Sept15Collage.jpgWerner Platz made the gate for Working Equitation. The gate is a work of art. I was astounded when he showed it to me at his workshop and stunned when I tried to lift it. Werner kindly offered to transport it to my arena. (There was no way I’d be able to move that sucker!)

Within a few hours it was leaning against my arena wall. Five weeks later it was still there… no closer to being affixed to something. I paraded person after person up to the arena to view the gate, try to lift the gate and give me an opinion on how to hang the gate. Everyone agreed, “It’s HEAVY!” And no one leapt at the chance to attach it to the wall.

Initially Bill wanted to set it up near the lower barn. That’s where there is a cattle chute with BIG support posts, but I put the kibosh on that idea. What good would the gate do me fifty metres from the arena… stuck in a snow drift up to four months of the year! No, the gate had to find a place in the arena so we could wile away those challenging winter months… playing.

And then, during a casual phone conversation, a Guardian Angel (alias Ron Dike) promised to help me. I chose a time when Bill was out of the country for a week. I figured, “The less Bill knows about this project, the better.”

When Ron and his wife, Brenda, arrived on his day off work, he spent over an hour doing calculations, drilling small holes into the kickboards and pondering the problem. An hour! (Bill said hanging the gate wasn’t going to be easy.)

Four hours after their arrival, the gate was attached to a post supporting the arena’s roof. (Talk about being embarrassed. I had no idea of the magnitude of the task. However, Bill and I have taken the Dikes out to dinner twice and are planning a third outing.)

I must admit that time passed and I didn’t practice working with the gate. Zelador and Zeloso have been ridden through many of the gates on our farm and have not had any problems with them. I was thinking that THE GATE would be as easy to work with as the bridge, the ball, the pole….

However, last Thursday we were scheduled to meet Ron and Brenda in the evening so I figured I’d better get movin’. The regulations surrounding opening and closing the gate in Working Equitation state: the rider must have his hand on the gate throughout the exercise. I saddled up Zelador and rode him to the gate. I’d seen a YouTube video of riders approaching the gate and walking through it head first. There was one sensational rider who backed his horse through the gate. His technique was much smoother and quicker than “head first”. I decided to try his approach.

Forty-five minutes later I’d figured out how to move my body so that Zelador could move his properly. Talk about working up a sweat! One of the biggest hurdles was: when I leaned forward to grasp the gate, Zelador thought I was asking him to back up. Another problem occurred when I got the gate open and placed him beside it. I wanted him to back up. But he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to back up under any circumstances. He decided that stepping sideways was what I wanted.

After three successful openings and closing in a row I dismounted and fetched Zeloso. I’ve often said, “If I can teach Zeloso something, I can teach ANY horse!” Bill says that Zeloso is a normal adolescent who enjoys pushing my buttons and doing exactly what he wants.

To my utter amazement he performed flawlessly the first and second time I asked him to open and close the gate. For my third attempt he backed up the length of the arena (obviously the third time was NOT a charm). Forty-five minutes later Bill came into the arena. He saw Zeloso having a wonderful time, picked up one of the Guider whips created by Allen Pogue and helped me guide Zeloso’s body in the correct direction. Zeloso became an obedient angel and repeated his initial two openings and closings.

The next day both horses had put their “gap” time to good use. They were perfect at the gate.