So, on to the final part of the Working Equitation test. The first part is dressage and the second part is dressage over, around and through obstacles. The final part is the obstacles at speed. Everything else goes out the window and placing is based on the time. Any mistake, such as knocking down a pole, stepping over a ground pole, causes time faults (mostly 5 seconds each, I believe) and catching the ring with the garroucha takes 10 secs off the clock. We had fourteen obstacles (dropped the pitcher and had to do the jump twice). Tarrin also placed the double slalom first out of the obstacles (it was 9 poles long) because it can be a real struggle once your horse is tired. If you cut an obstacle short or did it out of order, you would be DQ'd.
The first three riders DQ'd. That included both intermediate riders and the first Novice rider. The first rider moved the cup with the left hand instead of the right, the second rider did not complete the pattern for the three barrel obstacle and the third rider did not ring the bell at the end of the corridor. Everyone else made it through, although a couple of them slowed down and went carefully through a couple of the obstacles.
Ashke and I went second to last. I sat on him in the warm up arena and watched most of the other rides, but when it got close I got him warm. We did a straight away race down the middle of the arena and halted him with my voice and seat, sliding into a halt, then spun on a neck rein and headed for the other end. Then I cantered him in a very small circle in each direction, just to help loosen him up. Then we stood and waited our turn.
I'm sorry I don't have video but both J and K were busy volunteering. I will use my words.
We walked into the arena and instead of trotting around the outside of the obstacles, we made a small circle in the open area in front of the judge's booth. She asked me if I was ready and I said yes (we weren't waiting the expected time between each ride - trying to finish early). She rang the bell and Ashke and I turned to face her. I saluted and she saluted back. Then I turned Ashke toward the start line and asked for a canter.
He lifted into the smoothest, gentle canter of the day. That's when I leaned forward and kissed to him. His ears swept back and he burst forward. We crossed the start line at the fastest gallop of the day. I swept him into the first turn and he was very confused. It took four poles or so before he figured out we were doing the double slalom (the single slalom was the first obstacle in the Ease of Handling and uses the same poles). By the time he figured it out, we were at a fast trot (the turns are too tight for him to canter. Right now. We are working on it) and Ashke was cutting the turns as tight as he could without us touching a pole. We came out the far end and I asked for a gallop to the second obstacle.
I had to enter the second obstacle from the front and we were approaching from the back. I galloped him to the front and then sat him down and rolled back to the obstacle. He took the first barrel at a canter, but broke to a trot on the second and third. When completed the barrels and took two canter strides to the gate. When I asked Ashke to whoa, the boy sat down and stopped in perfect position for the gate. I lifted the rope, he reined through, took two steps and I settled the rope back in place. K said later it took less than 20 seconds to complete.
The next obstacle was the garroucha, which I lifted from the barrel at a canter, tried for the ring and knocked it off but didn't pick it up on the end of the pole. I was being cautious, since I did not want to risk knocking the bull over, or more importantly, knocking the pole out of my hand. That would have required dismounting, picking up the pole and mounting with it in hand. Then completing the obstacle. Ashke slowed slightly as I dropped the pole into the can, then launched for obstacle 5.
Obstacle 5 was the double barrel, and we completed the first circle at a canter, but trotted the second circle. Then raced for the bell and corridor. Ashke made the turn into the corridor, trotted to the end and paused just long enough for me to ring the bell, then backed up very quickly and spun to the gate. He was flying when we reached it, but a simple whoa and sitting down with my seat stopped him in his tracks. I moved the cup from one pole to the other and then we spun away into the single slalom poles. There were five poles and he did a flying change of lead in between each one.
At the end of the slalom, we had to make a sharp right turn, then a quick left to go over the bridge. We trotted it (it wasn't very long) because I didn't want him trying to vault over it and missing the in and out cones. Then we turned and raced the length of the arena for the first jump over the straw bale jump. He hesitated and kind of bounced a couple of steps, thinking about avoiding, but I held him and verbally encouraged him to go over. He did, then trotted into the livestock pen and back out.
As soon as we cleared the livestock pen, he was galloping again, a couple of strides to the jump. Which he deer leaped. I lost both stirrups and dropped one rein, but I stayed on and managed to lay the rein I still held against his neck to turn him toward the 13th obstacle. He swung tightly toward the obstacle. He was such a good boy. We galloped into the obstacle and slid to a stop at the far end, then backed strongly out. I swung him toward the other end of the arena and yelled in exuberance for him to go.
The final obstacle was the sidepass in both directions, although the poles were not raised. It's a real test of your horse to have been racing around like a bat out of hell, then slide to a stop and be calm enough to move carefully sideways over a pole. I took an extra ten seconds to settle him, and he was all business as we moved first to one side and then to the other. As we cleared the last pole, I rolled him toward the exit cones and yelled at the top of my lungs as he bolted across them and then across the finish line. We circled the banner that marked the start-stop point and then slid to a halt in front of the judge's booth. Tarrin was rocked back in her chair laughing in delight.
I saluted. She saluted back. Ashke walked from the arena on a loose rein.
I was breathing so hard I couldn't talk, asking for water from J with sign language. I started coughing and could taste blood in my mouth. like you get when you run really hard. J gave me a bottle of warm water, which I finished, and then K gave me a bottle of cold and I drank that too. I was soaked with sweat and shaking with the effort. My horse? Ashke wasn't even breathing hard. The only sweat was from his being saddled and in the sun. A fair number of people commented on how amazing it was that he wasn't breathing hard at all. (See cross-training on 20 mile trail rides produces a very fit pony.) I finally gathered the strength to walk him back to the trailer, unsaddle him and move him into the shade with water, hay and his mash.
When I got back to the gathering, one of the contestants said that the Speed Trial is our event (which I agree with) and another asked if I could help teach her horse how to do that. :) (The secret is teaching him to stop on a dime from a verbal whoa and to roll back and jump start his gallop from the neck rein.) Our practice on those paid off and he was magnificent. Even in the middle of the race, he stopped when I asked and stood without moving until I was ready to go again. He was absolutely amazing and I have never had so much fun in my life.
We both agree that we will do the dressage and the EOH just to be able to do the Speed round.
And we got this:
J said we were a full 45 seconds faster than anyone else.
I have some final wrap up thoughts I will write out and try to post tomorrow.