On Sunday Cupid and I went to a working equitation clinic. Actually it was a bit more of a playday/free practice session, not structured but there was a trainer there offering help. There was a course laid out, most people worked on the obstacles individually and then went through the entire course once or twice. (If you stayed to the end, there was an opportunity to run through the entire course without other horses in the arena and with the trainer helping you through, but I left before this.)
My main goal going into it was to practice the gate, which we still have not really been able to do as usually Cupid backs up when I start opening it. So the trainer offered to help me, and helped me break it down. So first I was just to stop Cupid alongside the gate, let him halt a few moments, and walk off. Then we halted by the gate, backed a step and halted, took a step forward, and halted. Then I unlatched it and back a step, halted, stepped back forward and latched it shut, and walked off. Then she partially opened the gate and held it there, and had me stop Cupid in the new position. Then she opened the gate further and had me stop from the other side. And finally stand by it shut from the other side. She suggested I try this a few more times, breaking it down into steps and preferably with someone on the ground to help and make Cupid very comfortable with each position.
This was really helpful - though I must say I was a bit sad that there wasn't a quick fix and we are now opening and closing gates no problem lol.
|Photo by S. Roundy|
Cupid was very good with the other obstacles. The only thing really new for us was a feed sack, stuffed and tied, sitting on a barrel that we needed to pick up and carry around one of the other obstacles then back to the barrel. Cupid seemed to recognize the sack as what his food comes in and had no hesitation approaching it. He was a little concerned about it bouncing on his shoulder as I carried it, but got used to it. And I have to say, we've been practicing a bit of neck reining at home and I was very happy with how he good he was with me reining one handed with the sack in my other hand! For novice level apparently you need to pick the sack up from a trot! But if I show it will be at intro, where you are allowed to walk or even stop to pick it up.
We also worked on our neck reining with the pole (garrocha). In the competitions and practices I've done before we just had to pick up the pole, spear a ring, and put it in a second barrel on a straight line but this course actually had you carry the pole and ring through your next obstacles (ground poles to step over), turn 180 degrees back around and place the pole back into the barrel you got it from. And Cupid was a rockstar at this! (As intro level, we just did it at a walk.) We also practiced putting the garrocha in the barrel and walking a full circle around holding it, again more neck reining.
|Photo by S. Roundy|
The clinician told us it is not really about the obstacles themselves, the obstacles are just place holders. You are judged on bend, square halts, smooth transitions, etc. (unless you're me and you drop the gate, give up and get a 0!)
This course was also quite a bit more technical then ones I've done before, and really made you think about your route. At intro it is a bit easier because you trot in between obstacles, but the clinician said for the highest points most judges want to see you riding the same as if you were in a higher division and had to canter - so think about which lead you need to be on and how you will approach each obstacle straight. As well as making sure you don't cross an obstacles you haven't completed yet (for instance ride in between barrels or poles), as that is an automatic elimination. It was interesting hearing the clinician and some of the more experienced riders share their thought process on how they plan their route.
I was really glad we did this clinic - it gave us new things to work on and was also just low stress and fun! I'm not sure if we will be able to attend any WE shows this year, I wish they were closer, but it sounds like there will be one only an hour away this fall so maybe we will aim towards that.