"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, December 26, 2011

Working Equitation

I was talking with Judy today during a barn trail ride (we all went as a group!) and she told me about this:

It is a sport called Working Equitation. It is freaking AWESOME! It's like a dressage-based eventing type of sport. It stems from the training given to Spanish war horses. The first test is a regular dressage test; the second phase is called Ease of Handling, where the horse has to go through an obstacle course similar to something out of a Western trail class, with poles, jumps, figure 8s around barrels, handling a lance (cooooool!), opening and closing a gate, going over a bridge, a reinback obstacle, etc. The horse is evaluated on the same points as in a dressage test: Rhythm, Relaxation, Regularity; Obedience and Confidence; Acceptance of and Response to  the Aids; Suppleness of the Bend and  Elasticity of the Roundness; Impulsion; Straightness; Correction and Balance. And then there is the Speed phase, where the obstacle course is repeated (except for the obstacles that require stopping, like the gate and the jug), but as fast as possible within the required gait (trot for lower levels, canter for the more advanced levels). The video above is of the speed phase.

This video has examples of the Ease of Handling phase:

I had heard of these events sometime in the past, but thought it was something exclusive to Spain and Portugal, and thought it was more along the lines of exhibit rather than an entire sport! I had no idea we have it in the US, nor that all breeds are welcome to participate. Not only that, we have Working Equitation competitions here in FL, in Dade City!

This is the official website for the sport: http://www.workingequitationusa.com/weusa_home

This would be soooo cool to try out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update! Lots of changes

Wow...I've been a very, very bad blogger.

Just to give a quick update: in the last month, my mom and brother came to visit for 10 days over Thanksgiving, and the footing in the large paddock at the Parkland barn became so deep that it was like slogging through snow for the horses; even on the lunge Lily struggled to work through it. The footing in the other paddock was slippery to the point where Lily refused to canter, and I did not force her. She's smart enough to not do something that may result in an injury, so I wasn't going to cause it for her. The only riding option, then, was to walk her all the way down to the equestrian center arenas. This became old very, very quickly, especially when I had to hand-lead her down. This was a 20 minute walk so that THEN I could get on. I did not want to ride her down and risk her acting up in the middle of the street again and having to dismount for safety's sake, further reinforcing negative behavior. However, after leading her down, by the time I got on at the arena, I was already tired. Add to this the fact that Lily had not been herself much since we had arrived at Parkland-she was becoming herd bound, and she continued to be very "up" when riding at the equestrian center arenas. (This was still after doubling her B1 dose and starting her on Mare Magic). Even after 45 minute workouts, she would still not relax and listen. She wasn't bad by any means, just very "up" and even more pogo-stick-ey than usual. By the time we got back to the barn, bathed her, cleaned her stall and dragged myself into the car to drive back home, I was utterly done. The end result: Lily did not get ridden much for 2 weeks, just lunged.

On another front, everyone (Elizabeth, Dianne, and Mark) left M's barn and moved back to the old barn, now under a new name. Mark called me up and begged me to come back, promising to move my stall mats with his teeth if I did. What he didn't know was that Judy, who remember, is now in charge of both the Parkland barn and our old barn, had already called me up and offered me a nice deal on board at our old barn, and I had accepted. (Judy needed my Parkland stall for another full boarder, and knew I'd be interested in returning to our old barn after everyone else had come back.) So poor Mark was going to have to move the mats after all. He didn't care, though-him, Dianne and Elizabeth were so excited, he offered to move Lily on a Saturday I was working, just to get me over there already. This resulted in him throwing out his back, but Lily and the mats did get move. His back was the cause of endless joking. Ex: good thing he tried to move the mats with his hands and not his teeth-the chiropractor was open on Saturdays, but not the dentist!

Lily settled in within 24 hours, and went back to being her usual easygoing self. Our rides have been terrific and getting better, but on Lily's personal front, she's having a hard time integrating in the new little herd. Christa has become very attached to Pink, as they are in adjoining stalls, so she is not so fond of Lily anymore. We still turn them out together sometimes at night, but there can't be any kind of hay or feed on the ground, or Christa will mercilessly chase Lily, preventing her from eating anything at all, even if the hay gets separated into different piles far apart from each other. So Lily often times gets turned out in the side paddock while Christa or Christa and Pink get turned out in the arena, with hay on either side of the fence so they can all get used to watching each other eat without attempting to steal Lily's hay. One Sunday morning we turned all 3 mares out in the arena, and I stood by the gate with Elizabeth's lunge whip. I did nothing, just said, "Go Pink!" (I knew she responds to this from the one time I raced her down the powerlines) and waved the lash of the whip in the air. All 3 mares took off galloping around the arena, Lily in the lead. It was beautiful to watch; Dianne and Mark were also at the barn that morning, and they stopped what they were doing to watch the horses running. Around and around they went for a good 5 minutes or so. Afterwards, Pink and Christa came to a stop by the gate to nibble on some leftover hay on the ground, while Lily, good girl that she is, continued to walk herself around the track surrounding the dressage arena to cool herself down. However, when she tried to join Christa and Pink by the gate, both mares pinned their ears at her. Lily spent the next hour hanging out by the back wall by herself, with a forlorn expression on her little face. Here are some pics of the event. Lily demonstrated her Thoroughbred breeding by staying in the front the entire time!

Lily leads the way in their first lap around the arena!

And she stayed in the lead after that. Pink was racing as hard as she could to catch up to the lead, but Christa and Lily, being much fitter, stayed in front effortlessly

Lily was coming out of a buck in this one, while Christa was going into a buck! Note Pink flat out trying to gain on the front runners.

For this lap, Pink figured out that if she cut through the dressage arena, she could cheat her way into second position. *lol*

Our lesson with Judy later that morning went excellent, though-Lily trotted several laps of the dressage arena with her nose almost to the ground in her closest and longest imitation of a stretchy trot yet, while I worked hard at posting energetically to keep her momentum, while maintaining everything else absolutely quiet and unchanging (leg pressure, rein pressure, my posture in the saddle). 3 days later and I'm still sore from that lesson! Lily had her teeth done that afternoon, and as it turns out, not only were her teeth so sharp that it took the technician an hour to rasp them down, she also had wolf teeth that needed to be pulled. I started her on bute that night and gave her the next day off, as she was still having problems chewing, and yesterday I longed her in the morning with just her halter, then rode her in the afternoon for an hour at the walk on a loose rein. She did not object to just having the bit in her mouth and had been eating normally, so I took it as a sign that she felt better.

We'll see how she does on our next ride!

Poor girl! She immediately tried to eat her hay after having her teeth done, so I had to lock her outside while I removed her hay from the stall. She was still dopey from the tranquilizer and there was a risk of choking if she tried to eat before waking up fully.