If any of your acquaintances suggest you sign up your horse for a Trail Trial, just ask them to lend you a hammer. Begin banging yourself on the head with said hammer, and stop only when the relief will be very intense. The banging part is how you'll feel during the Trail Trail; the quitting part is how you'll feel when you get home.
There I have saved you some money and time.
So today John and I failed to borrow a hammer. On our way to the farm hosting the Trail Trial, the road looked like this:
If there's one thing I hate more than almost anything else, it is hauling a horse trailer through fog. You can see some sort of sign on the right; I think it says "Go Home Fool".
The day cleared off though and here you can see John feeling fresh and chipper tied to the trailer:
There were 15 riders who were partnered for the ordeal I mean fun. My partner was terrific and I thoroughly enjoyed riding with her and her lovely TWH Smoke:
We decided to help each other instead of getting competitive, and we had some happy times with our two good hearted horses. BUT.
A Trail Trial consists of stations along a trail at which challenges have been placed, to test whether you and your horse are crazy enough yet or need to be driven further insane.
Some of the challenges were fun: a water crossing that got chest deep:
some steep uphills, a campsite with several tents including a Spongebob Squarepants tent that John liked, and a very handsome guy just standing in the trail smiling- to distract us??
Judges give you points based on how well you handle each challenge; there are 'refusals' which subtract from your points; each refusal takes away about 4,923 points so that you can end up with a negative score so huge you may never have the heart to ride again. Handling the obstacle gives you a zero. Yes folks, the perfect metaphor for horsemanship: you never actually get ahead, you just occasionally fail to fall behind and call that success!
We did OK, more or less (well, skipping over our experience at the gate, where John acted like he had just descended from some planet where gates are only found at the Palomino Burial Ground) until we got to the "Logging Camp".
This consisted of a bunch of people who appeared and disappeared randomly out of a death hut, and when in plain sight they operated a gasoline powered log splitter which gave off, I am not exaggerating, the sound of cannons firing over some Civil War battleground. We had to ride a figure-8 in and around the cannon fire, and the fiends timed their log-splits to maximally startle the horse. This is the closest picture I got, and it's a bit blurry & nightmarish for reasons you will easily understand.
Well, John and I covered this particular challenge at what I fondly call a 'mad gallop', a gait that I always think must look impressive and exciting from a safe distance. The main deleterious effect was not on our score (screw that!) but on John's state of mind. He lost it.
We passed on to "the bear cave', someone's raccoon coat hung over a chair; the hay-mowing farmer (not actually part of the challenge course but freakishly loud and provoking the only full-out bolt I have ever experienced with John) and finally the trailer load.
This was a short roofed step-up trailer set in the corner of a field, with Farmer Mengele mowing madly next to the fence and no other horses within sight. John declined to hop right on and the judge said, "I count that one refusal, here comes another one, why don't you just pass this up and take the hit?" I think she was tired. We walked on, John in a sweat far beyond the heat of the day and me with that hammer-my-head feeling.
Good things about the day: I met a nice new friend, I found out John enjoys snuggling raccoon coats, we totally dominated the rocking wooden bridge, and the trails were pretty.
Bad things: I did feel there were dangerous moments, like the logging camp and the bolt. And a horse who won't load onto a trailer can't just be marched away with lost points; you have to return to that problem right away and he must get on. Or you could have a much bigger problem later. So this challenge was not a good one in my opinion. I loaded John up and left once we were back in camp, and I think I owe him an apology and some good treats. This is one experience I will not seek out soon again.