Hauled Maddie and Kate down to the neighboring city of Yakima ("the Palm Springs of Washington") to a little trail course that is set up at the Queen Bee Ranch. Weren't quite sure if it was going to be just practice time, instruction, or mini-competition. Basically, it ended up being practice time on a great assortment of obstacles, though most were not all that "natural."
Owner Gary required everyone to do plenty of preliminary groundwork before attempting the obstacles in the saddle, so since I haven't done a bloomin' thing with Maddie for almost two months, I started with her, and tied Kate nearby, where she could see all the goings-on, but not be in the way. (Hah!)
Gary subscribes to the tenets of natural horsemanship, and although there was nothing that I found objectionable (some of it I do use), his way isn't quite how my horses are trained. So Gary kept asking me to "send" Maddie through at the end of the leadrope, when she is used to me leading her, and trusts me more when I "set the example" of what I want her to do. If I had gone expecting instruction, maybe I wouldn't have gotten as frustrated with him as I did. At one point I was tempted to just load up and head home. But Gary didn't know me, or my background, so I tried to give him a little leeway to say what he needed to say, and compromise enough to at least give his methods a reasonable try. (One of the other riders from Ellensburg felt like she learned more from him in one day than she has working on her own in quite a while!)
Maddie was giving me lots of good efforts, so after about 45 minutes on the ground I decided to get on and try some of the obstacles where she was getting "stuck": two different "car washes" (one of wide cloth tapes and one of old sections of garden hose), several little "mazes" of irrigation/sewer pipes and barrels, and a "gauntlet" of branches, tires, pipes, railroad ties, plastic 55-gallon-drum-lids, etc. I warmed her up on the obstacles she had completed from the ground, a bridge, some pipes and beams to cross, the stair-step hill, then slowly worked through each of the more challenging ones.
I was really proud of her calmness and her effort!
Kate, on the other hand, was being a snot!
She is usually pretty happy tied at the trailer, but with all the goings-on, I thought she'd be better off at a post just outside the trail area.
Well, she pawed, and she screamed, and she busted the bottom rail of the fence.
The only thing I can figure is that she and Maddie rarely go someplace together, and Kate was just being buddy-sour (even though she could see Maddie the whole time). Gary offered to put her in his high-sided plywood round pen, where she wouldn't be able to see anything (or hurt anything), and I agreed that was what she deserved for her little tantrum.
She called a bunch at first, then seemed to settle down.
When I put Maddie up, probably two hours later, and went to the round pen to retrieve the now-quieter Kate, she had obviously worked up quite a lather, then rolled in the sandy pen. She was cool now, but filthy! I put on my rope halter with the 12-foot training lead, which would be better for ground work. (Gary had also criticized my choice of halters, but I had figured that she didn't need the "training " halter for standing tied.)
I wasn't sure I would even ride her, but we went in and started doing the requisite groundwork. Kate calmly negotiated the bridge, the cloth "car wash," several logs and pipes and the stair-step hill. But when she got "stuck" at the narrow planks, suddenly Gary was on my case again about my timing and my position and what not! I patiently listened to all his criticisms, then, when he turned away to "help" someone else I slung the lead over Kate's neck, tied it off to the halter, and used the bank to slide on to her back. Folks were starting to head back to their trailers and then up to the pot-luck lunch, so Kate and I pretty much had the area to ourselves.
I didn't want to do anything too exciting in just the halter, as I don't feel I have near as much control as in either a bridle or my bosal. I also worry about my balance on very steep hills even in the saddle, so we didn't do the stair steps or a couple of other more challenging obstacles but Kate proceeded to "run the gauntlet," cross the bridge, go through both "car washes," go down the cement paver "creek bed," and over several other wooden plank obstacles. About the only one I couldn't convince her to try was the very narrow teeter-totter (why go over something you can just as easily go around?).
Otherwise, Kate was cooperative and relaxed, so I called it good.
The rain that threatened all day never materialized, and we took the scenic Yakima Canyon Road both ways, for some lovely displays of autumn color. In the end, I'm glad I went (though I'm not sure I'll visit that particular venue again). It was, all-in-all, a good training opportunity for all of us.