OMG!  I really want to tell you about today..............but I am a day behind due to the Texas CTC kicking my butt.
So ....AFTH 3rd day...actually 2nd full day of filming.
The Obstacle Garden.  A very fancy, beautiful trail course, complete with map for us to study...and a time frame for it to be completed in.  Each rider had an estimated time of go, to be at the Garden with plenty of time to spare before their actual time to keep things flowing.  My time was 10:04, great.....get it over with before my nerves ate me up completely.

This was a whole different deal then the CTC.  One at a time....all eyes, all clinicians and all cameras on you.  5 movie cameras I think....and many still photographers.  No "strength in numbers" type of support from the riders around you as with the CTC.....but....there were cheers for all from the other side of the creek with each riders turn.

 We were not allowed to set hoof upon the Garden, but could walk it on foot.  Many, many times the day before and the morning of.  Then the whole look of the course changed when filming began.  Flowers, flowers, trees, shrubs......Coyotes, snakes....another unidentified by me type of varmit (all stuffed or taxidermied...I don't know..)  Totally changed the look of the course......still, so beautiful...the colors of the flowers, the snarl of the unidentifued varmit...... 

Ok - back to when we arrived that morning.  Wind gusts 10 to 20 mph expected all day.  Along with the beautiful setting of the Garden, was all of the sponsors banners hung between trees.............oh my....

Abo was a bit "Refreshed " with all the wind whipping about when I first hopped on the saddle to warm him up.  Let's just say that the stories Bud has told about the barrel racers bras getting hooked on the saddle horn.....I can now totally relate.  Thank goodness for that fantastic elastic in sports bras!!!!

Got my self resituated and headed over to the Garden area to wait on our time to "GO".

First obstacle was to cross the creek to the other side over 3 flat boulder slabs that had loose rubble and rocks packed between them.  We had the option to take the alternate route through the creek if our horses would not cross the rock-bridge.  We could also dismount and lead our horse accross any way we had too.  There were a few horses that did not cross and did not get the chance to work the rest of the obstacles in the Garden.  My heart totally sunk for them.

My number 325...once ...twice...."GO!"  Down the hill to the rock-bridge.  Abo did so well with the rock formation on the CTC, I felt pretty confident he would cross it.  He did not like the look of the pattern at all.  Did not trust the loose rubble between the firm slabs.  I let him drop his head to investigate (30 seconds, I remembered...that's all we had to complete each obstacle).  No time to dilly dally!  I nudged him with my spurs for encouragement "It's me".  I was feeling more like, Just do it!..I trust you to figure this thing out!  He got that part...and with another bump of my spurs, took matters into his own hands and tip toed, then leaped (felt really big!) accross that whole rock nonsense.

Whew, we were accross!  The next obstacle was to pick up a canter and jump a totally flowered covered jump.  I'm not sure if it was the leap over to the other side, or the visual flower covered jump that had me rattled...But I did not take my time to set him up to canter.  He did a funky 4 beat legs-going-everywhere type of gait that was quite new to me and him (but smooth!), made it to the jump and over with a pretty good take off spot....landed and continued with his newly found funky gait.  Fortunately we did not have to go long before our stop mark.

Then back down to the creek, a bit milder crossing with smaller rocks scattered about (whoo-hoo).  Abo is so curious and I think really enjoys his new job status.  He dropped his head to check the creek, picked his way delicately and headed up the bank.  On to the trot over poles.  6 hairy logs, unevenly spaced and uneven heights.  I gave him his head, asked him to trot...trusted him to pick his way.  Straight and center...not a clink of a hoof!

Then the final obstacle to continue at a trot/gait to a ground pole to stradle and sidepass right (away from the snake) to complete the course...........Then the clinicians would go over your ride, ask you what you thought and then gave their advice, support and suggestions.

The clinicians would rotate throughout the day.  Along with the critique group after your go, about 5 of them would be on the "Critique Panel".  Sitting at  a table with big fuzzy microphones to capture every word.  I was able to get close a few times to listen.  They would banter back and forth between eachother...very funny stuff...while they commented and critiqued each rider as they went throught the course, and discussed their different opinions of each riders handling of each obstacle.

Their is every breed, every color, every riding style from just about every state represented.  All here to celebrate the amazing relationship that is built upon the trust of horse and rider when on new trails and in new situations.

The next day is the Freestyle performance in the Garden (I hate this part...just give me a course to follow!).  What started as just picking 3 obstacles to perform, changed to anything goes within the camera's view on the obstacle course using whatever was over there to work with.  We had 3 minutes to perform.  Lots of people walking the Garden that evening...scratching their heads...timing out the routines on foot (complete with human trotting, cantering, lead changes!)

I was disappointed with our initial creek crossing and where-in-the world-did-our-canter-go this first day in the Garden.......but the rest of the course I was so proud of what Abo gave me.  This morning as we met at 8 for our breifing about what to expect for the day ahead of us, they have a movie screen at the end of the buiding that has a slide show every morning of the pictures taken the day before.  The pictures I saw of my boy in action recharged my faith that he can handle anything I present to and patience goes a long way in the end.

PS - this morning they told us they shortened the Freestyle to 2 minutes.  Frantic resorting in everyones heads....

5/11/2011 05:37:39 pm

It's an amazing journey your sharing with Absolut! Sometimes the "Trail" our equines takes us down is truly incredible!! Enjoy every minute of what you are doing together...your family, cousins, and friends are Soooooooo PROUD of how far you made it!! We love you!!

5/11/2011 11:43:42 pm

Just wanted to let you know the Flahorse BB is following your journey with Abo..

This is a fantastic blog, very well written and entertaining. Keep up the good work and have fun. Abo is beautiful.

Leanne Northfield
5/12/2011 04:35:03 am

This sounds so fantastic. Just a dream for me. I can't wait to see some photos of all the obstacles and things you are having to deal with. You are a perfect team - Tori and Abo - keep up the great work. Leanne


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