Thursday 3 March 2016

When We're Not Dressaging

Dressage is absolutely my riding discipline of choice. I love the sport and all it's intricacies.

However, that's not all we do.

I'm a big believer in the benefits of cross training and I would love to make Kachina into a well-rounded horse. Also, while I'm generally quite comfortable being the only dressage rider for miles around, sometimes it's fun to blend in for a day.

We blend in pretty well... none of them suspect that
there's a dressage rider hiding in their midst muahaha

So what kinds of things do we do when we're not dressaging?

Trail Riding

Right out the front drive of my barn is a quiet dirt road, and many miles of unfenced fields. It's one of my favorite features of the barn. I have a few friends at the barn and we'll meet up to go hack around together.

The road

I enjoy trail rides as a chance to ride on a loose rein and spend some low key time with my horse and my friends. Trail riding is also a great time to work on speed control, straightness, and even sometimes lateral work too.

The fields

Occasionally I will haul out to trail ride somewhere new with exciting terrain. I hope to do this a few more times this year.

Coulees by the river

That one time I convinced my non-horsey SO to come on a trail ride with me

I can't wait for the snow to melt and the mud to dry up so we can leave the confines of the arena after winter.

Riding along the road in falling snow last spring

Herding Cows

The place that I board is also a working cattle ranch. I don't have anything to do with the cows most of the time, but sometimes when the owner is moving part of the herd he will put the call out to any boarders who want to come out and help. I think it's super cool to get an up-close look at how important horses still are as working animals, and to be (a small) part of that usefulness.

A view of the action

You know what is one of the best tests of the adjustability of your horse's stride? Keeping the proper spacing behind a herd of cows.

First time herding cows, Kachina got right in there

Cowboy Challenge

If you're not familiar with Cowboy Challenge, it's basically an obstacle course for horses. You are scored on each obstacle by how smoothly and correctly you complete it. There's a score for speed as well, but good horsemanship is the focus. If you do a google image search for cowboy challenge you can see a lot of the type of obstacles included.

I'm not interested in the competitive race part of the sport, but I think working through obstacles is a good way to get Kachina used to more things and build our relationship. With this in mind, we've gone to a couple Cowboy Challenge clinics. We did one unmounted clinic last year, and I did a mounted clinic this past weekend.

Unmounted Clinic Spring 2014, sorry for the terrible photo quality

Western clinics are formatted so differently from any English clinics I've ever been at. The clinic this past weekend was only one day, but we all spent a solid 5 hours in the saddle, with another 1.5 hours of ground work to start the day.

I was super impressed with Kachina at the clinic. It was a pretty chaotic environment and she handled it really well. She's not used to doing nearly as much standing, but she was pretty content to stand relaxed either under saddle during the clinic, or tied at the trailer for lunch and when wrapping up.

I'm so proud!

The morning was spent working on controlling different parts of the horse from both the ground and the saddle - hips, ribs, shoulders, neck, poll. Then obstacles were introduced in the afternoon.

Lots going on

The obstacles we successfully tackled at the clinic were:

  • Back Through L - backing up through poles on the ground where you had to turn 90 degrees half way though
  • Hula Hoops - getting her to put her front feet into a hula hoop on the ground and then doing a turn on the forehand around without stepping out. Getting Kachina to put her foot in the hula hoop to start was the biggest challenge since it would move and rattle when she hit it with her foot. 
  • Tire Inner Tube - same idea as the hula hoops, just a different kind of ring
  • Bridge - this was a challenging bridge that was very skinny and had 4 different levels that the horse had to navigate
  • See-saw - a bridge that tipped once you were halfway across
  • Mattress - getting the horse to walk across a thick spongy mattress to simulate deep unstable footing
  • Jump - a pole set on top of a 5 gallon pail on either side. I have never ever jumped Kachina so this one worried me, but we went for it and she stayed calm and did well. As an English rider, it was weird for me to jump in a western saddle.
A view of some of the obstacles

There was also a carousel obstacle where you were supposed to get your horse to push on a bar that swung the carousel around. At the other end of the bar there was a big whale shaped inflatable pool toy. Kachina wanted nothing to do with that whale and was super suspicious every time another horse made it move. We got as far as walking around it calmly and I called that good enough.

The terrifying whale carousel
I took this picture while standing in a hula hoop

What horse activities do you like to do outside of your normal discipline?


  1. Can I just say that Kachina looks amazing in western tack? She wears it well!

    I love to trail ride on both of my horses; Moe is very brave and enjoys exploring! Gina is a pro foxhunter (which is basically trail riding with dogs lol) now, which has been really good for her mental health!

    I attempted polocrosse on Moe once, which went pretty well except he didn't have any brakes. I think he'd make a great polo pony! (Maybe I'll have to acquire a stick and ball to practice!)

    1. Thanks :-)

      I love reading about your foxhunting adventures! If I wasn't so chicken about jumping I would totally give that a try.

      You should totally try polo with Moe! I did one polo clinic on my last horse years ago, she got the hang of it quickly, but that meant she'd gallop after the ball and we'd pass right by it because I couldn't hit it that fast lol

  2. This is so awesome. I would love to get my guy out to work cows!

    1. It's so much fun! It's even better when they have enough people to actually move the cows so you can go along for the experience and not have to worry about messing up the job if you aren't sure how your horse will react to cattle the first time.

      Do you know anyone nearby with cattle that you could ask?

  3. The cowboy challenge looks tough! My old thoroughbred loved herding the cows at the ranch.

    1. It was tough! Some people in the clinic were more experienced and found it pretty easy, but it was definitely challenging for the newbies in the group including me and Kachina.

      Yay for moving cows :-)