Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trust Your Partner

We attended Mary Hamilton's Riders Elite Despooking Clinic at Featherbrook Farm in Corcoran, MN yesterday.  Gesa & I trailered Paco & Rhio down Friday afternoon, stopping at Sand Dunes State Forest, where our first endurance ride of the season will be held next weekend, to meet up with Lynne & Donna from Fargo, ND with their horses Niso & CrackerJack to do a quick training ride.  It was great to ride with Lynne & Donna again, as I haven't seen them since I went to Fargo to participate in a Judged Trail Ride last October.  Lynne & I are planning to ride the 25 mile Limited Distance ride next weekend together - I am working to move Rhio up to 50 mile Endurance rides this season, but we aren't ready quite yet for various reasons, mostly hoof boot & tack related!  Also, this spring has been so incredibly dry that the fine "beach" sand of the trails at the park is very loose and very deep.  We have nothing like that here at home to train in, so I worry a lot about the extra stress on the soft tissues of the legs to go compete in that footing. So, Lynne & I are planning to go very slow and treat it as 25 miles of conditioning.  Donna's horse is young (3) and doesn't have a lot of experience riding in groups, so it was great to see him gaiting along with us calmly and really handling himself very well in a group of 4 strange horses.  Go CrackerJack!
Donna & CrackerJack (rocky mtn horse)

Lynne & Niso (quarab)

Gesa & Paco (arab)

It was pretty late in the afternoon by the time we all arrived & tacked up to ride, and we still had about an hour's drive to Featherbrook Farm where the horses had stalls for the night, so we did a short ride of about 6 miles.  The horses were working pretty hard in that deep sand and all came home sweaty.  I sponged Rhio thoroughly to try to make my white horse somewhat presentable for a public appearance at the clinic the next day!  

Niso hanging out post-ride

CrackerJack waiting patiently after the ride (& drying off under his polarfleece)

Rhio in his natural state post-ride - couldn't show up at a dressage barn for a clinic looking like this! 

The day's boot testing turned out exactly as expected - the boots were completely full of sand.  It was a short ride so he didn't develop any rubs from the sand under the gaiters, but it did prove that I won't be able to use boots at the ride next weekend.  There is a section of road riding on the first loop, so hopefully it isn't too gravelly and he will tolerate that ok.  

After our ride, we loaded up (Rhio has gotten extremely resistant to trailer loading since last year - I can't figure out why) and headed down to Featherbrook.  We missed a couple of turns in the oncoming darkness, but eventually found it and got the horses unloaded into stalls before the rain started.  Rhio was not very happy to be there, and in fact by the next morning when we arrived to feed, he had only drunk about 1 1/2 gallons of water and eaten about 1/2 his hay.  He also had some very loose manure.  He was happy to go outside & hand graze the plentiful grass, however!  

Wow!  It's really spring down here - about 180 miles south of us.  Crab apple & dogwood trees in full bloom, tulips & daffodils abound, and the grass is lush.  

Rhio's stall at Featherbrook - he did lay down to sleep because there were shavings in his tail, but he looked sort of "pinched" in the face & eyes and was clearly stressed.  

We rode for about 2 hours in the morning, working on "obedience" in our horses.  Mary Hamilton, the instructor, is a mounted police officer and does a lot of police & mounted posse training.  She had us ride 2 X 2 in "calvary" formation, and do patterns & serpentines, as well as other group exercises to get our horses listening to us, their riders, and not to the "herd."  Rhio had no trouble with this work, which I found somewhat surprising as he has a tendency to get bored quickly in the arena and also to be somewhat nervous in close quarters with other horses.  

In the afternoon, Mary had set up obstacles and we worked on conquering many scary things.  Rhio had a lot of trouble crossing the wooden bridge and also the water hazard, but we accomplished it and by the end he would willingly cross both hazards.  We also crossed a tarp, walked over foam pool noodles that were stuck in a frame vertically so they brushed the horses' legs, pushed through pool noodles that were on jump standards to form a "car wash," and followed a HUGE ball around - it was so big that Rhio had to lift his head to see over it.  There were other things set up as well, but we didn't have time to do them all.  It was interesting to watch other horses & riders working through their issues at various obstacles, and to see the trust building between the pairs.  I think the most impressive pair were Donna & CrackerJack.  He is a young & inexperienced horse, but he didn't refuse a single obstacle on the first try. He was scared of some of them, quivering from head to toe, but he trusted Donna enough that he went forward and crossed them despite his fear.  What a team those two are going to make on the endurance trail in a few years!  

I really enjoyed the clinic and Mary's "vibe" in the arena was very positive.  It gave me some great ideas of stuff to do at home, and also was great for Rhio & I to get out of our regular routine and try some new things.  

A look at the arena full of obstacles

We are approaching the water hazard (dry) for the first time.

Investigating the obstacle

Crossing it the first time - see Rhio's posture - he's not so sure this is a good idea but he's doing it!

Crossing it later, this time with water, you can see he's more relaxed & willing.

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