I was back at the lovely WPF on Saturday, for an Easter themed Agility course. Of course, there had to be a "bunny hop"! Some new obstacles were invented - the Egg Box and the Egg Timer! And one horse clearly didn't read the instructions about NOT helping her handler to eat the chocolate eggs!!! More than that, she smelt them at 100 paces, even before her human had noticed they were there! Well, if her ridden career doesn't work out, a second career as "sniffer dog" surely beckons :-)
So there was a 50/50 split of themed obstacles at yesterday's Horse Agility training session, the Mother's day obstacles included "Spa Day", Flowers and Hearts, whilst St. Patrick's Day was honoured with the Emerald Curtain, the Emerald Isle and the Leprechaun's Leap!
Both, of course had to have Flags :-) What was interesting was that none of the horses seemed to mind the white flag (Mother's Day), but half of them really didn't like the black flag (St. Patrick's Day). It would seem that, as far as horses are concerned, not all flags are created equal! Always fascinating :-)
I love my horse,
and my horse loves me too :-D
Ahhhhh, any guesses as to the theme of last Saturday's Horse Agility? ;-)
As it was Burn's Night yesterday, the theme for Saturday's Horse Agility clinics was a Scottish one and it was great fun to have some ponies of Scottish decent taking part :-D
Much fun was had with Scottish Flags, a Silly Hat, the Tartan Curtain and Nessie's Icy Loch, amongst other obstacles :-D
And as horses are the esteemed subjects of several of Robert Burns' poems, how about a little extract from Tam o'Shanter:
Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares;
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
You probably have to be from the North of England to understand the title.... ;-) "Twirly" being the pronunciation of "too early", in this case "is it twirly (too early) for Christmas"???
I'm not a fan of the shops shoving Christmas at us from the beginning of November.... For me, it loses the magic. December 1st would be quite early enough! But this November I couldn't help myself. I figured the 29th November is only a couple of days early..... So the Intro to Horse Agility clinic will have a Christmas theme to it. Ah well, might as well go the whole hog then! So that's one Christmas Course designed, a whole 11 (yes, eleven! not 10.... Christmas Bonus!!!) xmas themed obstacles, including some old favourites and a few new ones as well.
And whilst I do have a collection of xmas accessories already, a girl and her ponies simply can't have too much glitter ;-) Plus, I didn't have all the accessories for the new obstacles . So that was a good excuse to go shopping! Found some great, fun items to spice up the course. Getting quite excited :-D
Every now and again, an obstacle comes up in the monthly video course from the International Horse Agility Club that I think "that's too easy". Invariably, whenever I think "that's too easy", I am wrong!
In the 2014 October course, obstacle number 9 was "put on a cape or cloak". That's just a sap to Halloween, I thought to myself, a daft bit of fun for the big kids amongst us.....
So, of course, I did not practice the putting on of the cape or cloak before starting filming. Only to discover that, once I was wearing the cloak, obstacle number 10 (send horse through the scary corner at trot whilst the handler stays outside) went completely to pot. Fat Pony did not seem to understand that he was to go through the Scary Corner (at any pace, let alone trot!), whilst I went around the outside. Fat Pony would only follow me through the corner, or follow me round the outside, although both with some hesitation and a slightly unhappy look on his face. Since we have the "handler goes round the outside" version of the scary corner pretty much nailed, at both walk and trot, this was - surprising!
So we stopped filming and I set out to understand what was going on. In fact, it was quite simple. The cloak was hiding my body language from Fat Pony. In particular, it was masking my shoulders and completely obscuring my arms and hands! As soon as I pushed the cape back and freed up my arms such that Fat Pony could see them clearly, he did the obstacle perfectly! Quite a revelation!
I know that we've been building up body language communication, but I didn't appreciate quite how subtle it really is, how significant the putting on of the cape was to hinder Fat Pony's reading of my shoulder position. I also didn't realise just quite how much Fat Pony is reading my hands! He is clearly reading them to a very great degree in determining which direction to go in, even more remarkable given that ponies don't possess these digits themselves!
October is always an exciting month. Any excuse to dress up the Horse Agility course with a seasonal theme!
Slightly disappointed that the "2 flags" obstacle isn't in the Halloween course this year, but I'm sure I'll be able to improvise :-D The "scary corner" will become the Halloween Spooky Corner and the curtain obstacle is in, so I can dust off last year's "creepy cloth" curtain - well, maybe not dust it off, mwaaaahahahahahahahahahahaha......
The standard of entries in the Horse Agility has been going up and the bar is being raised to keep us all challenged! There are some new obstacles again this month, a zig-zag corridor using poles, to be completed at a fast walk and an offset weave, the weave to be completed with the handler maintaining the same leading position throughout the obstacle. I predict that the tight turns will make the leading position a challenge, there will be a tendency for the horse to go ahead or drop behind through the turns.
Backing over a pole isn't new to us, but we still haven't cracked the not touching part. Stepping into a hula hoop with the front feet isn't new to us either, but again we haven't yet cracked the not touching part (sensing a theme here?). The spooky horses tend to avoid touching, but you have to get their confidence up to approach the obstacle in the first place! The confident horses are easy to get close to the obstacle, but tend to just walk all over it! So either way, it makes for a nice challenge!
What is also new to us this time is stepping into the hula hoop with the back feet! Again, no touching allowed for full marks! So the pony has to step into something with it's back feet, which it can't see at the point of stepping in!, without getting spooked by the thing that it can't see round its back legs, and without touching! No pressure there then :-)
Finally, the precise back up is making another appearance. This month it's 10 steps at Medium level. The handler can be anywhere, so I'm reasonably confident that we can get a straight back up by me standing in front of the pony. But getting exactly 10 steps, not one more and not one less, requires the pony to not only listen to your request for backing up, but to give you single steps on request. I've found that even numbers do seem to work better than odd numbers, the 5 step back up was a killer, so we shall see what happens once we get practicing.
I started Horse Agility as a way of making groundwork more fun. It was something I could do with my semi-retired old boy and his small, cheeky, pony companion. What amazed me was how much it improved the ponies' general confidence in the process. I compete at Advanced 1 star level on line and at liberty.