Partnering up with
dogs and horses
WRITTEN BY Elaine Macdonald
Catherine and Raul Pineda have lived in the Antelope Valley since the 1990s. Years ago the couple met each other when they were neighbors in Palmdale. Catherine was separated and living with her three children.
“I needed help with household and garden-maintenance chores. I asked Raul (who was divorced at that time) if he would help me in exchange for my baby-sitting his children. Raul turned out to be Mr. Fix-it! After a year of friendship we married in 1995, and our romance has continued to this day,” Catherine said.
Shortly after they were married, Raul took an interest in the American Kennel Club dog trial and field competitions.
“We purchased a hunting dog, a Hungarian Vizsla puppy for our family. I started taking obedience classes through the city of Lancaster,” Raul said. “I always included my children when I went hunting in the mountains. Adding a hunting dog to our family seemed to be a good fit.
“In the obedience classes I learned how to work with our hunting dog. I got involved in the hunting tests and field trials that were sponsored by the AKC.
“At first I went along to watch other dogs work in the field. The sport consisted of different abilities, including hunting quail, chucker, and pheasant, working the dogs, and riding horses.
“My dog was easy to train and very competitive. Other members of the AKC encouraged me to enter my dog into the field trials competition.”
The field trials included riding horses in the event.
“I borrowed a horse from a friend who was training with me and started to compete with my dog. The events are fun, and I enjoy team working with my dog. Coordinating riding horses while working with my dog was an added bonus,” Raul said.
Pony tales and trials
Competitors in the field and trial events often use scouts on horseback. The scouts follow the working dog in the field. When the scout locates the dog, the competitor and judge move to where the dog is hunting to see if the dog is on point.
“Raul wanted me to act as his scout on the field trial weekend competitions,” Catherine said. “Scouting would require me to canter a horse to the top of the ridge to locate the hunting dog. Riding horses was the farthest thing from my mind. I was terrified of them.
“I recall my father buying me and my sister a pinto pony when I was 12. That pony tormented me. She threw me off numerous times, then ran full speed and chased me around the field. Our pony also chased our sheep. She was a little terror!
“The pony would make her way into our garage and tear things up. Any opportunity she had she would bite me. One time she intentionally stepped on me after she threw me. The pony was just evil!
“I made up my mind a long time ago. No horses for me! Raul’s experience with horses was quite different from mine.”
“My parents would occasionally rent horses for our entire family,” Raul said. “Our family loves outdoors activity, including riding the rental horses in the Santa Ana riverbed in Corona. This was my taste of youthful experience of riding horses. I enjoyed it! It was only natural that I wanted Catherine to ride with me and share in a fun activity.”
“Borrowing a horse for the competition brought back fond childhood memories of riding with my family. I then decided to find my own horse,” Raul said. “I asked my friend, Rick, an old cowboy with lots of horse experience, to help me. Rick found one that was a right match for my sport.
“In 2007 I bought a 7-year-old mixed paint quarter horse by the name of Brye. I used Brye to compete in field trials with my dog. As I got more experience in the program, I realized that one of the rules in AKC is that a rider is expected to walk the horse, no trotting or loping is permitted.
“The more experienced competitors use Tennessee walking horses. The walking/gaited horses have a faster walk than horses that are not gaited like my quarter horse. My quarter horse mix could not keep up with the rest of the riders. After a couple of year’s experience, to be more competitive, I purchased Boe, a 5-year-old black Tennessee walking horse.”
Confidence in the field and on the trail
Raul said he eventually found a mixed Arabian dun rescue horse for Catherine. Abbey was one of 90 horses that were confiscated and kept at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department facility in Castaic.
When Abbey was brought home, she was sickly and had a large sore on her body. She was nervous and didn’t like to be ridden. The Pinedas took responsibility for the horse. It took a year to help Abbey get healthy before they adopted her.
“I told myself that I have to ride this horse,” Catherine said. “Raul helped me feel comfortable with Abbey. He would hold Abbey’s lead rope and walk the horse while I was on her back.
“Since Abbey was full of energy, we needed help and hired Carey Wendler. Wendler is a local horse trainer who worked with us. Abbey had solid ground training and saddle work before I started riding her.
“It has been six years since I started riding horses. My evil pony experience is far behind me. I now feel confident. I love camping with my husband and trail riding my horse in the High Sierra. There are special places in the Sierra that are hard to get to by hiking. We trust our horses to be sure-footed and carry us safely on our adventures.”
For the past six years Raul has earned a wall full of ribbons and trophies from competing in AKC trials. He is a judge for the “Hunt Test” where the dog has to meet certain criteria that are established by AKC.
“The field trials are seasonal. We usually take the horses and camp overnight in the desert staging area near California City for the events. We have a special bond with our horses. It does not matter if I am riding in the field events, or trail riding with Catherine in the High Sierra. We love camping and our horseback riding adventures. Our horses do their jobs and protect us,” Raul said.
The Pinedas are actively involved with Equestrian Trails Inc. Corral 138. For details, visit www.eti138.com/Corral_138/Home.html. For more information on the AKC trial and field competition, see www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/field_events/index.cfm. or email email@example.com.