Renegade and I participated in our first ACTHA ride today and had lots of fun. One of the nicest things was at the awards presentations after the ride when one of the judges gave a complement to the whole group. He said he's spent over 40 years in training barns and show pens and he was really happy that today he didn't see any stressed out horses, none of the horses were mistreated, and although some horses and riders could use more education/training, he was very pleased with everything he saw. He also said he thought everyone was very safe and riders were willing to do what the horse needed even though it was a competition and even if it meant abandoning the goal of completing the obstacle. I thought that was a nice endorsement of the group as a whole and the way horses and riders interacted.
Renegade was kind of "up" for about the first 1/2 of the ride but eventually settled down and relaxed. I had tried a few walk/trot transitions on the first half of the trail and while Renegade was listening to me, I could feel his forwardness and his ears were rivited on the trail ahead. The second half of the ride, I could feel the difference in Renegade, his head was lower, his body was softer, and his ears were flicking back to listen to me. He even took the lead position for quite a while and he wasn't willing to do that in the beginning. Terri and I even did a couple of long trotting sessions. Both of our boys were relaxed and cadenced...it was such a pleasure. Both Terri and I had big smiles on our faces after that!!
As for the obstacles, Renegade and I did well at some and stunk at others but that's o.k., I know what we need to work on!! Here's a list of obstacles and how we did:
1. Drag a log - had to sidepass to the fence, pick up the rope, drag the log, sidepass back to the fence, and place the rope back on a post. We did all of it except putting the rope back on the fence and that was my fault. I was fumbling around with reins and rope and I'm sure I wasn't clear with Renegade on what I wanted.
2. Back a circle around an obstacle - like I said, Renegade was pretty forward for the first half of the ride so he was resisting backing up. I had to abandon the goal and just concentrate on getting a back up so of course we blew that obstacle and that's o.k. because I was riding the horse that showed up!!
3. Turn on Haunches - again, Renegade was very forward and had "happy feet", he couldn't keep any of his feet still!! After leaving that obstacle, on the way to the next one, I did some pushing the ribs over and partial disengagements while going down the trail to work on softening.
4. Trot weave - we missed one cone out of 4 and it was my fault...my focus was not there!!
5. The dismount/remount - we did fine with this, Renegade stood still while I dismounted and remounted.
6. Hat pick up - had to pick up a hat with a stick. The judge threw the hat on the ground and handed me a stick. I used the stick to rub Renegade for a few seconds then asked him to take a few steps forward to the hat, I leaned over a bit and hooked the hat with the stick, brought it up, let Renegade smell it, then handed it to the judge.
Unofficial obstacle - One of my favorite things was the water on the trail; it had a muddy entrance, was long, covered the whole trail, and was belly deep for Renegade. He handled it like a champ, entered without hesitation, and kept a steady pace through the water. Water used to be a HUGE issue for him. Too bad that one didn't count for points lol!!
The only real incident we had was early in the ride when the horse eating Pterodactyl egret was flying from pond to pond (and it was flying pretty low!!). All 4 horses in our group spooked and turned to run but were easily stopped. Happily everyone kept their seats and no one ended up in the dirt or lost their confidence. The horses calmed down quickly and we continued down the trail. On the way back we had to pass those same ponds and that egret was still there but the horses weren't concerned this time.
I was also thrilled that Renegade wasn't doing his usual "snatching" grass and other stuff through the whole ride. I figured the first half he wasn't confident enough to eat and the second half, I kept him busy enough with all the trotting and softening that he wasn't thinking about eating. He did eat after we got back to the trailer though; had some soaked, sloppy hay cubes, some water, and some hay. He stood quietly tied to the trailer munching hay while I went to the presentations and ate lunch. When we were ready to go he loaded easily; almost like he was ready to go home and ready to stand still for the ride home!!
I'm so proud of us and everything we did and didn't do today. I put principles to purpose but didn't abandon my principles in persuit of my goals. Renegade and I have come VERY far in a few short years and I know we will go much farther together. When I think back to 5 years ago, doing something like this wasn't even a dream...I really thought it would not be possible and I was thrilled when we could just ride down the driveway and back. Now I'm dreaming of doing all sorts of things and know that we can only get better!! Positive, progressive, and natural...my dream, my goal!!