Friday, May 21, 2021

Horse Camping - How to High Line

I was very excited when I saw there was a Trail Trials just over an hour away - most are about 3 hours.  I was decidedly less excited when I realized the park it would be at has "horse camping" sites but they do not have any sort of pens.  I immediately disregarded the high line poles they offered, and started searching for where I can rent portable corral panels (apparently not a service that exists, though it should along with horse trailers you can rent!), and then started looking at barns in the area that would allow an overnight stay.  Then I started to look into portable electric tape-type fencing and finally settled on the QuikFence available on Amazon, which has tape strands integrated into the posts.

We were also initially debating between going up Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, but for traffic and work/school/family considerations decided to only stay the one night.  

The estimated delivery time for my fence was between Monday and Wednesday the week of the trip.  On Monday Fedex tagged the package in Kansas, heading to California.  On Wednesday there weren't any further updates, so I called FedEx and told them it was imperative I receive the package on Friday.  I was a little concerned when the rep told me he would try to locate it...

Same thing on Thursday, and I called them somewhat panicked Friday morning.  They still seemed totally unsure where the package was and when/if I would receive it.  At this point I pretty much shrugged my shoulders and threw a long rope in the truck and hoped for the best.  At least I knew I would have a lot of horse camping experts around, and sure enough several people helped me get set up and Cupid was high line tied overnight!

The high line poles are just very tall sturdy wooden poles with an eye hook screwed in, so tall I needed my mounting block to reach.  The rope needs to be taut, and it is pretty much impossible to get it taut enough without a ratchet which someone was nice enough to lend me.  I initially envisioned a ring on the rope so the horses can move along the length of it, but I was told that is not what you want.  I did not have a swivel snap, so I just tied a loop in the rope and attached a carabiner to that (I'd rather Cupid get loose than tangled...)  You want the horse tied so they can just barely reach the ground.  (And since the high line rope is up kind of high, the trick is to throw the lead rope over the top and use that to pull the high line rope down to tie the lead rope to.)

I tied Cupid to the high line after our ride so he would have time to get used to it, and I could observe him the next few hours.  He was totally fine being tied there.  During the day I had his hay net there, but for night time I just put the hay loose on the ground.  And this may be somewhat controversial, but I did not leave water out for him because he likes to dump it but I offered him water regularly throughout the day and he drank a good amount. 

I'm not going to lie, I was somewhat terrified going to sleep that night (right nearby in a tent), and also felt like a pretty terrible horse owner for doing this to my horse.  But I tried telling myself that the portable stabling at some shows isn't any bigger, and can be hot and horses get cast in them all the time...

We stayed up talking with a group of other Trail Trialers, and I went to bed around 11.  I woke up at 1:30 (which is usually around the time my son wakes me up so I'm just used to waking up then), and took a peek out to see Cupid peacefully sleeping lying down!  Not stretched out on his side but with his legs under him.  My barnmate's horse was dozing standing up.  They both seemed perfectly content.  I woke up again at 4:30, and Cupid was still or again lying down.  Then I woke up at 6 when birds started chirping and horses rustling.  By then Cupid was also standing up and happy as can be. 

So our first experience high lining was a success.  I'm still going to be a little scared if I have to do it again, but at least I'll be better prepared!

And of course on Sunday I came home to this...

Monday, May 17, 2021

Trail Trials at Skyline Wilderness Park

Last year Cupid and I went to a Trail Trials clinic, and we were finally able to put that practice to use in our first Trail Trials!  We went to Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, about an hour and a half away and camped overnight.  Despite the name, the park is actually quite suburban, just minutes from town and with amenities such as a disc golf course and archery range.  Even though there were lots of hikers and bicyclist on the trails, they were very polite both passing on the trail and when obstacle judges asked them to wait while someone was completing an obstacle.  Dogs are allowed in the camping area, but not on the trails.

Saturday's ride was about 5 miles, with 12 judged obstacles.  Sunday's ride was shorter, about 4 miles with 8 judged obstacles.  They were considered separate events, we did both days and there were no repeats in the obstacles.

