Or, how I survived a green horse’s first time seeing horse-eating games.
Yesterday Kasane had her first outting to a Pony Club gaming event. There were two divisions: 10+ Pony Clubbers and 2 Horsemasters (Kasane and me and Steve on his gelding Windsor). There were four games: pole bending, mug shuffle, fruit relay, and milk carton relay (which we didn’t do). Each race had practice and timed runs.
The kids on their ponies were amazing. They all did the games and were trotting along on a range of very patient horses. So cute to see them out there riding well and really getting into the games. Two of the kids were so young that they were lead through the games on these tiny little furrball ponies.
The first game, pole bending, involves riding between tall pieces of PVC pipe set in small metal buckets in a concrete base. You go as fast as you can between the poles, turn around and do the same thing back to the end.
Kasane was okay with pole bending. She wasn’t crazy about the poles, but we finished the race. We had practiced pole bending around cones at the barn so she had an idea about what were doing, but she’d never seen the tall poles before. We had a good practice and timed run.
The fun started when we did the mug shuffle. Same poles from pole bending, except this time there were large white plastic mugs on the top of every other pole. We had to ride straight down the poles, pick up a mug from one pole and set it on the next one. At the end of the line, we went around a barrel and came back.
Kasane didn’t like me reaching for the mug or a shiny white thing right near her eye. We had to take a lot of time just going back and forth to get her to come up to the pole. She went side ways a few times because any object next to her eye scared her. (Can’t say I blame her — this was a lot of new stuff she was being asked to do.) Several times I tried to show her the mug so she could reach around and see it. She can side step and back up quickly too. (We scattered some groups of ponies unintentionally since Kasane was moving backwards. I did get her moving forwards again with a short kick.) The test session took us a while, but we did complete it. We ended up doing the race by just riding next to the poles without grabbing for cups.
Every time she was afraid of something, I took as much time as I could to let her go up and investigate the scary things. The last mug we did, she went up, touched the mug with her nose, and that was all I could ask. She was investigating the things that scared her. (If we had been at home, I would have dismounted, shown her everything very carefully from the ground. And then gotten on her and repeated the process, possibly over several sessions.) It was a lot of unfamiliar things for her to deal with.
The fruit race was even scarier for her. You had to take a fake piece of fruit, drop it in bucket as you rode by, and then pick up another piece of fake fruit from a basket on a barrel at the end of the line. You then put the backet back and take the fruit and race back. Kasane wanted nothing to do with the purple bucket on the ground during the practice race. She didn’t like that I was carrying anything. I dropped the fruit in the bucket (it made scary noises!) and she went sideways, backwards, any which way. (This was a normal feed bucket that had Monster Fake Fruit. Silly girl.) After a few minutes, she did go forward again and side-passed around the bucket and we continued on to the barrel at the end to attempt to retrieve a piece of fruit.
She let me know she did NOT like it when I picked up the basket from the barrel. We had a rodeo moment then: a couple of minor bucks, skittering sideways at an impressive speed, and several four-footed hops. So the fruit is flying every where, she’s getting upset, and I still am holding the basket in one hand. We walked back to the barrel. (The other kids watching applauded — guessing because I stayed on or I was the day’s entertainment.) I dismounted and picked up the fruit. Poor little girl was shaking and scared. I set the basket back on the barrel and took an apple. Then remounted and showed her the plastic apple. She touched it with her nose on the right side and tried to eat it. She shied from it a little when I showed it to her from the left side. She was really very brave, considering how much of this was new and scary.
When Steve and I rode the timed fruit race together, he did everything perfectly. His gelding is great at these games. We got around the barrel together, and then headed back. I was going to let Kasane canter if she wanted to. Except Windsor took off and Kasane kicked up her heels and took off too. She had this “I don’t THINK so” look in her eyes. He wasn’t getting away from her. Our first gallop! And she stopped at the end (after we dodged a pony).
We didn’t do the final game: use a long stick to pick up a milk carton from the ground and then drop it in basket. THAT would have gone over really well.
Our final event was the obstacle course, also a timed event. We had to go over trotting poles and a jump, then stop. Continue around a corner and take another small jump and wind through an L-shaped maze. Dismount at a barrel, drink some orange soda, eat a slice of pumpkin pie, and remount. Pick up a baton from a barrel, place it on another barrel, and then race through poles, and finish.
Kasane was a little wound when it was our turn (probably because she wanted to go back to eating grass). She did take the jump and stopped (although she pulled on the bit, she was a little wound). We then continued, took the second jump without any trouble, had to do the maze twice since the first time she tried to jump it (heh), and then we stopped for the pie. I ate most of the pie, but gave Kasane a bite too. She likes pumpkin pie, who would have thought? She wasn’t crazy about the batons on the barrels, but we walked up to it and she did let me pick it up. She wasn’t happy about me dropping it onto the second barrel, but she did it. We walked through the poles since she was still eyeing them like they would sprout Kasane-eating mugs. We trotted over the finish line and that was it.
Even when she was scared, she listened and was willing to try. She sniffed everything and did eventually see all of the things. We have a lot of crazy things to work on at home now from the games. We’ll get there. I never felt scared to be on her. Some how, I stayed relaxed and even laughed at some of her antics. I would have been scared with Isis.
I was very proud of Kasane for trying everything and calming down immediately. Such a good little girl. I’m glad we did this in a green-horse friendly environment where people were patient with the green horse dealing with scary things.
Overall it was a lot of fun. We came home with four second place medals and one “Most likely to fall off” award.