This week's ROTW is brought to you by Funder.
Funder blogs her strange but true horse adventures at It seemed like a good idea at the time. She is a well-educated redneck from Mississippi, who somehow ended up in the mountains of Nevada with a J.D., a big beautiful Tennessee Walker, and a tough little yellow Lab. She has a husband who doesn't need to be associated with the ridiculous horse predicaments she gets into, so she doesn’t blog about him.
Funder and her horse are currently doing limited distance endurance rides and planning on moving up to 50s soon. West region riders will know her by her mismatched gear, stunningly beautiful paint horse, and banana-yellow 31 year old trailer.
So my brave Tennessee Walking Horse Dixie and I managed to trailer to our very first event in our OWN horse trailer. We were late, and she couldn't figure out how to back off the trailer, so we were even later getting started - but it was hard to get upset on such a beautiful day!
The event was an ATTA trail trial, put on by my local gaited horse club. It was a huge success with over 60 riders entering!
I got us registered as schooling participants, which meant we wouldn't be scored on any of the obstacles. I just wanted to have fun without worrying about how poorly I was scoring! We would've scored very poorly, too. Just knowing that we weren't being judged made the whole thing fun for me, instead of frustrating.
There were ten terrifying obstacles spread out over miles of sandy trail. I only did nine - the map provided was like a minimalist impression of the area, and by the time I realized I'd only done nine, I was back at camp and hungry. There was no particular order to complete the trials in - we were constantly passing horses, meeting horses coming from other directions, and seeing horses headed off on their own paths. Dixie was totally laid back about the other horses.
The obstacles were very hard for us! Dixie's pretty spooky at the best of times, and we don't have the most dignified and complex communication system. I often end up yelling "Quit acting like a retard and walk over there!" while kicking her in the ribs, or jumping off and leading her throughs something. But she is brave about scary trail monsters, so she tried hard for me and I was very happy with her.
Each of the obstacles had a judge in a chair, a flapping American flag, and the actual obstacle. The flags were pretty scary at first, and the judges always startled her when they stood up. Most of the judges and all of the messengers were from the First Nevada Cavalry, so Dixie got to see some awesome costumes. One older fellow with the biggest handlebar moustaches I've ever seen had an ostrich feather the size of his head stuck in his hat. I immediately decided I must find an ostrich feather (preferably dyed some neon color) to attach to my helmet.
I rode several miles with two of the messengers. They were riding a circuit, picking up results from the judges and heading back in to camp, so the people in camp could get a head start on tallying the scores. I thought that we would've made a hell of a picture - a man and a boy in full Civil War period outfits, riding with a completely mismatched endurance rider on a loud paint.
So, the obstacles. Dixie let me take a bright red rain slicker from a judge, but I didn't dare put it on - she jumped every time it touched her neck. We got our feet wet in the lake, went slowly down a sand dune, and stepped over some really delicate cross-rails. She came completely unglued about a drink cooler with a squeaky lid! And walking up to a mailbox was no problem, but opening it was just too much.
I was very proud of her for how well she handled the cavalry obstacle. The judge handed me a wooden sword and I was supposed to ride past three obstacles and touch each one - one sandbag on a pole on the right, a stick dangling overhead on the left, and another sandbag on the right. We touched both sandbags, but Dixie really didn't like it when the sword crossed over her back and I chickened out about touching the overhanging stick. She was extremely headshy when I bought her, so she was trusting me an awful lot to wave a big stick around on her back!
The last obstacle was fun, too. I had to ride up near a large boulder, step off onto the boulder, fly spray my horse, check the girth, and remount from the boulder. Fortunately, the "fly spray" was just a bottle of water. Dixie sometimes comes unglued about the smell of fly spray, and she already hates the squeak noise of the bottle and the feel of the water. I thought I could handle spraying her with water, but I knew we'd fail at actual fly spray. She shivered while I sprayed her, but stood stoically for me to check the girth and step back on. YAY!
The squeaky drink cooler was the only obstacle I really had to dismount for. She scuttled backwards and sideways about 20 feet when that cooler lid made a noise, and I ended up dismounting and coaxing her up to the cooler. I opened it and she shook but didn't run, and I took out a water bottle and let her smell it. After that, she was very wary but not terrified of the cooler.
After the ride, she ate a little more hay and fell asleep in the sun.
Such a good pony!
Laura Crum would call a horse that could do that trail trial a broke horse. My horse will probably never be broke, but damn it, she's mine and she suits me. She trusts me and she faces her fears pretty well, so I'll keep her. Just make sure you keep your squeaky drink cooler far away from us, please!
So trail trials, although almost impossible to type (you try it!), are a fun horse event. None of the obstacles were dangerous or particularly unrealistic - no walking through pool noodles or over tarps. Just the kind of things you'd want a well-trained trail horse to calmly accept.