Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The first Horse Agility and Obstacle Challenge Show from the Natural Horsemanship Association (NHA)

On Saturday May 30th, Natures Run Equestrian hosted the first horse agility and obstacle challenge show by the NHA. A lot of work went into the show and the show series – deciding on classes, judging criteria, obstacles, organization, etc. The NHA really wants to promote a fun and supportive place to show horses using different obstacles.

Partridge Horse Hill (PHH) took a group to the show. The morning started with a bit of glitch when I slept in past my alarm, and then one of the two horse trailers popped a tire! Somehow we managed to arrive at the show before it started, our optimistic and resilient attitudes shined through as we were still full of positive thoughts throughout the day. 

The day started beautiful and sunny, and the horse agility classes got to compete outdoors in lovely weather – except at the end when the rain started. Luckily NRE has an indoor arena so we were able to move everything indoors after the first Essentials class and continue with the show.

I was very proud of the PHH students and their success. They were very supportive of each other. Kim brought Shawna, Yvonne with Allure, and Laurie with Cheyenne all for their first offsite show – it was also Allure and Cheyenne’s first offsite show. They all participated in the starter and first level of Horse Agility which are friendly introductory classes. Then they rode in the Essentials division for the obstacle challenge which is a walk/trot division. Everyone was very nervous but the nerves settled after a 1st place for Kim in the first class, 2nd for Laurie, and Yvonne finished up with reserve champion. All that hard work and practicing paid off.

I brought three of my off the track Thoroughbreds to the show – Kahleesi and Cupid are the two I bought only about 3 months ago for the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover for Kentucky. This was Cupid’s first horse show and Kahleesi’s second show. I also brought Thetis who is my Parelli certified Level 3 horse. Despite Cupid and Kahleesi being very inexperienced I still entered by horses in the most advanced classes because of my level – we did Intermediate (for Cupid & Kahleesi not Thetis), Advanced, Liberty (two classes), and the Extreme division. I also took Thetis in one Exciting class (Finesse) so that I could try a class with no bridle.

In the intermediate we competed against other people and I was very happy at how my horses excelled and completed tasks like a pivot on the pedestal and sideways over the pole with relative ease. I was so proud of my horses and how calm they were in the ring. This was a milestone because Cupid and Kahleesi at the trade show in April were very tense and upset in the ring by themselves, and during the show they showed me just how far they've come in their training and now are completely different horses.

Even when it started to rain and everyone was hiding indoors or in their trailers (so no horses were around the ring) they were still very calm and connected to me which made me so proud. One of the things I’ve been using to build the motivation are treats. I don’t use them as a bribe, but when they do something well I give them one cookie (I use roughage chunks that are a health tasty treat). This helps give them another reason to try extra hard. 
For the most advanced classes of the day I was the only one entered (Advanced, Liberty, and Extreme division). This was a bit odd to compete against myself using my 3 horses, but it was the experience my horses needed. Cupid and Kahleesi have a lot to learn before Kentucky and it was great they could have a good show experience.

Because the show was running late I offered to drop my classes from 10 obstacles to 5, and reduce my gamblers choice from 3 min to 1min to help speed things up – which kept my horse’s experience short and sweet. As you can expect I was both champion and reserve champion of that division, and 1st, 2nd, 3rd in my classes.

This raised an interesting reflection – was it wrong or right for me to compete in classes where it was only me entered?

Keep in mind there was another class with only 3 people, and one other class with only 1 person (some people left because of the rain) that did run.

My thoughts are that I had paid to trailer my horses there, had supported everyone else, waited my turn, and shortened my classes to make it quick, so it was reasonable to want to do my classes too- but what do you think?

In any event I was proud that my horses could complete the most advanced classes despite their inexperience, and thankful for the chance to give them show experience offsite. 

For liberty I left the halters on Kahleesi and Cupid because it was their first time, but my goal for the last NHA show is to feel confident taking the halter off so we are completely at liberty (instead of just no lead rope).

A quick tip:
- Remember your horse needs a pay cheque. Think 'why is my horse showing up to work?' This doesn't have to be food, but food can certainly help when used properly to build that extra motivation. 

Watch the video of highlights from the show:

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