Too Much Dedication?

I must have caught a stomach bug because I was not feeling well all day yesterday.  The cramping and nausea came in waves, but I had a lesson, so I pulled it together enough to drag myself into the car and to the barn.

I remained bent over as I tacked up.  But, once on, my desire to ride overcame my discomfort.  But, I have to say, cantering did not do anything to help me feel any better.  I had to battle the pains coming from my belly to keep going after we took a break to change directions.  But I persevered.  And had a great lesson in that I got PJ straight into the outside rein both directions and I was straight.  Problem is, because I was distracted by the pain, I don’t remember everything I did or felt.  Funny how my brain could only process one thing at a time and the stomach thing took precedence.

Whatever I caught is still with me today, but I think I’m going to take it easy and remain on the couch with some ginger ale.

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There’s Always a First Time

And yesterday was the first time I drove myself and PJ to a show.  Although I was prepared to go it alone, I was very thankful that two friends came with me.   The drive wasn’t so bad, mainly because there were very few people on the roads.  I took it slow.

PJ was a trooper and got on with very little fuss and didn’t seem upset when we got there.  He was all dressed up and shiny.  The show was at the USET. Last year, he was a nut both times we were there.  This time, he was “normal horseshow PJ” = a little up but not too bad.  He warmed up great but then it all went downhill from there.

In the first class he spooked twice at the same corner of the ring.  Instead of circling at the canter, we leg yielded.  And it was a small ring, so there wasn’t much room to recover, but we did, just a little too late.  Oh well.

We were supposed to have 55 minutes until our second class, and I had our entire warm-up planned with that in mind.  Before I mounted again, I asked the ring steward how late the ring was running and she said 10 minutes. Great. I then planned for that.  It turned out that the show wasn’t running just 10 minutes late but more like 30-40 minutes late.  So I ended up sitting on PJ way longer than I wanted to, but I changed my plan to start schooling again when I had two horses before us left to go.  Unfortunately, those two horses decided to scratch and because the show was running so late, I was told I had to go in right away.  We were not ready.  It was overall a sloppy test because PJ was grumpy and stiff.  Add on top of that that it took 2.5 hours to get my score sheet, and I was really not happy.  The person scoring spent too much time chatting and not enough time scoring.

And poor PJ was standing in the trailer all by himself.  He had eaten all of his hay and like me, wanted to go home.  I think I did okay driving on the trip home, too.  PJ got off the trailer ver nicely instead of bolting off like he oftentimes does, so I’m hoping that’s a sign I did okay.

I have to just not worry about the bad rides, learn from what happened, and revel in the fact that I drove there and back without incident.  This show may not have gone the way I wanted it to or expected it to, but I now have the confidence that I can show on my own.  So look out for a big black horse cruisin’ down the highway to the next event!

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Never Ride Alone

Horses can be dangerous. They spook.  They get angry.  They are big. Even quiet ones can trip and go down.  If you’re unconscious, having your cell phone in your pocket won’t help you.  The risks of riding were proven over this weekend.

I got to the barn on Friday afternoon with the intent of practicing backing up my trailer and loading PJ.  My friend, Betsy, was there finishing up with her older horse and saddling up her young mare (coming 4 yo).  She went down to the bottom outdoor ring and I went to the other side of the barn to where Barbara had set up a parking spot with poles for me.  Everything was going great.  I hooked up the truck to the trailer without crashing into the hitch.  I backed into the parking space without too many tries, PJ got on after bribing with grain.  I decided to drive up the hill to where I was going to park with PJ in the trailer and then practice loading some more up top – just to get in more practice.  Of course, PJ pooped in the trailer, so I decided to throw him in his stall after unloading him (I also needed to get the shovel from the barn), cleaning the trailer, and then loading him again. It would be good to have the break in between.  It was a good plan.

However, as I was leading PJ back to his stall I look over and see Betsy’s horse in front of her paddock without Betsy on her.  I run to throw PJ back in his stall and find Betsy.  As I’m heading out of the barn I see Betsy in the barn isle.  Her arm is dripping blood and she’s very dazed.  I order her to sit down and head out to get the mare, who was very agreeable to being caught and untacked.  But on the crossties I couldn’t find her halter.  It turned out that Betsy had been so confused, she had put away all of her stuff, took off her eventing vest and helmet (thank goodness she was wearing both), and was preparing to drive off!  I finally got the horse put away, wrapped Betsy’s arm with some gauze, and lead  her to my truck to take her to the hospital.  I must have had divine help because it took me only two tries to perfectly back the trailer into it’s designated parking spot.  I unhooked the trailer and off we went.

The entire time, Betsy kept repeating herself.  She had no clue what had happened other than the ride had been going so well.  She wasn’t even sure she had fallen off.   She had no problem answering questions, like her name, who her insurance was, where she lived.  But she told me the same story about work six times but didn’t remember that she even told it to me once.

After several hours, she started acting normal.  She ended up being diagnosed with a concussion and a broken arm (the blood was from the bone breaking through the skin – yes, gross).  Thankfully the CAT scan revealed nothing majorly wrong and she didn’t need surgery on her arm (at least not then – she’ll have a follow-up appointment on Wednesday).  More than five hours later she was discharged with a splint, a prescription for antibiotics, and orders not to drive or be alone.  Barbara offered to let her stay the night, which she took her up on.

