About 5 weeks before the event, I saw a facebook post about Charles Wilhelm's Ultimate Super Horse Challenge in Sacramento on June 12-15 2014 . Intrigued, I went to the website to find that applications were still open, and a clinic was going to be held in nearby Hemet Ca about 1 month before the event that would prepare riders. So I signed up for the clinic thinking maybe this would be a fun way to promote the Peruvian Horse in a new way and just in case I could get accepted into the competition, I began for the first time to canter my horse under saddle as I saw galloping was necessary!
The clinic was amazing. Charles Wilhelm is a trainer's trainer and I felt what he wanted to see in a horse and rider combined all I had ever learned or done in my past. Lightness, responsiveness, collection, cadence, flexibility, forwardness and calmness were his priorities. However, I also had to learn new skills: Ranch Pleasure, Cowboy Dressage, proper ground work, and primarily, how to work a cow or a cow track that simulates a cow. Luckily, after some hesitation at first, my homebred gelding Amor del Dios aka Mory caught on well and wow was it fun~!
Thanks to the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) which provides education as well as competitions to hone your skills, I had a good amount obstacle work under my belt that I really needed. At the clinic I also had help with more advanced obstacles (our first teeter totter and pedestal etc).
At the conclusion of the clinic Charles said that we were accepted into the competition! I felt like I had won right there!
So I went home and went to work on everything I thought I might need. I knew Robin Bond, an Extreme Cowboy Racing legend (EXCA) had won this event in Pomona so I called and asked if she would be willing to give me a few lessons. She said yes and I have to say she made me enjoy being a student again as she coached me on these disciplines I had knew almost nothing about. I had her ride Mory to work with him on a slow reiner type "turnaround" (yes we needed that skill too!) while I rode her horse so I could feel it. When I saw her on Mory, I remarked how darn cute he looked and I thought if SHE rode Mory, I bet THEY could win.
With the prospect of working real cattle in Sacramento, I also went with my friend Gail Cantrell and rented cattle one day. There we could single out different cows and learn how best to handle the personalities. To truly excel in that could take years, yet Mory came away confident and with an understanding of what the game was all about.
Then it turned out that Robin decided she was going to attend Sacramento and now I had my trainer attending and competing with me! Imagine my shock when she said yes she would coach in Sacramento! And she did! I can't stress enough how incredible her character is to have done that. And I might add, she refused to take money from me and did it as "professional courtesy".
If I hadn't done the ACTHA's America's Favorite Trail Horse TV show, there is no way I could have performed as well as I did. There I learned from famous trainers how to prepare a solid well rounded equine partner. There from my peers I learned how to accentuate your horses positive qualities, look polished, and handle pressure of television cameras. I believe this event will be featured on HRTV in the fall.
Some of the skills Mory had NEVER done that we had to do in the competition were:
Shoot a blank gun.
Load into a trailer in the arena
Gallop with an American flag
Jump a line of jumps in a canter
Step through tires
Go through a pool noodle obstacle with the top noodles over the head of the horse.
Perform counter canter (we got a memo just days before the competition to hone up on it. Not an easy task for a horse who has only cantered under saddle for one month of his entire life)
Ground tie. (I was really scared of that one)
Jump a kiddie tunnel.
Gallop around the arena waving to the crowd.
Do a full 360 turn on the forehand on a pedestal Each way!
Canter over poles set close together. Someone said they were so far apart????
Back up and push a large ball with the rear end of the horse, until the ball went into a net.
Go through a cowboy curtain with super long shiny streamers which went with you as you rode through. Gotta love tha.
So what happened you ask? 14 people started. We made 7th after the first set of skill tests and therefore were not in the first elimination. Then in the next set of challenges for the top 10 we rose to 5th and then later, 2nd which put us into the finals which showcased only the top 5. In the finals Mory was awesome and we were crowned Reserve Champion! IT WAS THRILLING! Oh and yes, Robin Bond won it (again)!
The top 5 were allowed to do a musical freestyle on Sunday which was not judged, just for fun. Mory was magnificent, and I heard people saying as he galloped with the fabric over his head: "Unbelievable" We also did mock sidesaddle, and other maneuvers to show how versatile and accepting a Peruvian can be.
Oh and that brings up a thought. We had good size crowds for these competitions spanning over 4 days. A lot of people got to see the Peruvian in a whole new light including some of our esteemed judges, Charles Wilhelm, Richard Winters, and Kerry Kuhns. People who own Peruvians came up to me just beaming that their beloved breed had been showcased and thanked me. It doesn't get better than that!
I would like to thank my sponsors: The Mikmar Bit Company, ACTHA, Fearless Rider.com, Carole Serras, Glenda Schumann, Debbie Bachna, Becky Smith, Louis Friedman and others not wanting public recognition.