We rode as a group of 4, though ended it up more riding in pairs and meeting back up at the obstacles.  It was a little hard for Cupid to have horses "leaving" him, and then he was too distracted to focus on some of the obstacles.  Both days the first two obstacles did not go very well for us, but afterwards he started settling down and getting the hang of it and things improved considerably.  

I read the rules and had attended the clinic, but the obstacles were more difficult then I expected.  I guess I've gotten a little used to working equitation - I thought just crossing a bridge would be an obstacle but it was more complicated.  One of our bridge obstacles it was: walk onto the bridge and stop between the flags; trot the rest of the way across the bridge; walk at the next flags and turn on haunches 180 degrees, walk back across the bridge.  Luckily that is all easy to do (well maybe our turn on the haunches isn't a true turn on the haunches...), just sometimes hard to remember all the directions!  One Cupid and I had trouble with had us step with front feet up a slight bank on the side of the road and side pass.  Cupid stepped off the bank a few times, and each time you step back it counts as a "refusal."

Another sneaky one was the very first obstacle on Saturday.  You were supposed to enter the course dismounted, and mount.  So for Trail Trials that involves a bunch of rules where you need to make sure your reins are secure (I used a carabiner clip since my saddle doesn't have a horn) and lead from your halter and lead rope, stirrups are run up while you're dismounted, and check your girth before you mount.  But the real test was a bale of hay next to the mounting block!  We got penalty points because naturally Cupid had to try to take a few bites!

There is some terminology specific to Trail Trails that I didn't understand, that messed me up on a few obstacles.  I hadn't practiced dragging something behind Cupid, and one of the obstacles had a noisy bag tied to a rope we had to pull on the ground.  (Similar to the bag we picked up and carried in our most recent working eq clinic, which Cupid was very good about but I wasn't sure about dragging.)  To my pleasure Cupid did it perfectly!  Unfortunately for us, in Trail Trials "pulling" means you have the object in front of you and rein back, and what we did was "drag" which means have it behind you and walk forward.  So we got all 24 penalty points for the obstacle because we didn't fulfill the objective.  I was still thrilled with Cupid because he did exactly what I asked, but so disappointed I didn't understand the directions!!  But now I know the difference for/if there's a next time.

Overall I was happy with Cupid, although we have several things we need to work on.  Side passing for one!  And I was thinking maybe he doesn't see me like the leader and that's why he gets so focused on being with other horses.  It's a hard one, even when there were horses still behind us he wanted to go with the others heading on ahead and it was a bit discouraging at times because we messed up some obstacles I know we should be able to do better on!  I'm not sure I'll go to any more Trail Trials this year because there aren't any more that are close-ish to me, but if I go again in the future at least I'll have a much better idea of what to expect!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

One Month Later

 Whoops, that last month went by quick!  Here's a quick recap of what happened.

-No shows.  It's been kind of light year so far, but I have a few I'm planning towards this summer and then the Regional Adult Amateur Competition in the fall, which we've already qualified for, for Training Level.  Hopefully we can move up to First at the end of the year (technically our next show year).

-We got to go back and do more cattle work!  I was worried Cupid might be a little more keyed up the second time since he would kind of know what to expect, but he was super and we had a lot of fun!  I wish it was closer (it's a 2 hour haul), but hopefully we can go again soon.

-We've been trail riding fairly regularly!  I finally found someone at my barn who wants to go with me, and has a fairly similar schedule plus our horses get along (she has a mare and a gelding, and even the mare seems to like Cupid) and walk about the same speed so it's worked out perfectly!

Golden poppies

-I haven't been going to biomechanics lessons, but I've made some good improvements in my riding!  Hopefully this summer I can go back for a few tune ups.

-I've been averaging a weekly lesson with my trainer, but sometimes we skip a week and then try to get 2 in the following.  Our biggest focus lately has been getting more push from behind.

-On light days I've been playing around with neck reining and jogging, and practicing opening/closing gates.  

-We have a Trail Trial coming up next weekend! 

-Cupid has been super good in the outdoor - he hasn't been spooky or distracted at all like he sometimes can be out there!

-Screen shots from a recent run through First Level Test 1.

Trotting down the center line


Halt at G