Saturday, April 30, 2011

Carousel tack

My older son Ryan turned eleven on Wednesday.  As part of his birthday celebration, we drove across the Denver metro area to the Lego Outlet Store at the Colorado Mills mall in Lakewood.
This was my family's first trip to that particular mall, and we were all surprised and happy to discover a carousel right in the middle of the Food Court.
Even though my kids are prone to flashing peace signs and fists for the camera, they still like riding on carousels. 
I'm glad because I like carousels.  
I also like carousel tack.  I like the improbable colors and utterly unrealistic design.  
Feathers hanging from a breastplate?  Why not! 
This breastplate has flowers... 
and this one has tassels.  Maybe this horse is an Arabian? 
In addition to regular horses, this particular carousel featured a couple zebras and several hippocampi.  
Even mythical half horse/half fish creatures need tack! 
I know that I've threatened to do this before, but someday I really am going to make a traditional scale set of carousel tack!

Friday, April 29, 2011

How not to ride a rope gate

Rope gates really are deceptively difficult.  They look simple, but riders who attempt to tackle them without a clear plan often come to grief.  Today's photo series show how quickly one short length of rope can completely undo two good riders on two nice horses.  Fortunately, this story does have a happy ending!

This cute faced bay gelding looked a bit spooky as he approached the rope gate which was part of the Handy Hunter course at the Arapahoe Hunt Club's 2011 Point to Point.
Still, he settled down nicely as his rider opened the gate...
and stood quietly while his teammate passed through. 
The first hint of trouble came when his rider tried to close the gate.   
The cute bay backed into his teammate.  Both horses shot forward and the lead rider dropped the rope.  Undeterred, she circled and rode back to the gate.  
Unfortunately, by this time her horse had decided that rope was a scary monster...
and he was transmitting those beliefs to his teammmate! 
After a brief attempt at the teammate closing the gate... 
the riders decided discretion was the better part of valor.  The team leader dismounted... 
and handed the reins over to her partner. 
She closed the gate easily...
but didn't do it fast enough!   
You know where this is going, right? 
 Yup--that's a freaked out horse with his leg through the reins.
Meanwhile, the team's other half was also experiencing technical difficulties.  
Things were looking pretty bad, but here's the thing about good riders and well trained, sensible horses--they have a way of working through their problems.  
It didn't take long for the teammate to get her horse under control...
and that cute bay was just as quick to realize that he'd rather eat than run.
Moments after what had looked like certain disaster... 
 both riders were back in the saddle...
and heading confidently towards the next obstacle.
So, take note everybody, that's how not to ride a rope gate!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Handy Hunters at the Point to Point

Without a doubt, my favorite class at the Arapahoe Hunt Club's 2011 Point to Point was the Handy Hunter.  Like its show ring counterpart,  the goal of the Handy Hunter class is to test each competitor's ability to negotiate a course of obstacles similar to those found in a typical hunt field.  Despite that shared goal, the two classes are vastly different. Here's a quick look at the Point to Point version.

Like all the Point to Point classes, the Handy Hunter class began with a starting gate.
The course was very long and spread out.  Competitors spent most of their time trotting and cantering through open fields...
and along fence lines.
The course included a number of gates.  Some of them were open,
but there was also a rope gate.   This type of gate is a staple of Western Trail classes and the competitors there make it look easy.  Not so at the Point to Point!  Nearly every team struggled with this obstacle.  Here's a look at one of the few exceptions.
Rather than attempting to work the obstacle like a trail horse, the leader of this team opted to use a simpler (and smarter) approach.  She lifted the rope off the gate and rode forward rather than through.
She then looped the rope onto the opposite side of the gate, 
rode through the gate, 
and stood to the side while the rest of her team passed through the opening. 
As the last horse cleared the gate, she rode back to the rope... 
and returned the gate to its closed position.  
Another one of the hunt field obstacles was the beverage table. 
Each team approached the table at their "hunting pace."
They came to a halt... 
and were handed drinks by the Point to Point staff. 
The riders were actually required to finish their beverages before they could proceed to the next obstacle. 
Ok, who doesn't want to be part of a competition where you're forced to drink on horseback!? 
While on course drinking was mandatory, on course jumping was not.  In fact, jumps were optional in all the Handy Hunter classes and most of the teams opted not to take them.  

I hope you've enjoyed this look at the different types of Point to Point classes, and I look forward to seeing some of these ideas in the live show ring!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Classes at the Point to Point

If you are looking for a fun event for those Other English classes, this is the post for you!  It doesn't matter if your favorite performance horse is standing, walking, trotting, gaiting, cantering, galloping or jumping--there's something for everyone at the Point to Point.

The Arapahoe Hunt Club Point to Point offered three separate divisions--Local Hunters, Master's and Huntsman's.  The Local Hunter Division was open to horse and rider teams who are not members of an organized Rocky Mountain Hunt Club.  The only tack and attire requirements were that riders must wear helmets and boots.  Western riders were specifically invited to participate but we did not see any.   As noted yesterday, we did see at least one gaited horse.

The Master's Division and the Huntsman's Division were open to horse and rider teams who were members in good standing with an organized Rocky Mountain Hunt Club for the current competition year.   Both these divisions required formal hunt attire.  The Huntsman's Division had an additional requirement that all horses "must have been fairly hunted a minimum of six times during the current competition year."
There were no individual classes at this Point to Point.  Instead, riders competed in teams consisting of 2-4 horses.  Some teams were well matched in size and color...
but the majority of the teams looked more like this:
There were also a number of parent/child teams which I thought was especially delightful!
Each division included three types of classes--a Race, a Pace and a Handy Hunter course.  Although the specifics vary, they all followed the same basic format.  One member of the team entered the starting gate while the other member(s) lined up alongside.  
At the starter's signal, they left the box at a walk...
and gradually picked up speed... 
as they moved out onto the main course. 
Once on course, the teams were required to ride to a series of destinations or "points".  At each point, the team received a chip from an event official.  At the end of the course, the teams turned in their chips as proof of completion.  

Unfortunately, most of the points were really far away so this is the best I could do for pictures.  You can see the event officials on foot near the car.  In addition to handing out chips, they also spent a lot of time making sure riders were headed in the right direction!
The course was officially completed when the nose of the trailing horse of the team crossed the finish line.
Each Point to Point division (Local Hunter, Master's and Huntsman's) included a Trotting Race.  As you would expect from its name, the trotting race was all about trotting.  Competitors who broke into a canter were required to circle before continuing on, and the team with the fastest time was declared the winner.  None of the Trotting Races incorporated jumps into their courses.

The Huntsman's Division offered another, more challenging race--the Arapahoe Challenge Cup.  Teams competed over a three to four mile hunt course with mandatory jumps that were not to exceed two feet three inches in height.  This picture shows one of the teams racing down the hill toward the finish line.

In addition to a race, each division also had a "Pace".  In this event the winner was not the fastest team but the team who finished closest to the predetermined "ideal" time.  In the Local Hunter Division, this was a walk/trot event called the Cross Country Pace.  The Master's Division included a similar walk/trot event called the Hilltopper Pace.  The main difference between these two was that the ideal time was announced prior to the start of the Cross Country Pace.  In the Hilltopper Pace, the time was not announced beforehand and the teams had to figure out for themselves what speed was most appropriate.  The Huntsman's Division had the Cherokee Pace which was a trot/canter class with an unannounced ideal time.  All three of these classes included optional jumps.
The third type of class, Handy Hunter, included common hunt situations such as gates, trail obstacles and water.  This made it especially interesting--so much so, that it will get a post of its own tomorrow!