On Friday, February 14th, I noticed something new on the home page of Horse-Canada.com.The American Horsewoman’s Challenge is now opened to Canadians. I was intrigued and read the article. Turns out there are three components: ranch/trail skills, liberty and dressage. All three of these broad categories are certainly within the scope of our horses. I looked up the rules and learned that women who are amateurs and/or professionals are to submit a 10 to 15 minute video with the prescribed tasks for each discipline, including an introduction about the applicant and a brief segment about the horse she’ll train if she is chosen to be one of the top fifty applicants. Each of the top fifty can pick any green broke horse (not more than ten rides on it) between the age of 3 and 6. The competition is in Oklahoma in October 2014. The horse has to be in this age range during the competition (no recently turned seven year olds!). The top fifty will be notified in April and have six months to train it.

The first 500 entrants (each submitting an entry fee of $100) are to have the video postmarked by March 23rd.

The videos can be submitted via mail (three DVD copies), on Vimeo or on YouTube. The horsewoman can use any number of horses (any age) for the application video provided she did at least 50% of the horse’s training.

I was still captivated. I looked up the “entry form” section and found the listing of each task within each discipline and another rule or two. The applicant is allowed to edit the tasks together, but not to edit an individual task. For example: “send your horse at least ten steps backwards. Draw back to you.” All of the ten steps backwards and the draw back to you need to be filmed beginning to end. You can’t edit together four steps backwards, then another bunch of steps, then the horse coming to you.

I was still thinking: so far, all of this is doable. Now for specifics: the introduction is to include your name, age, horse experience…hmm…so, just about the first thing the judge is going to hear when viewing my video is: “I’m 68 years old.” Would love to be a fly on the wall during that revelation!

For the intro of the horse: “If you have chosen the horse you would like to use in the competition, please introduce him/her, showing full view. If you have not chosen your horse, tell us your plans for choosing a horse; including breed, sex, age, breeder (if known), relevant genealogy.” Now that’s something to wrap my brain around! Zelador and Zeloso are ten years old this year. We’ve been on an amazing journey since they were weanlings. At 68 years of age do I want to start again? Even at age three? Good question! However, from where I sit I have one question: just what ARE the chances that I’ll be one of the top fifty? I’ve decided to enjoy putting the video together and not clutter my brain with “what if…”.

Back to the disciplines:

Ranch/Trail Skills (approximately 3 minutes)
-Ground tie your horse and walk a 20ft. Circle around (we can do this!)
-walk, trot, lope three times around arena with transitions at one end (no problem!)
-Roll back in both directions (hmmm….what’s a roll back?)
-Two figure eight patterns at a lope with a lead change in the center (lead change…we can do a lead change at this stage of our training, but not a flying lead change. Guess I’ll do what I can do and keep on smiling.)
-Stop (sliding or non-sliding) and back ten steps (yippee! On a good day we can stop!)
-Jump obstacle at least 16 inches in height (Bummer. We’ve done free-jumping and I’ve committed more than once, “He’s having a ton of fun. So glad I’m not no his back!)
-Spin left and right (What? SPIN? How about a lovely, cadenced pirouette? Once again, I’ll do what I can do.)
-Cross platform or bridge (Talk about a piece of cake.)
-Any other move you feel demonstrates you and your horse’s skill. (Now that could take up the entire video and then some.)

Liberty Skills:(approximately 3 minutes)
We are looking for your partnership and communication skills with your hose through the following exercises. Bribing the horse with treats is not allowed. Skills demonstration can be done in a round pen or arena.
-Walk a 30 ft. Circle with your horse at liberty. Stop on the circle and continue, three times. (I’m looking forward to filming this.)
-Walk through a weave of four obstacles, turn around and weave back to start. (Yep, I can see us doing this.)
-While standing in the centre; send your horse out on a circle for at least three rotations and then ask to disengage and face up. Draw horse in. (no problem)
-Send your horse out on at least two circles in one direction and then ask to change direction for another two circles then stop. (Yep, doable.)
-Send your horse at least 10 steps backwards. Draw back to you. (Hmmm…whenever possible I do things with my horses. When I ask for backward steps I walk with them. This task should be interesting with the entry deadline less than 11 days away.)
-Send your horse around two obstacles, 18ft. Apart, in a figure-eight pattern, ending with horse facing you at centre. (Surprising, we’ve done this around our pedestals many times.)
-Send your horse over at least a 16-inch jump, from no less than ten feet away. Disengage its hindquarters and send over again in opposite direction. Disengage again and have face jump. (“have face jump”. Are they asking me to have a horse come to a jump and stop?)
-Any other move you feel demonstrates you and your horse’s skill (Let’s see: popping balloons that are on his back, fetching the mail, retrieving over a jump, rotating top pedestal, delivering the mail, sitting on a bean bag, lying down, differentiating objects, doing liberty with his brother, pushing the big ball to a specific individual, playing the piano…)

Got to head to the barn!!! First installment of my journey to creating a video for “American Horsewoman’s Challenge” now open to Canadians!!!!!


