Monday, October 17, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Day 1

Okay, I'm back in the land of the living(/working) and have had more than enough time on the road to really digest the Mountain Trail Clinic and P's exceptional (exceptional) weekend.

I made cryptic notes along the way so that I could try and remember when we did what, but apparently a diet of black coffee and grilled cheese rendered my brain mushy and my handwriting illegible, rendering my notes all but useless.  This is probably where The Boy would say "told you so" when I insisted that "I thrive" on a diet of artificial cheese, bad coffee and various forms of fried potatoes. But you know what? that's what you eat when you're at shows/fairs/Oregon :)

So here's a rundown of how the weekend went, in mostly the correct order:

As I said, we got on the road without incident, although a bit later than intended.  This meant that with a 20 minute break for the first tater-tots and fried chicken of the weekend (and to rest the ponies legs..) we managed to hit Portland in the middle of rush hour traffic amid a totally dank drizzle.
Obama the Llama was the official send off party as we left...
 No matter, we persevered, the ponies continued to munch on their hay and we rolled into the Oregon Horse Center about 7:45pm just as the sun totally disappeared.

I was a little pissed about this because I always like letting the horses walk around the property a bit and eyeball things before getting shoved in teeny portable stalls for the night.  As it turned out, the stalls were generously sized, and all of the indoor arenas (uh, all 4 acres of them) were open to participants to investigate both with and without their horses.

P astounded me with how well she came off the trailer.  Alert, but calm, relaxed, not a stitch of dried sweat and just the teensiest bit of hay left over in her haynet.

We let the ponies relax for a moment while we stomped around and took a gander at the obstacles in the arenas.  P promptly peed, rolled and chugged 1.5 buckets of water, which was thrilling.  There's nothing I like more than a horse that pees right after (but not in) the trailer, and then drinks weird new water without batting an eyelash.  Maybe my expectations were set abnormally low, but P was already exceeding expectations by carrying out her natural course of business.  Frankly I wish I got the same kudos for drinking/peeing and sleeping... but that's another matter.

Once the tack stall was set up, trailers were parked and we were generally organized (9pm) we grabbed the horses and headed for the arenas to scope out all the neat bridges and ditches and other scary things that we'd be working with all weekend.

Again, I was expecting P to play her best snorting dragon, but either she's "maturing" or the 7 hours in a trailer really tuckered her out to the point that she was willing to humor me in my late night explorations.  Since all of the horses were decidedly underwhelmed by the arenas, we started asking them to work over a few obstacles, dirt pile with logs to navigate, big banks to step up and down, small ditches... water crossings, all sorts of fun things.  P was remarkably well tuned in, and approached each of the obstacles with interest but not disdain.

I didn't want to overface the mare (or pick a fight I didn't want to finish at midnight..) so I stuck to the "intro" level of each obstacle.  Baby, tarp, baby bridge, baby steps, etc.  I stayed away from the ditches, which were scary looking at night, away from the suspension bridges and away from the weird kinetic obstacles like teeter-totters and strange water obstacles with floating steps in them...

Yeah, okay.. so this one isn't that scary...
However, Cowboy Man grabbed her for a minute and demonstrated how much better P has gotten about "working under pressure" or as I like to call it "not totally freaking out when something new/weird/strange shows up."  She was a star.  P was interested but calm with all her challenges, the biggest of which for the evening was the teeter-totter.  But it only took two attempts before she figured it out and even was comfortable enough leaning forward and back allowing the thing to "rock" with her weight shift.

Serious. Star.
Smartest kid. :)
Before we finished the night, I walked P over to one final obstacle that was buried in the corner.  We hadn't approached it because it had been terrifying horses all evening which resulted in a steady line of terrified animals being slowly coaxed toward it.  The culprit of all this fear and angst was an old dirty cow hide that was tied to a rope and attached to a big pole.  Apparently in the actual "competition" you ride up to this thing, grab the rope and then back your horse away thereby lifting the terrifying hide up off the ground like a flag going up a flagpole.

I was surprised at how much trouble this little obstacle was giving most of the horses, but I suppose something that smells like dead, rotting animal that magically raises into the air like the specter of the last naive horse that approached it should be somewhat alarming to a herd animal with a flight instinct...

P however, displayed absolutely NO fear, and instead thought that maybe this was something that should be eaten, or at the very least befriended.  I have literally never seen her as interested in any one thing ever before.

So... either she's a carnivore (possible) or she's so desperate for friends an old beaten up cow hide qualifies as a good prospect.
Will you be my friend??
P's trailer mate, May also found the hide extremely interesting, but she was significantly more suspicious than P was..  I snapped a quick phone video of P's continued interest as I did my best to make the cow hide "dance" a bit.

After that, we called it a night (at like 12:15am) and headed off in search of food and whiskey...

All in all a fantastic start.  Safe haul, happy calm horse and a fun introduction to the spooky creations in the arenas...


  1. Haha, the part about Pia meeting the cow hide cracked me up!

  2. Haha, that's great! Trail horse superstar in the making :) Are you going to compete in the November trail competition? I've done it in the past and it's so much fun! Then I could meet you too :)

  3. She's like a different horse. I mean, the same horse, but more like a horse. Does that make sense?

  4. Pia is so awesome!!! What a brave, smart girl. I loved the video. She even stepped closer when you lowered it. :D


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