By Sherrye Johnson-Trafton
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two
wake up call Saturday came from my student, Morgan, who had taken my place in
our camper. She had Cat saddled
and the obstacles ready for 6 am practice in the coliseum.
It was pouring rain and the mud in the
make-up area was getting deep. In
the coliseum, we practiced going over the jumps and ground tying. Cat was energetic but very
obedient. She is a “more go than
whoa” horse so a number of transitions were needed to keep her focused. It was quite cold outside and rained
throughout the day, which put a damper on our prep ride for the 2nd
to last go in the second preliminary round.
I volunteered at the AQHA Region 6
booth that morning, meeting and greeting many QH enthusiasts until about
1pm. I left for the camper and
changed into my western outfit that I would wear when I exhibited Cat. As I readied for the run in the chute,
I could tell Cat was getting quite alert, so I asked her to lower her nose to
the ground, which helped her remain quiet until we walked through the
Cat was very up as the crowd
applauded and I had to mount on the move.
Cat ran the pattern without hesitation but did have some minor
bobbles. She was quite excited and
followed me instead of standing still in the ground tie. I still had the
fastest time out of all the competitors.
I waited anxiously for the list of finalists to be posted, and was
elated to find out I had made it back on both horses.
at 6am I was back in the coliseum with my trail stuff to practice for the
coming morning’s final round. I
ponied Slick off Cat and then warmed them up individually over jumps, on the
Garroche pole, doing canter and lope transitions.
Joann, another competitor from NY, and I practiced over the
jumps and perfected our pole technique.
We went over the pattern and agonized over the “Back over Bridge”
obstacle. There was nothing to
practice on, and it was the most controversial obstacle. I had backed up ramps before, but
nothing like this.
started at 9:30 am with our course walk through. All the exhibitors agreed that the bridge was formidable and
could possibly hurt a horse if a shoe got caught on the back over. Although we called a meeting with the
judge to see if the obstacle could be modified or removed for safety, he
reminded us that as long as the exhibitor backed up to the bridge and attempted
it, you would get a score. A score
of zero would only be applied if you made no attempt at all.
I was 3rd to go on Cat
and 2nd to last on Slick.
Cat was definitely in her “GO” mode but very quiet in the chute. She tried hard and we attempted to back
over the bridge. We ended up backing past the bridge, walking over it, and then
backing off it. I finished with a
broom under my leg and a toy cat in the bucket on my arm as we raced for the
finish. My time was in the
3-minute area but the crowd was so loud the rest of my time was drowned out,
and I still do not know exactly what it was.
quickly dashed into the restroom and changed into my English outfit for Slick’s
run. I did a sitting trot into the
start area for my run and then I was off! I dashed down the rail with my lance
to spear the hanging ring. I
checked Slick back so I could spear the ring, then roll out to the left, and
weave through the cornstalk poles.
I arrived at the gate and maneuvered through it without hesitation.
Next Slick allowed me to pick up
the plastic ring from the jump standard, and with the reins resting on his
neck; I threw the ring at the scarecrow.
I missed…So I gathered up and cantered through the three jumps following
each one with a rollback. We then sidepassed between each jump, peeled off, and
galloped to the haunted tunnel.
On our way through the tunnel, I had to collect
a bat from the ceiling and deposit it in a barrel at the other end. We raced over to the Garroche pole and
performed a complete 360 with a reverse in the Spanish style.
Next, it was on to the pool filled
with leaves where Slick passed through cleanly and stood with his hind feet in
the pool for 3 seconds. He was very calm as I dropped the reins on his next and
held out my hands.
applauded Slick’s obedience, and we were off into the right lead canter,
followed by a walk transition, then into the left lead canter to the infamous
bridge. I stopped, dropped the
reins again for a 5-second halt, then performed a ¼ turn on the forehand
clockwise and made my attempt at the bridge as so many had done before me. To me surprise, he actually did manage
to back over the bridge. I was elated!
Our next obstacle was the dismount, ground tie, tarp sweep,
followed by a remount, placement of the broom under my left leg. I rode to the
bucket, backed ¼ of the arena, turned around and raced to pick up the toy cat
off a barrel at the other end of the arena. From there it was a race back to the start.
It was great fun, a good challenge for my horses, and I would
definitely do it again if I was given the chance.
I thought back to how much my
dad enjoyed these kinds of events when I was young and knew he was smiling
somewhere at my efforts.
was 4th overall and Slick was the Reserve Champion in a very nice
awards presentation. I had
switched back to my western attire and rode Cat while leading Slick to receive
both awards. I then passed Slick
off to his very proud owner, Brittany, before taking the United States flag and
galloping Cat across the fairgrounds to the QH demo being held in the Mallory
I made it just in time to race around the arena at the end of the
demo with the flag. I was so proud
of my dad’s horse and I’m sure he was proud of her, too.
must say I learned a lot from this year’s competition and I look forward to
doing it again. I have many students signing up for extreme trail training and
clinics and I am looking forward to helping others enjoy this exciting event.