Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our 2nd ACTHA ride & sideways toward!

Hi folks. I'm so happy to have a chance for a blog update! Life has been NUTS for me since starting my new job full time..

Last Saturday, Guinness and I participated in our first *judged* American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) ride at the Horse Center in Lexington, VA. (The first time that we rode in an ACTHA ride, it was an unjudged "buddy ride.") We rode with our friends Diane & Ivan and Joanne & Noble.

Here is a list of obstacles & how we did:
  • cross a deadfall of logs & pause straddling the last one - G did great!
  • dismount on the off-side and remount from the off-side using a bench - great!
  • cross a small shallow pond - per the rules, I didn't allow him to nose the water, so he said "forget it" and we maxed out our time without him setting one foot into it..
  • walk up an embankment and then down again - G went RBE over the sight of some horses on a ridge line about 1/4 mile away. I still got him up the embankment, but had to dismount after that to help him work through his feelings.
  • weave at a gait through a line of pumpkins and halt at the last one - G did fine, but I forgot to halt until a horse length past - oops.
He nicely trotted in-hand for the final lameness check. Then I gave him some "tea", brushed him, and put him loose in the trailer to munch hay while looking out of the windows.

After lunch, I put him on a 22' line and reapproached the water obstacle. This time, I clicked/treated (with mints - a first) as he neared the water and within 5 minutes he was willingly cantering circles through it to earn a mint! He was energetic but didn't spook at anything (seemed more LBE at the time). I allowed him to graze a while, then we loaded up and headed home without incident. Loading is a complete non-issue. :-)

I've inserted some photos of the event. Plus, click here for a slideshow! (Photos 269-273+ depict Guinness refusing the water obstacle.)

Almost as fun, was the opportunity to play horsey in my own backyard this evening before dark. It has been MONTHS since I've done this..

I went out to the roundpen with a fanny pack filled with Guinness' dinner. I stood in neutral until Guinness "found" me, than I closed the rope gates to keep the other horses out. Guinness looked hard at me and looked as though he wanted to play circling game, so I gestured for him to circle. He eagerly walked around and I strategically clicked to tell him that he was on the right track. Once he passed my shoulder on the 2nd lap, I brought him in and fed him a little feed from my hand. We repeated this on the other side. I was *really* impressed because it has been almost 3 MONTHS since we played with this at liberty!! Click here to read about the last time.

Next, I decided to play with a very light driving game - more like gesturing to him and him interpreting what I meant and earning periodic treats after a series of multiple clicks. So awesome!

I decided that it was time to try something new: Sideways toward me. Easy as pie with clicker training; it took all of about 5 minutes!! All I did was to stand parallel to him facing the same direction as him. I started by crossing my legs and stepping sideways toward him, as he moved sideways away from me.

Next, I draped the string over his back near his flank, and stepped away from him in the exact manner as before. I could see the wheels turning in his brain. As his front end moved toward me, I clicked/treated. Then I gestured a tiny bit with the stick on the off-side at the flank and his rear stepped toward me - click/treat. After about 3 tries, his whole body was moving sideways toward me! We repeated this about 5 times and ended with a jackpot in his food bowl.

Guinness was very pleased with himself. I will be sure to never reward this behavior without my having cued it first, since I don't want to teach him to crowd me. This is why I've waited until he was really responsive to teach it. Yippee!

Guinness has now been seriously "under saddle" for about six and 1/2 months. It is so easy to take it for granted now that we are riding.

I am so grateful to have him in my life. Rockies Rule!!


inchwormwv said...

Hey Clare,

Glad you are having so much fun! I spoke with Laura today and she has been getting a sideways toward with her horse too!

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...


I think that it is so great that you get out and do these things with your horse. You two really are a great match and so mobile! (I am jealous--I just don't have the time or opportunities at the moment or in this location.) Congrats on doing what you can and really putting yourself out there!

Question, why were the horses prohibited from sniffing the water? I know it was not a Parelli event but that seems to violate "nose, neck, maybe feet." I'd have probably taken the points off and did it my way for the horse's sake--jmho. :)