Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Equestrian Team

So here's why participating in Oregon High School Equestrian Teams (or OHSET, if you don't want to tie your tongue in a knot) was really, really good for me and my horses.

There's something like two hundred riders. Lots of them have more than one horse.
Therefore, your horse gets introduced to crazy warmup arenas. Big time. After the first meet, Bailey was an awful lot less concerned when A. people tried to run their horse up his butt, B. horses went flying by bucking wildly, C. people with flags galloped around playing tag, or D. miniature ponies with carts were about.
After a few minutes of sensory overload, the horse generally starts ignoring all the other asshats and just listens to you.

You haul to practice once a week and you haul to three meets, once a month in the winter/spring. This provides a very nice incentive for your horse to learn to trailer nicely, doesn't it? And how convenient that you get weekly practice! By the end of my time with him, while trailer loading could still be a high-stress experience simply because he was never quite happy being shut in, Bailey would pretty much walk right on the trailer. With McKinna this has never been an issue.

Did I mention the asshats? People will cut you off and glare at you. People will see that you accidentally crossed your reins before you put them over your horse's head and say nothing. People will roll their eyes if your horse misbehaves. They will also run their misbehaving horse into you in the warmup arena. Their training methods are right, and yours are wrong. Also, if you don't want to wear a neon-colored helmet cover for dressage, you have no team spirit and are a Diva. After awhile, it all rolls off your back, a valuable skill to have anywhere and especially in the horse world.

Then again, there's also nice people. Making friends from other schools, spontaneous bonding with people who I empathize with ("Yeah, I have a crazy horse too..."), people who loan you tack and rule books and horses and help you with your patterns, people who offer a free spot in their trailer, people who cheer for you even though they don't know you. Life's not all that bad, is it?

You are expected to compete in 5 individual events and as many team events as possible. This is so your team can get as many points as possible. You're an English rider and there aren't 5 English events? Guess you'd better learn to ride Western then. My three safe things were Over Fences, Hunt Seat Equitation, and Dressage. With both Bailey and McKinna, I have competed in Pole Bending, Individual Flags, and Figure-8 for individual events. I also learned how to team pen, do Canadian Flags, and run Birangle. Another popular event, IHOR (In Hand Obstacle Relay), which I stepped in to do after a team member quit, involves showmanship at speed over obstacles.

Basically, doing all that different stuff means your horse had better be one hell of an all-around horse. My horse neck reins very well, grasps the basic concept of pockets though I never patterned her, understands working cows in a team, and gets really, really excited when we're about to run Individual Flags. She already lead well before I started OHSET, so I wouldn't have worked on it; thanks to competing in IHOR, she can flawlessly (and quickly) turn on her forehand or haunches, sidepass, trot in hand (on the off side too!), or back through an L, all without me touching her. She also stops dead on a dime.

Here's some pictures to illustrate the different sides of it all (these were all taken at OHSET):Lining up for the sidepass in IHOR

Getting ready to carry the flag for Grand Entry

Team Penning (sorry Mugs, I'll never be as good as you with cows ;)

We're serious about our pole-bending. Really.

Just trying to keep a gray horse clean!

That's all for today!


mugwump said...

What an incredible event! I've never seen anything like it! I'm jealous...

manymisadventures said...

It's a blast, and I can tell you it made my riding a hell of a lot better. Also made me way more comfortable going really, really fast :) McKinna certainly loved it, she'd stick her nose out and put the pedal to the metal.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

You're an OHSET'er? Too funny, we've probably met. Did you go to the OHSET meet at Northwest Equestrian in Boring in Feb or early March 07? I was still working there at the time.

I remember our big problem was the OHSET people would insist upon cooking in the barn aisles. We really weren't trying to be jerks but the Fire Marshall had a shit fit about that!

And you ARE NOT KIDDING about the warmup arenas. We boarders had to ride with you guys and some of your co-OHSET'ers have the scariest ring manners I have EVER seen. As in slam on the brakes and start backing without looking. I had a green pony I was training and hell, after that, I figured he was ready for anything!

manymisadventures said...

Actually, we've probably not met -- I'm in the South Valley district, neglected to mention that ;) Our meets are held at the Oregon Horse Center in Eugene, which conveniently is about 5 minutes from my house. It makes midday naps really easy.

Yeah, I hate the ones that stop and back up with ABSOLUTELY NO WARNING. Or the ones that are *practicing* for their reining pattern, so out of the blue they will gallop madly down the arena into a sliding stop directly in front of the fence.

Yeah. Surviving the OHSET warmup arena is definitely an art. *sigh* I wish someone would teach those kids how to be respectful, at least.

The English kids usually aren't too bad, or at least the jumpers -- they can be snobs, but they know how to warm up and call out their fences. Or if they don't, they do it because everyone else is.

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