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Versatile Horse and Rider Success! (Part Three)

Published: 12/6/2009
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By Sherrye Johnson-Trafton

Click here for Part One.

Click here for Part Two

My wake up call Saturday came from my student, Morgan, who had taken my place in our camper. She had Cat saddled and the obstacles ready for 6 am practice in the coliseum.

It was pouring rain and the mud in the make-up area was getting deep. In the coliseum, we practiced going over the jumps and ground tying. Cat was energetic but very obedient. She is a “more go than whoa” horse so a number of transitions were needed to keep her focused. It was quite cold outside and rained throughout the day, which put a damper on our prep ride for the 2nd to last go in the second preliminary round.

I volunteered at the AQHA Region 6 booth that morning, meeting and greeting many QH enthusiasts until about 1pm. I left for the camper and changed into my western outfit that I would wear when I exhibited Cat. As I readied for the run in the chute, I could tell Cat was getting quite alert, so I asked her to lower her nose to the ground, which helped her remain quiet until we walked through the gate.

Cat was very up as the crowd applauded and I had to mount on the move. Cat ran the pattern without hesitation but did have some minor bobbles. She was quite excited and followed me instead of standing still in the ground tie. I still had the fastest time out of all the competitors. I waited anxiously for the list of finalists to be posted, and was elated to find out I had made it back on both horses.

Sunday at 6am I was back in the coliseum with my trail stuff to practice for the coming morning’s final round. I ponied Slick off Cat and then warmed them up individually over jumps, on the Garroche pole, doing canter and lope transitions.

Joann, another competitor from NY, and I practiced over the jumps and perfected our pole technique. We went over the pattern and agonized over the “Back over Bridge” obstacle. There was nothing to practice on, and it was the most controversial obstacle. I had backed up ramps before, but nothing like this.

Finals started at 9:30 am with our course walk through. All the exhibitors agreed that the bridge was formidable and could possibly hurt a horse if a shoe got caught on the back over. Although we called a meeting with the judge to see if the obstacle could be modified or removed for safety, he reminded us that as long as the exhibitor backed up to the bridge and attempted it, you would get a score. A score of zero would only be applied if you made no attempt at all.

I was 3rd to go on Cat and 2nd to last on Slick. Cat was definitely in her “GO” mode but very quiet in the chute. She tried hard and we attempted to back over the bridge. We ended up backing past the bridge, walking over it, and then backing off it. I finished with a broom under my leg and a toy cat in the bucket on my arm as we raced for the finish. My time was in the 3-minute area but the crowd was so loud the rest of my time was drowned out, and I still do not know exactly what it was.

I quickly dashed into the restroom and changed into my English outfit for Slick’s run. I did a sitting trot into the start area for my run and then I was off! I dashed down the rail with my lance to spear the hanging ring. I checked Slick back so I could spear the ring, then roll out to the left, and weave through the cornstalk poles. I arrived at the gate and maneuvered through it without hesitation.

Next Slick allowed me to pick up the plastic ring from the jump standard, and with the reins resting on his neck; I threw the ring at the scarecrow. I missed…So I gathered up and cantered through the three jumps following each one with a rollback. We then sidepassed between each jump, peeled off, and galloped to the haunted tunnel.

On our way through the tunnel, I had to collect a bat from the ceiling and deposit it in a barrel at the other end. We raced over to the Garroche pole and performed a complete 360 with a reverse in the Spanish style.

Next, it was on to the pool filled with leaves where Slick passed through cleanly and stood with his hind feet in the pool for 3 seconds. He was very calm as I dropped the reins on his next and held out my hands.

The crowd applauded Slick’s obedience, and we were off into the right lead canter, followed by a walk transition, then into the left lead canter to the infamous bridge. I stopped, dropped the reins again for a 5-second halt, then performed a ¼ turn on the forehand clockwise and made my attempt at the bridge as so many had done before me. To me surprise, he actually did manage to back over the bridge. I was elated!

Our next obstacle was the dismount, ground tie, tarp sweep, followed by a remount, placement of the broom under my left leg. I rode to the bucket, backed ¼ of the arena, turned around and raced to pick up the toy cat off a barrel at the other end of the arena. From there it was a race back to the start.

It was great fun, a good challenge for my horses, and I would definitely do it again if I was given the chance.

I thought back to how much my dad enjoyed these kinds of events when I was young and knew he was smiling somewhere at my efforts.

Cat was 4th overall and Slick was the Reserve Champion in a very nice awards presentation. I had switched back to my western attire and rode Cat while leading Slick to receive both awards. I then passed Slick off to his very proud owner, Brittany, before taking the United States flag and galloping Cat across the fairgrounds to the QH demo being held in the Mallory building.

I made it just in time to race around the arena at the end of the demo with the flag. I was so proud of my dad’s horse and I’m sure he was proud of her, too.

I must say I learned a lot from this year’s competition and I look forward to doing it again. I have many students signing up for extreme trail training and clinics and I am looking forward to helping others enjoy this exciting event.

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12/9/2009 Kahty
Wow, totally cool and sounds like you had a lot of fun too.
12/10/2009 Kim
Great job Sherrye! It takes a lot of skill and patience to work with your horses and get them "with you". It is wonderful to have someone local with your amazing talents! Congratulations!!

"Nothing on four legs is quicker than a horse heading back to the barn" - Pamela C. Biddle/Joel E. Fishman