Sunday, June 9, 2013

JPR: Bull Run Regional Park and Some New Gear!

Nimo and I did our first Judged Pleasure Ride (JPR) today.  It was hosted by Clifton Horse Society at Bull Run Regional Park.  It was part of a series of JPRs held by area riding clubs.  I missed the first couple of rides earlier this year, but finally got it together to register for this one.  As you can tell by the dark, somewhat blurry photo, it was cloudy today, so not great for taking pictures from a moving horse.  On the other hand, the clouds helped mitigate the encroaching heat and humidity which has been plaguing us for most of the last few weeks.

The ride was about 5 miles long and took us about an hour and forty minutes.  It was similar in format to the rides sanctioned by the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.  We had ten obstacles to ride.  They were:  1) open and close a gate, 2) walk to a square made of poles, put the front feet in the square and sidepass around the square 180 degrees, then walk out, 3) complete a pattern of walking to the first cone, trotting to the second cone, and cantering to the third cone before stopping at the judge, 4) pulling a stuffed pony on a sled by first backing, then turning and pulling it forward, 5) walking across a "bridge," 6) walking up to a garbage can covered with saddle blankets, picking up saddlebags, trotting a figure 8, then putting the saddlebags back, 7) halting and dismounting, then walking to a mounting block and getting back on, 8) going through big foam "fingers" attached to trees, 9) walking over a "wagon wheel" of cavalletti, and 10) walking around a campsite.

We barely made it through the gate.  We started off great, but then Nimo got distracted and tried to wander off.  I just got the gate latched as time was called, so I'm not even sure we'll get points for this one.  The sidepassing around the square was sort of an unmitigated disaster.  After we were done, the judge said, "At least he's pretty!"  Oh, dear.  The cone obstacle went better, except that Nimo would not pick up the canter.  I think he was worried about running over the judge, who was standing very close, so I really can't fault him for that.  I'd rather mess up an obstacle than have him think he can run over a person.  The pony on a sled obstacle was one I thought we didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making, but we were able to get the rope, pull the sled back and after 57 wobbles, get it around the cone and back to the starting point.  I doubt we scored very high, but at least we did it.

The bridge obstacle was the one that surprised me the most.  Apparently, the section of the park with a real bridge was flooded out, so a fake one was improvised using those little colored flags you see at used car lots for the railings and red-painted plywood rectangles on the ground.  Totally terrifying.  The two ladies I rode with went first with very calm horses, and luckily, my horse followed their lead.  I expected that we would never even approach it, much less make it through, so that was really cool.

The next obstacle was picking up the saddlebags.  Unfortunately, Nimo was so suspicious of the garbage can they were resting on, that it took most of my time just to pick them up.  Once I picked them up, Nimo did a beautiful sitting trot figure 8, but we unfortunately exceeded the time.  We made up for it at the dismount/mount obstacle, though.  He was picture perfect!  He stood absolutely still for the dismount and remount.  WhooHoo!  He sometimes walks off too soon after I get on, so I was really pleased with his performance.

The foam fingers obstacle was one that none of the horses I was with completed and neither did Nimo.  I think the horses just thought the foam was too foreign to risk walking through.  And I can't really blame them - it was not a natural obstacle at all - the foam was pink and blue!  Meanwhile the wagon wheel was also a disaster.  The wheel was so small that I couldn't get a good rhythm going with the right spacing, so Nimo knocked down most of the poles.  Again, I think this probably wasn't a great obstacle.  If real logs had been used in an irregular pattern instead of wobbly cavaletti, I think it would have gone a lot better.  Nimo tends to do well on very natural obstacles, but man-made ones often frighten him or don't have his respect.

The final obstacle when fairly well.  I thought Nimo would be worried about the crazy "campfire," which was some kind of shiny material, but instead he seemed to think the tent was hiding a horse-eating monster.  He remained under control, though, and he did walk all the way around.

So, all in all, it was a nice ride.  I think my biggest takeaway is that we need to spend more time on lateral work, like sidepass, turn on the forehand, etc.  Which is kind of what I had already been thinking anyway, but now I have some more ideas on things to work on.

The other great thing about the ride was that I got to try out my new pommel pack from Snug Pax.  It just came a few days ago, so I totally broke the cardinal rule about not using new gear for a competition.  I figured it was a pretty low-key event, so if I had a problem, it wouldn't be a big deal.  In fact, the pack worked great.  I loaded it with a couple of water bottles, snack bars, and a camera (I know, how about some emergency supplies?).  I still had my waist pack with the map, my cell phone, and a knife, and the whole system worked really well.  While we didn't canter, the pack did seem pretty secure, and Nimo didn't even acknowledge that anything new was on him.  Although, the only 2 d-rings on my saddle had to do double duty for attaching the pommel pack and the breast collar.  I hope I don't need too much more stuff attached to the saddle!

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