Friday, October 28, 2011

Now What?

Note:  I started this post well over a week ago, and there have been developments and complications since then. I decided I just need to post what I have, then, hopefully this weekend, I can bring it further up to date.

I got bad news on Monday (the 10th), and now I find myself facing a dilemma.
Maddie’s little sister Beth (Brioso) has always been a challenge for me.  I’ve said many times that she is “smart, quick, and sassy!”  Lately, I’ve added “and she’s more horse than I care to ride, these days.”  The glitch I had with Maddie earlier this summer, I’ve more or less worked through, and though I still don’t fully “trust “ Maddie, I feel it’s mostly just “green horse moments” that I have to watch for.  But Beth has always had an issue with respect, even as a foal—She’s been bunches better the last couple of years, but will still threaten a kick if one gets after her for, say, invading a human’s space; she hasn’t actually kicked at me in a long time, just wants to see if I can be buffaloed.
I also haven’t ever been really bonded with Beth, not like Maddie and Kate.  I’m not really sure why that is—maybe because, by the time Beth (and Lindy) were foaled in 2006, I was getting to my limit of how much I could do with each horse (I was up to 9 at the time), on top of full-time work.  I have actually gotten to like her more in the last year or so—is that because she’s being nicer?—or she’s being nicer because I’m showing more caring to her?
At any rate, a year and a half ago, knowing she was going to need consistent work, I sent Beth to a local trainer who was recommended by a member of the KVTR.  Although he got the first couple of rides on her, it wasn’t all that I hoped it would be—because he, too, works a full time job, he was not able to be as consistent with her as he had promised.  Plus, looking back now, I’m not sure he wasn’t a bit intimidated by her.  He did a lot of round pen ground work, and got maybe 10 rides on her—also in the pen.  He probably only had her in a trot the last day or two.

But it was enough that I knew she wouldn't totally lose it under saddle, and I figured I could take over after that initial 30 days.  As soon as school was out that year, I got another few weeks of work on her, starting in my arena (my round pen was flooded), and then out into my pastures a few times.  I also rode her "in public" at that summer's "Horse Daze" private treaty sale, sponsored by our local rescue group.  I was encouraged that she was doing fairly well, with no buck, and only the occasional balk.  Although I didn’t feel confident enough to really get after her, I was able to work through the “stuck” moments. 
Then, I admit, I dropped the ball.  I was having too much fun with Kate and Maddie.  Beth went back out in the pasture by the end of July.  I probably would have picked up with her again this year, if not for my confidence shaking experience with Maddie in June.
Beth is not a horse that I ever planned to keep.  She needs steady work, and, being reining bred, would probably do well in any challenging speed event for the right person.
That person isn’t me.  I’m no longer a “go-fast-cat”-- haven’t been in many years.  So Beth has always been for sale.  But she comes in a plain brown wrapper (no Paint markings), and, although she has a pretty nice shoulder and hip, and a very feminine neck and face, her front legs aren’t as straight and nice as I would like.  Her breeding is nothing spectacular, and though she’s registered, I would never recommend her as a broodmare prospect.
And there’s that attitude.  Oh all the horses I’ve raised, she’s the one that I can honestly say will probably never be a kid’s horse.  Even with some additional training and lots more mileage.
So I finally sucked it up and sent her to another young trainer, who came highly recommended by blogger friend, Aarene, of Haiku Farm.  Ryan had helped Aarene work through some issues with her temperamental opinionated Standardbred mare, Fiddle.  He was the fellow who came up and worked with Maddie in August, just so I could see if she was going to behave better with the new felt girth on my Tucker saddle (she did, and I rode her myself the next day).
So, Ryan got a good three weeks going on Beth:  Started out working through the attitude, but had progressed to loping in his arena, and riding around the vicinity of his place down near Yakima.  He didn't feel she was "ready" yet, but she was doing better.  My plan was to bring her home at 30 days, and take her back to him in the late winter to ready her for any possible spring sale.
Early last Monday morning they had a nice ride, and Ryan had tied Beth to his trailer, where he always had her wait, while he went to get his next horse.
As he was walking back, all heck broke loose!  We can't say for sure what triggered it, as she has never pulled back, either here at home, or for him.  He saw it unfold from a ways away, but was truly not able to stop it once it started.  The best we can figure, perhaps a cold, mad wasp had zapped her.
Beth pulled back in a blind panic. Then rushed forward, slamming her face into the trailer.
Then again: pull back, slam forward.
And one more time!
When she was done, Ryan assessed the damage:  multiple scrapes on her face and one shoulder (his original description to me was "hamburger," tho it ended up not looking quite so bad).  And a nasty gash under her jaw, that he felt needed to be stitched up.  He kept me updated by phone and email all day, as he hauled her in to his vet.  Not only did Beth need stitches, she had broken a chunk off the bottom of her jaw bone the size of my little finger!
Vet removed the bone chip, and said that it wasn't all that serious an issue (there's a LOT of bone in that particular location)--the biggest danger was infection.  Talking to Ryan that evening after the dust had settled, I offered to come get her the next day (I had been planning to go down on Tuesday to watch them work together), but allowed as how it would be lots easier for me to wait until the weekend.  Ryan agreed to keep her there until Sunday.  This had the added advantage that he could keep a much closer eye on her during the day, and also do all the doctoring and the penicillin shots (orals weren't an option, partly because she wasn't eating much).

