I had some questions about the 2014 American Horsewoman’s Challenge competition. I phoned Hutch, who is the producer and inventor of the event.

Here’s what I learned:

-the ONE thing that I thought I understood perfectly was WRONG. The Cowboy Dressage test we’re to do is: Walk, jog, lope Challenge test one. This is in the arena with all the poles and cones. It’s light-years more intricate and detailed and advanced than the one I thought was “test one”. I thought we were to perform the Walk, jog, lope test one.

-No shooting pistols or rifles and no archery in the Ranch/Trail/Extreme Cowboy Race portion of the event.

-For liberty you enter the BIG arena (probably 150m by 300m) with your horse at liberty. You proceed to an enclosed 20m by 40m area.

-There is a gate for the Cowboy Dressage. You open it to enter the dressage court. The test says that you hang up the rope from the gate, but do not close the gate.

-Hutch is hoping someone who’s not famous “knocks the ball out of the park” and wins the thing.

-He’s contacting local papers (King City and Toronto) to see if they’ll talk about me as a competitor. I’m certain he’s doing this for everyone. I am the oldest so that gives him one angle. How many 68-year-olds are doing something NEW this summer?

Monday Dominique worked Spring Song on the lunge line and got tons of canter (using the word “canter”). Having a word cue will help Spring Song figure out what I want. Then I got on and got the canter, both directions. Monday afternoon I took her into the arena to practice one of the liberty tasks. The horse is to jump, turn, jump again, turn to face the jump and stop. I had the tarp out and some toys. The “jump” was the lowest setting on the blok by blok system. Well, I didn’t even get a chance to tell her what we were going to do together. She took off (not frantic) and proceeded to jump (going to the left and going to the right) for what seemed like 30 minutes. I called her and she wouldn’t come. If I walked towards her she turned and did the jump, again. Finally I took the jump down and removed all the toys. She had placed her front feet on a pedestal and stood there while I did the “clean up”. I went to her and she didn’t leave. We did some things together (WITH the lead line on) and she was 100 times sweeter than she has ever been. I was thinking, “I’m SO glad this episode happened in July and NOT in September!!!”

Bill said she wasn’t having a hissy fit or being stubborn and intentionally NOT listening to me. He said, “She was telling you that she felt good and wanted to show you that she could jump.”

Prior to this session Bill was outdoors having a lesson on Zeloso with Dominique setting jumps up. Of course Spring Song can see them from her paddock. Turns out the humans went on and on about Zeloso and the fact that this lesson had many jumps in it, more than he’d ever jumped.

I now think Spring Song was making a point of jumping MORE jumps than Zeloso did!

Tuesday I worked Spring Song at liberty, twice. Today, Wednesday, I rode at the walk and trot. I hung the swimming noodles from above (perpendicular to the ground). Spring Song didn’t have any problem being led through them or under saddle.

Tuesday during one of the liberty sessions I had the low jump set up. I kept her on the lead line and went through the series of movements that she’ll need to do for the Challenge. I did not turn her loose to practice this because I wasn’t interested in watching her jump for another 30 minutes.

In today’s liberty session I tried to figure out ways to help her carry objects. I started with a small orange cone. She was happy to hold it, but didn’t connect walking with me and keeping the cone in her mouth. The next item I tried was the baseball cap. Once or twice she almost held it while walking, but she wasn’t comfortable doing both things at the same time. The third object I presented to her is a Frisbee that has a leather strap sewn into the middle of the top. Allen Pogue made it for teaching the retrieve (www.imagineahorse.com). She thought this thing was super for holding and walking! I had the clicker at the ready and she heard “click” and got a treat (TWICE) because she was so brilliant at carrying it.

Her Spanish Walk is coming along nicely. Ron was here on the weekend. On Saturday I watched while he asked Spring Song for some steps. I was able to see the whole horse and instantly noticed that Spring Song clearly understands to lift her front legs alternately, but has no clue about what to do with her hind legs. I asked Ron to lead her along the arena wall and ask for a slow walk. Once that was established he asked for the high steps. Within two tries she understood and did her Spanish Walk in a regular walk rhythm. On Sunday Spring Song was just being led out of the lower barn when Ron walked up. Spring Song instantly looked at him and offered a very polite lifting of a front leg. We both laughed. Yes, Spring Song was correct. Ron IS the Spanish Walk man! Bill was also in the barn. The three of us went to the arena and took turns cueing the Spanish Walk. But, even with this attempt on my part to broaden her Spanish Walk trainer horizon, I do believe Ron will always be her Spanish Walk man!