Sunday July 14, at Cherry Lane Equine, Sooke Saddle Club hosted our first Agility Play Day. We had a very successful, fun day and look forward to future agility competitions.
Like agility for dogs, this activity requires trust and cooperation between the horse and handler. As a horse’s natural instinct is to flee from anything it doesn’t feel comfortable with, and the horse is much bigger than a dog, a horse can’t be safely forced to navigate any obstacle.
The course consists of a variety of obstacles in an enclosed field. The handler uses a halter and a long training lead to guide the horse through or over or under the obstacles. No riding is done. Judging is 50 per cent on the horse accomplishing each test, and 50per cent on the horsemanship displayed by the handler. Each test was worth a total of 10 points.
The event was open to all ages and abilities. The morning session began with a course walk for the handlers, with a discussion about the rules and requirements for each obstacle followed by training and practice sessions for horses and handlers.
Competition began at noon, with two fields of obstacles which included a variety of tests – jumping a small jump, rolling a ball between two poles, stepping up onto a raised platform and standing there for five seconds, crossing a teeter-totter, walking along a narrow boardwalk, stepping through scattered rocks in a wooden frame and then through a water-filled tarp, walking through flapping flags, a scary corner, and colourful streamers, and many others.
Why would horse owners want to participate in this activity? Objectives of Agility Training include building a closer relationship with your horse, very important if a rider encounters something scary while out on the trail. Navigating strange obstacles can improve the horse’s mental and physical fitness and dexterity, as well as teach the horse that it can solve problems. Challenging the horse’s mind builds confidence in the horse, which can greatly help a young or nervous animal to become more confident. For the handler, it is a chance to try new challenges with the horse and enjoy a relaxed competition without having to ride.
For many people, the satisfaction of realizing how much their horse could actually do for them was the biggest surprise and thrill.
For our first Agility competition, we had 11 horses and handlers. High Point prizes were donated by Justin Martin, Farrier and Cherry Lane Equine. Senior High Point winner was Shelly Donaldson, with Heidi. Reserve Senior winner was Jessy Martin and Trigger. Junior High Point winner was Alora Milton with Bear Claw, and Reserve Junior was Holly Smith with Teddy.
The next Sooke Saddle Club event will be a Dressage Show and Tell on August 3 and 4 at the Metchosin ring. For information, contact Eila at 250-391-1851, or online at http://members.shaw.ca/nashramblers/ and click on the Sooke Saddle Club page.