The Summer of Sport is back again, yay!!!! :-D And bigger and better than ever!!! Delighted to see that it's running over two months again (July and August) and the Team element is back :-D If you like the sound of Wild Agility, Dressage and Jumping (all in hand or at liberty!) then there's also a new Eventer's Challenge Rosette to compete for! With TWENTY (!) courses to chose from this year, there's bound to be something for everyone :-)
The Horse Agility Club courses have just come out for February and there's very exciting news for anyone who is in the Southern Hemisphere, or indeed those in the Northern Hemisphere looking for Winter Fun!!!
The club has launched a Southern Summer of Sport, which will run through February and March. The original Summer of Sport has a Northern bias, as it runs through July and August, obviously that's Winter for our friends in the South! Hurrah for Equal Opportunities (and more fun for everyone :-D
The Southern Summer of Sport classes are:
Yay!!! Feeling very excited! :-D It's time for the International Horse Agility Club's (IHAC) annual Summer of Sport :-D The Summer of Sport first came about in 2012, inspired by the Olympic Games coming to London and comprises a number of Fun Agility classes, in addition to the usual monthly Online and Liberty League classes. I'm very excited that Equagility is back and even more excited that a Wild Agility class has been introduced (yay!!!! :-D If those don't appeal to you, then there's a special Junior's class; if you're sad to be too old for Juniors then there's the adult version "act your shoe size" ;-) or you could try the long reining or pairs classes. For the more athletic equines, there's jumping or dressage. And there's also a team element being introduced this year, in true IHAC style you can hook up with members from all around the world to form your team, you don't have to be in the same country, or at the same level, just enter the same 4 classes to be awarded a cumulative score.
This year, the Summer of Sport has been extended from one month to two months, so more time to have fun, play with the courses and film entries :-D So a long Summer of Sport, definitely yes. And hot? Well there's never any knowing what the summer weather will bring us, in the UK anyway, but the courses are definitely "hot" :-) Lots of variety and fun ideas to choose from :-)
I have been seeing Noodle obstacles pop up in various "unofficial" guises within the Horse Agility and Trec communities and it has now been adopted into the International Horse Agility Club (IHAC) Handbook, in the horizontal format, as "The Noodle Walk".
In all cases, the thinking behind the Noodle Walk appears to be the simulation of pushing through soft branches or undergrowth whilst out hacking (although for horse agility it is very much a led obstacle). The IHAC version of the Noodle Walk starts with 2 noodles at Starter Level and increases to a total of 10 noodles at Advanced 1* Level. The noodles are attached horizontally to a frame of either fixed or moveable height and should, ideally, be at the horse's chest height. As this was the first time I was building one of these, I used the only "frame" that I had to hand and the noodles ended up first at leg height and then, as they drooped, more at ponies' knee height, lol.
In the Trec world, the noodle obstacles that I have seen have a vertical format, possibly to avoid the horse trying to jump the obstacle, or perhaps this is felt to be more representative of a ridden horse having to contend with an overgrown path. I have yet to try this one for myself! This is not an official TrecGB obstacle and the idea seems to have originated in the US, however it has been used in the UK in Fun Trecs and I suspect will become seen in competitions more often as the idea spreads.
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 :-)
What instantly appealed to me about Horse Agility was how well human-horse body language communication (of the type promoted by, but not exclusive to, "Natural Horsemanship") lends itself to the successful completion of a testing course of Horse Agility obstacles. Only now and again there appears to me to be a mis-match. This month, its the "Snow drift jump" that I'm having some difficulty with, although a solution has presented itself.
For Medium level and above, the obstacle states "Create a jump that looks like a snow drift by draping white material or tarp over a jump, the horse must jump handler stands still at end of jump as horse goes over." (A top tip here is not to worry if you don't happen to have a white tarp, it's fun to get into the spirit of the season, but any jump-able object will do, it doesn't actually have to be white - and it doesn't have to be very high - but the horse must do a proper jump over.) My problem with this obstacle is that I've been busy teaching the ponies to tune into what I'm doing and to mirror me quite closely. This is fantastic for leading with a loose rope as well as for effective Liberty work. The pony goes where I go, matches my direction and also my speed. I walk, pony walks, I trot, pony trots, I halt.......
So now, pony and I approach the jump in trot. For a warm up, I jump the (very small!) jump and pony jumps with me. Fantastic :-D So next pony and I approach the jump in trot, pony is all set to jump..... and I stop dead "at end of jump". What happens? Well trained, tuned in, pony mirrors me perfectly and slams on the brakes just before take off, nearly skidding into the jump, then looks at me with a "what did you do that for?" expression!
For me, on first inspection, this poses a dilemma. It would appear that I either have to re-train pony to stop mirroring me, something I am very reluctant to do as I feel this would be a step backwards for our relationship; or I have to somehow get pony going more ahead of me approaching the jump, so that he's already taken off before I come to a standstill, possibly with "chasing" him over the jump as well, which I think would be quite hard for me to co-ordinate accurately and I also feel would not do a great deal for pony's confidence in approaching the jump (or any jump in the future!). Or I choose not to come to a standstill and jump the jump with the pony and loose marks.
So can I approach the problem from a new angle? I think I can and this is where the solution that works for me lies. The alternative solution is for me not to come to a standstill, but to be stationary throughout. As we have done some Parelli groundwork together, Fat Pony is used to both me moving with him (mirroring) and also me standing still and directing him from more of a distance. So the solution that works, without compromising our training, is for me to ask the pony to wait at a suitable distance, for me to position myself by the end of the jump, and then for me to ask the pony to trot and to come around me in a slight semi-circle, over the jump and then to slow down, stop, turn and face me and wait for me to re-join him and reward. As the jump is small (about 30cms) and we have been working on jumping confidence, this is a fairly easy task for Fat Pony to complete (famous last words!) and is in complete harmony with the training methods we have been using. Phew - dilemma over!
It will be interesting to see what techniques other competitors adopt, but this is the one that I'll be using.
It's a tradition now for July to be "Summer of Sport" month at the International Horse Agility Club. There are still the usual competitive league courses, these being an On Line class for each of the 5 Levels: Starter to Advanced 1 star; plus a Liberty class for 3 levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. But, for July only, there are lots of fun and exciting "have a go" Summer of Sport classes added as well.
The Summer of Sport was first inspired by the London 2012 Olympic Games and proved so popular that it has become an exciting fixture in the Horse Agility calendar ever since.
For 2014, the Summer of Sport "have a go" classes are:
With so much to chose from, its just a shame that there are only 4 weekends in the month!!!!!
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.