On Saturday I went to the one day event with Linda and Pat Parelli event to watch and learn. It was a great day of learning.
My key learnings to share with you from these lessons with the masters were:
- Be the ambassador of yes not the administer of no: instead of always telling your no, stop that, later, think about saying ‘yes’ but with boundaries. For example if the horse is bucking around on the circle (not riding), think about saying yes you can do that – but you need to stay out there until your circles get nice.
- Have your horse do more and you do less: think about keeping your feet still more, and getting your horse to do the moving around. Try to let go of the desire to micro manage and instead let your horse try.
- Ride with your elbows: To get softer with your horse’s mouth, ride from your elbows not your hands.
- Aim for connection not just obedience: Obedience is a great first step in liberty but really we need a connection – so instead of always saying ‘no’ to the horse when they go to leave, think about saying ‘yes’ but then help them find you again making it their idea.
- Master sideways to master flying changes: flying lead changes is a sideways game. Start on the wall with sideways, then going across the open arena. Start with walk, then trot, and then in canter it leads to flying changes!
On Sunday I went to the Campbellford Fair for my first Extreme Cowboy Race with Cupid (Lion of Wallstreet) and Kahleesi (Kahleesi Soar). It was a ridiculous amount of fun and totally blew my mind for obstacles and ideas!
My first ride was on Kahleesi. I entered the ring and she spooked at the start line which was passing between two umbrellas. I took a deep breath and she cross through. Then she was very unsettled riding around the ring so I let her walk and trot taking her time to build confidence. Every obstacle I took a deep breath and although we had the slowest time (except for Cupid) she completed everything calmly.
I wasn’t focused on speed – I was focusing on giving my horse a good opportunity. I was so happy with her. Compared to New York she had gained confidence and was more relaxed on the tarp and took less time to complete the obstacles (because I point her at the obstacle and ask her to try, but don’t rush her through it).
My second ride was Cupid. He had been really calm all morning, but then the horses with carriages started performing in the ring beside the show ring. That scared the heck out of Cupid. I have never seen or felt Cupid so nervous before. He was completely unsettled.
I tried some ground work and lateral movements to settle him before our turn in the ring but it wasn’t enough to completely calm him before our ride. He passed through the umbrellas no problem because he really is a brave horse with obstacles, but he couldn’t get over the carriage horses. We navigated the obstacles extremely tense and nervous. I did a lot of deep breathing and at one point had to do some circles to settle him more.
On the last obstacle we needed to dismount and ground tie. I took longer than one minute to get back on him because I was going slow and being patient with him, but there is a rule you need to mount within a minute so we were disqualified - ouch.
After our first rounds a few people came over to me and said what an amazing display of horsemanship they witnessed by me with Cupid. They were impressed that he was fresh from the track this year and that I didn’t push him, that I focused on relaxing and calming him. They said it was very good to see.
Then I found out the top 8 riders from each division ride again after lunch for the finals. That was exciting because in the Pro division there were only 7 of us so Kahleesi would get another chance in the ring. It’s a good thing there were only 7 of us because it was extremely tough competition with top extreme cowboy racers in the Pro division – including Susan Caldwell, the fantastic clinician that taught me at the Extreme Cowboy Clinic at Pine Forest Stables a few weeks ago.
I had to show Pro because I am a coach myself…even though I’m new to this discipline.
Our second ride was amazing. Kahleesi was a lot more confident and we rode through the obstacles much better. We did everything very well except the splash box at the end when I got a bit too excited and forgot to take my deep breath of relaxation before asking her to try so she jumped it instead of walking through it.
We scored first with our obstacle score of 74 points (nobody else got over 70 in our division) but our time wasn’t as fast as other riders so we got bumped down to 4th place. I was still ecstatic because my goal was to develop confidence over the obstacles in my horse and do the obstacles well… so getting the best score was definitely success!
After the show they let us go back into the ring and ride the obstacles. The carriage horses were gone now so Cupid was a lot more relaxed and calmly completed the whole course. Kahleesi got to walk through the splash box again, which she did perfectly on the first try. It ended up being a good experience for both horses – full of progress and confidence boosters.
Some of the super interesting obstacles:
- A mattress wrapped in a tarp
- A very narrow splash box
- A very narrow long bridge of only 18” wide! I was super surprised both my horses aced this
- A bridge over tires so it wobbled
- Using a broom to push a ball through a zig zag of poles
- Putting clothes up on a clothes line
- Picking up large stuffed animals and having to ride around with them
I loved the competition because it really is an ultimate test of skill and confidence. The only thing I would change is a little less bonus points for speed so that completing the obstacles accurately counts a bit more towards the final score. Easy for more to say, I know, because I scored the best on this…. But I do feel it’s better to encourage accuracy over speed to some degree.
My proudest moment for Kahleesi was completing the narrow back up with raised poles and we didn’t hit a single one! My proudest moment for Cupid was how he walked over the mattress and bridge like it was nothing.
I can't wait to do it again - the next one for me will be Marmora Fair on September 6th :)