3rd day of filming.  Freestyle on the Obstacle Garden (......yesterday....). 

And speaking of the Garden, Bud reminded me of one of the Obstacles from the day before that I forgot to mention!   After the stop and before going back to the creek to cross back over, they had a back up - uphill.  Steep uphill with rocks, leaves and a root on one side.......slippery and scary.  Abo again put his complete trust in me and continued to blindly  find his footing backwards, avoiding the root...... and backed completely to the top line.  We were at such an incline, I swear I felt my pony tail hitting his rump!!!

The folks at ACTHA reversed the order of go from the day before.  Our time of go would be 1:10, Abo could have a lesiurely morning, munching hay in his paddock at the Ranch and visiting with his paint horse gelding paddock buddy. 

Texas has been in a draught since last year.  Things are brown and dry...my Mother said she had read the last time they received any good amount of rainfall was August.  Yesterday morning, drinking coffee at  6 am....going through my freestyle plan again in my head... and watching the weather forecast, we were in for more 10 -20 mph winds and a 30 % chance of rain and thunder storms..........to start around noon-time!  I have kept my full length slicker tied to the back of my saddle, little did I realize there would be a chance to wear it.  Thank goodness I brought the black, slightly stylish slicker (as stylish as a riding slicker can be......).

That morning, I had a chance to have a seat on the hill and watch some of the riders perform their 2 minute freestyle routine.  The clnicians were seated at the bottom of the course where they could all watch the riders.  After their 2 minute time was called, the riders went over to the clinicians, where the next clinician in line would go over to the rider, give critique, feedback, advice, etc. 

I've got to tell you that all of the clinicans really seemed to be enjoying them selves as much as the riders!  Never were they quick or made you feel hurried.  I bet they would have taken all the time they needed to answer as many questions that any rider would have had for them.  They were all so sincere and genuinely took an interest in each rider they worked with.

The performances were fantastic!!  Some showed off their horses talent......anywhere from reining horses doing amazing spins and sliding stops, dressage horses exhibiting effortless flying lead changes all incorporated with their obstacle work.  Some were comical, some were emotional, some left you in awe with their speed and agility.  Noon time was growing close.  The clouds lingered all morning but the wind did not seem as bad as the day before, only gusts every now and then.  Still no rain.  The freestyle routines took longer than the day before with a set pattern.  The film crew people and ACTHA volunteers (such great people!!!) let everyone go to a starting point where they wanted the timer to start.  Then allowed them time to take a safe route back from where their time ran out.  We were running behind time, but fortunately they were going by rider numbers counting down.  We had about 60 horses before us.............time to settle my nerves and go prepare Abo. 

OK..........planning out my freestyle the day before to take 3 minutes.  What does my horse do that really sets him apart from the rest I asked myself...............FOXTROT!  All the previous obstacles taken for film footage had not a spot for him to show off the gait that this breed is named after.  I would  (as Bob Crafton says) "Enter at a Foxtrot" (........Lookie Here Now!!......).  I planned to Foxtrot accross the length of the other side of the creek - then start my obstacle work to show the partnership of give and take, trust, feel and respect on both the horse and riders part, that makes a great trail horse.  Moves that may be needed to navigate around tricky trail situations.

Remember, I had mentioned that morning they shortened our times to 2 minutes......a very good call due to the amount of extra time it took for the freestyle day.  But, totally thew all of us into a panic what to eliminate in that minutes time!!  Especially, without being able to walk the course at our horses speed to try to map it out.

My Foxtrot would stay.  I knew it would eat up time........but, what better way to comfortably and stylishly move on down the trail.
I modified it in my head the best I could to figure on 2 minutes......going over and over the decision while tacking him up.  Where did Bud put the TUMS?!?

We made our way over to the Garden area.  So many horses, riders, volunteers, HRTV people, ACTHA people, vehicles....more activity than any horse show Abo had ever been to.  I really do think he was enjoying himself...so curious, totally calm with lots of content sighs.  The had a ACTHA Volunteer at every point, so organized....this event ran so smooth.  An amazing thing with this many horses and people and props....and being the first attemp at AFTH.

