I have been working on getting Lucky’s attention in dressage for about a year now. When he doesn’t pay attention, he’s scary. When he does pay attention, he’s scary, too but the other way!
Today, Lucky proved what I sort of thought. He’s good. He is smart. He can move nicely, very nicely. He needs me to ride him carefully, let his neck be longer, more off the leg, create and keep the balance, and be a stronger person physically to be able to control my aids.
I entered just two training level tests, 2 and 3, and spent all week memorizing them. Yeah, right. Well I got most of them right. I missed a transition and got dinged for it but other than that I was pretty much remembering them. I got up and had all sorts of plans to braid and be early. Yeah, right. Got there just on time to get number and get warmed up in time for first test. I worried he’d be bad and crazy and dump me and run off or get loose or break his halter — none of that happened.
He did get through the Aisle of Death with the help of a friend, Kim and her nice chestnut mare. We walked through the aisle several times, actually, and he was very interested in the softball game on the other side of the Devon ring. He was pretty much agog when he got out of the trailer but soon got an idea what it all was. The dogs walking around the park on the leashes, the golf carts and horses going around over the jumps, all pretty interesting. The jogger a field over got a lot of attention. I began my warmup just with walking, feeling tense, and anxious, then the trotting circles and you know the head came down, the back loosened, I could rise a bit less sloppy and felt like he was getting a little more attentive. Then just worked my way through warmup and spoke with friends, and cantered a bit, and the circles were fine and he was relaxing and I began to think maybe he will be good. When we walked around the ring for our first test, here came the dogs, a pile of them, all on leashes attached to owners walking around the park. I figured I had better just let him go to the fence and see them now, because if I ride past, he’ll want to look around at them. It worked. He processed them, put them away and got down to work. I rode a bit tensely in the first part of the first test but then felt him relax in the second part, and then the judge wanted to speak to us after our salute. She was so complimentary and so exciting to listen to, I felt a huge relief and even a few tears of joy in hearing her say, “he is stunning”. Wow. The second test was a bit better, some wiggles, a missed transition, and I could feel him saying, well, I am almost done playing in here, Mom, and lost his strength and connection a little, but overall I was pleased because I rode better and got a better result.
The scores came up — 68.04 Training level Test 2, and 70.03 Training Level Test 3. Enough for first in both and champion of the division and I think he may have won the TIP award for high score dressage horse. All good. He walked back through the Aisle of Death, and we hung out at the end of the hunter rings, even jumping a couple of the small jumps from the trot and canter in the dressage saddle with the long stirrups. It was fun.
I was nervous because a nervous horse at a horse show is a hard time. He was at the beginning, but then he got it and said, ok. I need to do some more so it becomes easier for him and I hope he gets so he likes them.
Hunt ball: received a lovely certificate and got my COLORS! Yay! That is so exciting. Now I get to try and find buttons and how to put a green collar on my black wool hunt coat. Accepting donations…..had a lot of neat stuff at the silent auction, and I won the Spode hunt plates! Wendy really wanted them, now I feel bad, but they match my new living room colors.
Trying to get horses ridden. I sent in an entry, so the next day of course it rained for three days straight, Lucky poked his ankle with something and it blew up over night, he is losing hair on his butt, and came in with bloody scrape on the other front leg tonight. Oh and he has a halter rub, too. And dandruff. And I had to twitch him to finish pulling his mane and he was pissed at me for three days! He wouldn’t even eat a cookie from my hand. He did eat it when I put it in his tub, though.
Hamish was a great ride tonight, as was Lucky. If his Royal Red Highness prances around the dressage arena at the Thoroughbred show like he did tonight, he will be impressive indeed!
New saddle is awesome but I can’t get the stirrup length comfortable. Too long tonight. Last time I rode in it they were too short. Gauughhhh.
Rugby is doing OK. Seems OK, no too uncomfortable in his second tube of the EPM treatment so far so good.
What a shame hunting is over! The footing and weather are just getting good enough to ride consistently!
But my arena is STILL underwater a bit from the three inches we got over the weekend.
Hamish says he’s wishing there was more hunting. Me too, Hammie.
