Our first rated show is only a few weeks away!
C.  We are schooling First Level, though not there yet.  And while we managed to break 60 in Training, it took all year.  I am thinking of doing one show at Training (try out the new T-3), and hopefully be ready for First at Greenville in March since Cupid seems to like that venue.

3) Flying changes.  Left over from last year.
F - unfortunately we spend the better part of the year trying to just get the left lead :/  There were a few periods where it was good, and we had very smooth trot changes and played a bit with walk-canter transitions but it was not consistent.
In addition to doing rated dressage shows, I hope to do a few hunter schooling shows and be confident to canter.  I'd also like to learn to do trail obstacles, and continue getting experience on trail rides.  Most of all, I just hope Cupid and I stay healthy!
We didn't do any hunter shows, but did a working equitation clinic and then schooling show.  We definitely got lots of trail experience, and I feel Cupid is pretty solid on that front.  Overall Cupid did manage to stay pretty healthy, just a few minor short term things.  I managed to continue riding through my pregnancy, which was very fortunate. 

So looking back I don't feel like I did great on achieving my goals, though did progress towards them.  Still overall I am happy with how the year went, happy with and proud of Cupid, and looking forward to continuing on this journey!

Monday, December 3, 2018


Cupid is enjoying his downtime, not much to report just a few pictures from the past week. 
He had a scrape on his leg that was a bit puffy, but nothing serious.  I've been going out daily just grooming and walking him.  We have a lot more rain coming in the forecast.  They scraped the pasture which helped cut down the mud especially around the gates but I'm sure it's a losing battle.

With his buddies
Stretching his legs
Getting down & dirty
Handwalking on a rainy day
Ladies man

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Break From Our Normally Scheduled Programming

Cupid's break has officially begun, and his human "little brother" arrived on Thanksgiving day!  The next few weeks he will just get turned out daily.  I've just been grooming him and giving his grain, and putting anti-thrush stuff in his feet since it's started raining.  I talked to our farrier, and we decided to keep shoes on.  I'm also switching him from biotin to Farrier's Formula to see if that strengthens them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Response Time

Cupid and I have continued taking it easy.  Even though I don't really notice the smoke anymore, I'm not sure how much better it actually is versus me just getting used to it, so I don't want to push it too much.  Also although we've had some better and worst days, I'm still not convinced he is 100%.  It still is only ever a problem cantering on the left, and not all the time.  It's possible it's just a training/attitude problem, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and not pressing it.  So we've been keeping our rides shorter (generally 30-45 minutes) and lighter, but trying to focus on more prompt responses.

Part of this has been crisper transitions, within and between gaits.  We've also been working a bit on trot-halt-trot for when we move up to First level - this definitely needs work!  I know I also need him more responsive to the leg, so we've been doing leg yielding and playing with some turns on the forehand and haunches, which he's starting to get the idea of.

The other thing I've been working on is improving our connection.  I start with asking for a halt, then use steady pressure on both reins until Cupid drops his nose.  Then I tell him he's a good boy and ask him to walk on while maintaining that connection.  When we start to lose it, we stop and start over. 
Making friends

Post ride cuddles
Last week and this week we did hop over some little crossrails, but that was mostly just so we don't forget and it doesn't become a big deal if we do start jumping more again next year.  Indeed it was no big deal for Cupid, even though I felt a little sloppy and disorganized.  Otherwise we've just been cruising around the property a bit, sometimes bareback for fun.

We have rain forecasted for tomorrow, and on and off the next few days.  But it hasn't rained in a while so I don't think it will get too muddy.  But time to start preparing for winter, yuck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trail Ride in Runnymede Sculpture Garden

Though it is still a bit hazy, the air quality has gotten better.  On Sunday I did a light ride, about 30 minutes in the covered arena walk/trot and hopped over a few tiny crossrails.  Cupid was not very inspired by the tiny jumps (a foot tall, max), and didn't even muster a few strides canter on landing.  But I did try to get him going forward and straight as best I can, and also did some leg yields to get him listening to my leg.

