Most horse people are dog people--go to any horse show and you’re likely to see a variety of dogs here and there. I, for one, am in that large bunch and you can always see me with my "Stump Kid" whether I’m working or showing at a horse show. Dallas Mae, my 5-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, is a "been-there-done-that" type of dog.
Dallas typically shows good "hunter form" over the jumps.
After moving to Lexington, I ventured into the dog agility world and I now feel safe making the assumption that a large group of dog agility handlers are horse people (and I fit into this crowd as well). We like to take our "need to train" from the big quadrupeds to the little ones, and see which species we’re more successful with. (Right now, I can safely say I was more successful training horses than I have been training my own 24-pound Corgi, although we're getting better, as shown in the video below.)
So a story about a horse agility club in the United Kingdom celebrating its one-year anniversary caught my eye on Horse & Hound. According to the article, horse agility is run similar to canine agility--the horse and handler go through an obstacle course for a time. The horse is either led through or runs loose beside the handler when the pair reaches the top level.
In one year, the sport has blossomed to 425 active members with clubs in 10 countries (Australia, Canada, France, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States). There are accredited trainers and international competition, all scoped out on the website.
For comparison, here is a list of obstacles used in canine agility: teeter (aka "seesaw"), single jumps, broad jump, tire jump, tunnels, A-frame, dog walk, weave poles (six and 12 in-line), chute, and a stay table.
Horse agility obstacles (there are 24, but here are a few similar ones): tunnel, teeter, jump, weave poles/cones, roll ball, step onto a podium (like the stay table), A-frame, bridge (similar to the dog walk), cross a tarpaulin, pass through a curtain (similar to the chute), and back over poles.
Agility horses, just as with their canine-counterparts, can be any size, shape, and age, but no younger than 2-years-old (dogs must be at least 15-months-old, depending on the association). Many credit horse agility with providing a solid ground foundation for young horses. "It gives a young horse good foundations," Chloe Elliston told Horse & Hound. "He needs complete trust in you to walk through a fly-strip curtain. I have one client who competes in dressage, but does agility with her two-year-old so he isn't fazed by anything."
Now I have to say, after watching some of these videos on YouTube (search "Horse Agility"), I’m amazed. I know from experience with Dallas this type of teamwork takes a lot of dedication and time to build--especially when working in a field! I don’t think I can keep my 19-year-old Quarter Horse mare, Lark, from grazing the entire time!
Do you have experience with horse agility? Would you train your horse for it?