Today while working I walked smack into a jutting out wall near a garage door. I did not see how far it was out because I was looking at my camera. I felt a pretty sharp pain all down my left shoulder almost immediately but had to continue to work the claim, take photos, and get in my car and drive the rest of the day. That sucks. But it’s not a broken bone, or a shredded ligament or tendon, and I was still able to lift my arm. As things go, it was not too bad. But I have also had those falls where you get the breath knocked out of you, and you lay in the arena fighting for breath and think, who cares if the horse is loose, it just hurts. And a couple where I can’t remember anything about the day, or the week, but got back on the horse and kept riding apparently. Yikes.
Pain and being a part of the horse world seem to go hand in hand. Most professional riders, drivers, handlers or grooms have war wounds or broken bones or worse. Even my amateur friends have had serious injuries – crushed pelvis, broken back, severed tendons from being stepped on by a horse, and I’ve had two friends killed by horses. One was found dead when working with a horse that was bought at an auction and was not given the history with the horse — and I warned her a month or so before she died that I did not think she should trust him. The other was a wonderful guy I knew who raced harness horses and was in a bad wreck at Harrington Raceway a couple of years ago, a wreck that just didn’t seem that bad, but the way he landed I knew it wasn’t right, and the shocking news made all of us just stop in our tracks and think pretty hard about what we were doing, and why. I’d trained and jogged horses on that track, warmed up horses with the water trucks going around, had lots of exposure to danger on that very track.
I know, as we all do, that injuries heal, that time takes care of it, that it is what you accept if you work with large dangerous animals with a mind of their own. Somehow we keep putting that to the back of our minds and keep putting foot in stirrup. There are wise old men and ladies who foxhunt literally all of their lives and don’t ever get hurt. There are people who have had horses for nearly every minute of their awake life and don’t get hurt. Yet, there are people like Boyd Martin who seem to break a new bone each month. I wonder if it is that we are not very smart, or pushing it, or if things have changed so much that danger is now a real part of making a living with horses. Jump jockeys either die or end up paralyzed. Their sport is flat out dangerous. They don’t break things. Exercise riders die or break shoulders and heads. Jockeys die. Event riders break everything and they also die. Dressage riders hit their heads. Old ladies get crush injuries because we’re too slow to get out of the way of falling horses, not like when we are young and can roll.
I wish guys like Boyd Martin would not get hurt but just fall off. I wish they did not take such chances, push young horses, try to make the time, get one more length out of a horse when no one is really sure if the horse can get there or not. My BFF says that’s Aussies, they are all hard headed and think they can do anything better than a Yank, and to some extent, I have to agree with him. Lots of the Aussies I know are stubbornly talented horsemen who would ride anything and take any chance on a horse. Makes for great betting but bad for longevity! My best healing vibes are going out to anyone who is healing from an injury, including my own stupid self for walking into a wall completely unassisted. Best of luck to all of us, horse or horseless. May the best steel rod and screw job win.
While I didn’t start out very ambitious, Saturday ended up pretty busy. Worked online two hours when I first got up – fed, did the barn, which is always slow on Saturday morning as I do extra stuff that can’t be done during the week, like cobweb and sweep corners, pick up stuff, etc. Loaded and unloaded over 30 bales of hay, had to jump the truck to start it, something drained the battery from the last time it was used. Rode two horses, jump schooled one, lunged and hacked the other. Groomed two others. Emptied manure and cleaned up trash. Did laundry, and after dinner, made three (yes, three!) desserts – cookies, brownies and a cherry dream pie dessert with graham cracker crust. So…. it can snow at any time! Time to get busy and get stuff done so I can hunt today, one of the last hunting days available. They have already started March Madness over on the Chester side of the peninsula.
