Equifeel Regional Championships 2015

(Wordy post. Not many photos because poor LSH had to leave early to catch a flight)

I mentioned last week that I should have been doing an Equifeel competition on Sunday and that it had been rained off.  It wasn’t just rained off – both arenas were badly damaged by the torrential downpours and it was touch and go whether they would be usable or not.

As soon as the rain stopped and the water drained off, Team Pimayon swung into action and managed to transform this

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into this

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in two days.

Still a wee bit stony, but at least now the sand has been redistributed and fluffed up so that there is some ‘give’ in it.

On Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, we all pitched in and set up the course for Sunday.  This also meant that we had a sneaky chance to try things out with our equines – that’s what I call a Home Advantage!  On Saturday, I also did a ‘dress rehearsal’ with the matching headgear I had bought for Aero and me.  This is our Championnats de France gear :

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Seriously, I needed to make sure I could persuade the headpiece of the halter to pass through the very tiny crocheted holes in the fly-bonnet, otherwise there was no way it would stay on.  I could and it did.  So for the Championnats, my plan is the red hats and black clothes for me, so I more or less match him.  I just need to get a light pair of black jodhs now.

Enough style commentary.  How did the competition go?  Pretty damn not bad, actually!  I’ll go through it, atelier by atelier.  NB there is a time allowed for everything.  Exceed the time allowed and you get a big, fat zero.  This is relevant.

Atelier #1. Le Van.  The Trailer.  For 10 points, load horse and make him stand for 10 seconds before backing him out again.  For 15 points, do the same except with the lead rope attached via a light elastic, so you can’t actually pull the horse in.  For 20 points, do it at liberty.  Oh, and you’re not allowed to touch the horse, either with the hand or the whip, apart from when you’re trying to get him to stand still for 10 seconds, when you’re allowed to caress him to encourage him to stay with you.  Otherwise, each touch is -2.  This applies across the board in Equifeel – you lose 2 points every time the horse is touched.

Well, Aero can be sticky going in sometimes.  I stayed safe and went for 10 points and scored it easily.

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Being sticky, but only for an instant.

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Being a good boy.

You will notice I had a second Home Advantage.  That’s my trailer.  However, later in the day, a certain big, black and beautiful lady by the name of Simone did this to the ramp :

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So unfortunately I now need a new ramp.  Sigh.

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The beautiful Simone, destroyer of ramps.

Atelier #2.  Le Trèfle a Quatre feuilles.  The four-leafed clover.  I figured we could do this at liberty, so I opted for the 20 point contract.  Aero got a little distracted by some poop on the ground, but I got him back again and carried on… Unfortunately, I thought it was Le Trèfle, so I stopped in the centre, all happy with myself after running around three of the leafs.  The judge looked at me aghast and said “C’est le trèfle a quatre feuilles, il y en a un autre!”  You get the idea.  I ran like the clappers, with Aero following me pretty well, we looped around the remaining block and came back to the centre – too late.  Zero points.  Oops.  Note to self – read the course description!

Atelier #3.  Le Licol.  The Headcollar.  We’re good at this.  I opted for the 20 point contract.

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Lead horse from start zone to parking zone.

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Remove headcollar and ‘park’ horse, then retreat 4 metres

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Call horse and return to start zone with horse following.

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Put headcollar back on while keeping one knee on the ground.

I’m not lying, that went well.

Atelier #4.  Saute á longe.  Jump on the lunge.  Complicated set-up here.  There’s a circle marked out on the ground – the handler’s zone.  The handler is not allowed out of this and the horse is not allowed into it.  Two jumps are set up; one 1metre away from the handler’s zone and the other 4metres away.  There was a little confusion here, the guy who was judging this thought the horse had to be at liberty for the twenty point contract.  I was tempted.  Aero was in Happy Bunny jumping form in the warm-up.

Whee! Aero warming up over a jump.

Whee! Aero warming up over a jump.

I looked at the large square in which the atelier was set up and thought no, that ain’t gonna work with Aero loose, so I opted for the 15 point contract. Aero had to jump the closer jump twice; once from each side.  In other words, jump – turn – jump.  On the lunge.  In case you missed that at the start.  It’s important.

He did it really well, but came precariously close to my zone when he stopped.  Got away with it though, phew.  15 points in the bag… or was it…

Atelier #5.  Essui-Glace.  Windshield Wiper, literally.  But it’s just jumping back and forth over one jump, exactly as we had just done, except the handler is confined to a much smaller zone.  I was confident.  We’d just had a practice run, after all.  I opted for the 20 point contract – at liberty.

Off Aero went.  And he got stuck in the corner.  And when I finally got him out, he went in the wrong direction, but I sent him on anyway.  He jumped and then went WAHOOOOEY!!! when I asked him to turn.  Frankly, he was just being an ass.  Eventually, I turned him and got him over the jump from the other side.  But we were five seconds over the time.  Zero scored.  Yes, I was a bit disappointed.  We should have done that in our sleep.

