Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The competition and goodbye

This is gonna be a long entry, so much happened during the competition. I learned so much throughout this whole experience and I want to express my extreme appreciation to everyone who supported me.

So one of the first things I learned on the trip was too always do your safety check on the trailer before leaving. The ramp on the trailer was rusty and the weld broke when we put the ramp down. I was able to put Dinah in on the other side of the ramp, but it took some effort to get the door to shut. Then, right before we were going to leave I noticed that the left rear tire looked flat. We decided to get on the road and stop at a gas station to fill the tire. Almost immediately when we got on the road, the tire blew and was completely flat. We pulled off the freeway and took Dinah out and waited for AAA to come and repair the tire. All the tires were in bad shape, so we made plans to borrow a different trailer. After the spare was put on we reloaded Dinah and drove to the location of the new trailer and switched. The new trailer was big and heavy for the truck we were using so that made for a stressful trip over the grapevine, but we just took it really slow, and eventually we made it. After a LONG drive down to Norco we had finally gotten off the freeway and we are waiting at a light and we get rear ended - let me remind you in a borrowed trailer now!! A lady came off the freeway and claimed she lost her brakes. She sideswiped two other cars and ran into the back left corner off the trailer. Thank goodness the trailer damage was minimal and Dinah was fine.

We finally arrived at the George Ingalls arena in horsetown USA about 8:30 on thursday night. We got Dinah out and she seemed to have trailered pretty well although she didn't go to the bathroom on the trip which concerned me. All of the other trainers had arrived earlier and had ridden their horses in the competition arena. I quickly got Dinah ready and first longed her and then rode her lightly in the arena. She was very good and felt good despite everything that had happened that day and her long day on the trailer.

I was given a packet that contained the pattern we were supposed to ride for the pattern class Friday morning.
The pattern was:

Enter at sitting trot
Two track or leg yield left
Go straight
Two track or leg yield right
Go straight lengthen trot
Halt and back at least five steps
Quarter turn to left
Pick up right lead canter
Ride one big fast circle to right
Lead change
Ride one big fast circle to left
Ride one small slow circle to left
Lead change
Ride one small slow circle to right
Spin 360 left and right
Trot out of arena

On friday morning there was a competitor meeting with judges. The judges were very nice and encouraging and stressed that we show our horses at the level they were ready for. I was last to go in this class. It was a difficult pattern because lateral movement makes horses tense rather than helps them to relax. When I entered the arena Dinah was nervous about the crowd in the stands. Her first leg yield was not very good because she was very nervous and did not want to go straight and just wanted to look at the stands. Her second leg yield was better. Her halt was ok and back was ok. It was a little difficult to get her to pick up her right lead but she did it. The lead change was good but the size of the circles was not very good. Our steering was a bit compromised because Dinah was really nervous about the stands. We got through the pattern, but there was a lot of room for
Improvement. I was nervous too, and I felt rushed, I think I needed to take it slower and I should have warmed her up more before the competition. It was hard because when you have never taken a horse to a show before it is hard to know how they will react to the show environment. How much warm up they will need, enough to take the edge off but not too much to make them overly tired.

After the pattern class we went out on the rural trail. There were five judges stationed at various points on the trail. Dinah was great on this ride and we received 9th out of 32 on this part. The first judge was at the top of the hill we had to get out horse to stand for 60 seconds. Next we had to navigate through a rock maze which Dinah handled perfectly. Then we had to climb up a big hill to a rock called pumpkin rock, a giant boulder painted like a jack o lantern at the top of a big hill. At the top we were to dismount and check our equipment and remount. Then we rode across the crest of the hill for quite some time. Dinah was really great on this ride relaxed and happy. Next we had to cross a wood bridge walk up 20 feet and spin 180* and recross bridge. She walked right over it. The last thing to do was we had to trot down a slight hill and return to the arena. Dinah was great.

The next day Saturday, we started with a combined leading and riding class. We had to walk over some poles. Pick up a trash bag and move it, pick up all our horses feet, mount, enter box of poles, spin 360 left, exit box, trot serpentine through cones, enter chute of poles, back sideways, walk out, walk to log, grab rope and pull log to second cone. I warmed dinah up more this day, and she was much better in this class. I think I was less nervous and better this day as well. She was great through all the movements except dragging the log. I was able to grab the rope, but she was scared of the log when it started to move. This competition was a big learning experience for me because it was unlike any competition I have ever done before. I have never dragged a log on a horse before and I did not know the proper method for dragging a log. Most people grab the rope and back up so they can stretch out the rope and let the horse see the log. I just turned dinah right away and I think that is why she got scared. This experience made me want to take some western lessons to expand my knowledge.