The volunteer spotted me, came over with the clipboard and asked where my start point would be.  Where I'd be working so the camera men would have a heads up.  Then my number was hollard out...............get in place.  "The Holding Tank" between the 2 big blue flappy things heading to the creek.  She told me to cross over and get ready.  I was suprisingly calm...we crossed the rock bridge from yesterday....Abo knew this now, and placed his feet so nice and bravely walked accross.

I would have to signal when to start the timer.  1st camera man yelled 235....then the other one down the line yelled it out....then the third....then..."GO!!!"  I put Abo into his Foxtrot, hit our mark and nodded to start. 

By the time I was on my second manuver, the reality hit me and my hands were actually shaking..  Through our back up move I had a quick talk with myself...this is all about me and Abo...enjoy the ride! 

My final move was to cross the creek on the far side...go down a little further and jump up a high bank to the finish.  My time ran out as we were entering the creek. * "Shoulda-coulda-woulda" * 

Shoula shortened my Foxtrot - Coulda walked faster down the hill - Woulda........done nothing different. 

He gave me 100%  Even the freestyle obstacle Bud was a bit worried about (which involed stairs up to the residence).  He Foxtrotted like a dream...I could not ask for more.   Plus.....jumping up the high bank was not as easy as I had pictured in my mind....Everything happens for a reason! 

We were done...we did it!   I went over to the clinician line up, and the one up next came on over, it was Collen Kelly...she is such a hoot!  I had sat in on one of her lectures...she had me chuckling and giggling the whole time on her witty style, but addressed some things that brought a much clearer picture to me on positioning.

She asked me in her fantastic accent how I thought it went...I told her I had a good time with it and thought he did well.  She agreed, smiled big as she does and then went on about his Foxtrot :) 
Then she says she saw me approching the stairs, she says to her self "Oh nooooo....not the stairs!" And said some really great things about my little Abo's abilities.

I don't remember how I got from there to the 20 second interview spot with Mark & Dusty....next thing I knew, we were positioning and doing a sound check.  Mark told me what he would ask...then "rolling"!  He asked me what was so special about my horse (20 seconds......really?  I need about 20 hours for this!).  After each take the camera man would shake his head and give the time.  MArk said...leave out this part...shorten it up, I'll ask again......again, the camera man shook his head.  It took 4 or 5 takes, Abo really starting to think Dusty was pretty good-looking.....Bud making suprised expressions...me telling them I usually don't talk that much...Bud did not back me up on that one!  

Julie was there with Manny, we posed for some pictures...then swapped horses!   We foxtrotted off on one another's horses and could not get back to the trailers without admirers asking again "what breed is this?"

What an experience, fantastic promtion for our little-known-breed, fantastic people - each and everyone of the 100's we have had the pleasure to meet on this trip.  A lifetime experience.
Truly cannot thank the people enough who made it possible for me to bring my golden Foxtrotter to the AFTH filiming, and introduce him and do our part in exposing the Foxtrotter breed to America.

This morning came...........along with a storm that shut this part of Texas down!!  Rain...rain...rain...Thunder, tornados, hail.  All moving East along the I-10 route, with many accidents and road closing on hte news that morning.  We would not pull our trailer out in that storm.

Texas had their rain.....Abo, Bud and I had a days rest to get ready tor our 2 day trip home.

We will be Louisiana bound in the morning!


5/12/2011 12:27:56 pm

cannot wait to hear all when u get home!!!

5/12/2011 09:35:31 pm

What a great team the 3 of you make! Anxious to get all of you back to FL safely.

5/13/2011 11:33:45 am

Enjoyed your noting of this event. What great confidence you & the horse
have as a team.

Kylie Sattler
5/14/2011 02:58:23 am

Can't wait till you get home so i can hear all about it!! Have a safe trip back!!!

5/14/2011 05:02:31 am

Can you come up with a similar course here? Sounds fun and frightning all at the same time. Sounds like you have really enjoyed the trip.


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