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Let’s talk about knowing when to compete and knowing when you’re training at an event. The perfect example is my journey to Texas for the Worlds, Extreme Cowboy Race finals. I competed in both the futurity with Shiny and the Mustang race with Elon.
Training Mustangs is something I live for, and Elon was the horse I competed with at the Maryland Mustang TIP challenge this year. Elon was rounded up from the wild in February of 2021 and came to me in June of 2021 where he started the gentling process and wasn’t started under saddle until August. The TIP challenge arrived in September and was a great experience and Elon came away with the champion title.
The world finals in Texas came quickly after in November with only a few months of training I had to decide on whether or not I was going to go into this competition as a competitor or use it as a training session. Extreme cowboy racing is a competition where the sky’s the limit in terms of obstacles, you never know what you’re going to get asked to do. Whether it’s back through, side passes, performance moves, like spins and rollbacks, having to rope something, or being able to move a cow. Each obstacle is graded with a level of difficulty. I came into this competition thinking I was competing against mustangs with the same adoption year as Elon, the same as it was in previous years. But instead, I was competing against seasoned horses. After further investigation, I reread the rules and they had changed after I had already entered, so the competition was open to Mustangs of any adoption year.
After finding this information out I knew it wasn’t going to be possible for Elon and me to be competitive, it wasn’t going to be realistic, I would have to push him way too hard beyond his level of comfort and confidence. I had to be realistic that Elon wasn’t going to be able to do all the obstacles and wouldn’t be able to be as fast as the others. So, I made the decision that I was going to focus on training Elon during the competition instead of trying to go for the win. Because to go for the win, I would have to push him to a point where I think it might have affected his mind negatively.
Elon not being prepared enough was a surprising humbling experience. Because normally when I come down to these really big caliber events, I’m over-prepared, and my horses are ready because I have set them up for success. Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances what’s important is to realize when it becomes a training opportunity and to not sacrifice your horse’s confidence for the sake of that ribbon.
Even though Elon was scared and unsure he trusted me to do all the obstacles and even had a respectable time. We finished with 72 points. And the horse above us was at 76 points, so considering all that was against us I couldn’t be happier with how we finished. The final round was for the top 10 and it was a tough course. I knew that my goal for him going into the class was going to be for him to feel relaxed, I wanted him to feel like he could do his job fast or slow. And that he could accomplish all the obstacles, and that we could do all our canter and get all of our canter leads, and just be very successful in what we wanted to accomplish. He was such a rock star! He went over the drops, he side passed and he even went over the narrow bridge, which some of the other horses struggled with and didn’t even manage to get over. So, taking a extra few second at some of the obstacles really set him up for success.
I am hopeful they will do more extreme cowboy races that are just an open Mustang class so I can keep Elon and we can keep working on these skills and come back and do it again next year and not to mention these classes showcase the Mustang breed well.
At the end of the day. It’s about recognizing, are you competing with your horse to win? Is your horse ready for that? And if not, then make sure you understand how to make it a positive schooling experience for your horse. So that way you’re not sacrificing your horse’s confidence for the sake of a ribbon.
As always guys enjoy the journey and remember, you can always check out more great free resources and other information at https://harmonyhorsemanship.com/ or check me out on my personal website https://www.lindseypartridge.com/ .
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