 Next post: Bringing Beth home.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Last Hoorah! of the Season

I think this will be my last competition for the season: an ACTHA ride at the Washington State Horse Park, with Barb and her sweet Fannie Mae, and Debby, with her mustang Wendy Daze.
(The two of them plan to travel over the mountains later this month for another "Spooktacular" ACTHA ride, but the weather looks to be wet, and the obstacles "spooky" so I'm thinking I'm going to pass on that one.)
The obstacles on this ride were interesting and challenging, without being too imposing (except for the gate!  More on that to follow).

Ready to take off: rain jackets were the fashion for the day!
We started out at the Mark Bolender designed "extreme" trail course, where Kate and I did the clinic last May.  She should have had no problem with the rock "jumble" here: she was looking where she was going, but I just don't think we were awake yet, and she clunked a few rocks, and stepped smack dab  on one--bump! over the top!  (Score: horse, 8+, Rider 8+)
The next obstacle was the "snake pit":  an 8' by 8' square of poles with a 55 gallon barrel in the middle, topped with a giant, fuzzy, stuffed cobra!  She entered confidently, sniffed the cobra and touched it lightly with her nose, then trundled right around that barrel and back out.  No problem. (9,10)
On the trail.
A mile or so along, we came to the water obstacle: a sort of slough off the main current of the Cle Elum River.  We were to walk about 100 feet through cannon-height water, but we had to cross other puddles to get to the starting point of being judged, so Kate already had her feet wet, and did not hesitate at all.  She did, however, slow down to a snail's pace--you'd have thought she was slogging through a big bowl of pudding!  And I had to keep after her with my right spur, as she kept drifting towards the shore (and the judge).  I knew she had done well, though, when the judge commented that we "must do a lot of river riding" on our way past her back to the trail. (8,9)
We climbed quite a ridge at this point, and Kate gave me a little bug-tussle, getting a little light in the front, and snaking her head around and stomping a few times.  She's done this a few times before on hills, and it's a little unnerving.  Once we got lined out again, she settled, but I began to worry about an obstacle further on where we would be asked to trot up a hill.
Over one of the ridges at the Washington State Horse Park.
The next obstacle was a bridge of sorts:  two reinforced pallets snugged up against a downed log.  I was pleased at Kate's confident approach and crossing, but I think she lost a few points when she let a hind leg sneak off the side just before we were all the way across. (8,9)
Now for the "barrel of monkeys!"  We were to side pass to the right over two 30 gallon drums (on their sides) with a gap between them filled with stuffed monkeys and rubber duckies (?!?).  It was again her less favored direction, and it took me a minute to get her going smoothly.  She did step on one of the poles that anchored the barrels in place, but otherwise finished her sidepass well. (4,6--this was probably the least completed task for horses for the day, with over 30 of the 50 horses in our division getting zero scores!)
Now the hill loomed ahead of us.  Fairly steep, there were to be penalties for lurching or stumbling.  Barb and Fannie went up first, so Kate had a buddy waiting for her at the top.  Deb went last, so we weren't alone at the bottom, waiting our turn (though Wendy took exception to being left behind).  We were to trot about 200 feet, but there was plenty of room at the bottom (before the cone that marked the beginning of being judged) to establish a steady pace.  I had decided after her snit-fit earlier, that if Kate acted up at all, I would just walk her up, but she settled into a slow but pleasant jog and we just headed up the hill like nobody's business!  Good girl! (10,10!)
Our last challenge before returning to the main arena area of the Park was what some call a "cowboy car wash"--an overhanging branch was hung with a variety of pool noodles and bright surveyor's tape streamers.  This is supposed to simulate hanging vines, but I personally feel it is one of the least natural expectations to be found on some of these trail courses.  The nice part was that we had to walk right past it and approach it from the far side, so Kate was able to get a good look at it before the judging started.  And Fannie and Wendy were waiting on the "out" side, so she walked through like it wasn't even there.  (10,10 again!)
Getting back to the "developed" area of the Park.
 Remember how awesome Kate did on her gate at the Dry Gulch Challenge two weeks ago?  Well, she blew it on this one!  It was the actual entrance gate to the Park's big main arena, solid, sturdy, nicely balanced on its' hinges, with a easy to reach lever action latch.  Well...easy to reach IF your horse will get close to it!  The lower part of the gate was solid plywood, and horses couldn't see through to the other side.  Some wouldn't go near it; Kate approached it well, but would NOT swing her rear over parallel with it: she just didn't trust what she couldn't see on the other side!  When I knew we would time-out, I changed sides and got her up to it enough to open the latch, then the judge and everyone had a good laugh when she pushed the gate open for me.  Because we were facing the wrong way, and had run out of the allotted time, I just backed her through, then, as I went to move her forward to at least swing it closed, she pushed it with her nose again.  Cute, but it didn't gain us any points. (0,0)

                                          You'd think she had gone 50 miles!                                            (Actually, she had just dropped her head for switching out the bosal for her halter.)
Here's Barb's little video of the whole hullabaloo, including some input from Debby's and my cameras.  Thanks, ladies! 
As we ate lunch and waited for awards, the sun finally came out, but there was still a chill in the air.  Kate and I finished 17th out of 50, which was great, considering the couple of glitches we had.  Barb tied for 6th, but the tie was broken for the ribbon by the other rider having more "pluses."  One thing I don't care for with ACTHA rides is that you don't get to see many of the other horses' goes.  It was hard for us to see where Fannie could have been much better.  Deb had a bit of a frustrating time with Wendy, who was fussier than usual about being away from Fannie.
But-all in-all it was a great day!