Monday, June 15, 2009

Sugar and Spice....

....naughty and nice!

It's been a frustrating week, and Sunday's show capped it off with even more frustration!

The end of the school year is usually time for fun celebrations and looking forward to the summer off (for students and staff). But this last week has brought involvement with Child Protective Services, unexpected paperwork, and more than one student whose anxiety about not having the safe, structured environment of school pushed them to act out severely. Plus we had the great big downer fact that three of our teachers (and one of my counseling colleagues at another school) are being laid off, due to the current economic woes and the ensuing state budget crisis.

Therfore, I had almost no energy left for working with the horses (beyond daily chores). So prep time for Amy and Maddie was pretty much limited to Saturday.

After chores, Maddie got worked first--a decent bit of walk-trot, but again she groused at me at the lope. Being a little bit of a chicken, I got off and worked her hard on the lunge line, then climbed back on--better. Took her in and untacked her and noticed the same pattern of dry spots on either side of her withers that Kate was showing last week. Her coat is white across her back, so I could not see any of the white hairs creeping in that Kate had, but now I fear that my big Western saddle is not wide enough for Maddie, either! I threw her out in the paddock for a good roll, before I giving her a bath, later, when it warmed up a bit more. Went to play with baby Jackson a bit.

For as little as I have worked with Amy on showmanship skills, and her snotty adolescent attitude about lunging the last few times, she had a pretty good work. Picked up the haunch turn after only a few tries; lunged well--lots of energy, but none of the airs above the ground that I've been graced with in the recent past. (After the show, her next step will be introduction to the saddle and bridle.)

Just as I was finishing with Amy in the cross ties, a huge thunder storm rolled in! We got about two inches of rain and pelting hail in about an hour. It was so noisy on the roof of the barn that I could hardly hear. Amy didn't like the noise, but didn't want to go out into it either, so I let her stand in the empty stall 'til it let up a bit. I didn't have enough stall space for rest of the girls, and they were already soaked, so I let them just turn tail in the semi-shelter of the barn "shadow." Misty and Jackson were standing outside their closed stall door, but when I went to let them in, a gust of wind caught the door and banged it into Misty. So I had to get a little grain to coax her back to the dry stall. The playing with Jackson earlier paid off--I was able to catch him pretty easily and towel the shivers away--tho I'm not sure he fully appreciated the favor. Then it was sprint through the rain to the house for a quick granola bar and a coke (it was, after all, time for 10:00 o'clock recess snack).

After lunch, bath time for both girls was pretty uneventful, and both worked on in-hand skills while they dried off. Lightweight sheets to keep some semblance of clean overnight. Rasped a bit off of Maddie's feet, just to even them up and smooth them out. I have been considering doing some of my own trimming again, with the help of a "Hoof Jack" for the sake of my back. I figure if I do an even-up-job once a week or so, as part of my regular grooming routine, I could probably keep up with three or four horses. But RT has one slightly clubbed foot, and Misty has been showing a little hint of navicular-syndrome-like problems, so I would want to have a professional do them. Also for the really young ones, as I wouldn't want to risk trimming them in a way that would adversely affect the growth of their young legs.

The storm put me way behind schedule, preventing loading stuff into the trailer, a situation that continued into our Sunday morning departure, as I also still had to hitch up the truck. I actually considered not even going, as I was not feeling 100% either. But it was the last opportunity for awhile to get the girls into a show ring, so off we went.

Got to the fairgrounds just as they were starting classes, and had to rush a bit to get the girls "dressed" for showmanship. Amy did reasonably well, considering everything. After her two classes, I had to rush back to get Maddie for her one halter class, and got chided by the announcer for not being on time, even though I had asked for a gate hold. Maddie did what I asked of her, but neither I nor the judge were very impressed. It was as much to let her get a look at the space, as anything. I have more trouble in this arena on halter classes--hard for ME to walk in, let alone trot alongside a horse--it's the big Ellensburg Rodeo arena, and the footing is really deep and heavy--especially so after Saturday's storm. I had reserved an outdoor pen, with a nice shady tree and another horse next door for company, for Amy for the rest of the day (she was done by 8:30). Maddie and I went back to the trailer to tack up for the English classes.

The first two classes were walk-trot, English or Western, but since Maddie was going in the English pleasure classes soon after, we went ahead and rode in the dressage saddle. I considered these two classes to be pretty much warm-up, as did most other riders there. Maddie did a nice enough job in the first (riders 18 and [way] over) and I figured the second (horses 15 and under) would be so crowded that she wouldn't place. It was her biggest class, but, by golly, she did really nice work (except for one minor spaze going by the out gate--that the judge didn't see) and was pinned second! It's was her best showing all day.

