When Kandelle Olson of Upsala bought the American quarter horse/mustang cross “Dollar” for 50 cents she never dreamed he would become a great competitive trail riding horse.
“He was an ‘oops baby.’ A friend of mine came home one day and realized the mustang stallion had gotten into the pasture where her mare was grazing,” she said.
Eleven months later, Dollar was born. Since Olson’s friend wanted him go to a good home, she offered him to Olson.
Initially the plan was to train Dollar and sell him, Olson said. But it didn’t take long for the yellow dun to find his way into her heart.
“He has such a great personality,” she said.
When Olson trains horses, she believes in making it as natural as possible. One way she introduces them to items that have the potential of scaring them, such as tarps, is to feed them near or on it.
“When the horses are younger I put a lot of stuff in their pasture to desensitize them in a natural way. I find it’s easier for the horse, because it allows them to think it through without being pushed by the handler. They do it at their own pace,” Olson said.
Olson also likes to train her horses while she is trail riding. It gives them the experience of being away from the safety of home and prepares them to face anything that may come their way.
About seven years ago, Johnson started competing in competitive trail riding. Even though Dollar was only 3 and inexperienced, they placed second.
“I thought it would be interesting to try out. I had some friends who had some older and more experienced horses. But Dollar did it all and we did it well enough to place,”Olson said.
In competitive trail riding there are a wide variety of obstacles, such as logs, debris, long and narrow bridges, suspension bridges, an embankment with water and more that the horse and rider need to pass through. Since most events are timed, Olson said it adds pressure and speed.
“I love letting him run. He is fast,” Olson said.
Most competitions have 12-18 obstacles. Some timed events are arranged to let the horse and rider clear as many obstacles as they possibly can within three minutes.
But the concept of going through obstacle courses is not new to Olson. For many years she belonged to the Morrison County Sheriff’s Posse.
“Every year you had to go through an obstacle course to certify your horse. It was just fun to get together with the others and come up with obstacles you might encounter during a posse. It also gave you a chance to see how well you could handle your horse and how your horse would react to a strange and unknown situation,” Olson said.
That included standing right next to a squad car blasting its sirens and lights, Olson said.
At that time, she rode her grey Egyptian Arabian “Hebet.” Despite that she was an Arabian and the breed is well-known for its hot temper, she was quite calm, Olson said.
“People had a hard time believing she was an Arabian because of how mellow she was,” she said.
That became even more evident the time when a helicopter flew over them and landed nearby and she remained asleep, Olson said.
Even though Olson trains her horses well, competitive trail riding doesn’t come without a few challenges along the way. She has learned to just take it as it comes.
Even when Dollar hesitates to go in a certain direction or over an obstacle, Olson finds it easiest to just focus on where she’s going. Many make the mistake of looking straight at the ground, which can create an imbalance and confusion.
One common obstacle many horses hesitate at is the embankment that leads into water.
“A lot of horses don’t want to do it, because they don’t expect to go into the water at that kind of angle. It scares them,” Olson said.
It is one of the obstacles Dollar usually hesitates at, but it doesn’t take much for him to decide to trust Olson after all. The two have a strong bond, Olson said, “We’ve gone through a lot of rivers and into lakes. That has helped us with going through the water obstacles,” Olson said.
Another obstacle that makes Dollar nervous is the suspension bridge. At first he will walk onto it carefully, but about halfway across, he’ll hurry up to get off it.
For equipment, Olson prefers to use a lighter western saddle without the horn. It allows her more freedom in the saddle and the horn is not in the way when climbing hills or jumping, Olson said.
The competitive trail riding has taken Olson and her horse across Minnesota. In addition, she and her friends also like to meet up and go trail riding and camping.
“It’s so much fun. I recommend anyone to try it,” she said.