I had Monday off for Veteran's Day, so Cupid and I headed out to meet our friend for a trail ride in the Runnymede Sculpture Garden.  We haven't been there in about a year.  A lot of the art is large, industrial-type installations.  (Stuff I don't really get, but I can barely draw a stick figure so who am I to judge.) 
There are also some life-size and larger than life people and animals - a camel, horse, monkey, and more. 
Then there are random ceramics. 

And some stuff I don't even know how to describe. 
It was a nice, easy ride and for the most part fairly flat. We kept it at a walk.  Cupid paid no attention to the art, but did occasionally try to stop to forage.  He's weird and likes to eat moss.  He also pulled out a giant clump of weeds, then tried to figure out how he can knock the dirt clod off the roots and eat it with his bit on. 
Yummy moss
Smoky haze covering the view.
We eventually made our way out of the sculpture garden and into Huddart Park.  A part of the trail was fairly steep downhill with several narrow switchbacks.  I was a little worried about taking a bad step, but Cupid was able to navigate through it.  We also did a little gate practice, and as I suspected a real gate was quite a bit more difficult than the rope gate we did for working equitation so it was not pretty but we eventually got it.  Aside from the gate needing more work he was a perfect trail pony!  It was about a 2 hour ride total.  Cupid was a little sweaty, probably from being so fuzzy more so than the actual work. 

After the ride I remembered to start my TIP recreational riding log (thanks to for the motivation!)  I was able to look up most of our trail rides from the past year from my blog entries, and we are almost at our first milestone to get a badge! 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ranch Ride

Wouldn't you know, the day the arena is full of the perfect tiny jumps we could pop over for fun the air is too smoky for a real ride.  Luckily the fire is 200 miles away, but we are still covered in a smoky haze.  So instead I just hopped on Cupid bareback and we strolled around the property for about 20 minutes.  Not much to write about so here are some photos from our ride.
Velveteen horse, so soft and fuzzy but dusty and static-y too!
Signature trees that give the property it's name, Cypress Ridge
Though we have plenty of pines too

Let him stop for a snack...
... which led to a game of what else can I find to eat

Friday, November 2, 2018

Making up for Lost Time

Cupid got Monday off, and on Tuesday we had a pretty good ride in the covered arena.  He didn't feel quite so lazy, but instead of settling for that I tried to push him for a little more still.  We kept it fairly light, continuing the things we worked on in our last lesson just less small circles.  I decided to just focus on the trot work again and not canter.

Then on Wednesday I rode Cupid in the outdoor arena, and as soon as I got on I could tell he had a little more energy.  It was slightly cooler... or maybe because I've been giving him apples all week :p  We walked a few minutes.  I've been doing some stretches while we walk, rotating/windmilling my arms one at a time, taking my feet out of the stirrups and stretching my legs out long, then lifting my leg out to the side.  The last one is quite painful for me, tight hip flexors, but isn't so bad if I keep my other leg in the stirrup.

After my stretches we did some shallow loop serpentines each direction, then went up to the trot a bit sooner then usual.  And Cupid wanted to go!  So we only trotted a few minutes before I asked him to canter, thinking he would quickly get tired and want to stop.  But he was full of energy!  We cantered on a 20 meter circle and did some transitions down to the trot and back to the canter.  Then we changed directions and we got the left lead, even though Cupid ran into it a little.  We transitioned down to the trot, then when I asked for the canter we got a fairly decent up transitions, yay!  I may have pushed my luck a bit because the third time he picked up the right lead, but we went back down to the trot and then he got it.  I thought three times was good, but then Cupid broke to a trot so I made him canter again.  Overall I was happy with how he felt, though I felt a bit loose and sloppy myself, tipping forward a bit and my heels were coming up and feet out of the stirrups.

