I’ve been doing horse agility with Raudhetta, my thirteen year old Icelandic mare, since December, 2014. It works like this – International Online Horse Agility founder Vanessa Bell puts new courses online each month – members guide their horse, pony, donkey, or mule through the course. A third party makes a videotape of the horse and handler. Vanessa then evaluates and sends participants an online evaluation. Horse and handler points are also then awarded. There are categories and levels. Raudi is in the Large Pony Division. Together, she and I have worked her way up the ranks, going from starter to first to medium to where we are now, advanced level.
Our doing the December online course has become a holiday mainstay. This is ironic given that Pete and I have always eschewed tradition. We’ve never decorated a tree, put up lights, made eggnog or fruitcake, or kissed under the mistletoe. This year, though, we’ve finally embraced the concept of holiday tradition.
Our trek down this long, slippery slope began in 2014, when I realized that my first-ever agility course was going to require that I purchase and put up Christmas decorations. I drove down to the local thrift store and purchased a painted wooden candy cane, a wreath with blinking lights, three
Christmas stockings (one for Raudi, Tinni, and Hrimmi), ribbon, tinsel strings, and ribbon. And I purchased a Santa hat.
Assembling the 2014 and 2015 December courses was an arduous process. In addition to setting up the grotto, we had to cut down a spruce bough (Raudi had to pull a tree), fill a garbage bag with hay and tie it up with ribbon (Raudi had to carry it on her back), and locate five green and five red five gallon buckets (Raudi had to walk a star pattern). I was also to sing her a holiday song (Raudi had to stand still and listen). Said pony also had to be decorated. I repeatedly put red fleece gloves on her ears – she repeatedly shook them off.
Pete, the videographer, discovered that the camera batteries need to be charged before heading outside. It was cold, and Raudi and I grew impatient waiting for Pete. I let her pull down and consume the contents of her holiday stocking, a handful of treats.
Last year went pretty much like the first year; however, the filming took three days. Raudi had a hard time with Obstacle Six. The course directives indicated that she was to ignore me as I ate my Christmas goodies. She repeatedly nudged me as I ate a Christmas snack. I finally figured out that my letting her eat for an hour or two beforehand would make her more tractable. As before, we dismantled the course after putting all the horses back in the pen. It was by then dark, cold, and windy.
This year our December online agility doings differed. This past fall Pete and two of his manly buddies assisted him in constructing an outdoor arena/agility course. The new arena still lacks a sand base but no matter. The ground, as opposed to that in the horse paddock, is flat and level. Raudi was also quick to make the distinction between the arena, which is a horsey workspace, and the paddock, which is horsey living room. Pete and I were also able to set the course up and take it down at our leisure. This was fortuitous because I had, in the past two Decembers, acquired four feedbags full of decorations.
This year, Festive Pony was required to pull a spruce bough, trot through the grotto, ring a hanging bell, trot through a tinsel curtain, hang out while I ate a frozen cholate bar, trot through a square filled with plastic bottles, spin a wheelbarrow wheel (this was the yearly free choice obstacle), trot over a tarp, and carry a package to the start/finish area. Done, she was to bow, and I was to wave, to the camera. I looked around as I set out – the scene before me was, dare I say it? Downright festive. A stuffed Santa and a snowman sat atop nearby oil drums. The grotto trees were bedecked with wreaths and a green and red Ho Ho Ho placard. I’d wrapped ribbon around the jump stand that held the hanging bell, and the curtain had tinsel streamers. We did the course twice, the second time in a near flawless fashion. Raudi walked rather than trotted through the curtain, but she did a commendable job carrying a stuffed pony to the finish area. I praised her for her good work by giving her a treat.
I began thinking about next year as I removed Raudi’s green and red leg wraps. Now I have big plans. Rather than gnaw on a frozen chocolate bar, I’ll instead sip hot cider and eat Pete’s chocolate chip cookies. We’ll put a string of lights on the grotto trees. And rather than use a spruce bough, we’ll have Raudi pull a real tree, one that we’ll later bring into the house and decorate.
To see our December Agility Video, click here: https://youtu.be/KVh1NawvLw8
Next: 111. 12/24/16: Burnin’ Wood