Part two: Creating a video for Horsewoman’s Challenge

After learning about the challenge Friday February 14th I read and reread the criteria during Saturday and Sunday. I found one video on YouTube and enjoyed seeing that woman’s interpretation of the three disciplines and the tasks in each one. By Sunday evening I decided to enter the competition. I was looking forward to Monday (Family Day here in Ontario) because Bill would be home for the day and available to film some of the tasks.

Monday morning the temperature was minus twenty-two. Bummer! No filming with these weather conditions! I checked the forecast and a very optimistic weatherman suggested the high Monday would be minus eight. I crossed my fingers, hoping the temperature would RISE!

Meanwhile I rounded up Bill and Ron to help practice some of the tasks. The arena temperature at 3:00 in the afternoon was minus nine. The arena footing was pristine. Bill and Ron had worked on it for over an hour. The surface was smooth and lovely. I called Zelador to his pedestal and Ron set out four orange cones so we could do the slalom. Ron returned to the corner of the arena, ready to film. I told Ron I’d do a little warmup with Zelador, perhaps some circles around me with changes of direction. I called to Zelador and he zoomed off the pedestal. The horse flew around the arena, leaping and bucking. I settled down in the centre, knowing I had a bit of a wait till Zelador got his wiggles out. Bill looked in and said, “Zelador, no divots!” To no one’s surprise Zelador went faster, leapt higher and spun tighter on the turns. The carefully prepared arena footing was a series of ever-deepening potholes.

After a few minutes Zelador slowed down. I asked him to circle around me. He happily abandoned his wild shenanigans and circled…for about ten metres. That’s when he noticed one of the orange cones. He stopped, picked it up and trotted to Ron. Ron thanked Zelador for the cone and replaced it on the slalom line. Zelador went to another cone and picked it up. After he delivered it to Ron Zelador fetched another cone. Ron and Zelador were both busy. However, this new game was not a fair contest. Zelador had size, speed and a delightful sense of humour. Ron’s skill set included his smaller size, his slower speed and the inability to quickly line up the cones.

I summoned Zelador to his pedestal. He happily snatched one last cone and trotted to his home base. He flipped the cone in the air triumphantly. I said to Ron, “I’ve got less than two weeks to get a slalom through the cones. I don’t think it’s going to happen with this horse. I’ll try my luck with Kye.” I can see why being allowed to use multiple horses for the video is a good thing!

Ron removed the cones from the centreline.

The second task we attempted to train was the jump at liberty. Zelador showed us that he loved jumping, then turning to the right. It didn’t matter which direction he took the jump, he turned to the right. Initially he zoomed over the jump, but after a while he slowed down and actually started to listen to the humans. We learned that we needed to break down the task into very tiny steps. Since the jump only has to be 16” high we knew Zelador could clear it from a standstill. Ron and Bill were on the far side of the jump. They attempted to position themselves so that they could influence Zelador’s turn after the jump. The goal was a turn to the left which happened to be away from the arena wall. After a few tries the men were successful at getting the left turn. The final part of the task is to have the horse face the jump. I didn’t want Zelador to confuse facing the jump with STOPPING at a jump. I was able to accomplish this by encouraging a wide turn after the jump which allowed me to walk in front of it. At that point I called him to me. After three or four repeats he was able to make a wide arc after the jump, then return to the jump and stand quietly.

We packed it in. As we were taking Zelador back to his stall we joked about needing lots of time and lots of horses to get this video together by February 28.

Monday evening I reviewed the day’s activities. Tuesday morning Dominique was giving Zelador a free-jumping lesson. Dominique and I decided that I should bring the movie camera, just in case we were able to film a few tasks after the free-jumping.

Tuesday dawned warm!!!! It was a balmy minus seven! Yippee!!!! By the time our lesson started at 10:00 the temperature was rising. Zelador did a great job with the free-jumping. While Dominique was taking down the jumps I said, “Leave the bloks. I’ll make a slalom out of them. (We use the light-weight blok by bloks and black poles, also light weight. Can’t remember what they’re called. They’re used for underground stuff and don’t break in severe weather conditions.) I placed Zelador on his pedestal, called him, he came to me and the two of us approached the slalom of four bloks. I stayed on the left side of them and with no wand (just hand and body signals) directed him through the slalom. He was perfect! At the end of the line of bloks he passed the last one with it to his right. I asked for a right turn. While he was turning I moved to the other side of the bloks and directed him through the slalom. Once again he was perfect. To finish I sent him to his pedestal. He stepped up there, proud as could be! Dominique had returned to the barn. I called her and she happily filmed several passages through the slalom. Yippee!!!

Looking forward to Wednesday’s adventures.