Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Last Hoorah! of the Season

I think this will be my last competition for the season: an ACTHA ride at the Washington State Horse Park, with Barb and her sweet Fannie Mae, and Debby, with her mustang Wendy Daze.
(The two of them plan to travel over the mountains later this month for another "Spooktacular" ACTHA ride, but the weather looks to be wet, and the obstacles "spooky" so I'm thinking I'm going to pass on that one.)
The obstacles on this ride were interesting and challenging, without being too imposing (except for the gate!  More on that to follow).

Ready to take off: rain jackets were the fashion for the day!
We started out at the Mark Bolender designed "extreme" trail course, where Kate and I did the clinic last May.  She should have had no problem with the rock "jumble" here: she was looking where she was going, but I just don't think we were awake yet, and she clunked a few rocks, and stepped smack dab  on one--bump! over the top!  (Score: horse, 8+, Rider 8+)
The next obstacle was the "snake pit":  an 8' by 8' square of poles with a 55 gallon barrel in the middle, topped with a giant, fuzzy, stuffed cobra!  She entered confidently, sniffed the cobra and touched it lightly with her nose, then trundled right around that barrel and back out.  No problem. (9,10)
On the trail.
A mile or so along, we came to the water obstacle: a sort of slough off the main current of the Cle Elum River.  We were to walk about 100 feet through cannon-height water, but we had to cross other puddles to get to the starting point of being judged, so Kate already had her feet wet, and did not hesitate at all.  She did, however, slow down to a snail's pace--you'd have thought she was slogging through a big bowl of pudding!  And I had to keep after her with my right spur, as she kept drifting towards the shore (and the judge).  I knew she had done well, though, when the judge commented that we "must do a lot of river riding" on our way past her back to the trail. (8,9)
We climbed quite a ridge at this point, and Kate gave me a little bug-tussle, getting a little light in the front, and snaking her head around and stomping a few times.  She's done this a few times before on hills, and it's a little unnerving.  Once we got lined out again, she settled, but I began to worry about an obstacle further on where we would be asked to trot up a hill.
Over one of the ridges at the Washington State Horse Park.
The next obstacle was a bridge of sorts:  two reinforced pallets snugged up against a downed log.  I was pleased at Kate's confident approach and crossing, but I think she lost a few points when she let a hind leg sneak off the side just before we were all the way across. (8,9)
Now for the "barrel of monkeys!"  We were to side pass to the right over two 30 gallon drums (on their sides) with a gap between them filled with stuffed monkeys and rubber duckies (?!?).  It was again her less favored direction, and it took me a minute to get her going smoothly.  She did step on one of the poles that anchored the barrels in place, but otherwise finished her sidepass well. (4,6--this was probably the least completed task for horses for the day, with over 30 of the 50 horses in our division getting zero scores!)
Now the hill loomed ahead of us.  Fairly steep, there were to be penalties for lurching or stumbling.  Barb and Fannie went up first, so Kate had a buddy waiting for her at the top.  Deb went last, so we weren't alone at the bottom, waiting our turn (though Wendy took exception to being left behind).  We were to trot about 200 feet, but there was plenty of room at the bottom (before the cone that marked the beginning of being judged) to establish a steady pace.  I had decided after her snit-fit earlier, that if Kate acted up at all, I would just walk her up, but she settled into a slow but pleasant jog and we just headed up the hill like nobody's business!  Good girl! (10,10!)
Our last challenge before returning to the main arena area of the Park was what some call a "cowboy car wash"--an overhanging branch was hung with a variety of pool noodles and bright surveyor's tape streamers.  This is supposed to simulate hanging vines, but I personally feel it is one of the least natural expectations to be found on some of these trail courses.  The nice part was that we had to walk right past it and approach it from the far side, so Kate was able to get a good look at it before the judging started.  And Fannie and Wendy were waiting on the "out" side, so she walked through like it wasn't even there.  (10,10 again!)
Getting back to the "developed" area of the Park.
 Remember how awesome Kate did on her gate at the Dry Gulch Challenge two weeks ago?  Well, she blew it on this one!  It was the actual entrance gate to the Park's big main arena, solid, sturdy, nicely balanced on its' hinges, with a easy to reach lever action latch.  Well...easy to reach IF your horse will get close to it!  The lower part of the gate was solid plywood, and horses couldn't see through to the other side.  Some wouldn't go near it; Kate approached it well, but would NOT swing her rear over parallel with it: she just didn't trust what she couldn't see on the other side!  When I knew we would time-out, I changed sides and got her up to it enough to open the latch, then the judge and everyone had a good laugh when she pushed the gate open for me.  Because we were facing the wrong way, and had run out of the allotted time, I just backed her through, then, as I went to move her forward to at least swing it closed, she pushed it with her nose again.  Cute, but it didn't gain us any points. (0,0)

                                          You'd think she had gone 50 miles!                                            (Actually, she had just dropped her head for switching out the bosal for her halter.)
Here's Barb's little video of the whole hullabaloo, including some input from Debby's and my cameras.  Thanks, ladies! 
As we ate lunch and waited for awards, the sun finally came out, but there was still a chill in the air.  Kate and I finished 17th out of 50, which was great, considering the couple of glitches we had.  Barb tied for 6th, but the tie was broken for the ribbon by the other rider having more "pluses."  One thing I don't care for with ACTHA rides is that you don't get to see many of the other horses' goes.  It was hard for us to see where Fannie could have been much better.  Deb had a bit of a frustrating time with Wendy, who was fussier than usual about being away from Fannie.
But-all in-all it was a great day!


  1. Does sound like fun - you guys did great!

  2. Congrats, sounds like another successful outing!

  3. Congrats, it sounds like fun. Good job, everyone!

  4. Sounds like a great outing. Monkeys and rubber ducks?????? Pool noodles hanging from trees? - love the creative and no doubt colourful props!

    As for Kate and the gate, I think she should have received bonus points for pushing the gate open and shut for you!

  5. I so want to do this!!! It looks like so much fun!!!

  6. Oooh! How awesome! I had no idea you were doing ACTHA CTCs now!
    I'm glad your area has affiliates in the area to host them.
    It's great that you're having fun and doing so well, too. 17th out of 50 is pretty good.

    After riding in 5 ACTHA CTCs and judging 4, I agree that some of the obstacles can be pretty devious and overly creative. Things that a horse and rider would never encounter out on the trail.
    But I guess they're just supposed to be fun and challenging to test your horse and see what he/she will be willing to to do for you.
    Most horses do seem to thrive and do well having a job to do with something interesting to focus on, so it seems like a great concept.