the shared experience ~ 4th in the winter trail course series

The weather was sooo nice on Saturday, they held the March Trail Challenge outside!! Hard to believe just one short week ago we were up north playing in the snow. With the combination of being on vacation, and the not so distant bitter cold weather, we were only able to get one ride in the past two weeks. On the way up to our horses there were lots of thoughts circulating in my head, especially considering we would be riding outside for the first time this year...

We arrived early and were the first ones on the practice course. I think Koda recognized the place. Brad & I had taken a break from the competition back in November and rode by ourselves in their outdoor. Without knowing it at the time, it was probably helpful. 

Some riders just hop on and ride, I like to walk around in hand and look at the immediate surroundings together. Naturally Koda was a bit looky, but quickly settled in.

Brad & Cierra resetting poles
Patty riding Koda in background

At first, the course seemed confusing. But as in past months, after practicing the sticky spots it flowed together and made sense. Although it was sunny out, the wind was fresh and whipping. With a spread out course, it caused all the horses to want to rush. Even the seasoned horses that live at that barn.

Considering the struggles I've had with Koda recently, I thought about just jogging the lope sections. There is no shame in that. More then one rider in this series replaces the loping portion. But instead of taking the easy route, I tried. I got as far as I was comfortable, and then asked for help. Being the great person that she is, our trainer was willing to hand off Cierra (the horse that is in training) and ride Koda for me. She doesn't just ride him, she explains what she is doing and why. Every time our trainer helps me, I understand the situation a little more. The why & how, make better sense. I am sooo thankful for her help!! She would stop Koda the second he started trying to blow through (fill in the blank) sometimes that would be in the middle of a set of poles, or many times at a lope cue. It didn't take long, and he decided it was easier to listen the first time then to keep restarting. This is far from a new concept to me, but feeling it and timing is absolutely crucial. Both are a work in progress.

Below is a short video of them working together during practice. My phone said it was too big to send, so I had to clip the video. It begins after the first loped poles, and ends after the loped boxed formation (before the last four jog poles shown in the photos below).

We played musical horses, and before we knew it, it was showtime. Due to other events & shows, there was a smaller turnout then previous months. 10 trail courses were judged.

March Trail Course:
Start: Gate, right hand push
Jog into box, execute a 360 either direction, walk out of box
Lope left lead over three poles
Break down to a jog over three (elevated) poles
Lope left lead over four poles
Break down to a jog, continue jog over poles & through serpentine
Lope right lead over five poles (in box formation)
Break to a jog and jog over four poles
Stop or break to a walk, walk over bridge, then walk over pole and into chute
Back around chute corner
Walk out of chute, over three (elevated) poles

Snapshot of how our horses did:

Cierra: What can I say about how this pretty girl did? She did amazing, and even placed fourth with Brad. Young is young, and she had her energy moments, but continues to learn to work through them. Cierra is the main reason we are doing this winter series. There is only one way to learn, and that is to do. We were all impressed when a strong gust of wind suddenly blew the gate over while Brad was just about to walk her through it. It was during the competition, and Cierra just stood there looking at the gate as if to say "what's that doing down there?" What a good girl! Most horse any age would have at least startled. When our trainer rode her in the scored course, at one point she stopped her, re-asking for the lope - and I think the smile on her face below depicts the response she got best: 

Patty & Cierra doing the last set of 4 jog poles
(photo courtesy of High Pines)
Patty & Cierra doing the 360
(photo courtesy of High Pines)
Nemo: He may be a rockstar, but he's still a horse and succumbed to the same thing every other one did - elevated energy. It's tough to be on top, where everyone expects a stellar ride. His owner sadly knocked himself out of highpoint. Sometimes you can try too hard. I know Brad is kicking himself. All you can do is learn the lesson, and look forward to a better ride next time. Our trainer Patty faired better on Nemo, and placed second.

Brad & Nemo working the gate
(photo courtesy of High Pines)

Brad & Nemo doing the 360
(photo courtesy of High Pines)

Brad & Nemo doing the last set of 4 jog poles
(photo courtesy of High Pines)

Koda: We watched and waited for the right moment to compete. Calming my nerves, or at least trying to. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck and realized the previous months I was riding right after the winning riders. My strategy was to avoid that if possible. I think it works against you. Koda & I stood patiently near the gate. Trying to take deep calming breaths, while reminding myself to take it slow. If I could just squelch my nerves...all eyes are on you, and there were more spectators then riders. Time stands still when you are on course. Sometimes I remember what I see or did, sometimes I don't. Our course was going well, but I knew we didn't do the elevated jog poles correctly. Apparently Koda reached over and jumped the elevated ones. Most clunked them, as they were set a little too close. I felt relief after completing the loped box formation and breaking down to the jog. Everyone clapped and cheered loudly the second we cleared the last set of elevated poles. I reached down and gave my boy the love he deserved, for listening so well!!

After everyone was done competing, I heard my name called...Koda and I took first place...I still can't believe it!!!! I can now officially say I've surpassed my goals. One was to place higher then the horse whisperer - just once - and the other was to change my "show" story. I've been telling it since I was 12, it's probably getting a little old (the story, not me!!) I know it's not nice to want to beat anyone, let alone your husband. But do you have any idea how much crap I've had to listen to since this series started?? A lot. I had to give a little back. Now, I'll need to come up with a new goal.

Koda & I doing the 360
(photo courtesy of High Pines)

Koda & I doing the last set of 4 jog poles
(photo courtesy of High Pines)

We went out for burgers that night, and my hubby made a breakfast for champions the next morning. I can't help but feel sorry for the guy. I certainly didn't wish him out of highpoint. He claims my ride would have placed first regardless of how he did with Nemo. I'm not sure that's true. Besides I had no intentions of winning, didn't think it was even possible. But I'll be the first to admit, it felt good. It's hard to be humble.

The top six all went home with similar Easter themed goodie bags, filled with a small stuffed animal, chocolates, pencils and stickers, a holding container, pudding cups, and a couple scratch-off lotto tickets. None of us won big bucks. Instead we won much more, the shared experience.

Link-backs to the Winter Fun Trail Course Series to date:

November Trail Course

December Trail Course

January Trail Course

February Trail Course was cancelled due to weather

The April Trail Challenge will complete the series. Stay Tuned.


snowy ride in spain

Ride along snowy trails in the beautiful Basque region of Spain. This fun video is sure to bring some smiles to your winter!!

Can you believe the breathtaking beauty that surrounds them?!! If it looks this good in a video, one can only imagine what it feels like in person...sigh. I'm not much of a video watcher, but found this short one to be captivating. It has some interesting trail activity. 

Have you ridden in a unique location (s)? or a favorite? Do share. Until this girl can get out on the trails, you'll find me dreaming of riding them...