Punks Kid Rock is the registered name of my American Quarter horse gelding, Rocky. This blog chronicles our adventures together,
as well as stories from my horse past and, occasionally, a tidbit from my non horse life.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ACTHA Ride, Day 2

Sorry for the delay on this post! I meant to write it earlier than this, but life got in the way.  Anyway, here is your synopsis of my second ACTHA ride:

The morning of day two, Rocky was ready to go after I finished the rider's briefing. The weather was much nicer, without the blinding winds of the day before and with some sunshine!  Everyone was in much better spirits simply because we weren't squinting through the wind and rubbing our icy fingers together.  It's amazing how much better a sunny day will make you feel!

When I got the obstacle sheet, I was excited- these were obstacles I was overall confident we could do well on!  Our first one was was "Perfect Picture."  We were to ride between two cones, stop, and pretend to take a picture off to our left.  The horse was to stand quietly.  I used my real camera and took an actual picture, you can judge its perfection:
Through the trees you can see Lake Shamineau, complete with ice floes.  Rocky and I both earned perfect 10's from the judge for this obstacle, although once we looked through everyone's scores, this judge seemed to score everyone highly.  Still, I feel like we would have earned the 10's regardless. Rocky gave me a soft stop and stood patiently while I unzipped my camera from its case on my hip, took a picture, and put the camera back.

The second obstacle was Wagon Wheel.  Four log type cavalettis were in a circle on the ground, each slightly raised in the center of the circle.  Ribbons were tied in the middle of the cavalettis, and we needed to step over the outside (lower) part of the cavalettis.  Rocky was not sure why there were cavalettis in the middle of the woods, so he gave the obstacle the stink eye for a minute before agreeing to go over them. We lightly tapped the last one, otherwise we were clear. We both got 8's from the judge.

Third we did an uphill challenge, which was judged on how well horse and rider walked up a decently steep hill. The judge for this one was very picky, she didn't score anyone above an 8 all day. Rocky and I both got 7's, which I was pleased with when looking over the scores and seeing how everyone else did.

Trot Weave was next, where we trotted through four poles set in a straight line. I felt a bit uncoordinated for this as Rocky's trot was more forward than I anticipated.  He also was surprised to see the judge's sweatshirts in a pile to the side of the poles, but he went through pretty well anyway.  He got a 9, and I got a 8.

Number five was an L-Back.  This obstacle was poles laid on the ground in the shape of an L.  You ride through it, stop, then back through the straight part of the L.  I felt like Rocky was a little crooked in front of the L when we stopped, so I kept trying to edge him one way, then correct that to edge the other way.  He listened to me until we were almost to the turn in the L, where he moved too far to the right and didn't stop at the poles.  He stepped over them, which I blame on myself for asking him to back at different angles every other step.  The judge marked him down a bit for it though, giving Rocky a 7 and me a 9.

Last, we had to walk through a puddle. Originally this was going to be stepping into Lake Shamineau, but with the ice on the lake they decided to use the Frog Jump puddle from the day before.  This was the obstacle I was most concerned about, as Rocky does not like to walk over/into things that are new to him. We went last, and I used the time waiting for my mom to finish by backing Rocky up and then moving him forward to the cone.  My plan was to walk Rocky around the puddle for 30 seconds so he could look at it, and then use the last 15 seconds of the obstacle to ask him to step into it.

I asked Rocky to move toward it, and he did with his ears pricked.  He seemed confident, so I abandoned my plan and let him walk to the puddle. He paused briefly, then walked easily through it.   I was so proud of him!  Walking down the trail away from that last obstacle, I tried not to cry thinking about how well he had done for me that day. I rubbed his neck a lot and told him he was a good boy.  We both got 8's for that one, but I think the judge heard me when I exclaimed that usually he struggles with stuff like that, because Rocky earned a plus, too.

At the end of the day, we earned 99 points out of 120- just four points shy of first place!  Unfortunately, the scores were very close again, so we earned 8th place and didn't get a ribbon.  
I was very happy with the way we performed in our first competition weekend, and can't wait to try it again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ACTHA Ride, Day 1

I'm baaaaaaack! And super excited to share my weekend with you all!  This last weekend I did my first ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) rides, and I am really proud of how it went.

