Dog and Pony Show

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Note: This is day 18 of my 30-day blogging challenge. What the heck is a 30-day blogging challenge? Read about it here.

I don’t take my dog, Brit, with me when I ride Snoopy. She’s prone to distraction and is very unkind to barn cats. She’s a wonderful dog and really is well-suited to our mostly urban life, so I really can’t complain. But I admit I’m always a little jealous of some of my co-boarders whose dogs stay close to them on the trails or even lie down by the side of the arena and wait patiently while they school.

But even those barn dogs, whose good behavior seems like an effortless part of their nature, aren’t as impressive as the dogs that compete in road trials. A road trial is a performance event for Dalmatians designed to test their ability to follow horses that are being ridden or driven. This is called coaching.

Besides showcasing the dog’s obedience, higher levels require speed and endurance as the dog is asked to keep up with the horse over longer distances, up to 25 miles. The speed test requires dogs to keep up with a galloping horse.

Some of the tests the dogs are asked to do are similar to what you’d see in an obedience competition, such as a recall and long sit or down, but with the added challenge of the handler being on horseback. The distraction exercise requires the Dalmatian being tested to stay in “hock position” while a hiker with a dog on a leash passes in the opposite direction. I like that exercise because it seems both challenging and practical in the real world.

Snoopy is very tolerant of dogs hanging around underfoot, so he probably would have been pretty good for coaching. But as a competitive sport, road trials are restricted to Dalmatians, so Brit doesn’t have to worry about me ever actually pursuing this. But I would love to attend a coaching boot camp to learn the training techniques.

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Leslie Potter is Sr. Associate Web Editor ofHorseChannel.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex.

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