Sorry not to have posted since my initial blog back in November! Between the holidays, horses, family matters, horses, the great TB Alliance Show Banquet, horses, and these infernal storms, time has gotten away from me. In December, when we were planning for the MD and PA Horse World Expos, I remembered last year’s PA Expo- I had seen some of the entries for the Trail Challenge practicing some moves early in the AM and thought- huh- a TB could do that! As we were doing the paperwork for this year’s Expo, I clicked on the Trail Challenge entry and before I knew it, I signed up for the challenge with Mrs Holden- I chose her because I thought she probably would still be at the rescue and could use the exposure- what the heck, right?
After hitting “Submit” I decided to go to YouTube to see what I could find out about this whole deal- holy cow! To tell the truth, I was a bit relieved when Denise emailed to say there was a wait list, (but there was a good chance we would get in.) Time went by, and just last week, we decided not to bring Mrs Holden because of all of the stallions that would be in the vicinity— we had ridden her but hadn’t started working on the challenge–AND Denise called to say we were in the Challenge- yikes! We now had to step up to the plate or bow out.
After going through the horses at the farm, we knew it was time for Blitzburgh to start into work. Blitzy had been a decent runner, a son of Afleet Alex with 4 starts, 1-0-1, when he came up with a tendon. His connections gave him some time and started to bring him back, but the tendon carried some heat again, so they decided to retire him. Dr Kathy Anderson called us to see if we could take him- she kept him at her farm so he could be in during the day in the late summer, and not stomping at flies on the leg. He then came to us in the fall to finish his rehab. Kathy gave the OK to start him in January but with the winter we were having, we didn’t ever get to him.
By now, his tendon had healed, and he was always coming to the gate to see if he would get to do something- so with the Trail Challenge looming, he was the lucky one! I read up on the rules and the scoring, realized that a lot of it was rideability- moving away from my leg- and figured we would give it our best- after all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, what is the point? On the same vein, we are taking this challenge seriously, because we want everyone to KNOW that TBs rock!
Today, Feb 12, was the first day we rode him, the first day he had been ridden in well over 6 months, and the first day of official training for the challenge! We leave for Harrisburg two weeks from tomorrow, and our ride time for the challenge is Friday morning- so we have 16 days, and no indoor. We figured that with a smart TB and some common sense horsemanship, we could at least get around the arena. I think the part that worries me most is being able to get on from a small mounting block-he is a good 16.1h and my left knee is pretty questionable.
When I first sat on him, he was a little fussy- we walked and jigged slightly, he was a bit curled up in a racehorse ball, but after letting him jog around, it didn’t take long for him to relax. We then went to turn on the forehand, using the fence along the long side to help teach him- he moved more easily away from my right leg than my left, and could only get 1/4 turn- but he got better as we went. The exercise got him a bit worried again, so we did another lap or two around at a jog to settle him, and returned to our long side. We went back to turn on the forehand and added some leg yield- he tried very hard, got a little tight and behind my leg again, so back to the jog and then we finished. He stood so nicely I decided to put the stick on the fence and pick it up again, as if it was the mailbox challenge- and he was totally cool. As you can see from the video, the first session was about 10 minutes period.
After we went back to the barn we figured we had better start some obstacle training- we pulled out a tarp- he watched and actually took me over to see it and walk on it- he doesn’t believe in the old saying about curiosity and the cat. We led him over it several times- that was a no brainer- so we pulled out a lunge line and found a board. Our friend Tina had told me that we really should use a lasso because they are stiff and won’t get wrapped around the legs like a lunge line- so we kept that in mind until we can borrow her lasso. We started on the ground still- I had a bit of a hard time leading him from the off side and dragging that board, so Jacqui jumped in to help. He only gave it a moment’s notice and didn’t mind when it hit his legs, so we decided to go on to the same stuff mounted.
THAT was the first major obstacle of the day- me getting on from a bale of straw- my knee and titanium hips just don’t work that well- but after I took my chaps off and put the iron down, I could do it- problem solved. Blitzy continued like a champ- tarp no problem- we left the board in kind of a divot and when we first approached it, he stepped on the board and it came up and hit him- so he wasn’t too keen on sidling up so I could reach. We have to get our yielding to my leg better- so until then, Jacqui handed me the lunge line and we dragged that around both ways.
We didn’t have stuff to practice some of the other obstacles with, and Blitz was such a star, we called it a day- Patty had her carrots ready and he was so happy just to do something. We were all tickled, but not really surprised–because after all, he IS a thoroughbred!
Oh and that horse you heard sometimes neighing from the barn in the second video? That was Nathan, who was in getting his feet done. When we brought him out to put him back in the field, he took Patty right over to that tarp and walked across it too~We might have to start an All Thoroughbred All Star Mounted Trail Team!