Fino + Agility = Fun for Two

„Horse-Agility? Never heard about it … what’s that?“ If you had asked me, that would have been my answer up to last year. But then I found a video on youtube that really got me excited with all the action. It showed a horse running next to a man without halter or rope and playfully managing various trail obstacles. It jumped through a hoop, ran across tarps and bridges, through slalom and a tunnel, similar to an agility-test for dogs.

I didn’t know they had this for horses as well. “Try something new once in a while” I thought, maybe this is something for Corazon del Rio and me. Spontaneously I looked for clinics and found one to be held six months later right around the corner. Of course I signed up for it right away.

Finally in October 2014 the time had come: On Friday I rode to the farm, made sure that my grey was taken care of and helped to set up the obstacle-course. The next day we started in groups of three. First the horses were sent through the “Dualgassen” (dual lanes – concept of Michael Geitner –added by translator) to warm up. Then they were shown the various obstacles, this first time with halter and rope of course. We started with the wooden bridge, that my horse crossed, hardly hesitating. However, Corazon was very sceptical about the flapping curtain created with pool-noodles and balloons. After much coaxing he gathered his courage and stormed through – lots of praise and right away another go.
At this second attempt, it went a lot better and much calmer. Then came a tarp with balloons, and although he carefully felt his way, one balloon popped loudly and it gave him a real scare. Nevertheless he didn’t run away, only jerked and jumped once. He was calmed down easily. The tunnel, which appeared rather wobbly, and the tarp curtain didn’t really pose a problem. He followed obediently through these two obstacles. Then we had to take a run-up to jump the cavaletti and slow down immediately to manoeuvre the slalom. That again went great and Corazon received lots of praise and a treat.
Gradually he started to like the whole thing. At the end there was hoop made from pool noodles, which the horses had to jump through. My “honey” thought this was really scary and had to sniff the whole thing extensively and snorted loudly. Jumping through this – no way! Therefore the hoop was taken apart at the bottom, so that we could walk through normally, first I lead by good example and had my horse following. We made it. Great, more praises and the first session was over.

During the second and third session we finally managed to jump through the hoop, and the other obstacles were practiced again, or were more refined or became more difficult. For example the wooden bridge was turned into a see-saw. And we shouldn’t lead the horses anymore, but should pass the obstacles and send the horses through only by body language.

During the last session everybody showed off what they learned. And as everything went really well previously, I took off my horse’s halter, gave my camera to the instructor and asked her to take some pictures. First we did a practice walk and then we speeded up: the bridge, then gaiting through the flapping curtain, somewhat slower through the balloons, cantering through the tunnel and the tarp curtain, jumping the cavaletti, slowing down and moving the horse through the slalom only with hand signs and turning the shoulder in an out, cantering again for jumping through the hoop. Great, we made it!

My horse received a treat and I was happy for the praise from the instructor, who was really impressed by the two of us. Although my Fino was more scared by the obstacles than most of the other horses (Hafling, Quarter, Norwegian and Paint horses attended, as well as a Connemara pony), his trust overcame his fear, he kept his focus on me and Fino-typical tried hard to do everything right. I was very proud of my great brave pony!
After this experience, I can only say: “Horse-Agility? Is great … I can only recommend it!” Myself and my Fino had lots of fun, my little grey outgrew himself and for me it was a good opportunity to improve the communication with my horse and work on my body-language.

By Birgit Bauer, translated by Barbelin van der Smissen