I am sitting writing this full of gratitude that I don't have to go 'out' to work today, because I am exhausted. This is the result of all the fun and games yesterday.
El Husbando and I set off to do a local TREC competition. I would just like to say a big thankyou to Pongo and Missis for lending us their lorry for the day, otherwise we couldn't have gone. It was quite funny though, because Zak only just fitted in, and kept his head down, as if we'd folded him up slightly, and Barnaby kept looking out the back, which made it difficult to close the back ramp up.
We did get there, though, with a few interesting gear changes, and me fearing for our lives going down some steep hills, but found the field okay. Zak expanded rapidly as he came down the ramp.
We went to sign in, and then the fun and games commenced. I had assigned the job of copying the route onto our map to Mr O, as he is very good at that sort of thing. Last year when I did it with Missis, we got completely lost! You have ten minutes to copy the route from a very big map onto your little one, then you have a tack check, and then set off on the orienteering phase of the competition.
We rode across a couple of fields, and there before us was the first obstacle. Last year we had to ride up a really steep slope, between the flags. This year we had to lead them up, turn round at the top and lead them back down again. It was a really slippery, bumpy grass area, and I was worried I'd fall over and Barnaby would tread on me. I was also worried he wouldn't want to leave Zak, and he didn't, but he was still obedient and we made it there and back in one piece. When it was Mr O's turn, Zak just followed him along like a pack animal, beautifully done.
Then on the flat field at the top we had the 'Remounting' obstacle. We had to lead them up to a mounting block and get on, on the offside of the horse, in less than fifteen seconds. I failed this last year, even with getting on on the correct side. This time I whipped in, got on the block and leapt on in nine seconds! I couldn't believe it. Well done, Barnaby.
The next obstacle was a double of cross country fences, a log followed by a brush fence, but only small. I could have jumped either of them separately, but just couldn't cope with the prospect of a double. I decided to pass, even though I probably should have had a go. They tried to persuade me, but I said no.
Mr O went for it, and Zak ran out. We were astonished. Zak has never refused a fence in his entire life. I don't know what the matter was. So then, Mr O took him up to the brush fence, just to have a look, when Zak suddenly shot out a front foot and stuck it straight through the fence! Then he stepped backwards and found the fence was stuck to him and went straight up in the air, trying to shake himself free, and eventually it fell off his foot, scattering twigs and bits of wood all over the place. Mr O was lucky to stay on, I can tell you. Personally, I'd have left well alone, and I think maybe Mr O will think twice before trying something like that again. Zak was fine, thankfully, as he had boots on. Hmmm.
After apologising profusely, we set off on the rest of the orienteering route. We got a little bit lost at one point, quite near Ogston Reservoir, but re-traced our steps and found the bridleway we should have been on. We thought we were lost before that though, as we rode towards what we thought was just a junk yard, but found the way through and it turned out to be correct. There were guns going off nearby at this point, not Barnaby's favourite thing, and it was windy and raining, so I was thrilled at how good Barnaby was, especially when we went along the road and Zak was spooking at the sign saying 'Slow' painted in the road and Barnaby didn't even look at it. The boot, as they say, is very firmly on the other foot.
We also had to ride over a piece of wood laid over a cattle grid, and a few other peculiar sights, and Barnaby wasn't phased by any of it.
We got back and signed in, me totally thrilled with what we'd done, as it was so much better than last year, and went off to do our Control of Paces in the field back at the start.
I decided to go first, and Barnaby walked down the narrow column, staying between the flags an did it quite well. He has a naturally fast walk, so I decided not to push him in case he trotted. I knew he didn't want to leave Zak, who was waiting at the top, and sure enough, we turned round to do what should be a sedate canter back up, and Barnaby went into a flat out gallop and I couldn't stop him! I tried to keep him between the markers for as long as I could, as my score would still count even if it was too fast, but he was determined to get to Zak, who was off to one side, and I had visions of him impaling himself on a spike, so I let him go outside and go back to Zak, so I forfeited all my marks, which was a shame as it turned out.
