By Patty Wilber
Judith and John Huchton’s Ms. Atti and Indy had some fun last weekend.
On Friday, we hauled down to Peralta to work cows with Ed Krause. Both horses perk their ears when the cows come into the arena. Indy wants to be more aggressive, which can be fun. Atti is more level headed and doesn’t tuck her butt up under her if the cow behaves unexpectedly. Both are making progress.
I am going to start using the flag here at home a lot more often to see if we can increase our rate of progress. I would really like one of those programmable flags so I could just follow it and not have to mess with the controller in my hand while trying to manage the reins. Perhaps an upgrade is in my future!
On Saturday, those two horses, plus Cometa, me and Jim, joined the Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen for a ride in the Galisteo Basin Preserve. We had 19 equine and 16 riders.
I often like to be at the end of the line if I am on a young horse to try to keep out of trouble. This was Atti’s second trail ride with horses she didn’t know and I wanted to keep her comfortable. Turns out I need not have worried. When the horse ahead of her gave a wild spook and later a big buck, Atti barely even raised her head. And as we walked, she poked along back there, not seeming to care that her slow old walk didn’t keep her caught up. We worked on increasing her walking pace, but I often had to suggest that she go ahead and jog to keep up. That is a a much nicer problem than a herd bound horse that coils up in panic if the animals ahead of it get two horse lengths away.
After lunch, I planned to switch to Indy, but I had to talk myself into that because riding Atti was awfully relaxing.
Indy does tend to get herself in a bunch that feels like all four feet are close together underneath her, ready to explode off the ground. Granted, this rarely happens, but I sure don’t care for idea that she may be contemplating the possibilities.
I did ride her and ponied Atti and it all went well.
Sunday, I roused the girls bright and early. Wait, make that dark and early. Breakfast was in the trailer and they ate on the way to the New Mexico Buckskin Shaggy Show.
The last show was a bit of a disaster because Atti completely stopped cooperating and Indy was busy being in a bunch contemplating those possibilities. Atti has had an attitude adjustment since then, but should she revert, I had my back-up (literally) plan. For Indy, lots of warm up was on the docket.
Indy got long-trot lunged around the perimeter of the whole arena and back again. The idea was to let her get some energy out while allowing her to see every corner and sign and gate.
Meanwhile, back at the trailer, Atti was doing her best to derail my strategy by ignoring her tasty bag of hay hung enticingly inches from her mouth and instead crying in desperate loneliness for Indy (who naturally was compelled to answer), and REARING, repeatedly. Fortunately, some friends kept an eye on her while I tried riding Indy.
And after a lap or so, I gave up on riding we did more lunging. And then I finally rode. And rode some more. Apparently, this horse is one of those that needs a LOT of warm up. By the time she felt showable (over an hour later), I retrieved the neglected (her words, not mine) Atti and ponied her off Indy all around the show grounds and the arena until it was time for the first class to start, and then I tied Indy and rode Atti while that class was conducted. We were in class two. Whew. I think I could have put another hour to decent use. Last month Atti was overwhelmed by the show environment. This month, (except for the trailer mania) she was really settled. I did not lunge her at all.
Our first class was the cow class, boxing. The horses were fine and we kept our cows on the back fence, mainly. I lost my technique a little when I got in a hurry, but both horses placed in spite of that.
The next class was Ranch Riding with 17 horses. This is the class in which Atti bailed on me last month. This month she in went in there and pretty much rode to her training. There are definitely kinks to smooth out, but she readily executed the whole pattern and put in a nice effort! Indy had one big hesitation/ spook, but the rest was really smooth and I felt it had a nice flow and some really nice transitions. She got a 6th! Then she came back to place 2nd American Stock Horse Pleasure, 2nd in Ranch Rail and won Walk-Trot trail!
Atti earned a 4th in open trail against some very seasoned competitors by maintaining a super nice rhythm over two sets of lope-over boxes. This was not something we had practiced much and I was thrilled that she just loped over the obstacle without changing speed or attitude. She made it feel easy. (Indy, in contrast, got her feet all confused and had to break to a trot and swing wide on a circle at that spot).
Then came the American Stock Horse pattern with Atti. We walked in and got to the trot sign and she announced, “I am DONE!”. I dismounted with the judge’s permission and we employed our back-up plan by backing from there to the extended trot sign, where I remounted. We rode the rest of the pattern just fine. I was actually glad that she decided to have a go at quitting so I could remind her that the attitude adjustment program is in effect EVERYWHERE.
I put her in two Western Pleasure classes for experience on the rail and while her head position and overall frame were not competitive, she held a nice pace at all her gaits, was happy and picked up both leads promptly and correctly.
That was a LOT more productive (and fun) than the last show, and a nice diverse three days for the girls!
They got Monday off!