I arrived too late to the barn on the first night to ride, but I made sure both horses got to see everything and did some parts of it in hand.
Phantom, of course, loved the bridge. The only thing on the course that she was worried about was the bell that was over her head - it took a few goes before she would stop under it, and not to the side. She does tend to notice things high up and can be odd about them. Ringing the bell didn't worry her, just the fact that it was there.
Cisco took some extra time at the bridge. The last time we did a bridge (and his first time) was back in the spring. It was a teeter totter bridge. Cisco started off well and went across it a bunch of times, but he didn't like when it dropped down. I gave him a break from it and when we went back to it, he flat out said no. Hell no.
So he was pretty sure this bridge was going to drop down too. He started off by saying hell no again. It took a few minutes, but honestly not as long as I thought it would, before we had all 4 feet on the bridge. Then he jumped off the side before it dropped down on him. Another 3 or 4 attempts and we made it all the way across. Once he realized that it didn't tip he was very good about going across - still a bit worried, but tried to be really brave.
Surprisingly, the stripy orange "bull" wasn't scary to either horse. Both went right up to it and sniffed the bull blanket.
|The rare breed of stripey orange fluffy cow.|
With Cisco I did everything at the walk. I didn't ride everything as it was supposed to be ridden - there is a lot of backing up and I've only asked Cisco for a couple of strides at a time. So for those elements we just continued to walk forward. I was more concerned with just riding him through and around everything, and not overly concerned with doing it well or correctly.
|Cisco finally relaxed over the bridge|
The bridge went very well. He initially was worried since I wasn't there to hold his hand (or hoof) and lead him over it. But as he did the previous night, once he made it across once it stuck and he was good to go. I started to add halting in the middle, and since he was still nervous about being on the bridge he danced around a bit in the halt. He kind of stepped off the side and fell off once. But he stepped back on the next time I aimed him at it and next time I asked him to stop, he stood much better.
The only problem came when we tried to do the gate. The gate was very high, and when I started to move it towards him he panicked. I did a bit of work around it, hopped off, and did a bit more on the ground. He did a bit better but ideally would need a couple of sessions with it before I could expect too much.
I had much higher expectations or going through the course with Phantom. I knew that I could do everything at a trot, and probably some parts at a canter (with simple changes). The trot was pretty easy. The canter was omg so hard.
|Trying to canter the slalom poles.|
Those turns and circles are so tight! At the higher levels the ideal size is 3m circles around the barrels. At the lower levels, it's 4m. No idea what size I was aiming for but they seemed too big to make the turns balanced around the barrels. You really need a horse who sits behind to be able to do these at a canter. I had left my spurs off, so I had no backup when Phantom decided it was too hard and she should just stall out.
She figured out the bell and the cup elements very quickly. She stopped at the end, and backed out really easily. She needs some work about standing still though - totally not surprising. (I'm pretty sure I was doing the cup thing wrong - there are two different elements with the cup and I think I kind of combined them. Still good practice though!)
What was surprising was how hard it was to keep the trot through the livestock pen. I figured that it would be one of the easier elements, and was looking forward to cantering it. But everytime we went through it her trot sucked back, and since the rest of the canter wasn't going too smoothly I figured I'd better not.
|The livestock pen with a bit of extra whee to the tiny crosspole.|
She was also a bit worried about the gate, but I probably would have been able to work her through it. Except that we knocked it over. Whoops.
I don't know who actually owned this stuff, so I didn't really want to do anything that I thought might be kind of risky to either me or the equipment. So I didn't do the pole or the skewer the ring on the bull with the pole, and didn't push the gate issues. The pole will be easy to practice myself over the winter, but I'll need to find a way to make a gate.
I really liked playing with these obstacles. There's a lot of work to be done before they would be easy at the faster gaits, so lots of room for improvement. I think that riding it at speed would be similar to riding in a jump-off, especially if you have a horse that knows it's job and gets into it. It looks like there are a couple of local barns that might host some regular "play days", so that might be nice to try to hit. And I'll see what I can build to play with over the winter. It'll be a good way to break up the monotony of being stuck inside for 7 months.
If you want some more information about Working Equitation, or want to learn how to set up and ride the elements in Ease of Handling, you can check out the Working Equitation Canada webpage and download the Rules and Tests pdf.