I was super excited heading into this past weekend – my first ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association - https://www.actha.us/) competition. This is the same type of competition being offered in Kentucky when we travel down in October for the Thoroughbred Makeover Competition – which is what I am planning to show Cupid & Kahleesi in.
This all started with a long weekend trip to our family cabin in New York – a typical venture for James & I over the Civic long weekend. It became slightly more complicated when we realized that not all our Corgi puppies would be picked up by their owners yet, so two of them would be coming with us to New York along with our 3 dogs.
Then I was doing some reading about the trail competition that will be part of the Thoroughbred Makeover Contest – I have been preparing with Extreme Cowboy and Mountain Trail Clinics because we don't have ACTHA events here. Then I realized there was one in New York the same weekend we would be down there. I googled the address and it was only about 2.5hrs away from our cabin.
I okayed the idea with James, booked the appointment with the vet for the horse’s paperwork and then signed myself up for the competition. Then we confirmed our farm sitter and helpers (thank you so much!) and made the rest of our plans.
I didn’t stop there… days before we were set to leave, I found this adorable fluffy Corgi female that was available in Illinois. We’ve been looking for a fluffy female for a very long time, so I okayed the idea with James and put a deposit. The plan included a side trip for me to drive to Illinois for the puppy.
We packed everything up– our things and the things for the 2 horses, 3 dogs, and 2 puppies. We strolled into the Cracker Box Palace at around . I put Cupid & Kahleesi into a round pen with food and water, we let the dogs have a potty break, and slept in our trailer for the night. It’s so nice to have a trailer with a bed!
The Obstacle Class
I was so excited I woke up extra early. The first part of the show was the obstacle course in the outdoor ring. It looked very similar to obstacles we’ve had at the NHA horse shows – a tarp, pool noodle standard, a low bridge, mail box, and a few very similar things to what we’ve been practicing.
The biggest difference with this type of competition was we had to stop and wait for the judge to be ready at each obstacle – also the idea was to keep the same pace for the course/obstacle. So when I trotted the pole/barrel pivot obstacle I actually lost marks because I changed my cadence.
I loved how it was similar to the NHA shows – a focus on calm horsemanship and riding the obstacles on a loose rein. People were English or Western just like at the NHA shows and I met a couple Parelli people there who were working on their Level 3!
There were 7 competitors at different levels, and I was the only person in my level (Pleasure Competitive), so I decided to bump up to the hardest level (Open) so that we wouldn’t be competing against ourselves.
We got to do the course twice – the second time was the ‘gamblers choice’ because if you chose to do the second round it would replace your first score… so you had to decide if you would do better the first or second time.
I did the course the second time with both horses because despite the obstacles being similar to home my horses hesitated at a few of them and I thought we’d do better the second time.
One of the obstacles was a real chicken we had to side pass to the chicken and then away from the chicken! Good thing we have lots of them roaming free on the farm at home!
We placed 2nd and 3rd in this class – 1st place went to an awesome cowboy with a beautiful relationship with his horse. He told me they’d been doing these competitions for years and they definitely looked the part!
Tip for success: before you compete remember to read all the rules and ask the judge any questions before your pattern – make sure you know what you will gain points or lose points for
The Obstacle Trail Ride
This was the most fun competition ever!! There were 13 competitors on the ride and we left in groups of 3 or 4. My group was the first to go in a group of 3. I led my group onto the trail for the first mile. There were 6 obstacles on the trail. Each obstacle was a mile apart.
The obstacles we did at each mile were:
1. A labyrinth of poles – we have to navigate through the poles, zigzagging our way through without hitting the poles.
2. A natural water crossing of about 60ft long with a steep bank on the opposite site.
3. Backing through an L shape of poles.
4. Taking a camera off of a stand and taking a selfie with a goat
5. Riding through fake vines and halting right after them
6. Riding around a scary pool noodle and balloon obstacle
I rode the course with Cupid and when we reached the water crossing he looked around and hesitated. I took a deep breath with him and then asked him to try - he walked right across and I was so proud.
The horse behind me was having trouble with the water so the judge told us to ride on ahead to the next obstacle without my group. This was my first solo trail ride ever with Cupid (I actually never ride solo on trail rides because its always safer in a group). I gave Cupid the cue and he marched on.
