We’ll host two Working Equitation Clinics with Kimberly Garvis this year. The first clinic is June 20 and 21. The second clinic is August 15 and 16.

In preparation for the June clinic I’m creating some of the apparatus we need for the tasks. The first task I’m working on is: take a pole out of a barrel, carry the pole, deposit it in another barrel. We’ve used a 12’ long garrocha pole in previous years. The pole can be quite heavy and if not handled properly it can bang into the rafters or the sides of the arena. The big, plastic barrels the pole is placed in require a counter weight so they won’t tip over. I decided to rethink the wooden poles and big tippy barrels. I came up with using swimming noodles (light-weight) and a three foot tall oval topped plastic garbage can. The white plastic “barrel” has handles. I attached a clip to the arena wall and hang the barrel from it. I had no trouble positioning the barrel so that it was easy for me to lift a noodle out of it and put the noodle back into it. The first time I hung the barrel with its noodle was yesterday, Tuesday.

At the highest level of competition in Working Equitation the tasks are done at the canter. Last year when Kimberly was here only older horses and their riders were able to canter to the barrel, lift the pole, canter to the next barrel and place the pole in it while cantering. It took a few tries for these riders to perfect this.

Now for a little background information: Saturday I decided to find out if Zelador could make three 15 metre circles in the arena, one at the east end around two pedestals, one in the middle and one at the west end around the bridge and the teeter-totter. He’s never been able to do this without bracing or trying to take over. I chose the left lead canter. He did it for me, perfectly. I stopped. Praised him and contemplated my next move. I considered getting off and ending the ride, reinforcing how much I appreciated his calmness and his willingness to listen to me. But…I decided to repeat the exercise on the right lead. He did it perfectly. I praised him, hopped off, gave him treats, removed his tack and he had a lovely roll.

We repeated the exercise Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The interesting thing weather-wise is: on Saturday the thermometer in the arena was about 5 degrees, but on the other days the temperature was minus five. I was very pleased that even in cold temperatures Zelador was able to remain soft.

Monday evening I walked to the arena and figured out the new barrel/noodle task. I only have one barrel at this time, so the exercise is: pick up the noodle, circle, replace the noodle. Tuesday Liz Martin was in the arena Liz comes here to play with the horses about once a week and is a month or so from completing her last class at university. She watched the series of circles at the canter, then set up the barrel/noodle. I explained to Zelador that we were going to do this task at a walk so that he could get used to the noodle being held beside him. After walking we’d trot and finally we’d canter IF things were going well.

Zelador had his own agenda. He was able to contain himself for a few steps and walk, but he made it very clear that he knew what to do and was capable of doing it. I re-established that we were going to work together! I acquiesced and dropped the trot exercise.

Zelador was able to perform a collected canter, taking very short steps forward, allowing me to reach/lean to my right and easily pick up the noodle. We circled to the left and as we were approaching the barrel to place the noodle back into it I messed up and he thought he was being asked to trot. I replaced the noodle at the trot effortlessly.

Now, THAT was FUN!!!!!