Finally! Dover Saddlery put “my” saddle on sale! The Warendorf mono-flap, in my size, and the regular tree — I wasted no time, let me tell you, and ordered it at midnight online. It came in two days! Of course, the night I got home, it was on the porch, in the pouring rain. Fortunately my UPS guy had a plastic bag over the box to protect it. I opened it up, unwrapped it, covered it in a bag and ran to the barn with it. Lucky was not amused when I pulled off his blanket, put a pad and girth on it, and threw it on it back while he was eating his dinner. He is serious about food and being saddles while eating was NOT acceptable. As soon as he was done, I literally jerked his mouth out of the tub and tied the end of the lead rope to his halter, walked him to the end of the barn, squeezed him around the mounting block with the barn door closed and … uh oh. Without stirrups, I could not get a leg over his back. The new saddle with its padding sits up a tad higher than the jump saddle. I lifted my leg for a hop-over. No go. He moved just slightly and YIKES I was doing the splits, one leg still on mounting block, one leg over horse! This is absolutely not working. Put him back to finish eating, took saddle in tack room, found stirrup leathers and stirrups — and the bars are new and very snug. I struggled for about 10 minutes each side to get stirrups on the dang thing. My “new saddle excitement” by this time is waning fast. Back I go to get the Grump who has now got the Stink Eye going at me. Threw saddle back on, climbed back on mounting block, positioned horse. All this time, it’s pouring down rain outside, you can’t hear yourself think with the tin roof. I get on, it’s heavenly of course. Fits him beautifully and nice for me. I like the knee blocks and seat, doesn’t trap me or lift my hips forward. Anyhow, I walked up and down the aisle carefully — with just the leadrope and halter — and Lucky had had enough. When we passed his stall for the third time without going back in to finish dinner, he curled his head (his sign of “get ready, here comes the Volcano Horse”), lifted both hind legs OFF THE GROUND IN THE BARN AISLE and BUCKED. Yikes again. I am here to report that the new saddle is just fine in terms of stickability. But I got the hint. So we returned to the tack room end of the barn, with a lot of halter-rope pulling and yelling to “behave”, and removed said new toy — and returned His Highness to his dinner. I got the Stink Eye for a while for that!
Last night I got home late, as usual, with work adding so much to my day now. So I dragged him out and put the new saddle on again, this time, at a better time of day, dry, with a lunge line activated for good measure. Yes, he bucked — I was concerned. What if this saddle is bothering him? I don’t think so. After a few springs and high spirits, there was no Stink Eye, and I got on and he was SO much freer in his shoulder. I think he would like an elastic girth rather than the hard and fast one I have on it now so that’s the next shopping need, but I had a wonderful quick ride in it and really enjoyed it. Now I have to remember how to sit in a dressage saddle — stop lifting my pelvis so far forward and keep myself centered! I like it and have notice a difference already in how I need to give the aids. Good stuff, going forward.
It is hard to look out the window and see the snowflakes flying past and be looking at a calendar of events and horse shows. For instance, there is a major Thoroughbred show in two weeks nearby. Last year, Rugby went and did very well. This year I was hoping to take both George and Lucky. No shot. George has been ridden exactly three times in three weeks, and Lucky has gotten out a few more times but he’s woefully behind. He’s the sort of horse that does a lot better if ridden regularly. So while I know I am not alone, I also know a lot of the other people who are going to this show have had the added advantage of a trainer riding the horses for them, or an indoor.
Hamish has been hunting his little while socks off so I am very pleased with him. He’s a neat jumper and we had a great deal of fun on Sunday with Cindy back leading first field (yay!) after having had several months off with a healing injury from a hunting fall back before Christmas. Cindy’s grand Connemara-Thoroughbred, Lee, is a past Intermediate level event horse and he jumps like it’s second nature, and Hamish followed and jumped everything behind him, even the big coops. He is quite tidy with his knees in a very good hunter style. He has learned to stand quietly at checks, and is wonderful to ride down the trail with others either in front or in back. He doesn’t pull and other than stomp a bit in the trailer, his manners are pretty good. He should learn to relax and stop swinging his head around when we arrive — for safety I am still bridling him in the trailer and we’ve had a few scary moments when he’s tried to LEAVE but the bridle isn’t quite on — and the halter isn’t quite on either!!!
Snow – this time about 8 wet inches – is going to make it a muddy mess at the least around here, and riding looks like it’s cooked for at least a week. Everybody is spending a lot of time on the internet and Facebook, showing pictures and talking about this and that. I spend today actually working and doing estate paperwork, then left the horses in the barn and had barn work morning and night. Even the paddocks are going to be worse than useless. I will get up and try to plow tomorrow before attempting to get some work done, but it’s not going melt 8 inches overnight. Yes, another snow day and this time I am feeling like I am really screwed for a decent spring of getting these horses out and about. Those who went south this year are going to be way ahead of any of us who can’t leave jobs and animals. Another year wasted. That’s the way it feels, anyway. Poop.
