I took Diego to a trail obstacle "clinic" this weekend, which was pretty much I paid $30 to have access to some established obstacles and get some lunch. =) Not much coaching going on, although the lady coordinating seemed very knowledgeable and helpful, but was certainly willing to just let each of us go at our own pace. There were only 4 other riders, so it was a nice small group.
The obstacles provided:
- Big log (20 ft long by about 12" high)
- Large heavy duty tarp with a pallet-type platform and several poles laid out for step-overs
- Deflated soft-side swimming pool
- 10 x 10 square filled with plastic bottles (like empty soda bottles) to step on
- Many criss-crossing small logs
- 5 tractor tires to step into, hard interior parts removed so it was just the edges
- Large tractor tire with a wooden platform mounted on the top
- Pallet between two 55 gallon drums (a more narrow opening step up)
- Big dirt pile/mound, eventually they're hoping to create "stairs"
- Muddy water crossing, about 8" deep or so at deepest
- Wooden platform teeter totter
- Log drag, a 8' or so 4" log on a rope
- Wooden ladder-type obstacle (2x4"s in a long ladder on the ground)
We did ground work over all the obstacles first. I decided to start him with the nice easy log step-over first, just a big ole 12" log lying on the ground. Diego said, "Nope, not gonna do it. I can't. It's too hard." After much eye rolling and cussing on my behalf (and getting smacked with a soft cotton rope), he realized that indeed, he could step over the stupid log. We repeated the process on the tarp, an old dead deflated soft side pool, and then - heaven forbid - a water crossing. This horse LOVES water, but the soft squishy dirt/mud leading into the water was a horse eater for sure. By this point I had a training stick along and after some enthusiastic circles, Dig decided that maybe going in the water would be easier. Of course, once he was in there he drank, splashed, and thought about wallowing around, which was discouraged since I had my saddle on him. After that, all the other obstacles were easy - Mom had established I was **IN CHARGE** and he wasn't going to get away with crap.
After we did everything in hand, I got on and rode him through, over, and across everything. He didn't even blink - total Rockstar!!! He was awesome, we even did a log drag, although me getting handed the rope was fairly traumatic for him. One of the scariest obstacles, not mentioned above, for him was the person sitting in a lawn chair, oh horrors! Until he talked and Diego realized it wasn't a troll. After we had all played around for about an hour or so, we rode down the easement and went across a real bridge, with no sides, just a bunch of rail road ties all bolted together over a small ditch, about 10 feet long. Diego went across with no hesitation. Harder than that, was trying to get him into the ditch along the side of the road. I had to get off and drive him again on the ground, and he did eventually go down and across, only to turn around and LEAP back to the other side. I was glad I had 30 ft of rope to play out to him as he jumped across from embankment to embankment, nearly at the height of my head. Decided to not try that one under saddle. ;)
At the end of the day, after I had already pulled my saddle and hosed him off, they had the (small, fairly tame) cows turned out in the arena. We went in there on foot and OH BOY!!! Diego was having SO MUCH FUN! =) He was arching his neck and just chasing after them, I was running around laughing my head off trying to keep up. He got the hang of it pretty quick and we even "cut" a cow along the fence line for a few seconds. I definitely want to do some more of that with him, you could practically see him smiling once he realized he could chase them away.
I need to get him out and just do some nice, steady, long trotting miles one of these times. I've been doing a lot of slow, confidence-building stuff with him lately. He's really become a horse I'm looking forward to riding more and more every time. I've started to really be able to trust him.