Joucas Equifeel Part 2
After all of the Club level competitors have finished, the organisers set up everything for the Elite level. We wait, while the horses nibble at hay, grass and each other.
Finally, the course is ready. I’m judging part of it, having just had a crash course in the marking system from Alexandrine, and I’m as curious about the course as any of the competitors.
First, there’s the embûche. Only it’s a lot more interesting now :
Having inspected the round pen, we enter the arena, where we are met with this:
A landing site for the MotherShip? No, a test of lateral movement. The handler must stay within the inner circle. The horse’s front legs must be inside the outer circle and his hind legs outside. He then moves sideways around the circle, so that each little blue thing passes under his belly.
It reminds me of the old joke “How do you get an elephant into a SafeWay bag? You take the “F” out of Safe and the “F” out of Way.” To which the listener replies, “There’s no “F” in Way.” Most of the Elite competitors seem to feel the same, but things are just about to get even more interesting…
Hopscotch? Um, no. The horse and handler start in the top box. The handler must stay within the inner rectangle while the horse describes a serpentine down through the six cones, making a figure 8 shape with every pair. Hopscotch might be easier…
The next test has a single circle drawn on the ground. Ah – a pirouette. This time, the hind legs must stay within the circle while the front legs move around outside. Only, Florence, the boss, felt that a straightforward pirouette was too easy. This needs a percussion section, she decided…
Finally, we found ourselves looking at another set of weird circles on the ground.
This was a test of paces and control. The handler must stay within the white circle. The horse must trot two circles and then stop with his front feet in the further hoop. Then he must turn and trot two circles in the other direction, stopping with his hind feet in the nearer hoop. SafeWay bags and elephants come to mind again…
Because I’m judging, I can’t really take photos, but I manage to snap a sneaky one of MC and Quieto doing the slalom on my iPhone. They are really good at this, and he goes over the big red blocks on the second attempt :
Despite their misgivings, all of the four Elite competitors make a fair attempt at everything. The spooky stuff at the embûche causes no trouble, but the advance and reverse through the poles causes a few hiccups.
One of the horses (the lovely Friesan mare on the tarpaulin in the last post) kicks the blue things all over the place while attempting the lateral movement on the circle and the slalom proves difficult for all but Alexandrine and Max, who pops the red blocks first time.
Surprisingly, none of the horses are at all bothered by the drum or by the young man who turned up to play it and they all pirouette very well. That’s something I need to work on with both of my guys!
None of them manage to achieve a halt with the correct number of legs in the hoops in the last test, but they are all very close – it’s definitely possible.
We all leave with food for thought. I really must improve Aero and Flurry’s remote halt…