After the trail class we went out on the urban trail. The urban trail was much longer and had many more judges stations. Dinah was good at the first few stations. Then we got to the top of this hill and Dinah saw a group of fire fighters in orange suits doing a training exercise. She was very afraid of these guys and I had to dismount and walk her the opposite way to calm her down. It took her a long time to relax after this encounter. She was good about the traffic and street crossing. I was riding closer with some of the other trainers on this ride and it was kind of fun because we were chatting and working together. One girl went the wrong way and the guy ahead of me went to get her while me and the lady behind me waited so we could stay in the correct order. The next obstacle was to cross two very wide rivers, probably 15-20 feet across and maybe 3-4 feet deep. Dinah did not want to go across so I asked the judge, who was on horseback if he could lead us across. She was happy to follow the other horse and she did the second crossing no problem. After the river we wove back through downtown, crossing obstacles such as a mailbox, a T obstacle, and we had to weave through cones next to a group of llamas. At the end we had to enter a box and introduce ourselves to the judge. Dinah did a great job on all of these obstacles. We finished in the middle on this trail mostly because we lost a lot of points on the river crossing.
It was sad because I knew it was one of the last times I would get to ride Dinah, after the urban trail I had to wait till 3:00 to hear the top ten competitors announced. I was the only competitor riding English so that was fun. All of the mustang heritage foundation staff were very encouraging to me and they were very complimentary of Dinah. Some of the horses were very skinny and seemed like they had been pushed really hard to get to the competition. Maybe my horse was not as polished as some, but I was proud that she was happy and healthy and she did mostly everything I asked her.

They announced the top ten and gave ribbons to the top five in the classes.
All the older guy trainers made it and the 18 yr old girl made it with both her horses. The finals was a lot of fun to watch, search for Norco extreme mustang makeover finals on you tube to watch a video of the finals. There is also a video of the competition where you can see Dinah she is #11. Before the finalists performed the Norco cowgirls did an amazing drill team ride. On Friday night we also got to watch a driving demonstration, with 4 in hand clydesdales, hackney driving ponies, friesians, miniature ponies, Andalusian, and even two teams of mules. It was a lot of fun.

On sunday was the auction, and Dinah was still a little concerned about the crowd but she was pretty good. She sold for $475 to a lady who will be keep ing her in martinez to keep her older horse company for now. Her cousin owns a riding school so after she grows up a bit she might be used in that school. She sent me a nice email and said that Dinah settled in very well.

I learned so much and here are some things I would change if I was going to do it again:

Own my own truck and trailer
Expose horse to crowd/ show environment
Teach horse to carry western equipment as well
Take western lessons so I could learn western skills expected
Keep horse in place with bigger arena to work on canter
Work horse more and harder bc competition is intense it was hard to prepare when I didn't know what to expect but now since I know I could prepare better
Train on pulling logs and crossing river
Plan freestyle to highlight horse -90 seconds at best
Work on desensitizing horse to other horses cantering towards her and up behind her.

I feel good that I trained her and helped her find a good home. It was a very challenging experience and I learned a ton. I think I could do a better job if I were to do it again. I love Dinah and she will always have a place in my heart.


  1. In all of these photos Dinah looks like a happy, well-adjusted horse. You gave her a first-class introduction into the world with humans and it's very cool that she'll not be too far away for you to follow her continued progress. It sounds like good parenting to me:)

  2. She looks fantastic! I followed your journey and must say someone got a real bargain! I agree that she looks attentive and calm and you've done a fabulous job :)

  3. Torie - YOu did a great job. And I hope you do it again. I noticed that nearly all of the finalists had done it before. I like the idea of dragging a log. I think that it is important for a horse not to panic when something is dragging behind them. (Pi once spooked at the wash rack. He pulled back hard and took off with the wash rack pole dragging with him... which scared him even more.) I like the idea of western lessons too... there is so much good stuff to learn in that world as well. (I want to take some too after watching the competition.) I think you did so well. She was certainly one of the best conditioned and happiest horses there! Congratulations on a job well done!