As far as we can piece together, we think Betsy had finished her great ride.  She released the contact and was heading back to the barn on a loose rein.  The mare must have spooked at something and bolted, and because Betsey was lulled into a false sense of security by the perfect ride, she wasn’t prepared and off she went.  Because I was on the other side of the farm and she can’t remember, we have no clue if she was unconscious or how long she had been wandering around on her own before I found her.  Scary, but all’s well that end’s well, and she will be much more careful in the future.

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Less is More

At my last lesson I made a conscious effort to ride like a hunter princess.  No, I didn’t stick my butt out and arch my back.  I just decided to try to sit there and look pretty instead of trying to do so much.  And guess what? PJ went better.

Today I did the same thing and Barbara said we had the best ride ever.  The biggest improvement was in my outside rein going to the left – our bad direction.  I always lose the contact.  Today, because I just let my arms hang there, I was able to keep the contact.  I kept my hands together, above the withers. I stayed centered in the saddle.  And PJ responded by rounding his back and working with more impulsion.

It’s just so hard to stop myself from constantly making adjustments in response to what I think I feel.  And maybe if I was a better rider, my adjustments would be correct.  But by being stiller, PJ had to come to me instead of me changing in response to him.  It was a great feeling and actually a little easier mentally than what I had been doing.  Maybe riding is more simple than I’ve been thinking it is?  Just not easy!

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No Shoe. No Problem.

Okay, well, it was a small problem that could have been a bigger problem.  I got soaking wet trying to find PJ’s shoe in ankle deep mud that sucked you in even deeper if you stood in one place too long.  All while it poured rain when the weather people said it should have stopped by then.  Normally I would have given up long before I did but this was a more expensive snow shoe.

I did finally have to give up when the vet showed up to give PJ his spring shots.  Then I did a lesson, mainly at the walk.  We did a lot of shoulder-in and to the left it wasn’t half-bad. PJ was a little off so we kept it short, but it was successful.

As my lesson ended, so did the rain, so out again I went to find the shoe.  This time, Barbara joined me.  She went down one side of the paddock, and I went down the other.  I tried to follow the poop piles. I figured where there were more poop piles, the horses had spent more time.  I was right.  In an area where there were five clustered heaps, the shoe was sticking out of the mud like the shoot of a flower trying to be seen under the snow.  Okay, maybe it was not so dramatic.

I went back into the barn to hose it off, as well as my boots, which looked more brown than black at this point.  My farrier’s good, so I’m hopeful that he’ll have PJ’s shoe back where it belongs before tomorrow.

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PJ Torture Day

I like to have PJ bonding days where I do everything I can to give PJ a good day – I scratch his itchy spots, don’t ride him, let him each grass, etc.  Today was not one of them.

His day started with a quick ride where I worked on me and not him.  I tried standing in my stirrups and putting my arms out.  It was hard for me and I think I scared PJ b/c I had a whip in one hand and he didn’t quite get why I was doing what I was doing, especially when I lost my balance.  I threw him in his stall with his boots and halter still on while I hooked up my trailer.  That took a while and that sound when the ball on the hitch hits the trailer got to me. But I hit it right on on the 10th try, hooked up and pulled up next to the barn.

I pulled PJ out of his stall and introduced him to the trailer.  I don’t know if he just liked the trailer, with all of its windows, or he’s getting better, in general, about loading, but he walked right on after only the third try.  It definitely helped that I had grain.  Then I backed him out, and (I think) because I continuously fed him grain, he didn’t run backwards out of the trailer like he often does.  I made him take one step at a time.  I loaded him and unloaded him two more times and then loaded him again, but this time I walked around to the back of the trailer and put up the butt bar (bonus: he didn’t try to leave).  Then I tied him up, closed up the trailer, and pulled away.

We drove around the block, which is probably 3-4 miles.  I kept repeating to myself, “PJ is in the trailer; PJ is in the trailer.”  I drove very slow.  The route had a lot of hills and bends, and stopping and going.  I pulled back into the farm’s driveway with relief that we made it.  When I opened the door, PJ didn’t seem too worse for wear.  He unloaded like a champ – no rushing. And I turned him back out with his friends.

Backing the trailer into its parking space took a bit of effort, and I ended up moving the parking space over a few feet instead of spending my entire afternoon trying to hit it just right.  I’ll figure it out eventually.

Of course PJ pooped in the trailer.  It’s no longer perfectly pristine.  I knew it would happen but it still felt a little bad to leave the green poop that I couldn’t scrape out of the mat.  Of course, the true test of my driving prowess will be if PJ gets BACK in the trailer!

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Driving Lesson

Instead of a riding lesson, I asked Barbara to give me a trailer driving lesson.  Her farm is set up perfectly for that.  We started with hooking up the truck to the trailer, which was not easy considering it involved backing up just enough and at the right angle.  It took me a few times and having Barbara telling me when to stop.

Once we were hooked up I drove the trailer to what will one day be our outdoor arena.  While she set up some poles for me to back through, I practiced backing up straight with the indoor wall as my guide, going forward and backing up; repeat.  Then I tried to back up in between the poles.  Barbara alternated sitting next to me in the truck and getting out and directing where I should turn the wheel.  I did it from the right and then from the left.  It was hard!

Then we took it on the road.  But before that Barbara had me test the brakes and it was a good thing I did because it turned out that the electric hadn’t been plugged in enough and the breaks weren’t working.  I fixed the situation and away we went.

Barbara helped me make right turns and left turns, avoid a snow plow, and how to go over a bridge without bouncing the trailer.  Then we got back home and I had to back up to park it.  A trick to back it into the right parking space is to put the wood that I was using to block the tires when parked right where I want the tires to go and use them as a guide.

She left the poles out and I’ll practice again later in the week.

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