The American Horsewoman’s Challenge is six months long. It started April first and is ending at the finals in Oklahoma October 3,4,5. At the beginning of July I researched trailering Spring Song to the finals. That’s the first time I started wondering, “Am I out of my mind?!” The trip will take over 40 hours roundtrip. The trailering will cost at least $3,000 with tolls and brokerage fees added on. My initial thoughts: am I on some ridiculous ego trip? Would I ask Zelador or Zeloso to trailer over 40 hours? Do I have the right to dig deep into our budget to show this filly in Oklahoma? (total with humans factored into the trip tops $6,000).

During July and most of August I vacillated back and forth. I found an wonderful lady, Laura McArthur of Mansfield, Ontario, to ship Spring Song. Laura has Silver Willow Farm Rescue and really knows how to help animals. On long hauls she stops every four or five hours to give the horse a break.

I decided, “We can do this.”

At the end of August my vet came for routine work on the five horses in the lower barn. She had just received a Quarter Horse from Oklahoma. She had shipped the horse with all the necessary paperwork, including the bill of sale, a blank cheque for the HST, the website address for the actual sale where she purchased the horse, etc. At the border the van was held for four hours…in the heat. My vet also mentioned that one mare they shipped from Oklahoma was really miserable here for a few months. It has finally become happy. I’m guessing the trailer ride was way too challenging for that mare.

When my vet left I mulled over what she’d told me. I made my final decision. I’m not comfortable shipping any horse that distance, let alone a lovely, willing, happy three-year-old.

Within a week I was talking with the event organizer. He understood my decision and respected it. I told him I’m continuing to train the filly for my imaginary Finals at the beginning of October. I will film the filly doing the tasks and send the footage to him.

And, wouldn’t you know, even if I’d decided to compete in Oklahoma Bill’s hospitalization September 22 would have changed the plans. Then I got a killer cold (nothing like the stress of worrying about a husband and making numerous trips to a hospital to bring on my first cold in decades).

Bill and I decided to purchase Spring Song. He’s 65 years old this year. I’m 68. That’s a combined total of 133 years. Lots of potential wisdom there. Should be interesting to see how it’s applied to a lovely three-year-old filly.

Recent training with Spring Song:
Two weeks ago Sue and I introduced the bow on one knee to Spring Song. We placed a thin, long, sliver of carrot on one of our balloon popping sticks and asked her to lower her head and look between her legs under her for the treat. She found it. And, bent one foreleg in the process. This was a bonus. As we took her for a mesmerizing walk on a circle before doing our next “bow” we talked about holding that bent front foot and bringing it towards her hind feet, along the ground.

Spring Song was very relaxed and was able to lower her head, have her hoof moved backwards and find the treat.

We went on to another game.

Two weeks later (this Tuesday) was the first time since the initial bow game that we played it. Sue and I weren’t really thinking “bow”, but the filly was. Sue was standing beside Spring Song’s shoulder. The filly lowered her head and lifted a front leg, then looked at Sue. Sue said, “I think she wants to bow!” I fetched the balloon popping stick, placed the carrot strip on it and before we both could get beside the filly she had her head low and a front leg bent with the hoof under her. Sue and I played the bow game from both sides of the filly, figuring out which side was Spring Song’s favourite. The filly seemed happy with the right, then with the left. Hmmm….We settled on the left and Spring Song did two bows on the left foreleg, holding the bow until we asked her to stand up. Once again she demonstrated that she’s an exceptional filly. It’s not unusual for a horse to get up quickly from a bow, especially when learning how to do it. But not Spring Song. She slowly and politely raised up when asked.

Got to get a photo of this!

For the past three weeks (or more) Spring Song is letter perfect on almost all of the tasks she is to perform at liberty for the finals in Oklahoma.
1. figure of 8 done twice around two objects placed twelve feet apart
2. Harmony walk with horse at shoulder. Forward at least 8 steps, stop, forward 4-6 steps, stop, back up at least 4 steps, proceed at jog or lope at least 8 steps, stop.
3. Weave-walk with horse at side through 4 obstacles, round end, go back through obstacle, person on one side, horse weaving.
4. Circles: From a stand still send the horse at least 20 feet 2 circles, stop, draw horse to you, send out in opposite direction, stop, draw in
5. Change of Direction—Send horse out at least 10 ft. away in one direction for at least one rotation. Ask horse to turn, without stopping, and go in opposite direction at least one rotation. Closeness to horse will be rewarded.
6. L-Back—Position horse at opening of parallel ground poles/lines/cones placed at least four feet apart with a 90 degree angle at 12 ft. distance. Back horse through the L pattern. Turn horse and return through pattern for bonus points.
7. Jump—Send horse over minimum 18 in. high jump. Ask to stop, face jump, and send back over in opposite direction.
8. Your Choice–Choose two other manoeuvres at Liberty that you would like to demonstrate.

The Cowboy Dressage test is: walk, jog, lope Challenge test one. The Challenge test (title has nothing to do with the American Horsewoman’s Challenge) has 20 white poles placed at specific locations in the 20m by 40m ring. The poles are five feet long. There are six white cones, too.

In the audition tape the dressage component was a walk/jog test done on any horse you’d trained at least 50%. The horse was of any age. So, I was a bit surprised when the green horse used for the competition was expected to do more than the seasoned horse.

The Cowboy Dressage Challenge test for the finals includes backing up around a corner (once to the left, once to the right), backing up on the centre line, doing a 180 degree turn on the forehand and a 360 degree turn on the haunches (each direction). I was surprised at these elements. Decades ago I took my Thoroughbred through the basic and medium dressage tests in Canada and these elements weren’t in any of them.

Spring Song and I have worked on all of these and she’s doing just fine.

The final section of the Challenge was initially Ranch/Trail. That’s what I signed up for. A few months into the competition it morphed into Extreme Cowboy Race. You know…I would never enter a three-year-old in an Extreme Cowboy Race! We’ve not been told the elements which will be in the finals, but we’re instructed to look up the obstacles in the rules for the Extreme Cowboy Race. Doing that was an adventure in itself. A horse that can do all of those obstacles is quite something. Certainly Spring Song will be able to accomplish this extraordinary feet…over a period of time. With clicker in hand I present one strange obstacle after another and this filly keeps on trying.