What an incredible high I was on – it was so rewarding for my horse to trust me and go. We rode walk, trot, and canter on a relaxed rein through the forest, apple orchards, peach fields (or is it a peach orchard?), open fields and across the road. It was amazing… knowing that all the time and effort I put into training my horse from the ground up… putting the right amount of love, language, and leadership in so that we could get to this moment and succeed. It felt amazing.
After I got back with Cupid I went out with Kahleesi to ride the trail course au concours. I had the same incredible experience of my trusting equine partner to carry me through the trail completely solo for the first time. It was so exciting and rewarding. She was super awesome with the obstacles and the scariest part of our ride was the mud which she figured out confidently by the end of the ride.
Cupid was super awesome and aced all the obstacles finishing with 1st place in our level…. But it was only us in our level. I was still super proud because we did everything really well and at the more advanced level.
The Big Surprise
The best part of the competition was at the end when they were awarding the Judge’s Pick. This is where you actually get a hoof pick and it’s to represent the judge’s pick. The judge gets to pick their favourite horse & rider team that represents a great partnership. Cupid and I were chosen.
I was super thrilled that our partnership that we have been working so hard on was showing through to people who had never met us before.
It was a fantastic experience and now I know what we have to work on for Kentucky, but also what we are doing well and that we are on the right track.
Tip for Success: When you make a goal for yourself (and your horse), try making a plan to help you succeed. In your plan include when you are going to practice, what skills you need to accomplish and the steps needed to get there. Then you can budget your time wisely and work towards your goal.
Whatever your goal, make a plan, write it down, and check off the steps along the way to measure your progress.
Tip for Success: Goals can be as simple as learning to master walk to halt transitions, or as complex as planning to compete at the Kentucky Makeover Competition.Pick a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and has a time line.
Tip for Success: Remember that horses need Love, Language and Leadership to be trusting willing partners. Too much love without leadership will lead to a fearful horse that doesn't believe in you, too little appropriate language will lead to a confused horse, and no love will create a sour horse. The perfect combination creates the perfect partner.
At the Cabin
After the show we went to our cabin in New York and settled in for the night just at dark. The next morning we woke up and went for a quick hour trail ride before I headed off to pick up our new fluffy puppy from Illinois while James took care of all the animals.
Picking up Puppy
What an incredible drive - just over 1100km. After I got back I realized the GPS was set to no toll roads... so I probably didn't need to drive through Kentucky lol, but one look on our new little fluffy face and I knew it was worth the drive!
I stayed the night in Indiana at a hotel with puppy (now named Eevee) and headed back the next morning. The drive seemed faster on the way home. I got back around 7pm and we headed out for another trail ride.
Check out this hilarious video of when we introduced our new puppy to the other ones: https://youtu.be/pk7469ReOkc
Finally a Day of No Long Driving
On Tuesday we decided to call our bosses to ask for one more day of vacation - luckily they were okay with that. This meant I could have one day without any long driving trips... the only driving I did was into town for food. We were able to relax and do a lot of trail riding, playing with the dogs and a swim in the pond.
We took turns riding Cupid and Kahleesi and explored some trails - there are thousands and thousands of acres of trails in the mountains at our cabin so we had lots of fun exploring :)
On our last day we went for another quick trail and then packed up the gang... which took a bit longer than I thought - I guess 3 puppies, 3 dogs, and 2 horses come with a lot of things! We headed home around noonish and didn't have trouble at the border... but we did hit Toronto traffic so we decided to stop at Pet Smart and got Eevee a new dog tag. Then made it back by 9ish. It feels nice to be home but it sure was a fun long weekend!!
Some Fun for You
If you're interested in trying out obstacles for yourself, be sure to come to our Saturday August 29th NHA Horse Agility and Obstacle show - there will be A LOT of obstacles (and some new ones!) - learn more here http://nhassociation.ca/horseagility.html
We also have our PHH schooling show that has some obstacle classes as well as hunter, jumper and western speed events classes . Learn more about the PHH show here http://partridgehorsehill.com/HorseShowClinic.html
Watch some fun from the weekend