Then I let Cupid walk a little to catch his breath, though he was still feeling pretty good.  He was a bit distracted at one part of the arena so we did some small circles as we walked by.  We ended with a fairly long trot set incorporating exercises similar to our last lesson.  Cupid was a bit quick initially but we managed to channel that energy into pretty nice work!
Powered by apples

Monday, October 29, 2018


Cupid appears to be feeling good, and back to normal.  I've still been keeping the cantering to a minimum, but he has felt comfortable and not acted cranky about it.  I lunged him a few days ago and he picked up the left lead correct all three times I asked. 

What he have been struggling a bit with is him being behind my leg - which is part of the reason why we haven't been cantering as much, because I don't want to practice sloppy transitions where I have to chase him into it.  Usually he's good about midway through a ride, but it starts out pretty poky.  The weather has been quite warm, and Cupid hasn't been clipped so I think that contributes to it but of course is not an excuse.  So I'm trying to be more clear about expectations and not settle for less, and make sure that starts during warm up.  Part of that is just intent on my part (I get lazy too!), making sure I'm not blocking him with my seat, and being firm when needed instead of just nagging throughout.  Transitions within gaits and leg yielding are good exercise to get him listening.
Enjoying some sunshine and what's left of the grass
Lessons have been going well, and have been primarily focused on increasing our connection.  My trainer has been focusing on making sure I don't let my reins get too long - check each time we change direction or increase bend.  Cupid isn't resistant, the last week or so he's felt amazing and light and responsive.  But it still feels a bit foreign to me after 20+ years riding on a longer rein, like I'm water skiing on his face, but I'm trying! 

We've been doing a lot of 20 meter circle with 10 meter half circles inside to change direction.  We've also been doing a 20 meter circle, with a 10 meter circle to the inside, then shoulder fore coming out of the smaller circle a few steps, then straighten a bit and increase the trot.  We've also been doing a 3 loop serpentine with a 10 meter circle figure-8 as we cross the centerline.  All this at the trot - like I said we've been doing a lot of trotwork!  Cupid's work ethic has been super lately, once we get warmed up anyways.  He likes to figure out what we're doing and seems quite keen to get it right, so I just need to be clear and consistent!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Semi-Update, and more WE Show Photos

Cupid has seemed slightly better our last few works, but we also took it a bit easy so it's kind of hard to say.  We had lessons on Friday and Sunday, where I started warmed him up at the walk and trot, then got off and he cantered on the lunge line, then I got back on and finished with trot work.  Both days he was a bit lazy to start, so I focused on being more forward in the warm up portion.  Friday he was inconsistent with the left lead on the lunge, but was much better on Sunday.   I didn't have side reins on him, and he looked much happier without them.  However on Sunday cantering to the right he did twist his head a bit - I was using a caveson and had the line clipped over his nose so it wasn't related to the bit or uneven pressure.  

After the lunge portion he usually has more energy, and we've had some really great trot work.  I don't know if the lunging is helpful for him to loosen up a bit?  I'm not a huge fan of lunging because doing that many small-ish circles seems hard on them so I don't do it very often, but right now it is seeming to help.  ??? 

In between lesson days we went for a nice hack around the property, bareback.

Some photos from the working equitation schooling show.

Not very dressage-y, sigh.
No I shouldn't have to lean this far to get it - that is just bad form!
Medieval times

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It's a Puzzle

Cupid got a shoe back on, and I decided to longe him to see how he looks.  Honestly I'm at a bit of a loss because he has been going super well most of the time, but there is something bothering him.  I've discussed it with the chiropractor and my trainer, who agree that something is not quite right, but it doesn't seem serious and to just use my best judgment.  So I've continued riding, though taking it easy especially with the cantering as he seems totally fine otherwise.  Part of me is hesitant to share this because everyone has different ways of doing things, and I don't want someone to come across this and criticize me for not doing more / something different / for the love of god why are you working that poor obviously lame horse, but this is my journal and this is what we're coping with at the moment.
His favorite frame - aka the anteater

I think I threw too many variables into the equation when I was lunging him, which made the results less clear.  For starters, I used his old loose ring Herm Sprenger, and he chomped on it throughout (which is why I originally switched to just the Myler, but thought I'd give it a try again.)  Then when I put on his balancing reins he was just cranky - not sure if that was body discomfort or just because we haven't used it in a while.  I had it on the longest setting, but he was still unhappy.