My mom and I drove out to the ride location on Friday night, arriving around 6:30 pm. We put our horses out in their paddocks, unpacked the horse stuff in a tie stall and then found our lodging. We stayed in a bunk house with showers, toilets, and electricity!  Gotta love "roughing" it!
Here is Rocky in his paddock on Friday, he handled unloading with aplomb.  He backed out of the trailer, alertly checked out his surroundings, then walked calmly with me to his pen.  The horse directly behind him in the picture (in the green blanket) is a 30 year old Arabian gelding named Ace- more on him later!

After unpacking all of our stuff, we tacked up and rode around the arenas for a bit.  I did some ground work first to help him adjust to the new location.  His attention was constantly being pulled to other things with all of the other horses plus the new surroundings, and he was a bit edgier than normal. He snorted at a picnic table, for example, but decided it was not a horse-eating picnic table after getting to smell it.

After the height of his nerves was dissipated, we rode around the outdoor arenas for a bit. We went into the one with less people at first, until I discovered why there were so few people using it. The footing on the property as a whole was generally sandy, but the arena had a lot of deep sand.  I could feel how much harder Rocky had to work to even walk through it, and it was deep enough that I started to worry about someone pulling a tendon.

The other, larger outdoor arena wasn't quite as deep as the smaller one.  The outside rail was the best place to be, but the middle was bogged down with sand.  We worked in a lot of circles, doing figure 8's at a trot and then cantering a few 30 meter circles.  Rocky was still more excited than usual but in a manageable way, so we ended there for the night.

Saturday morning was cold, about 50 degrees with 40 mph winds.  I hadn't brought long johns so I only had jeans on the bottom, on top I wore a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and my winter jacket. The wind was the worst part, blowing up the dirt and sand while making everyone squinty and cold. At the end of the day I was picking sand out of my eyes and ears- not pleasant!

My barn owner, Silver, came to the ride with her Quarter horse stallion, Tucker, and her Arabian gelding, Walker. Silver's mom, Jane, rode Walker while Silver rode Tucker. My mom came with her Norwegian Fjord gelding, Tapper, and another barn member came with her Friesian sport horse  Haley. Together with a friend of Silver's who was riding her GORGEOUS Friesian mare, we made up the 2nd group to leave at 10:15 am.
Haley, Friesian Mare, Walker, Rocky, and Tapper.
Here is our group photo at the end of the ride on day 1. This is everyone except for Silver, who took the picture. I captioned it with the important information, mainly, the horses' names. :)

Before getting into the ride specifics, I'd like to note how the scoring system works. Horse and rider are scored separately for each obstacle.  These scores are then added up into one final score that determines what your placing is for that ride. You or your horse can earn "pluses" which means that you did something extra in a good way.  If two people's numerical score ties, the tie is broken based on the number of pluses that were earned. A score of 1-4 is considered below average, 5-7 is average, and 8-10 is very good.

Now onto the actual ride! Our first obstacle was a green tarp we were supposed to go over. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you'll know that Rocky does NOT like to walk over things he hasn't seen before.  He refused to go over it within the time allotted, which was 30 seconds. He earned a 4/10 for his refusal, and I got a 7/10.

Obstacle 2 was cantering from one cone to another. We were to trot to the cone, canter, then drop back to a trot after the second cone.  We picked up the canter a little late- my fault for a late cue- but we still both earned 8 points!

The third obstacle was a turn on the forehand.  This obstacle was located in a terrible place at the top of a hill, in the middle of a four way intersection of trail. There was a length of hose in a circle you were supposed to put the horse's front feet in and then pivot around, but it was too big of a circle and messily placed.  The whole thing was not very well set up.  Rocky stepped into the hose without an issue, which had been worrying me. I think I rushed asking him for the turn, wanting to finish in time.  I should have relaxed, paused after his halt, and then taken my time tilting his nose before asking for him to move.  He went in a general circle, but I think it's fair to say we just botched that one.  Rocky earned a 4, I got a 6.

The fourth obstacle was a campsite!  There was a tent set up that we were to walk around in a circle.  At one point you walk within four feet of the tent between it and a tree.  Rocky was alert, and as I asked him to walk toward the tent he started to shy a little away from it.  Once he saw the path between the tent and tree, he marched through with confidence and completed the obstacle without a problem.  We both earned 8's for it, and I got a plus.  I believe my plus was for guiding him gently when he started to shy.

