Wow. Do you have some moments in your life that are emblazoned on your memory? Perhaps your first kiss, or the birth of a child, or the first time you rode your horse? Well, our ACTHA audition is one of those experiences, where those moments in a pressure situation, with cameras rolling, Junior and I created a memory that I will always treasure.
So let me back up a little. Our audition was this past Saturday April 16th in Norco. On the way up the 15 freeway from San Diego, I picked up my BFF Tracee and her Peruvian mare DOR Sedona so we could trail ride after the audition but more importantly so she could help me out and calm my nerves. It was on the trip up that she reminded me that she was with me, on the day I met "Junior" at Debbie Duttons' ranch in Norco, the day I bought him as a 1 1/2 year old gelding. How fitting then, that we were all together again, 6.5 years later.........
Upon arriving at the audition site there were about 35 horse trailers, everyone was super friendly. Most of the horses were fun colors and there was a huge variety of breeds. I saw a blonde halflinger mule, buckskin overo paint, Grey Tennessee Walker, bay Icelandic, Champagne Friesian cross, Palomino gaited horse but not sure what breed and a bay Mustang. I checked in, got my number, got a paper with the course map, and chatted with two highly successful ACTHA riders that were there. They were both dissapointed with their auditions saying that the course looked super easy, but it wasn't, that their horses had issues. It was then that I looked at the course more carefully and thought it through. Ah, yes, there were natural color poles to step over, but they were close together and there was a person sitting in a chair just past the obstacle that could distract the horse. The step over pole that was then to be sidepassed had small cones flanking it, but more importantly was raised off the ground. Later I saw two or three horses not realize this, knock it down, and then that would spook the horse and create anxiety for both the horse and rider. The last obstacle was a figure 8 to be performed while backing up, and rather than cones there were stick type caution markers and I briefly noticed several folks crashing into them with with the horse or their saddle due to their height.
Ok, so now it is our turn. We begin our course, and darn it, Junior needs to poop and like always, tried to stop. Well, we sort of did, but then heading to the poles, I focused on them, then Junior did, and he stretched his gait, and didn't touch one! Oh boy! I was so excited! Then to the step over side pass rail. Hey look, there is circle of orange paint on the top of the pole. Better than he has ever done it at home, Junior steps over and smoothly sidepasses without touching it, which by the way I think is harder for a Peruvian with overreach, to keep the front feet and hind apart enough.........ok.....next the back up figure 8. Junior follows my every heel press I give him, move back, move your butt, move your shoulders, back up, etc etc. And better than ever and smoothly, we end dead center between the markers! Gait out the next cones....complusories are done!
I go up to the two judges, and one says, "I see you are representing the Peruvian Paso today". So nervous I instead of introducing myself and my horse I repeat "Yes I am representing the Peruvian Paso today, thank you". Then Carrie Scrima asks "what will you be doing for your 45 second freestyle"? So I tell her and ask permission to start at the far end of the course. So I gait smoothly and slowly to my point. After nodding I was ready, Junior and I pick up a gallop, then a canter, then sobreandando, then paso llano, then a super collected slow gait I call dancing and pivot a circle. All with a light rein and one handed. Then I dropped the reins, picked up my rain slicker, and jumped around in the saddle, hitting him with the raincoat, spinning it over his head, and ended with it dropped over his eyes. Junior stood like a statue, totally relaxed. That was it! It was flawless! We had done it! After planning and working for months, it had come together.
But it wasnt' over! Now I am getting interviewed with questions by the judges! Somehow it comes out how about a year ago I almost sold Junior! That without a goal, and a horse too big at 16 hands, who was not really accepted at the regular Peruvian shows, I didn't know what to do with him. But then I had found ACTHA, a venue where I could find new things to learn and compete, bring my friends and clients with me, and create awareness of the Peruvian horse! You see, ACTHA has 3 levels of participation at each competitive trail ride. The first one is called Buddy, where folks that do not want to compete can ride along with their competitor friends, and watch. Then the next level is Pleasure, which is an easier version of natural obstacle challenge. The third, our division, is called Open, where the obstacles are the most challenging, and require solid teamwork of the horse and rider.
It was May of last year that I did my first ACTHA ride. I did 10 rides in 2010. Turning in the results of those rides to NAPHA resulted in Me Llamo Altanero being the 2010 National High Point Trail Horse. Now we have a shot to be on a Nationwide Reality TV show. If we make it on the show, we have a shot to win $5000, and the top prize is $25,000. Can this really be happening? Whatever the final outcome, I have seven minutes of an audition with my amazing Palomino trail horse that I will treasure forever.