Anyway, it really looks and sounds like a lot of fun....trail riding (my favorite thing) combined with obstacles, which I think would be good for G's head and building on his trust factor. So today I became a member of the ACTHA and signed up for the "Ride for the Rescues" on June 13th. This is being held in just about every state in the nation - Rhode Island is combined with Connecticut, and I think North Dakota isn't holding one.
Here's a link to info on the association and the ride: ACTHA Ride for the Rescues
My friend (and fellow boarder) Trish used to do Trail Obstacle classes with Warrior and just so happened to bring all her obstacles with her to the barn (thanks Trish). So tonight we met after work and set up a couple of things to start G's "fast-start" training for obstacles. We set up the gate (using two stanchions and a rope); the dreaded mail box; the "L" with ground poles in the arena; and we moved the wooden (flat) bridge out so we could walk over it.
One of the things you generally have to do is to dismount and mount from the right side of your horse. This is something I never really did with G. I would place my foot in the stirrup and let him get used to the weight and me on that side, but back then since he didn't stand still for mounting I never felt confident enough to swing my left leg over (bad lower back keeps me from doing this quickly). So I decided I might as well start our training at the mounting block. The hardest part was getting G to walk up to it with his right side. We have a really nice high wooden block in the outdoor arena which allowed me to bring him around it completely. On the second pass he stopped when I asked. I put my weight in the stirrup stood for a few seconds, took my foot off and tried again. No movement. I swing my left leg over and.....G stands perfectly still and I can't believe how easy it was. Good boy G.
I walked G around all the obstacles and let him get used to seeing them and decided we'd start with the rope gate first. Looked easy enough, NOT! G was a bumble head. He's always had issues with sidepassing up to an object and this was no exception. Trish was on Warrior and she talked us through it. Basically walking G as close to the stanchion as possible and asking him to stand. Then move one step closer, and another, and another. Of course as we'd get closer he'd move his hindquarters over. Even holding my leg behind the girth on his outside didn't matter. He wasn't going to stand sideways to this "object". After about 5 minutes I got him close enough to pick the rope loop up off the stanchion and he immediately took 3-4 steps back. I kept hold of the rope and tried my best to remain focused and calm (easier said then done). I walked him forward and began rubbing the rope on his neck; bringing it up and over his neck; flapping it around a little; just tying to desensitize him to it. After another 5 minutes I got the rope back on the stanchion. We tried this a couple more times, I managed to get the rope off, walk him through, but couldn't get him to back up to the stanchion so I could replace the loop. I think I dropped it a couple of times, so I moved G over to the other stanchion and slowly gathered the rope back off the ground. He started getting a little more than nervous at this point. As Trish said, he really didn't know what I was asking him to do, and he certainly had no clue what the obstacle was about. So we moved on to the next item.
The dreaded mail box. Surprisingly on the second attempt I was able to open the box, remove the umbrella inside, replace it and just as I was closing the door G side stepped away. The third attempt was better; the fourth attempt was worse. Let's move on. At this point between the heat and nerves G was pretty sweaty so I moved him out to the rail and we walked, gaited, and walked some more. He was pretty keyed up.
When he relaxed a little, we started on the ground poles set up in an L pattern. The goal is to back your horse through the L. The first few times we walked forward through them so he would get used to them. Then we tried backing up just one side of the L. It's interesting to me how a horse that can back straight without barriers, backs crooked when there are poles on the ground, lol. We tried several times, and even tried to make the turn, but each time we went over the poles and a couple times knocked them out of whack.
Next? I took him back out to the rail and was asking for some bending when I realized G had gotten his tongue over the bit. So I got down fixed him up and we went back to doing a little arena work before calling it a day. Oh but wait! What about the wooden bridge Trish and I sweated over moving to a flat spot? Can't let that go to waste. We both tried, me from the saddle, Trish from the ground and G wasn't going to step foot on this flat bridge. "What on earth would I do that for?" I'm sure he's thinking. Well so much for "fast tracking" through training lol.
The barn owner is going to let us set up a few of the obstacles on the other side of the barn so I don't need to dismantle them each time we use them. On Trish's advice, we're going to tackle one obstacle at a time each day I ride. Take one step at a time; breathe deeply; and not get frustrated that G doesn't quite understand what I'm asking. Maybe in about a week or week and a half, we'll try them all together. Phew, who thought trail obstacles could be so hard?