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March 16, 2015: Blue Ribbon Raudi

Gosh, the above title sure has a nice ring to it. And Raudi sure looks good in blue. This morning, before heading out to tend to the horses, I read my email and discovered that Raudi was the high point pony in the starter division in the on-line agility horse competition.

I checked the results by running my eyes upward, looking at the final placing and then going up, up, up. I was beginning to think that we’d been Dairy Queened (Disqualified) when I came to the first-place listing. It read: Alys Culhane – St. Patrick’s Day. There was, I immediately realized, a big mistake here. I had said at the beginning of the video “I’m Alys, this is Raudhetta, and this is our St. Patrick’s Day video.” No matter, my little Red Connemara pony kicked butt big time.

I’m pleased, for a variety of reasons. First of all, recall that this is pony who during our first three years together, routinely got away from me. I’ve been working with her on agility-type exercises for a decade. And we’ve spent the past three months working on more formal agility training.

The last go-around was the most difficult. The course was deceptively difficult. There were just five obstacles, but we had to do each obstacle twice – and the second time around they were more tricky. I soon discovered that Raudi was not big on lifting her feet, which caused her to repeatedly ding the hula hoop and ground pole. I figured out after the fact that working her over cavalletti poles would encourage rather than discourage lift. This was a good thing for me to discover – I’ll do this if I ever work with jumpers.

Our placing also attests to the importance of the use of positive reinforcement techniques. I did, a few times this month, slap Raudi on the flank with the crop because she kept dropping her head and Hoovering. After, I felt bad about this, because this not the way I generally do things. But it did seem to get her to lift her head. At the same time, I again resumed using the clicker and treats.

As importantly, our placing verifies what I sometimes forget – that is, the importance of ongoing hard work. I did not overwork Raudi though I know that towards the end she was getting bored with the same old same old. At the same time, our doing well is a reminder that in general, hard work pays off. Maybe, just maybe, the same can be said about my writing related endeavors. Then again, in this respect hard work doesn’t pay off. We’ll just have to see. Life is just one big experiment.

Another life lesson is this -- persistence also pays off. I got so discouraged about Raudi’s progress that I at one point said to Pete that we should forego submitting a video this month and instead submit one next month. But we kept at it because I enjoy doing this so much.

Some will most likely say that Raudi and my accomplishment is a trifling matter because this is an online competition, and it’s ground based. My response to this kind of thinking is that this in no way detracts from this very major accomplishment. I like the fact that we can do this at home, and don’t have to wait around for umpteen million others to do their thing. I also like it that we get to set up the course, lay out the obstacles, and determine the distance between them.

Raudi and I could not have done this alone, which also makes this a very special deal. Pete made the video – and this month there were many takes, over many days. And at the near last minute, which was an hour before our self-imposed submission deadline, he made a new hula hoop for us out of PVC pipe, a coupling, adhesive, and red tape. This was because Raudi kept dinging the now battered old hula hoop. This took considerable time on Pete’s part. Then he had to drive to school and submit the video, for our internet speed is way too slow.

So what now? We now get to move up a notch and do off-lead competition. I looked at the handbook and this is what I discovered. I breathed a sigh of relief in discovering this because Raudi and I do better off rather than on-lead. And this is going to be just in time for spring.

It was a good idea, I think, to have started doing agility in the winter. This and trail riding have kept my red Connemara from getting bored.

Pretty soon we’ll be getting a blue ribbon in the mail. We’ll hang it in the kitchen addition, with the others. As I jokingly told Pete, the way things are going, we’re going to have to expand the addition, and call it a ribbon room.

Next: 72. 3/18/15: BCHA Meeting

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