We started off without the reins, walking and trotting a bit both directions.  Then put the reins on for some trot and canter, starting at the right.  As I said he was fussy with the reins on, even at the trot and it just got worst at the canter.  Going to the left he was again fussy, but did pick up the left lead correctly each time.  I thought he was short in the left shoulder, but I don't know if I was just seeing that since that's what the chiropractor said. So if anyone wants to play detective, here are some clips (bear in mind it's hard to hold the longe line and whip, while trying to film!)

Walk warm up to the left - he's unmotivated but tracking up.

Trot warm up to the right, without the balancing reins.  His mouth is busy but he's fairly relaxed. 

Trotting to the right after I put the balancing reins on, more fussy. 

Canter to the right, not happy.  (Last time I cantered on him going right he felt quite good, so I don't know if he was just protesting the balancing reins??)

Canter to the left.  No trouble picking up the lead, but not very relaxed.

The next day (today) we had a lesson, and I told my trainer I just wanted to stick to trot work and Cupid felt amazing.  Starting out we made sure we were going forward (when we walk I should be able to ask for a trot any moment!)  When we started trotting on a 20 meter circle to the left Cupid was twisting his head a bit, so my trainer told me to counter-bend a little to get his shoulder back - which I didn't realize he was popping I was just focusing on the head. 

I had a lot of opportunity to work on myself, especially focusing on maintaining proper contact (one of my biggest weaknesses!)  We did a lot of going around a 20 meter circle, with a figure eight (two half 10 meter circle) change of direction through the middle.  We also did a little leg yielding, and transitions.  Honestly Cupid felt great, I just don't know what to think!

Monday, October 15, 2018

That's a Wrap

I said my last show at Greenville was my last show, but I was secretly hoping to go again end of October.  Even though I'm still feeling up for it, Cupid has unfortunately had a few (luckily minor) setbacks so our season really is over.

We had one good day with the left lead last week, but he's still been struggling a bit and on some days been downright cranky about me asking - very unlike him so I figured something must actually be bothering him.  Last week the chiropractor confirmed his left shoulder was very tight.  She worked on it, and recommended 24 hours off and showed me some stretches.  
Poor Cupid :(

Then yesterday I found him missing his right front shoe - again!  Ugh.  I put bell boots on after he lost his shoe for the second time a few weeks ago hoping that would put an end to this, but no such luck.  The pasture has been dry so I'm not sure how he's losing them, I was unable to find the shoe all three times.  I thought with the durasole and biotin we had been doing much better this year, but this is the third time in the last month.  It was the same shoe all three times so I guess the little bit of chipping each time is making it harder to hold the shoe, but his feet didn't look bad.  Having a short back and long legs doesn't help either.  It's just frustrating and I'm sure my shoer hates us! 
Not again!!

Once we get the shoe back on I'm going to continue training a few weeks, and plan to work on the left lead a bit on the longe or long lines.  Then Cupid will get a few weeks off and I'll start thinking ahead about my goals for next year.

Here's a video the day after the WE schooling show.  Even though Cupid has gotten really good about traveling this year and seems quite content being new places, he is always very happy to come home!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Working Equitation Schooling Show

Since the clinic I did some very rudimentary practice with cones and a rope gate (I was too lazy to set up much more), and mostly focused on transitions and memorizing the dressage test.  I went through it a few times in my lesson last week, and my trainer set up a short court which was very helpful since everything comes up so much quicker!  So I wouldn't say I was super prepared, but I felt good enough to go out there and have some fun with it!

