Many thanks to Vanessa Bee, founder of The International Agility Club, for personally instructing this very informative and fun day which was enjoyed by people ranging in age from four to over 70, and equines from 8hh to 17hh. Thanks also to Jo Searle who travelled a great distance to help, and stayed to promote the BHS and provide very welcome refreshments.
Several spectators also joined in with the fun although a few donkey owners were disappointed that a risk assessment prevented them from joining us with their long-eared friends after a previous incident. Hopefully they are looking forward to the solution - a donkey fun day we will be organising, which Vanessa has agreed to instruct.
The day started with a demonstration by Sarah Davies, 2013 International Agility Champion, with her delightful horse. She showed what could be done off line, the horse changing pace and negotiating the obstacles, including jumping through the hoop, with Sarah directing from a distance in the centre of the arena.
The instruction continued with basic handling and safety around horses, how to safely lead, move them backwards, forwards, sideways etc., then onto introducing the basic agility obstacles - how to introduce and negotiate these in a calm controlled manner. Participants also learned what mastering these obstacles would relate to in everyday life with our horses – general obedience in moving over, back, forwards, spooky objects out hacking, low branches, narrow bridges, different ground surfaces, backing up when stuck in a narrow space and overcoming loading problems.
As confidence increased, the variety and complexity kept pace. Participants learned about the need to keep the lead rein loose with ‘a smile in the line’, the accuracy of moving back through parallel poles without touching with a hoof, negotiating a tight 90-degree bend without stepping outside poles. Another task involved the horse waiting one side of a narrow gap while the handler passed through then, when the handler was out of the way, the horse was instructed to follow, weaving through cones.
Reversing over a pole without touching with hooves introduced handlers to the ‘ministry of silly walks’ where Vanessa explained that to teach the horse to lift his feet high, the handler must demonstrate by walking along side lifting their legs high. Spectators reported particularly enjoying watching this section but admitting that it did work.
One participant, already working at Agility Club medium level, progressed onto working her pony off line, something a few of the other trainees were getting close to after the excellent instruction they had received. The day concluded with a mini competition and wonderful rosettes from the Horse Agility Club.