By guest writer Sheila Whistler
As an annual event for a group who rides back country where there are no comforts of home and no vets, hospitals or urgent care centers right around the corner, we had an idea that this trail obstacle challenge might be a little more “challenging” than the local trials we’ve been going to. The more remote places are beautiful, but there is also more responsibility to be safe and very confident that your horse will listen to you when the terrain gets challenging or wildlife gets scary. With that in mind, Connie and I went to the BCHC Rendezvous Trail Obstacle Challenge with the idea that it would be a learning experience and just go have fun and see where the holes are in training.
When I first walked up to the course and saw the giant teeter-totter, my thoughts went immediately to “Uh-oh! That’s going to be interesting!” I’ve wanted to build one of those to play on for the longest time, but never have, so this is something my horse and I got to try for the first time. The rest of the course didn’t look too challenging at first glance, until I noticed how small and tight everything was. They were going for precision. Cool! Still, my main concerns were how my horse would do in a new environment with a carnival atmosphere, applause, etc. and whether he would fit in some of the obstacles as he’s about 16.3hh and long! Other than that I thought we were ready and would do fine.
What actually happened is that we went into the arena calmly, started toward the gate for the first obstacle and I couldn’t get him within 3′ of it! Lots of spinning and Oh Heck No! from my horse! I was so shocked, everyone heard me say, “Really??? Are you kidding me???” LOL! He was staring at the cow hides hanging over the rails next to the gate and the BLM adoption pens just outside the arena and acted like he was going to be sent to slaughter if he got close to those things! Turns out he wouldn’t go near anything with a hide on it, which was about half the obstacles!!! He likes cows, but apparently not dead ones. So we missed the gate, the mud bog and noodle gate (which he does great USUALLY), the narrow bridge, the tunnel of leaves (which was just like a big easy up with a couple shiny dangly strings… not even a hard cowboy curtain, or so I thought!), and then stepped on the teeter totter, went half way and when it started to move, he jumped off. That didn’t surprise me and I was happy he at least tried.
We did the maze (a precision maze of several lanes to go forward over things, stop, sideways, backwards (& avoiding things) in the next lane, sideways, stop, forward to the end, turn on haunches to sidepass over the last logs/last lane.)
We trotted from there to the big American flag that flanked the first gate, stopped, side-passed to pick up the flag (which he did since his face wasn’t close to the hide) and cantered a circle with the flag, stopped and returned it to its holder.
We did the precision bridges with varying things (fake flowers sticking up from the beginning and end, different paint patterns, brightly colored objects with shiny movement…) They were set in a pattern, so you went over one turned left, over the next, turn left, on top of the third and stop, then while still on it, turn left and ride onto a pedestal (all 4 feet), do a 360 turn, then off.
We did the campsite. Ring the bell, go thru a rope gate and close it, ride to a fake mule and remove the pack and hand to a person, then navigate thru the downed logs.
We did the rope pulley where we picked up our goody bag, unclipped it and rode off with it.
What a learning experience! The narrow bridge was a long, narrow plank maybe 12-15” wide and about 6″ off the ground, with water, quacking ducks, and spinning pinwheels along side and at the end of the plank. We didn’t see any horse actually do this one! The big win for both Connie and me was the fact that we were the only two who actually CANTERED with the flag as we were instructed to. Most others walked and some trotted. Didn’t even see the gaited horses gaiting with the flag. Yay for small wins! We will do better next time… always riding for tomorrow, right?
See part one of this story here: Trail Obstacle Challenge 2014 BCHC Rendezvous