There is no roadmap or plan you can follow when you deal with the death of a parent. Everyone is different. I am learning as I go. Mostly, I’m learning about my mother, things I never knew, things I did know but didn’t comprehend, and confirmation of the things I did know. That last I have had to fight for. Many opinions float around among loved ones, but few facts, and I am a person who gets a fact straight and hangs on to it for dear life, no matter what. That’s my old journalism training — get the facts right. I dig for the reasons and the “whys” and the justifications. Most stuff, Mom was pretty transparent about. Some things, I don’t think even she knew the layers upon layers of self-deception she wrapped around herself and Dad as they grew older.
In my last visit to Mom and Dad before Dad died, it was clear that they were aging, and that the house and farm was desperate for some needed fixes, just basics like a roof, bathroom repairs, general de-clutter and cleanup, replacement of worn things about the house, and an outdoor cleanup. To say they were entrenched in the way they did things and in their absolute resistance to any changes would be putting it mildly. I blame this on us as children. We should have been quietly helping all along, fixing things, putting things right, helping get stuff fixed up, cleaned up, picked up. Had we been involved from the start of their aging process, I think it would have been easier for them to say, “yes” when one of us asked to repair or replace something. Part of the problem was the happiness they had with each other. They were truly devoted to one another and kept each other company as well as consulted with one another on everything. I found Mom was having difficulty making decisions after Dad died. It was clear that decision-making process involved bouncing ideas off him, digesting his response, and then getting the decision right. Without sounding board of Dad, Mom struggled with even everyday decisions. Over time she did get better but she began to rely on family members, a foreign concept, and some family members did not realize how influential and important their responses were. I for one did give her bad advice and later we discussed it and knew it wasn’t the right move. But I am wondering if that happened with other family members, too, and now after her death, going through paperwork, I am realizing that there were many errors made in trying to get her life back together after it was ripped apart by Dad’s death. And I feel that in trying to “settle” things, we are tearing down the things that my parents spent their entire lives building up. I hate this feeling because I am fighting alone against many others to keep her legacy alive — it’s as though no one else felt she was valuable but me. I know that is not true but it is hard to not feel that way, especially with the cattle problem, where I have been getting one bad thing happening after another. It is astonishing that the one part of her life where she gave the most to others is turning out to be the part that is an absolute stone wall in terms of help. This is a person who gave DECADES to the Angus breeders and owners and juniors not only in Washington state, but throughout the west. And so far I have had wonderful assistance from exactly two people from that group, and while I’ve had valuable phone time with others, it is a mystery to me that there has been no offered help with the herd.
More things learned: one thing really surprised me. Mom really did not care about some things we all thought were pretty important to her. They were a means to an end. The really important thing was the end result, not the means. She didn’t care much about some stuff after Dad died, and probably long before he died, but she couldn’t explain it to us without us “not listening” to her. I regret deeply not having a heart to heart discussion about a couple of issues in her life I should have been much more sympathetic about. I know, now, that there were reasons she did what she did, and that those reasons weren’t what I thought. They were a different set of facts behind some decisions. That actually makes it easy for me to do what I have to do, but on some issues I am still left to try and decipher what she would have wanted me to do. I know that she was a bit forgetful, and a bit out of touch with reality but who among us is not, at times? I really feel it was more about realizing she had little time left and wanted to pack a lot in before it was time. I think she was robbed a tiny bit of her time, but she was fading in the fall, it was a gradual decline, even before the family wedding in August, and as we faced holidays and colder weather, I knew in my heart that she was trying to set things straight and organize the important things for us. I really feel, now, a few months after her death, that she DID provide for the important things. And the rest, things without any directions or instructions or lists left for us, were not important. And that I have to set aside as fact, and go on.
