Monday, April 6, 2015

I Rode Western!

 I don't think I've mentioned this before, but Laura loves trying all kinds of disciplines, English and western. She believes that there is something to be learned from every discipline. Furthermore, she believes that it is great for horses and mules to try different, not only to relieve boredom from doing the same thing but also so the horse/mule can cross train and gain skills helpful to their main discipline. For example, she has done cutting, reining, western trail course, and hunters with Dyna.

 So I can try new things, I will be riding in a western trail course clinic later this month. One of Laura's friends is teaching, and I will get to ride the clinician's well-trained western mule. It's going to be exciting! The name is pretty self-explanatory, but for those of you who don't know, western trail course is a competition in which horse and rider go through a series of obstacles. The obstacles can be logs, poles bending, gates, and so much more. Riding western trail course can help me prepare for jumping because I need to prepare for each obstacle, like preparing for a jump, and the horse has to be responsive too.

She looks so cute in western! She has a nice jog too.
 To prepare for this clinic, I rode Lucky in a western saddle. I learned how to but a western saddle on and to to tighten the cinch. Basically there is a long strap that hangs from the saddle, and you put it through a loop at the end of the cinch and another below the flap of the saddle several times and tighten. I also rode in split reins, where the reins are in two pieces rather than being buckled together. As I was riding western, I sat for the trot and kept it at a slower, western jog.

 I tried to keep my position correct and get Lucky round. It's amazing how simply bending my elbows can get her to drop her and relax. Mostly, I need to let my legs go long without pinching, especially in the canter/lope. The first time cantering, my legs were stiff, and I braced. Consequently, Lucky's movements were not free. When I tried again, I really focused on letting my legs go long, and voila, her canter was more free.

 The most fun part was riding the trail course. The course started with a figure eight around two barrels, which were so close together that Lucky could just barely go between them. Then I would ride straight to the end of the arena, which wasn't very many strides off, canter straight and around the corner, past three pole bending poles, returning to trot and bending throughout the last few in the line, then bending back, turning right just before the last pole, and making a hair-pin turn to go between two cones and walk.

 The barrels were difficult, and I had to make a wide turn around each barrel so Lucky wouldn't return to trot. I started to the right, her most difficult side, then turned left and went down the arena. I sat back and asked her canter. Because I knew that she is easy to get to return to trot, I waited until she was at the third pole to ask her to make a downward transition, then began bending around the poles. Pole bending is really not all that different than serpentines. For both, your horse has to be balanced enough to change directions multiple times. It can be difficult to keep a horse going through a serpentine/pole bending, but I had no trouble keeping Lucky in the trot, even there were only small gaps between the poles. Finally, I make a sharp right turn just before the last pole, heading toward the side of the arena. Then I made a sharp, hairpin u-turn to two parallel pole. I halted in between them then walked off.

 I really had fun riding western and I can't wait for the clinic. Has anyone else tried western trail course before?


  1. I started out riding in 4-H and my first horse was an all-around. We did EVERYTHING from Trail to Showmanship to Hunters. Trail was always fun -- we did bridges, mailboxes, rope gates!

    1. That's awesome! I'll probably get to try rope gates and other obstacles in the clinic.

  2. fun! i really want to try a trail challenge w my mare too - looks like a great time!


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