Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo: Friday

Friday dawned dark and very early. I pulled my weary body out of bed and got the boy ready for school. J and I packed food for the day, got mashes for the horse, and got the boy to school on time. We headed straight to the Expo after dropping him off and got there at about 7:30 in the morning.

I gave him a flake of alfalfa and set to grooming him. Temps in the area hit 60 on Friday, although it was overcast and relatively cool inside the barn. Ashke was still clean except for a small poo spot on his belly that J made me brush out. I got him groomed and tacked up and headed to the warm up ring by about 8:20 or so.

Ashke checking out the warm-up ring.

 Ashke was incredibly relaxed in the warm up ring. He was pretty wound up on Thursday, but had settled down by Friday morning. 

As we started into the large arena, TJ and J were moving objects into the far end, setting up the barrels for our clinic, Ashke saw the barrels and stopped, his ears pricked with interest. I could feel the moment when he realized why we were there. He completely relaxed, still interested, but relaxed. I swear this horse was born and bred to do Working Equitation. He recognized why we were there and what his job was over the weekend.

9 am Working Equitation Class.

 TJ had us start with turns on the haunches to make sure that we could move the haunches the way we wanted them to go.

Then TJ had us work on the barrels. The point of the exercise was to turn as tight to the barrel as the horse could manage. TJ wanted our horses to step up under themselves to make that turn.

We spent that 45 minutes working on turning and moving the haunches out from the barrel. TJ said this was the way to train for the barrels, but in competition we would want equal and symmetric circles with the same kind of bend. Ashke did really well by the end of the ride. I need to work on asking him for bend when I ride in the arena, and plan on using my arena rides to work on our WE stuff. It should be easy to set out a couple of obstacles for us to use each ride. If they are jumping in the arena, then I will practice the jump and the garroucha.

I was pretty tired by the end of our ride. It's a lot of work asking a horse to move a particular way and we were both ready for a rest by the time we were done. I untacked him and gave him a mash in his stall, then J and I wandered around the displays at the Expo hall. Most of the stuff we saw was covered with bling and mostly pink, but it was still fun to wander. 

After we wandered all the way through, we headed back to the Event Center to watch one of the events: Colt Starting Challenge. I guess this is a series of events that culminates with a national event. The premise is each trainer gets a filly or colt between the age of 2.5 and 4 and they have a total of four hours (two hours in a round pen per day) to "break them in". On the third day, each trainer shows the progress they've made with the horse by running through an obstacle course. The winner get $10,000.

Can you say, I hated it? Breaking a horse fast and dirty creates more issues than resolves them. I heard over and over in other clinics that it takes a horse 24 to 48 hours to process through and retain something you've taught them. I've found that to be true. When I have introduced a concept to Ashke and we have done it successfully one or two times, if I drop it and come back to it a couple of days later, he understands what I am asking and does it for me. I can see the learning curve. All this three day challenge does is frighten, confuse, and in some cases, "breaks" a horse. This actually happened on the first day. One of the trainers was tired of his horse bucking under saddle, so he used a cotton rope to cause the horse to buck until it was so tired it was dragging it's right hind leg. J and I couldn't take any more, so we went back to the stall to let TJ know that the classes were running 45 minutes behind.

At 4:15 pm, we were back in the warm up pen. The bay is an Azteca, which is an Andalusian mixed with QH.

The afternoon session on Friday consisted of the garroucha pole and the bridge. The bridge was a fairly easy obstacle and everyone except one of the Junior riders went over it without any issue. TJ had the junior follow CS and I put Ashke right behind him to help pressure him over the bridge. He went over without any hesitation.

AM had a problem with her horse. Rosa, the Azteca, who was completely calm and willing in the warm up pen, was really struggling in the big arena. As she followed C O (Lusitano ridden by CS) over the bridge, something happened and that little mare launched herself a good twenty feet forward and four feet up into the air. She almost landed on C O. AM decided at that point that she needed to leave the clinic. (In retrospect, I really think the humming lights were bothering her. She was calm and responsive right up until she entered that arena, and then she basically lost her shit.) That also meant that AM, who was riding in the Mane Event at seven, had to change mounts at the last moment.

Since the bridge was fairly easy for most of us, we moved onto the garroucha pole. Working the pole is the heart of Working Equitation and frankly is one of the funnest things we get to do. Three of the poles were 13' long and incredibly heavy. You wouldn't think that extra 3' would make such a difference, but it does.

Ashke always turns his head to nuzzle the pole. He's just so curious.

I absolutely love this discipline!

The higher Ashke's head went up, the higher my pole went. When TJ corrected me, and I dropped the pole, Ashke's head dropped too.

At the end of the clinic we tucked Ashke into his stall with another mash and some fresh hay, then went to get something hot to eat for dinner. After dinner we watched the Mane Event from one end of the arena. It was pretty fun and I really thought T would love the different acts. AM did pretty well with riding a horse that had never practiced the act, had never ridden with a garroucha pole and had not been in the big arena prior to her riding her in the Mane Event. I'll share all of my thoughts and videos tomorrow, when I write up our Saturday. I had a much better vantage point to watch the show that night then I did on Friday.

It was 9 pm before we were done. We tucked the boy in and then J and I staggered home and fell into bed.


  1. I am so thrilled for you that you had this opportunity. You and Ashke look amazing. He looks so confident and happy in the videos, and that kind of attitude in a horse in a new environment only comes from 100% trust in his rider.

    I have a feeling Lily would be like Shiloh if we tried the garrocha! But it's something that I still want to try. Shiloh still did really well considering it was only her second time performing with the pole! Do they do specific patterns? If you learn them, will you post them? :D

    I <3 Icelandics. They are favorites in MD among the older trail riders because they are small and so incredibly smooth, which allows their riders to move painlessly at speeds faster than a walk! Several of the TROT ladies have them. I'm glad you loved them too! :)

    1. TJ is thinking of putting together a video of garroucha patterns. I've also watched a couple of YouTube vids that show garroucha work (Doma Vaquera, I thnk) and I have been making it up as I go. I really like the leg yield with the pole.