On to the canter classes. After her grousing on Saturday, I considered just doing the classes for experience, and trotting the whole time. But she was going in a very willing frame, so we gave cantering a try. Did pretty well, except that every time we rounded the end of the arena near the in and out gates, she would balk, and veer off, and break gait. I was pretty much okay with it, for the experience, but not happy about this new behavior. Her last English class, and the last before lunch, was novice horse; there were only two of us, and going in first, Maddie balked at the gate. I probably (in 20/20 hindsight) should have ignored the judge's expectation to enter at the trot, and just eased her into the big, empty arena. But once past the gate, she seemed to be moving off well, UNTIL: she spooked at something in the bucking chutes (that hadn't been there in any of the previous classes). She zigged, and she zagged, hard! I zigged, but forgot to zag, and rolled off over her left shoulder into the arena dirt. (The weakest point of my balance, I know, is riding a little too far ahead of where I should be.) I remember feeling a calf muscle stretch a little too far, but otherwise I was okay--just bruised ego. Maybe should have climbed back on then and there, but just needed to clear my head, and take a breather, and to rehydrate a bit and eat something. We headed back to the trailer to consider whether or not to stay for the three Western classes after lunch. Realizing I needed to get back on her before we left, for both of our sakes, I decided to stay.

Maddie stood well for saddling and warmed up okay, but again balked a little going into the arena. It was warm enough that some of the strut was gone, and we did some nice, collected jog work. Decided to give the lope a chance, and again was surprised with some decent work--though one time she picked up the wrong lead, and rather that discombobulate her by stopping to change, I let her counter canter until she broke naturally, then switched. Western classes were big enough that she didn't place all that well, but it was more about the experience, anyway. Last class was novice horse, again, and again there were only two of us. She had been working well, though still acting up a bit at the gates, and she was a little tired (unfortunately, so was I), so I was hopeful for a good finish for the day. There was another thunder storm moving in, and I'm not sure if that had something to do with what happened next.

Nice collected jog, picked up a rolling lope at the far end of the arena and was only a little distracted coming down the long side towards the out-gate. Broke gait coming around the corner, and veered hard, into the fence between us and the warm-up area, headed towards the dreaded in-gate. I gave her a good boot and straightened her out for a moment, then she started fish-tailing. I gave her another hard push and suddenly...
I was in the dirt! AGAIN!
I hit harder this time: I could feel a muscle strain in my lower back, and I clunked my head a bit, but "bounced back up" (according to one of my school dads, who was standing nearby) and went to get my naughty horse.
I was embarrassed (twice in one day! And infront of several of my kiddos from school and their parents, and two teachers and my principal!). And getting mad (though also close to tears). We retired to the warm-up area and I worked from the ground for five minutes, demanding her respect (and calming down--it's counter productive to work a horse when one is angry). Then sidled up to a fence panel and climbed back on, and worked on bending and circles and paying attention to ME! After the last riding class, I got permission to work in the arena while they set up the barrels (I don't do games, thank you). No lope, but lots of jog work, first down at the far end, then along the gate end, until I felt Maddie was listening.

Then we went back to the trailer for some water for both of us, and a breather. Retreived Amy and headed for home, just as the second heavy rain/thunder storm in two days hit. Sat in the driveway for probably 15 minutes until it let up enough to unload and make a dash for the barn. Unloading equipment can wait 'til Monday.

All in all, it was a humbling experience. I don't think any single horse has ever dumped me more than once, and certainly never in one day. I'm beginning to think about getting professional help (for training the horse--I gave up on my state of mind years ago!). This is the part where my advancing age and retreating physical prowess are getting in the way of progress with a young and very sensitive horse. And my confidence has taken a blow: there were more than a few moments on the way home, when I considered getting rid of everybody equine and taking up quilting.

But today has dawned sunny, with only a pleasant breeze. I'm sore and moving a bit slowly, but otherwise okay. Maddie was sufficiently contrite at breakfast, and I have forgiven her. I hope to get Kate out for a bit, and hopefully she will behave herself--as she usually does. Baby Jackson had a new adventure (to be blogged later on) and I've got work to do. So I'll be off to it.


  1. I just discovered your blog. Don't give up! - it sounds like a case of show nerves on her part and bad luck on the balance front on your part. Your horses are lovely!

  2. Welcome Kate. (I hope you noticed that I happen to like that name.) Thanks for visiting.

  3. Don't take up quilting - it's even more dangerous! Those needles are really sharp and really small. You'll put a spare in your shirt and forget about it, you'll drop them and step on them, the cat (do you have a cat?) will try to eat them - horses are much safer. ;)

    Seriously, I hope you're feeling better today. I know all about the ups and downs.