I had good intentions for this blog, but you know Covid happened. It seems like everything is happening and nothing is all at the same time, and well I’ve struggled to find time for this blog. I really enjoy writing, and started it as a way to sharpen some skills at a hobby I used to truly enjoy that had gotten a bit rusty. Finding inspiration in the daily grind of farm life, while maintaining the entertainment value for any potential readers during a year when well not much is happening for me equestrian wise has been challenging. Before I knew it months had passed since my last post…
I’m aiming to remedy that. The next month should be jam packed with exciting happenings for the GHLHF crew, and hopefully that will translate to several posts.
We kicked off the month of October with a horse show. Per the usual I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be. Procrastination and struggling to keep horses sound is the story of my life, but you can’t wrap them in bubble wrap as appealing as the idea may be. Odessa only had a few training rides prior to the show, due to an injury. I don’t know exactly what happened, but she walked up to me in the pasture missing a chestnut on her right hind leg, and her leg was swollen 3-4 times larger than it should be. She was cleared by the vet to prep for the show, and prior to the injury had been working really well. Comanche had been working really well at home, and on rides at my friend, Dressage Queen’s, farm.
I did not expect anything amazing from either horse, but hoped we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves too badly. Truly, I just needed an excuse to dress up, and braid/band my horses. They may not be the best at anything in the show pen, but personally with all of the spots, chrome, and varnish I’m of the biased opinion that they are usually the best looking when not behaving like complete dragons. I fully realize that most people would disagree with me. I’m good with that.
I convinced Dressage Queen, this show would be great exposure for her newest eventing prospect, and that for a very green horse, you couldn’t get a better experience, even if she and I would look completely out of place with the AQHA breed show Hunter Under Saddle crowd. I’m completely aware that we are outclassed at breed shows in every way. My horses don’t carry the fancy pedigrees and are handicapped, by me being the closest thing to a trainer that is ever on their backs. Most of the time I’m lucky if I can get 15 minutes of video prior to a show, to see if what I think I’m feeling in the saddle is translating to the spectator. Really, I just needed to get my horses out and about, with a little show mileage under their belt this year. It was a good warm-up test for Comanche, and just an annoyance to Odessa who was perfectly happy being fat and lazy in the pasture. We’re so close to Comanche participating in his first combined event I can feel it! November 15 y’all!
I boldly ignored my previous vow to never take Comanche and Odessa to the same event at the same time EVER again. Of course both horses immediately reminded me the reason for the vow with in minutes of coming off the trailer. For the most part, neither of them are herd bound/sour whatever you want to call it. They operate very well independently while riding and on trails. However, put them in stalls where they can hear/smell each other, but not see each other is a recipe for disaster. Actually it’s probably the whole putting them in stalls thing. Neither horse does well in confinement, and I believe horses are definitely happier, mostly healthier when they can live as close to natural as possible. Hence the reason that Odessa returns to me with injuries of mysterious origin even when I check the property multiple times during the week to minimize the potential for injury.
So both horses began pacing, pawing, kicking, and all out screaming at being separated into tiny little boxes. No amount of alfalfa was going to distract them from the horrific treatment. Comanche settled down during warm-up the night before the show. Once his feet were moving, and I put him through his paces he behaved relatively well. Odessa on the other hand decided to go full bronc in the warm-up when I asked her to lope. I’m not sure if it was the trainer’s dog (which was adorable) in the arena, Odessa being in heat, being separated from Comanche who was returned to his stall to paw/pace, or all of the above. I did know one thing. Despite months of decent lope work, this was not the show to troubleshoot her issues. I scratched all of her classes, and entered Odessa in the walk, trot, only classes.
I should have seen the warning signs. Odessa’s little blow-up should have clued me in that this show would not be the walk in the park I hoped. If it could go wrong it did on the first night/morning. After working and bathing both horses, I began getting my banding materials together, but turns out I left the most important item in my tack box at home, the rubber bands. The horse show vendor had already closed up for the night, so I had two options. Call it night, go home, and come back super early or go home get the bands and not leave the expo center before 12:00am. I’m not a morning person, but the thought of another trip back and forth was beyond me. So I wake-up, and sneak away from a sleeping Offspring and Darling Husband, with intentions of getting fuel/coffee before heading to the expo center. At the fuel pump I realize I have no idea where my wallet is. It could be in the tack room or Darling Husband’s truck. Not only am I up with things to accomplish at 6 am, but I will be doing it completely without coffee. At least there was cold beer in the tack room cooler. Priorities. Thankfully the bad luck streak ended after I cracked open that first Lone Star Lite.
If fans were the determining factor in placings, Odessa and Comanche would have placed first hands down. I was blessed to have a host of people come out to support us. Saintly Neighbor and his family along with IHeartArabians and her entire barn crew showed up to watch. They filled one and a half rows at the expo center. If you regularly attend horse shows you know usually only competitors and their trainers, maybe a family member actually watch horse shows. Of course Darling Husband played photographer while Offspring built a farming empire in the arena dirt. Offspring even enjoyed playing with friends, old and new, that shared his passion for arena dirt. Per Darling Husband, Dressage Queen’s daughter looked like a sea turtle laying in the arena sand and flipping dirt up to bury herself. Glad we weren’t taking that one home with us to bath! Offspring thinks that horse shows are the greatest thing EVER now and has requested to go to one every day for the past week. Parenting win!
In the end, this show turned out to be the best show I had attended with either horse. Not because of our placings, we were severely outclassed, and did not have high expectations for ribbons. This was the best show, because with the exception of Odessa’s trail performance (which she gave me fair warning would be a disaster), both horses outperformed my expectations. Were they perfect? No. Were they extremely well behaved? Also, no. However, both gave me tiny moments, that in the grand scheme did not equate to super high placings, but showed me despite everything working against us we are still improving. Odessa and I had our best Showmanship and Horsemanship patterns ever. Comanche was much lighter than he’s ever been in equitation and Hunter Under Saddle, a little heavy in the hands, but not his usual freight train self.
Had this not been 2020, and every single show but this one cancelled, I feel like both horses would have shown much more progress. As it was, I’ve spent an awful lot of time just enjoying them, not focusing on show goals/movement, and that is never a bad thing. We’ve all had a lot more fun and tried new pursuits. In the end if you are riding a horse you love, you are already a winner. As it was both Comanche and Odessa did place above other competitors in classes that aren’t particularly my favorite to train for, that we usually don’t even dare to hope for a placement. Comanche did not turn into the deranged jumping machine, I secretly enjoy riding when he took the first small cross rail. Breed show people call it a “jump.” Comanche and I can show them a “jump” but that cross rail wasn’t even worth him lifting his knees. Not turning into a dragon after the cross rail was a big thing for my horse, who cares if I forgot the correct entrance to the serpentine after the second cross rail?