Campsite obstacle!
Our second-to-last obstacle was called Frog in the Pond. You walk up to a puddle and halt next to it. The rider then tosses a stick into the puddle, causing a splash. Your horse is to stand quietly for this, then walk on without issue. I was the one who messed this one up.  I was concerned that Rocky would try to shy away from the puddle, so I kept looking down to make sure we weren't getting too close. The judge had said to keep your eyes up except for when you toss the stick- my bad! Rocky got a 10 for his calm stop, he waited patiently without caring that I threw something, and walked off nicely. I got a 7, most likely for my eyes. Oops!

Final and sixth obstacle!  This one was on the far side of their sandy arena.  The wind howled across it directly at us, so I closed my eyes against the whipping sand and let Rocky take me where we needed to go.  I am so glad I spent the time I did working on opening and shutting the gate at Silver's!  For this obstacle we didn't have to shut it at all.  You open it, hold it open for 5 seconds, then ride through it leaving the gate open. The judge commented after we finished that it was very nice- very nice indeed, for we both scored 9's!

At the end of the day, Rocky and I got an overall score of 88 out of 120 points. The top score for our division, which was Pleasure, earned a 100 that day. I got 13th place out of 19 riders.  Silver got 8th, and her mom got 5th. My mom got 2nd in her division of Scout out of 6 riders, and our barn member got 4th in Scout.

I was happy to complete the ride and earn some good scores!  Next time I will not rush through the obstacles, trust Rocky more, and work on the few things that need some fixing.

Coming soon, Day 2 of our ACTHA ride!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chock Full of Excitement! The Countdown Begins!

What was months away is now just three days from today! My first ACTHA ride is this Saturday, and I am pumped! I had a great training session with Rocky on this last Sunday morning, and it feels like he has his brains back after getting a two and a half month vacation this winter.

He walked out of the pasture with his head level, calm eyes and a can-do attitude.  We have been working on turns on the forehand and the haunches, and he has been doing much better lately.   When I would ask for a turn on the forehand in the past, he wasn't rotating around one front foot very well. I discovered that if I tip his nose in, the movement clicks for him and he rotates like a champ!

The next challenge was getting him to turn on the forehand with his front legs in a square of logs. Rocky was confused, and kept trying to walk over the poles rather than follow the movement I was trying to achieve.  I went back to ground work and helped him figure it out there by making him back up every time he tried to go forward.  I also rewarded him and stopped him for each correct step, working our way up to rotating 180 degrees around the square.   Then I got on him and did it again.  After about 20 minutes I could rotate his hind end, ask for a side step on the forehand, then rotate his hind end again going both directions.

It also helps Rocky to get a break from doing exercises that are new and he has to think about a lot. Once he understands a concept, I am learning to do a less intense lesson like transition work to give him some time to process.  After giving him some time away from the new lesson, I'll go back to it and make sure it sticks.  So far this has worked really well for me and he seems to be retaining the information without becoming frustrated by too much repetition.

I think we have a decent chance of doing well this weekend, fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, Wizardry, and Advantageous Public Education

I've been thinking.  It seems that wizarding schools only start taking pupils once they reach the ripe age of eleven.  It made me wonder about a few things, such as, do wizards or witches from magical families go to muggle school until they're eleven? If not, is it up to their parents to teach them math, writing, reading, etc- all of the skills necessary to take magic classes- or is there some sort of non magical school for children who are magical but not yet eleven years old?

If magical children do not attend school of any sort before their eleventh year, what do their parents do about child care? Not everyone is wealthy enough to hire a full time babysitter, much less attract house elves or the like to watch their kids.  I think in the case of the Weasley's, Molly was a stay at home mom while Arthur worked at the Ministry of Magic.  What about single parents? I'm thinking about this too much, aren't I?

Still.  I want to know. Who teaches the magical children the basic schooling required before they head off to Hogwarts or Durmstrang?  I don't remember there being an "arithmetic" class, but at least basic math skills are required for classes such as potions.  Harry, Hermione and Ron are always writing a few scrolls' worth of essay for History, but they all had to learn basic essay writing before Professor Binns could assign them such a task.

In Harry's case, he didn't know he was a wizard until Hagrid found him on that sad little island with the Dursley's, so he went to whichever muggle school the Dursley's sent him to until he came of age- same with Hermione.  What about Ron? Or Draco for that matter, his family had money and could have hired a tutor or something.

In the end, I'm pretty sure wizarding schools took advantage of not accepting students until they had already learned the basic schooling required to start their courses. I'd imagine it is also easier to start teaching self control and discipline to eleven year olds versus six year olds like our muggle system.