Equifeel Championnat Départemental
I had the best of intentions to do a non-horsey post during the week, but we have visitors at the moment and between getting up to the horses and spending time with Granny and the BFF, I haven’t had much time for anything else. Sunday was so exciting that I’m going to defer the non-horsey post once again (it involves pickled garlic, fly spray and a couple of recipes, and I promise it’ll be worth the wait).
Sunday was the Equifeel Championnat Départemental – Equifeel Regional Championships. It was being held on our home turf, GAEC de Pimayon. For the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of preparations going on. There’s been loads of strimming (weed-whacking in Americanese I think) and general tidying-up, and MC and I have been busy preparing our horses and practising our Equifeel skills. (For anyone who hasn’t read my previous blog posts on the subject, Feeling our way Along, Joucas Equifeel Part 1 and Joucas Equifeel Part 2 Equifeel is a format of competition for Natural Horsemanship.)
It’s the norm to inform Club-level competitors (that’s me) of the tests they will face on competition so, last week, Alexandrine told me what we’d be facing. There were to be ten tests in all. That’s a lot – on the two occasions I’ve done this previously, there were either five or six tasks to perform. Also, one of the tests involved the horse being at liberty. My guys are still not 100% reliable at liberty, although they’re improving. Aero still gets a bit befuddled sometimes and Flurry just takes the mickey (HAHA! I’m free! I can do what I want!)
We’ve been practising hard for the last two weeks. Aero is really good at lateral movement and backing up, but he gets excited when jumping and can get very confused about what I’m asking. Flurry is calm and reliable when jumping and understands the game now – pop over the jump, turn and pop over it from the other direction – but he finds the lateral movement difficult and he gets confused about backing up. We were also facing l’epreuve de van – loading in a trailer. I didn’t expect any trouble with Aero – Tansy used to stand at the bottom of the ramp, point at the trailer and he’d load himself – but Flurry is a rogue and a chancer and has always tested me if I try to load him when I’m alone.
The trailer was set up for us to practise mid-week, and I had a go with Flurry. He was awful. Planted himself at the bottom of the ramp and said MAKE ME. Alexandrine was there, but there was no point in her helping to load him; instead, she directed me. Touch him behind the withers with the whip. Tap instead of touch. Tap harder. Build up the pressure by tapping faster and harder (up to a limit, I hasten to add!) until he steps forward, but the instant he moves forward, remove the pressure. At this stage, Flurry and I are now halfways across the field where the trailer is parked, but he moves forward finally, I desist immediately, we walk all the way to the bottom of the ramp again, he puts two of his feet onto it and then swings out to one side. Block him on that side… he swings to the other… block him on the other side. He’s just being a sausage, she said. She was right, he knew exactly what I was asking! I persevered and, five minutes later, Flurry was in the trailer with me stuffing carrots into him and telling him how good he is. He shot out backwards before I asked him, so he had to go back in again. A little quicker, this time, but he still tested me. Alex suggested I go and do a couple of things he finds easy, give him loads of praise and then come back to the trailer again, so I did this. Wonder of wonders, he hesitated for maybe two seconds at the bottom of the ramp and then walked in. Result!
The day before the competition, I ran through all the exercises with both horses. Flurry walked into the trailer first time, without even an instant’s pause, but Aero decided to act the fool. Gah. Horses! Still, I was confident that I’d be able to load them both within the two minutes time allowed on the day.
The weather has been magnificent recently, up to 35C by day. A little hot for working the horses, but I’ve been getting up really early to avoid the worst of the heat and the flies. There was a change forecast for Sunday – thunderstorms and rain, with the temperature expected to drop by 15 degrees. Saturday evening was hot hot hot. Was it really possible that Sunday would be any different?
At 3.30am, I was awakened by crashing thunder overhead and then the torrential rain started. It was still pelting down at 7am. The farm would be a sea of mud and, being on top of a mountain, it would be dangerously close to the lightning. Would they go ahead with the competition? Oh yes they would… a lot of work had gone into organising it and it was going ahead, with fingers crossed that the storm would pass. But the weather-gods were kind to us and the thunderheads moved on at about 8am, leaving cloudy skies and occasional showers.
I had two very helpful photographers on site, the LSH in an official capacity as event photographer and the BFF in an unofficial capacity. Rather than go through the competition step by step, I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Alexandrine and family were very happy with the turnout. There were 21 competitors in my section; five in the elite section and everyone turned up, despite the very dodgy weather.
There was a barbecue and loads of food laid on when everything had finished, so I went to get Granny while they added up the scores and prepared the food. We were back just in time for the prize-giving. MC won the Club Section with Quieto… but guess who was second? Me and Aero, no less!!! Yippee!
Not only that, but Flurry and I were fifth, too! We came home with loads of loot – two bags of carrots, a salt lick, a head-collar, 2 plaques and 2 rosettes to add to our French collection.
See? I told you Sunday was exciting.