Friday, May 1, 2015

Crazy Fun

The other night RFD-TV had a re-run of the 2015 Road to the Horse day 3 final competition recording.  My blood pressure medication was kicking in, so I was drifting in and out of consciousness while watching.  How my brain processed the whole thing was somewhat surreal.  At first I opened my eyes to see one rider taken for a bronc ride.  He nearly fell off a couple of times but managed to hang in there and commented on how proud he was of himself to stay on.

The format was that each horse trainer had half an hour to declare a variety of maneuvers on a barely started horse, and then attempt to go through an obstacle course.  Two of the horse trainers were unable to complete the obstacle course either because they ran out of time or their horse was scared of everything and just not ready for the challenge.  I don't really remember.  I was alternating between sleeping and watching.

Then out came Chris Cox and he looked like he was riding a finished horse.  The horse breezed right through the obstacle course, handling poles, jumping jumps, pushing through car wash noodles, even helping Chris open gates with its nose.  I'd never seen a horse so excited and willing tackle anything that was set in front of it.

He completed the course and took a victory lap with plenty of time to spare.  This is where things get really silly.  I've met Chris a few times, and he doesn't strike me as being a class clown, but he had me in fits of laughter.  He got so excited that he started looking for other things to do with his horse in the time that remained.  I don't recall many of the details, but it just seemed that he and his horse went on a rampage and started accidentally breaking obstacles on the course.  It was probably a good thing that he went last, because they would have had to bring a team in to make some repairs before anyone else could ride the course.

There was this big rocket with a stuffed cartoon coyote riding it.  At the nose of the rocket was a flashing light.  Chris pushed his horse's chest into the back of the rocket and began pushing it across the arena.  Most of the horses were terrified of this strange object, but his horse pushed it around like it had been trained to put on this act in a circus and performed in several shows a day.  They pushed the rocket right into a wall and shattered the flashing light, then took off running to celebrate some more.

Each time they broke something, Chris didn't waste any time feeling bad or apologizing.  He and his horse were so jazzed that I suspect that if they had a lot more time they might have shredded the entire course to pieces.  Needless to say, he won the competition.

Watching that got me thinking about how the attitude of the rider can influence the attitude of the horse.  People are constantly saying that if the rider gets nervous, the horse gets nervous.  I suspect that philosophy can apply to other feelings as well.  Chris seemed to be so enthusiastic about tackling that obstacle course, his horse couldn't help but feel the fun and enjoy the process.  I think in most riders' mindsets, you are either communicating nerves or relaxation to a horse when you ride it, but you can also communicate joy so that your horse can have fun right along with you.

It would be interesting to set up an obstacle course and then experiment with your own feelings.  Logic would say that as the horse gets more experience with the course, it will relax and perform better.  However, if the rider is relaxed the first few times it takes the horse through the course, and then rides it in a nervous, agitated state, do you think the horse would do better or worse?  Ride it again with a competitive focus in mind, trying to beat a time, and see how the horse responds.  Ride it another time like you are a clown trying to make an audience laugh.  Ride it again like you are trying to escape from the claws of a mountain lion.  Ride it again like every pole and noodle is a rattlesnake waiting to strike.  Ride it again like you aren't riding your horse, but a public rental horse that has years of experience carrying riders of all levels.  Ride it again like you just won a million dollars and are taking a victory lap.  Change your perspective each time you take the horse through the course and see if the results correlate more with your attitude and feelings, or with the number of times the horse has performed the course.  If anyone tries this or has tried it before, let us know the results.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

That would be a really cool experiment!! I wonder if anyone has done a study or anything on something like that? It would be really interesting to see what they come up with.

When I first started riding Chrome I was so calm and relaxed that I had no trouble with him. Then when it came to riding on the roads alone, going by unfamiliar horses that got him excited, etc. I got nervous and all of a sudden he was spooky and insecure. I thought my nerves never bothered him, but apparently over time they did start to affect him. I have to get my confidence back!!