November 12, 2010

Barrel inspecting instead of barrel racing

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Kasane is a curious mare. After an initial snort at a new thing/obstacle, she will walk right up to the the former scary thing and try to eat it, push it over, pull it down, or play with it. I try to encourage her to investigate by letting her explore anything that might be even slightly scary.

Before we ride, Kasane is free lunged in the big arena. (Lunging means that I chase after her to keep her going in one direction without stopping to graze.) Usually the first thing she does when turned loose is trot over to one of the barrels and push it over with her nose. I walk out after her and then we’re off! After a few gleeful gallops around the ring, she settles to a trot and then it’s work time.

Encouraging Kasane to explore has had one interesting consequence when she is learning the barrel racing pattern. Barrel racing is a timed event where the horse and rider go completely around each of three barrels placed in a triangle. More experienced teams can go at a full gallop and complete the course in 20-25 seconds. This event is normally done in Western attire.

Prize and I could complete the course in about 30-35 seconds. I don’t ask her for more than a canter and she can really cut the barrel (i.e., stay close to the barrel when she moves around it). Prize understands that the objective is to get around the barrel, go crazy fast to the next barrel, go around it at a slightly slower pace, and then go madly on to the next. She gets excited and prancy when we’re doing barrels.

Kasane, on the other hand, sees no real point in going around a barrel. So, she does what we have normally done: when she sees a barrel, she tried to push it over with her nose. She inspects the top and moves it around. Our barrel racing goes something like this:

  • Trot as fast as we can towards the first barrel.
  • Try to push Kasane around the barrel.
  • She stops, sniffs the top of the barrel.
  • Squeeze, nudge, come on, around the barrel!
  • She flicks her ears and tries to bite my toe, then continues around the barrel.
  • Trot to the next barrel. Stop. Sniff the top of the barrel..
  • Shift leg so I don’t hit the barrel over as she moves too close to it.
  • And off again at a blazing fast trot.
  • This time she doesn’t stop at the barrel but instead makes a Really Big Turn around the barrel.
  • And then we trot home and complete the race in record time!

If there was ever a need for a barrel inspecting horse, she would be perfect. She inspects every side of the barrel, the tops, the holes. She’s very thorough. She’d love to invent a new game to see how often she could get me to dismount to set the barrel back up.

Big silly girl. Pretty soon she’ll figure out how to roll the barrels around and then she’ll be chasing them.

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