Tuesday, October 8, 2019

2019 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge Results

On 5 October 2019 we finished the 5th Annual Arena Challenge. West Texas had received quite a bit of rain in the weeks and day before the event, but we were blessed with clear skies, a light wind and 85 degree temperatures to see riders compete in the four divisions of Stock Horse, Open, Intermediate and Novice. Riders entered the arena and executed horsemanship tasks and negotiated obstacles while being evaluated by two judges with diverse horsemanship backgrounds - Martha Diaz, a noted Dressage competitor and instructor, who combined with Sara Tyree, a Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) judge and horse trainer, to evaluate each rider.

My goal for this annual event is to promote horsemanship and motivate competitors to never stop learning, and I try do that by putting some tasks and obstacles together that will challenge them. Such as small box turnarounds, tight switchback turns around upright poles, barrel patterns and other riding that requires the rider to get and maintain a good bend to their horse.

I also intend for this annual competition to allow rider's across disciplines to compete equally, build respect across disciplines and share horsemanship by demonstrating what do they do and how they handle their horses. It is eye opening when a Dressage rider say's "what do you mean when I have to ground tie my horse, or back him up with the reins while standing in a box?" Or when a Pleasure or Trail rider states that they "don't know what leg yield or shoulder's in movement is." And even when a Team Roper say's "Backing in a circle? Why in the world would I want to back my horses in a circle?"

Most years I include tasks from competition the year before that rider's had trouble with as well as trying to introduce new things. This year I had the rider's dismount at the end of their run, blindfold their horse and lead out. I do not have a time limit on tasks or obstacle, as it doesn't do a horse any good to attempt sometime for 60 seconds then have to move on without success. Really just teaching them that they can or should avoid things that initially bother them. Not allowing the time for the horse and rider to sort it out doesn't help them developing their thinking and build their confidence. So we give as much time to the horse and rider as they rider needs.

With the blindfold tasks this paid off as several or even most of the horses had trouble with a shirt being draped over their head blocking their vision, but with the rider letting the horse know they were there and not putting pressure on the horse until they were ready, almost all the horses ended up leading out after just a bit of sacking out. I got onto the blindfold thing when I was stuck in a grazing unit when a hail storm hit. I ended up taking my shirt off and covering my horse's head to minimize the effect of the hail hitting him, until the storm abated. Blindfold's have use when moving horse's through fire and smoke such as a barn on fire or evacuating for a wildlands fire.

One task that I almost always include is lead departures but this year I had the rider's announce what lead they intended on departing on. As they rode to the end of the arena, the turned then executed a shoulder in movement halfway back before transitioning to a leg yield (forward momentum with lateral movement) around a barrel.

This year in the stockhorse division I added a task that required the rider to throw a long, flat loop around and barrel and trot their horse around the barrel feeding out their rope, stopping, reversing and trotting around the barrel while they re-coiled their rope. Sometimes you get a loop on a calf and need to give him slack as he moves, especially if he's moving on his own accord closer to the branding fire or spot where you doctoring the calves. This was the first time many performed a rope management type drill and several told me they were going to practice it as they saw the usefulness of it.

This article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the winners, so when final scores were tallied, the results were:

Stock Horse Division: 1st Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM); 2nd Place - Laurie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Open Division: 1st Place - Robin Lackey (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Lauie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM).

Intermediate Division: 1st Place - Marianne Bailey (Chaparral, NM); Kay Lee (Las Cruces, NM); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Novice Division: 1st Place - Joyce Getrost (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM); and 3rd Place - Mark Schleicher (Carr, CO).

The Horsemanship Award, voted on by the competitors and the judges was won by Debby Hale of Deer Mountain, Texas.

The prize table was again robust and it wouldn't have been so without generous support from our major sponsors: Cashel Company (Cindy Lang); Starr Western Wear (Edie Zuvanich); Spokane Traffic Control (Tammy and Mike Beggs); Animal Health International (Adrian Morales); Tractor Supply Company (Ben Lucas); Linda Seeds Tack and Repair; and VCM Equine Management.

We also thank Claudia Lukason, owner of The Edge Equine Solutions and lifetime barrel racer, who was on hand to donate several Mineral Lick Tubs and provide Magna-Wave treatment on 4 horses and several humans. Claudia has an uncanny ability to find a problem spot on a horse very quickly, let the owner know what she thinks is going on and treating that issue with her Magna-Wave therapeutic unit.