Since I have a day job and a toddler, I’m limited in the amount of time I can devote to my hobby (passion?). I usually get creative in order to fit everything in. There are the normal adult responsibilities that get shuffled around in order to indulge my and DH’s (he’s not fooling anyone) inner pony princess (DH’s is more like an inner Clint Eastwood). Then there are weeks when it’s just too tempting to revert back into full on child mode, all adulting forgotten.
Our horse trailer has been attached to one of our trucks continuously since last Thursday night. It all started when the cattle bug bit Darling Husband. The weather is beautiful, baby calves are bouncing in the fields at neighboring farms, and it looks like his farm tax haven plan may actually pay off. He and Saintly Neighbor headed off to one of Darling Husband’s favorite pass times, sitting at the auction shooting the $hit with the other farmers/ranchers. A trailer must be required equipment in order to enter the auction parking lot, so of course it had to go, and apparently you can never hook up to a trailer without ensuring that at least one leg of your trip transports an animal. So Darling Husband purchased three heifers.
To convince me to spend my weekend in Falls county, Darling Husband dangles the “300 acres ripe for cross country practice” carrot in front of me. So, Saturday and Sunday we load three horses up for play time on a bigger farm. When the MTQHA announced they had scheduled their first open ride night, and my first 2019 chance to expose Comanche to the new equestrian center, I panicked a bit. I was planning to get Dentals and Coggins tests done this weekend, but had put it off for the Falls County trip. Darling Husband had spent all day Friday playing at the auction while I was at work, so I made him drop everything and make sure those Coggins tests happened first thing Monday morning when the vet clinic opened.
Now I’m not psychic, but I had a premonition that this ride might not be all I was hoping for in a first 2019 Expo Equestrian Center experience. Gallops in Falls County tend to bring out Comanche’s inner freight train (but they’re so fun), and I’ve not been spending the time on Odessa’s upcoming show season prep that I should. Since I tend to lean optimistic, I ignored any negative thoughts about this adventure. Forget the fact Odessa has only been ridden seven times in the past three months, and Comanche is going to freak out in a new place (because that’s what he does), I convinced myself that this would be a low stress event because we were not going to a competition. Famous last words, right?
All started out well. I skipped lunch deciding to take my lunch break at the end of the day, raced home from work, hooked up the trailer, and loaded everyone in the trailer by my self-appointed time. We were on schedule! When does that ever happen in the horse world? Despite the fact I was travelling through Belton (admittedly it’s a small town, but the idiot population is extensive here) with a gooseneck trailer at the equivalent of rush hour, nothing crazy happened. The horses unloaded without incident, and stood quietly munching hay from the side of the trailer when I tacked them up. This was going to be awesome…or not.
I led both horses into the arena area. The plan was to tie Odessa to the outside (because she’s my solid citizen, palm to head), work Comanche because he’s never been here before (he needs this more), and then work my darling girl (sarcasm). I draped Odessa’s bridle over the saddle horn, and tied her lead to the Priefert railing. I hopped up on Comanche, who miraculously stood, not a single step while I mounted (who is this horse?). It wasn’t until Comanche and I entered the arena that mare brain or simply boredom kicked in with Odessa. That’s when she began striking the metal Priefert panels creating a loud banging that reverberated off the surrounding metal structures. Now there were maybe ten horses total in the arena, but a few were pretty green, and Odessa’s commotion instigated a rearing, bucking event from a beautiful seventeen hand palomino quarter horse whose trainer I kind of admire. I’m sure he was thinking, “Oh, great the amateur with the crazy appaloosa is back, with not one, but two this time!”
Doing my best to ignore Odessa, hoping she would stop when her efforts proved futile, I started working Comanche. Now I was not expecting perfection or the collected softness I get at home. Hell, if all goes well Comanche’s entire show career will consist of him being the only horse in the competition ring at any single time. Dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country are all judged solo. I would like him to at least behave like a sane animal when sharing arena space with other animals…Pipe dream! Comanche started his first round of the arena, resembling a giraffe. I let him have his moment, see everything, get it out of his system, and then get down to work. Odessa’s incessant clanging made it impossible to concentrate, though.
When we made our second pass by Odessa, that’s when I noticed that she had shaken her show bridle ($$$$) off of the saddle horn, and was trampling it under her feet. I hopped off of Comanche, took a few very deep breaths, then went to retrieve the bridle and death wish horse. I then decided to move Odessa to the stall area beside the arena and tie her there. At least the wood panels would be quieter than the Priefert panels if she continued to strike. This would also leave her standing on concrete instead of arena footing. Hopefully striking concrete would be painful and discourage the behavior. Minor success.
Back to Comanche, at this point too much had happened for him or me to get our brains straight. I did manage a few passes around the arena with him on the buckle (aka loose rein). When asked to trot we had a few rounds where he softened, but for the most part he braced against the bit at every gait except the walk, forcing me to spend the majority of the ride disengaging his hindquarters through leg yields, side passes, serpentines, and tiny circles. Maybe I should just make a barrel racer out of him and point him at a wall when I want him to stop (Joking! Mostly…still entertaining the thought).
After an exhausting ride (my core was BURNING!), I figured Odessa and I would do a quick uneventful work out and get out of there. Except, I conveniently forgot that Odessa was a bit of a butt about cantering (aka loping, but she’s not slow yet) the night before. I’ve been working on head set and hindquarter engagement with Odessa, and she’s hit or miss about cooperation. Tonight was a huge miss. Odessa decided that any cue to give to the poll, should result in a flying lead change regardless of whether my leg actually asked for said lead change. Maybe I shouldn’t discount her fat quarter horse a$$ as a dressage horse since she nailed the two tempis down the rail of the arena. Finally, I asked her to back, and OMG she actually backed like a reiner despite being a usually sticky backer. Impressive, now I know she’s capable just stubborn (as if I doubted). Lastly, I made Odessa side pass a few times, mostly out of spite, because she thought her backing would complete the ride, and we were ending this fiasco on my terms since we started on hers.
Any night in the saddle is a good night, and I’m trying not to beat myself up over the shenanigans of my horses. Every human and animal has off days, and clearly last night was not our night. We did accomplish getting exposure to the venue for everyone. I now know that both of my appaloosas would benefit from time tied to a “patience pole” to teach them that sometimes you just have to stand around do nothing. Other than that back to the drawing board with Comanche. I will find a solution to this freight train in public business if it kills me (it probably will). These are just the normal ups and downs of training one’s own horses, and I know its not their fault. I failed them in a few training areas, and will need to up my game (re-evaluate some goals) before May 4!