Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't Feed The Bears ACTHA Obstacle

A few weeks ago I rode with my wife in an American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) competitive trail ride event north of Las Cruces, New Mexico at Isaaks Ranch.

These ACTHA rides features a six mile trail course with six obstacles where judges grade the horse and rider on their ability to negotiate each obstacle.

One of the obstacles we faced was called "Don't Feed The Bears". This obstacle was designed to replicate hanging a food bag high in a tree to "bear proof" it like you would on a pack trip when camping in bear country. The way this obstacle was set up was a lariat rope over a tall gate entrance and connected to a large blue Wal-Mart bag. See picture at right top.

The rider had to approach the gate through a set of cones, retreive the coiled end of the lariat handing on a fence, then back their horse up pulling the blue Wal-Mart bag off the ground a certain distance.

Most of the horses and riders in our group had a hard time at this obstacle, as most horses were a little skittish at the blue bag or had trouble accepting the bag moving and leaving the ground.  This was really a good obstacle to test the brave horse.

The way I thought this obstacle should have been approached was if the horse was having some difficulty accepting the blue bag, then an approach to the blue bag just like any other obstacle.  If your horse has trouble as you approach the bag, then let him stop,.... don't let him back off it and when you can tell by his body language and head set that he is more comfortable with the bag there in front of him, then ask him to move forard. You may have to repeat several times before the bag isn't an issue.

You can then side pass him or otherwise move him to the coiled lariat. When you pickup the lariat, I suggest holding the coils in your rein hand (like when you rope) and use your off hand to manage the running end of the lariat so when you back the horse you can keep the rope off his head. Be careful if you hold the coils in one hand so the coiled lariat won't snug down over your hand if your horse bolts.

The video below is an example of this type of obstacle and how you can practice at home or the local arena. Any obstacles like this, if you take your time - really allow your horse the time, will only make him a better and braver horse.

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