New Equine Adventures…

I’ve accumulated a ton of blog material this year. Conversely, I have not had the time to develop that material into actual posts. Now that Russia decided to start WW3 and covid disappeared once the world had something else to focus on, my day job exploded. Time engaged in activities worthy of a blog posts takes away from available time to blog, vicious cycle. I was beginning to think I might actually give up the idea of blogging altogether when, one very kind person told me that my posts are actually a highlight of her day, and I thought a new post was long overdue. So, I’m going to dump some blog material on this site in the hopes of entertaining anyone willing to stick with me through the writing hiatus.

My mustang Johnny Cash isn’t showing the aptitude or more to the point bravery required of an eventer. He’s a dirty stopper, and still has a lot of anxiety about new obstacles and places. With two other fearless dragons, I don’t have a need to push him, and I’m not sure there is really a benefit to rushing him. If he develops the necessary bravery for eventing with more saddle time, great! If not, my equestrian ADD will be equally happy trying other forms of riding with him, and reserving the spotted dragons for activities that require another level of courage. Every horse is not always happy in every discipline!

Knowing I need to get Johnny Cash out more, and needing something less scary than eventing, I took him out to a working equitation clinic to learn about the sport and get him used to approaching/working around obstacles without being forced to jump them. After a successful clinic, I signed him up for the first rated show of the year. Because I can easily fit five full size horses in my trailer, and I have enough tack to outfit every single horse (currently 7 full size) on the farm simultaneously, all common sense evaporates from my head when signing up for horse activities, I thought if competing one horse is good, why not take three? One of my favorite eventing venues canceled all derbies this year. With rising fuel prices, finding equine activities closer to home is a plus. WE was also an excuse to break out my awesome flat brim and custom made chinks with the lavender fringe that don’t ever seem to get enough use.

In theory a rather stellar performance at the WE clinic should mean that Johnny Cash and I are currently improving on the skills we practiced there, but no. What JC did with relative ease at a clinic, is apparently frightening beyond all measure at my house, because my obstacles look slightly different than the clinic obstacles. Also, if I move an obstacle we have conquered 20 yards to a different location in the pasture, it becomes the most terrifying item on the farm again. And that is precisely why Johnny Cash is a lousy eventing horse!

On the flip side, I really didn’t focus much at all on obstacles with the spotted dragons because they have literally seen everything, been drug everywhere, and are generally pretty decent at obstacle work, especially at the intro level we signed up for in Working Eq. So for those of you that don’t know or haven’t read my blog posts from four months ago….Working Equitation is a form of riding with roots in Portuguese bull fighting arenas. The skills a horse would need to manuever around and work aggressive bulls are showcased in the sport. There are 4 phases: Dressage, Ease of Handling, Speed, and Sorting Cattle (you know to keep it close its roots).

Working Equitation was a great shake up from the usual dressage slog for anyone that is tired of sandbox work, but I don’t think its going to be a discipline I focus on very much. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, but for a “close enough for government work” type of personality, it is unbelievably frustrating. You can be totally eliminated from a phase for what I would consider a minor courtesy faux pas. Example, if your horse is not cooperating at an obstacle, you actually have to ask permission to leave it, and continue on with the rest of the course. Instead of scoring a zero on that obstacle and just moving on, you’re eliminated if you don’t ask the judge first. For someone used to trail classes with the try it, and just move on process, the little intricate rules are just annoying. I get it, if this is your sport, you get pretty damn serious about the intricacies of it, but if you are dabbler like me, at a rated show boasting less than 20 competitors across all levels combined, it just seems a little pompous. Also, knocking over an entire obstacle might still result in a better Ease of Handling score than a horse that goes clean, but not as consistently, doesn’t feel right to me.

Working Eq was a lot of fun, intricate rules aside. I met some great people, and enjoyed the outing. Odessa isn’t half bad at it, if she had a better rider that wouldn’t screw up the pattern. I managed to get it right for Johnny Cash and Comanche, but both of them had their weird anxiety issues to process. I DQ’d on Comanche for entering the not clearly marked course entry direction vs exit cones during the first rated show. They were better marked on the course map for the second show. Odessa and Johnny Cash didn’t even look at the huge bull plywood cut out. Comanche that has seen and vaulted over far worse didn’t want to get within 20 ft of it, go figure. The shows at this venue didn’t have the cattle phase, and intro level doesn’t compete in speed.

I do like that virtually anything goes as far as attire. You can compete as straight up cowboy, full dressage attire, or try something fun like a gaucho type of look. My flat brim and chinks with my purple yacht reins were totally acceptable as far as tack and attire goes. Also, the flat brim with my breeches, boots, and vest worked too. However, (back to those weird intricate rules) whatever tack and type of attire you used for the dressage test has to stay consistent for the rest of the show. So if you’re in a dressage saddle during the dressage phase, you’re sorting cattle in a dressage saddle at the end and vice versa. When I joined the USAWE, (I had to in order to compete at a rated show) I was like number 1160 to join, for the ENTIRE US! Literally there are less than 2000 people nationwide doing this sport, and some of the things like attire are still yet to get as stuffy as more traditional show organizations.

If you want to get in on the ground floor of a growing discipline, it might be the sport for you. The shows are still relatively small, everyone I met was super encouraging, supportive, and shared a wealth of information. They really are trying to build this up in the United States. As for me and the dragons, Johnny Cash and I returned to the sand box for the Central Texas Dressage Society shows, and the spotted booties are just staying fit until their first event in June! If I’m bored and there are no other equestrian event options on the calendar, WE is still way better than hitting up a breed show.

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