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June 27, 2015: Agility Play day

In January, dog handler/trainer Claudia Sihler began organizing an equine agility play day, one that took place today. She previously put considerable time and energy into the planning of this event, and in the process drew upon her dog training expertise. And of course, all went according to plan.

The play day was held at If Pigs Could Fly farm, held outside of Wasilla. Joe and Shirley had the perfect venue for this event; their place has a large outdoor arena with good footing and nice fencing, and room for parking. Nice ambiance, too.

By the time Pete and I arrived (9 a.m.) Frank (Claudia’s husband) and Claudia had already set up the course. It consisted of a streamer curtain, a maze, barrels, cones, a straightaway, a pole, two sacks tied together, and a tarp.

Frank, Claudia, Pete, June, and I were assigned stations, and the seven participants (who arrived shortly after we did) individually met with us, as we worked with them on individual obstacles. It was sort of like going through a car wash. I was in charge of the tarp and sack obstacles. I also incorporated the barrels into the mix. It all went very well. I was able to impart some knowledge to the participants in terms of what I knew about the ins and outs of dealing with these particular obstacles.

I also, with a few participants, incorporated some centered riding basics into the mix. I had them use their soft eyes and breath to their advantage. None of the horses hesitated in going over the tarp – a few did sidle away from the single sack but were okay with the double sack being placed on their back. And most importantly, all the owners were extremely patient with their horses. This got me to thinking that of course, those had an interest in this sort of ground play were the sort who would be this way.

As each participant worked with their horse, I focused on the horses’ body language – concern was denoted by wide eye, tight shoulder muscles, flaring nostrils, jumpiness, and heads held high. I pointed this out to their owners.

After doing the individual sessions, the participants then took their horses through the entire course, one at a time. I was Claudia’s scribe. This was a more difficult job than, say, Pete’s job, which was to time each horse and handler. Writing things down and observing each horse was quite challenging.

I had to write down horse and handler faults (in points) and include individual comments. And when we were done, the participants were to be given these score sheets with Claudia and my comments.

And what did I learn? It was that indeed, I know some things about agility. Claudia had told me not to bring Raudi. I suspect that if I had, Raudi would have done very well. And no wonder, we’ve been working at this since January. Each month, we’ve put in practice time, and at the end of the month made a video which was scored and then compared to that other competitors.

This very positive experience has gotten me to thinking that I’d like to do agility with others on the home front. I’m going to continue to call it centered agility ground play. Maybe I can get others interested in doing Saturday morning sessions.

Next: 167. 6/28/15: Reorganizing

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