The dressage test for intro is just medium walk and working trot, but also has a rein back and five meter half-circles at the walk.  The halts are also supposed to come from the trot with no walk steps, but my plan was to allow minimal walk steps to make it more smooth, though we have started practicing from the trot (thinking ahead to First Level!!) I didn't feel quite ready.  But not having to worry about whether we would get the left lead canter made it a lot less stressful! 

We had a good warm up in the covered arena.  Cupid relaxed pretty quickly, despite the birds in the rafters and the connected stalls.  After walking we trotted around, then got on a 20 meter circle with 10 meter circles both to the inside and outside both directions and finished with a little shoulder-in both on the circle and straight both directions.  We walked outside several minutes before our ride time, and Cupid tensed up, though I'm not sure why.  I got him back in the warm up and did a quick trot, thinking that might be better than trying to get him to stand. 

We entered the arena and I let him walk close by the letters with the pumpkins on them but luckily he didn't seem bothered by them.  He did however spook a little the first time we passed the judge's table at C!  They hadn't run the bell yet though so we had another pass around.

I felt quite good about our test, though of course we need to be rounder.  And my elbows are abhorrent, I cringed when I saw how straight they still are :(  I think I'm just going to have to tie them together behind my back...

Video of our test:
We had a few hours before the obstacle portion (or Ease of Handling as it's actually called in Working Equitation).  I walked Cupid around a bit, but he was pretty content standing by the trailer eating hay.  I was happy to see the same obstacles we practiced with in the clinic, though with a few additional pumpkin decorations by this point I figured wouldn't be a problem. 

A funny note from warm up: Cupid was quite unnerved by a loud leopard appaloosa!  He would tense up every time it was close to him.  It was pretty surprising, I've never seen him react like that to another horse.  He's seen pintos and more roan-type appaloosas, but he didn't seem to know what to make of dalmatian spots.  There was a mule at the show too, which he was totally fine with.  And he's seen cows and minis and donkeys in the past.  Luckily the appaloosa left and we had time to settle back down before we started.  (Though now I don't know what we'll do if we do a rail class in the future and there is a leopard appy in with us!) 

I kept it pretty conservative - down transitions a little early and loops pretty big, but was super happy with how Cupid did!!  The cup on the pole was our worst one again, as we overshot it a bit and had to step back.  We had comments to work on our geometry (not sure if that means circles/loops were uneven or just too big), and more energy at the walk for the ring spear and going through the donut-shape.  But no major mistakes. 

Video of our round:

It was a fun day, and Cupid and I ended up in third place!  I'm definitely interested in doing it again.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Working Equitation / Obstacle Clinic

Working Equitation seems to be growing in popularity in this area, though so far most clinics and shows I've heard about were a few hours away.  When I heard about an Ease of Handling (the obstacle phase) clinic an hour away I jumped on on the opportunity to try something new with Cupid.  It was a lot of fun, and a new way for Cupid and I to play and work together. 

The trainer had a very patient approach, and taught us a lot about the rules of the sport as well as practice tips.  There are a lot of technical rules to keep track of!  Some of them don't make sense to me - not only do you lose points for talking to your horse (same as in dressage), but you also lose points for touching/patting the horse's neck!  That's going to be hard for me, to go through the entire course without being able to praise Cupid.  For the intro level you need to trot between obstacles, but most of the obstacles can be done at a walk.  You are not timed, but get points for how well you execute each obstacle. 