Mr O set off with Zak and did a lovely walk down, turned round and did a beautifully slow, measured canter back up, bobbing along, hardly covering any ground. I shouted, "Keep going, keep going!" as it was so perfect. Then afterwards Mr O said he thought, 'Oh I'm nearly home,' and Zak must have felt him relax and stopped dead for a couple of seconds before Mr O got him going again, but that was enough to throw all the points away! There were gasps all round, as they'd been cheering him on from around the field as it happened. Such a shame as it was by far the best canter of the day.
So then it was onto the obstacle course, the third phase of the competition. The first one was a rein back (where you make your horse walk backwards) between two trotting poles on the ground. I knew Barnaby wouldn't be able to do this, but had a go anyway, but ended up with a zero score. This is the only thing I need to work on at home, really.
But Zak did an impeccable rein back, right back through the poles and out through the flags, for maximum points. Well done, boy.
Then we had the wooden bridge to cross. Bearing in mind I've seen Mr O do this twice on Barnaby in competitions, I went up to it in complete faith in his capabilities. He moved a shoulder out as if to say, "I don't think I'll do this," and I very firmly said with my leg, "I think you will, my friend!" and over he went. It was fantastic, I was so pleaased with him, especially as when it was Zak's turn, he was having none of it, like Max last year.
Then we had to ride through a narrow corridor with loads of objects on each side, a thing that was spinning, a tractor, just junk everywhere with a sack tied to a post that was flapping in the wind. You got more points if you did it in trot or canter, so I decided we would trot it and Barnaby went straight through. Mr O decided to do it in canter, and Zak was perfect, so we racked up some more points there.
Then came 'The Maypole'. You have to go up to a post, take off the rope loop and carry it all the way round in a circle and hook it back on. This is the hardest obstacle ever, as when you pick it up the vast majority of horses think it's an electric fence and won't go near it. Max was terrified of it and I had to forfeit my points last year. He wouldn't even let me pick it up. So this was the moment I'd been waiting for. I rode through the start gate and got Barnaby in position, leaned over and picked up the rope. He didn't flinch. We walked round the circle, me clutching the rope and holding his reins, and keeping him in on the circle, but not too far in so we didn't cross the yellow line and round we strode and I popped it back on at the end. I know it sounds simple put like that, but it so isn't.
I was absolutely elated that I'd done it, and gave Barnaby a big hug, who thought I was completely mad, being so OTT about such a simple thing, bless him. To give him his due, Zak did it as well, all credit to Mr O's good riding, as it is extremely difficult. More points for us, then.
Then we came to the final obstacle. We'd seen several people attempt this and fail. In fact, hardly anybody completed it. We had to ride up to a cone, that had a cane in it, with a hook on the end, take it out and ride with it up to a bright red childs paddling pool, filled with water, with plastic ducks floating in it, each with string tied to them. We had to hook out a duck, take it to a blue container and drop it in, ride back to the cone and put the rod back in, then leave the arena, all within three minutes. We'd laughed like a drain when we'd seen it, and now it was our turn.
So the clock started, I rode into the arena, I took the rod out of the cone holder, rode to the pond, halted Barnaby, hooked out a duck, put it in the blue container, rode over and put the rod back and rode out. They stopped the clock - fifty seconds - the fastest of the day. It was the smoothest bit of riding I've ever done. Even the judge said, "Solid as a rock, that one!" about Barnaby and I thought, 'You don't know how right you are,' as I stood watching Mr O. He did manage it, too, although Zak wasn't keen on the paddling pool, and came out grinning from ear to ear.
So we took the horses back to the lorry and untacked them. They knew their job was done. Mints all round. We stayed for quite a while so we could get our score sheet. Unfortunately we didn't get placed because we lost so many points by fluffing the Control of Paces. Note for next time!
But all in all, I had a fantastic time. Barnaby is a true contender as a TREC horse, because the obstacles just do not phase him. I just need to work on my map reading and jumping and they'll be no stopping us. But today was just for fun, and it really was. I was thrilled to be riding him and so proud of his attitude and capabilities. I have always slated TREC and said it's a very wimpy sport, and I'll do it when I'm fifty and too old for anything else. But I can tell you today's competition was a true test of horsemanship, and of partnership between horse and rider and I thoroughly enjoyed it. All I would say is, don't knock it until you've tried it.
So, thankyou, Barnaby, you are the stuff of dreams, my man.