As we were leaving Atelier #5, the guy at Atelier #4 called me back.  He had been mistaken, he said.  For the 20 point contract, the horse should be on the lunge.  I could come back and do it again if I wanted.  I hummed and hawed, but he and MC both said I should do it.  What did I have to lose?  Well, 15 points, obviously…

Anyway, we were persuaded to give it another go.  For 20 points, Aero had to jump the further away jump, turn and jump it again.  I presented him to the jump and he went “HAHAHAHA” and ducked inside it.  He does that sometimes.  Then he continued on his merry way, jumping the nearer jump en route.  Was that elimination? I wondered.  It would be in the world of show-jumping…  He jumped the correct jump next time he met it, went WAHOOOOEY!!! again and careened around a couple of times before I could turn him, jumping or not jumping whatever he met along the way.  At this point I had mentally waved goodbye to our 20 points and I was focussing on making it into a learning experience for both of us.  I finally stopped and turned him (By lowering my energy levels. Take note, Martine, when horse’s energy is UP lower your own…) and he popped over the jump, but was still a bit difficult to stop and turn.  Normally he’s Gold at that – see Atelier #9 for proof – but his blood was up and I was panicking about stopping him before I ran out of time.

The guy judging had no idea what to do.  He said it was possibly two -2 penalties for not jumping the jump when he was presented to it, but he would check with Le Chef (Alexandrine).  Long story short, we went from 15 points to 16.  But I guess I learned something along the way.

Atelier #6.  Le Pivot.  Turn on the haunches.  The horse’s hind feet must stay inside a circle drawn on the ground while his front feet move around in a circle.  We are sooooo not good at this.  I opted for the 10 point contract where the horse just has to make a quarter turn.  Even so, he popped a foot out of the circle twice.  Only 6 points.  It looked like this was not going to be our day at all.

Atelier #7.  Deplacement Lateral.  Sidepass.  This is one of our strong suits.  I opted for 20 points, where he had to do it at liberty.  He was slightly distracted and stepped over the pole once, for a -2.  Still, 18 points is a good score!

Atelier #8.  Le Double.  Yes.  The Double.  Two jumps are set up in a line, with three or four strides between them.  There are three lines drawn on the ground alongside the jumps, the first one is right beside the jumps, the second is 1.5 metres away and the third is 3 – 4 metres away.  The horse is always on a lunge line, whatever contract you go for.  For 10 points, the handler runs alongside the horse as he goes over the jumps.  For 15 points, he/she stays behind the line that’s 1.5 metres away from the jumps and for 20 points, he/she stays behind the furthest line.  I dithered for a moment, before deciding that I’d chance the 15 point contract to try to make up some of my lost ground.

Aero popped neatly down the line.  Then you must return to the point form which you started, but Aero thought he was meant to turn and go back down through the jumps again.  Fair enough, he’d just done that three times in quick succession.  A couple of moments of confusion ensued.  I was convinced that if he entered my ‘zone’, we’d be eliminated so I was a bit panicky about sending him out away from me and he had no idea what I wanted.  The guy judging yelled at me that it didn’t matter where he went, just get back to the start, so we ran back, with him following at a distance.  Yes, he was being towed at the end of the lunge.  Not very Natural Horsemanship at all!  But we got there and we got our 15 points.  Phew!

Atelier #9. Transitions.  That’s the same in English.  This is done with the horse at liberty, in a round pen.  We were lucky to be doing this at all, considering that our round pen looked like this five days before!

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Anyway, there’s a 5 metre square transition zone marked with blocks or cones beside the arena fence.  The horse has to make his transitions inside that zone.  So for the 20 point contract (yes, that’s what I went for) Aero had to enter the zone in trot and then HALT inside the zone.  I said it above – he was GOLD.  Perfect.  Another 20 points.

Atelier #10.  Les Embûches.  I’m still not sure how best to translate this.  The conundrums?  There are three little obstacles to negotiate; a jump, a narrow gap between two barrels and ground poles.  The previous day, I wasn’t going to practice this because he’s usually good it.  But MC had insisted that I do it… and she was right.  The first thing Aero did that day was stop inside the gate and start eating grass.  I’m afraid he had to receive a little tap with the stick to get him moving, and then he was in a huff and silly.  It was not good at all and I was glad MC had made me do it.

But on competition day, he made up for it.  Bish bash bosh.  Job done.  30 seconds.  20 points.

So where did we finish up?  Beforehand, everyone was quietly assuming it would be MC and me, first and second, in whichever order.  With my two big fat zeroes, I figured I would be well out of the running and MC would have it all to herself.  However, a newbie had arrived on the scene.  She’s done a lot of Parelli work with her horse – Alexandrine had met her somewhere and had convinced her to come along.  Despite nerves (first time ever competing) she and her horse were superb.  They gave MC and Quieto a run for their money, by coming a close second, just a couple of points behind them.  Aero and I were third, roughly forty points behind, with the person in fourth only a couple of points behind us.  And, as a bonus, we were also joint second in the Alpes de Haute Provence Equifeel challenge – a league which I didn’t know was running.

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In the Elite class, it’s usually between MC and Alexandrine at the top.  MC and Quieto had gone very well; Alex and Max had a couple of blips.  But the newbie did the elite class as well… and she won it!! WOW!  What a first day!  It’s brilliant to see more and more people taking to Equifeel, it’s a real fun day out with your horse.

I’m really pleased with how far Aero and I have come since last year.  Last year, I was being brave attempting four ateliers for 15 points – all the rest were 10 point contracts.  This year, I attempted seven ateliers for 20 points, 1 for 15 and just two for 10.  The two zeroes… well, one was a RTFM issue, the other was Aero just being a horse.  That’s part of the charm of Equifeel – you define how many points you’re going for before you start.  It’s a bit of a gamble, but it keeps it interesting!

Roll on the Championnat de France on the 18th July!

 

 

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