There were four other pairs in my group, all of us new to the sport.  We started out by showing the horses the obstacles in hand.  There is a lot going on in the arena - cones, poles, barrels, etc, but Cupid didn't seem worried about any of them.  Some horses snorted at the bull cut out, but Cupid didn't bat an eye.  The trainer suggested we walk with the garocha (long bamboo-type pole we use to spear rings) along the horse's right side, which Cupid was also fine with.
Busy arena
Then we mounted up and started going through the obstacles one by one.  The first one was easy; a figure-8 around two barrels.  Always starting to the right.  You want to show a nice bend, and make each half the same size.  We did it at the trot, but you can walk.

The second obstacle was two cones side by side about 3 feet apart with poles stuck in them, and a cup on the pole on the right.  You had to trot in, halt between the cones (can do a few walk steps), and with your right hand lift the cup off the pole and put it on the other pole.  This looked like it would be one of the easiest obstacles but surprisingly Cupid would not stop and stand still between the cones!  The trainer had me just walk through a few times until Cupid relaxed.  Then pause for a moment before the cones and walk through.  Then stop for a moment between the cones, but walk on right away without touching the cup.  Eventually we were able to halt and move the cup.  (I may have given Cupid a treat or two to help...)  We went back a few times while waiting for other obstacles just to make sure it was no big deal.
Cupid's least favorite obstacle
The next obstacle was a little wooden bridge.  We trotted up to it, and walked over no problem.  Next up was a line of poles that we weave through.  Again it's not about speed, just showing a steady pace, even size loops, and nice change of bend between each.  This is the only obstacle you have to do at the trot.

The next obstacle was a gate, which I thought would be one of the harder ones.  Luckily for me it was a rope between two standards, which I find easier than a solid gate.  You want to approach it straight before angling to the opening side, use your right hand to open, go through, swing the horse's haunches and back up, then close it behind you.  And Cupid executed it really well! 
Gate - went really well!
The next obstacle was very simple - a plastic pitcher (empty) on a barrel.  You had to trot up, halt next to it, and lift the pitcher over your head.  Our down transitions were a little sloppy, and Cupid sniffed the barrel and pitcher which I learned you also lose points for.  So again it was a seemingly easy obstacle we struggled with.

Up next was a donut shape created with poles and caveletti blocks, and ours had plastic flamingos in the middle.  You had to go through between the poles first going to the right side so with a left bend, come out and do a turn on the haunches and go back the other direction.  None of the horses had trouble with this, though most of us (myself included) could use some work on the turn on the haunches. 

Following was the quintessential working equitation obstacle, where you had to take a garocha out of a barrel, ride to the bull cut out and spear the ring on top, then ride to the second barrel and deposit the pole with the ring.  You hold the pole in your right hand, are are supposed to kind of toss it up a little so you're holding it higher, then tuck it under your arm to get the ring.  If you miss the ring you lose points but keep going.  If you drop the pole, at the intro level my understanding is you stay on the horse and someone will hand it back to you.  But if you put it in the barrel upside down then maybe that's an elimination?  Cupid was very good at this obstacle, we did it at the walk without halting.  Some of the horses didn't like the pole being dropped back in the barrel, but Cupid ignored it. 

#9 had you walk between two parallel poles on the ground, halt (again a nice square halt for maximum points) and ring a bell, then back straight out.  Cupid often tends to swing a little to the right backing up, but we managed to stay between the poles. 

The final obstacle was three barrels we trotted a cloverleaf-type pattern around: first a right turn around the barrel on the right; then change of bend around the furthest out barrel; then a right turn around the third barrel.  Then through the finish cones, halt and salute. 

Overall I was super happy with how Cupid did, though I was surprised at which obstacles we had the most trouble with.  Even the trainer said she'd never seen a horse not like just the cups, usually if they have trouble with that they have problems throughout.  But I guess I already knew Cupid was a little bit special :p 

We are signed up for the working equitation schooling show in a week and half.  It will be in the same arena, hopefully with mostly the same props so that will help.  I still need to learn the dressage test.  For the intro level it is walk/trot only, but unlike the straight dressage tests you need to halt from the trot, back up, and do a 5 meter half circle at the walk.