I fell off — first time hunting in three years — on Sunday. Off of Hamish, no less, the original basket horse. He was a bit fretty anyhow and it was nearly a blank day and we did a lot of sitting and standing. He got excited during our only real run of the day and something spooked him – he almost stopped, and then the person behind us came up, and he jumped forward to avoid being run into. That back and forth stuff just didn’t work with my forward position…too far forward….so over the shoulder I went onto some very soft
ground and no harm at all. Evidently! It happened so fast I really do not know what happened, actually. Stirrup did come off, though — I leave the bars down so they will come off in case of just such a fall and it’s a good safety reminder to do so. I put the stirrup back on and there was a good log nearby and hopped back on quickly, so quick, all the other girls were laughing at me. I was mortified if you want to know the truth! One minute galloping along and the next rolling about on the ground. Just when you think you are doing well, God comes along and says, nope, you can’t possibly feel good about yourself today. It’s time for a little reality check. In our hunt, we owe a bottle of spirits to the annual Involuntary Dismount basket, which is auctioned off at the hunt ball. This is the first time in MANY years I have had to provide a bottle, and I already have it picked out and ready to go! (it’s some very yummy whiskey!) So I am now on a diet and hopefully will find a bit of time to get in shape this spring. Might as well. Can’t seem to be able to ride very well! Every other day is snow, freezing stuff, frozen ground, stuck doors on the barn. It’s been a long, long winter. I want to ride these things and get them going!
It’s not just humans that have the greed gene. I watched a pair of ravens absolutely stuff their beaks with old potato chips and carry them off, trip after trip, after I cleaned out the pantry last week. I forgot about the scene until cleaning up yesterday and looked out the window — every single last potato chip, like golden Kruggerands, were GONE. But not the stale pretzels…they didn’t look valuable to anyone, so there they sit, getting soggy from the ground moisture, and I’ll have to rake them up and throw them in the manure pile. It’s like cleaning up after the raid. Come on. Eat at least one pretzel? Just try it? Tastes just like potato chips! Sure they do!
The weather has been poor for riding. I haven’t actually been able to saddle a horse all week due to work and weather. So I skipped hunting on Sunday, because I don’t like to take horses in a trailer when I haven’t been able to ride them before. I hate it when a horse ties up and with my luck this winter, that’s what would happen. George got a war wound on his shoulder from hard play in the field. Rugby has a floating owie, yesterday looked like it was right hind foot, heel, or hock. Hamish was shod on Wednesday and still a bit sore so packing his feet but frozen ground is probably the culprit. Lucky was absolutely crazy on the lunge line so I am glad I did hook the lunge line up. The horse trailer rear tire went flat again, the patch didn’t hold — And poor little Charlie. Myeloid leukemia. Sigh. Trying to spend as much time as I can caring for him. From what the vets have said, and from the research I’ve been reading, this is not positive. (The articles all officially list this symbol, followed by the word: <year.)
I spent five tortured hours working on Mom’s estate. I got my braces off and my teeth are just sick. I watched some Olympics, and was mildly ashamed of the journalism and goading of what has to be a pretty depressed Bode Miller, US downhill skier, post performance interview. (A friend who knows thinks he is clinically depressed.) In fact, the journalism all together has been poor at best. There’s been no conditions mentions, which are horrific from inside accounts — snow on the mountain is terrible, the stray dogs, the Russian rudeness to spectators and coaches. Why on earth don’t they have spare bobsleds? That’s like going to a horse show without a water bucket or something. Duh. The US speed skating team looks flat and exhausted, and blaming the suits. Yah, way to go, blame the supporter and sponsor who has poured thousands into your expenses and team. Give them a black eye. Excuses. This Olympics needs to be teaching us some lessons. The only half bright journalism spot was the good sportsmanship shown by Shawn White of the snowboarding team, who finished fourth and out of the medals but was gracious about it. We had a good laugh about the curling on
TV on Sunday afternoon (is that really a sport?) but you know, here’s the deal. If you are on the curling team, you made it to the Olympics. I am sitting at home in the living room, taking off dirty boots, swathed in scarves and gloves and stuff to stay warm while I come in the house, exhausted, from taking care of horses in winter. What I’m doing is about ten times more physical and mentally difficult that curling ridiculousness (and I don’t know or respect anyone who “curls” so I can be rude about it), but I’m not going to the Olympics, so who are the smart ones?