(This is a SUPER long post...but bear with me...it's a good one)
I started back up at work this week and it's been an overall long week. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but there is no real easy way to ease back into the hype of a national level hunter show barn...it's like a river, you just have to jump back in and hope that the current doesn't sweep you away!
This morning I was up at 4:00am to head over Chagrin for the horse show. We've had 10 horses gone all week, but yesterday we shipped out 8 more ponies to add to those ten which were already at the show and so an extra hand was needed! Last year, I spent the entire summer on the road grooming, but this year I've stayed behind to help out at home. There are pros and cons to all of this really, I LOVE having set hours to my work day at home, and I get to ride more, but I really also love the atmosphere of horse shows! I love watching everyone, I love getting the horses ready, I love setting fences and polishing boots...when people ask me why on earth I would want to be a show groom (its so much work!) I tell them that a) it pays well, b) I get to meet all sorts of amazing people and professionals in the industry and c) I just really love horse shows! Most of the time it doesn't feel like a job!
Today was just a tiring end to a long week. By the days end, I had cleaned 22 stalls, groomed/unwrapped 17 horses, ridden two ponies, set feed and fed dinner. Whew! The stalls was what really got me, I don't mind cleaning them at all, but at Chagrin, the manure pit is allllllll the way outside the other end of the barn (and it's a BIG barn) The worst part (and the most time consuming) was just walking there! Not to mention the fact that it was POURING rain and horribly windy (up to 70 mile and hour gusts at times!) Chagrin is usually all indoors (like I said, its a MASSIVE facility) but for the rated shows the fill up the indoor warm up and arena with stalls and show in three big outdoor rings, which are fabulous on a nice sunny spring day. Unfortunately, today was not that day. The show rings themselves weren't too bad, but the hunter warm up ring was under water and we almost scratched all of our entries until we got clearance to school with the jumpers. The jumper warm up is on higher ground and isn't nearly as wet. Because of the winds though, the entire show became a little bit about "survival of the fittest" or in other terms, who can get around the jumps without their horse freaking out as the flower boxes blow over. All of the pony classes got canceled and moved to tomorrow. As wise decision really...our ponies are great but we really didn't want any of our short stirrup riders dying!
In other news, Emmy and Johnny have both been really good this week! Johnny was HORRIBLE the first time I rode him after we got home from school and I layed into him pretty bad. It wasn't even that he was bad to be ridden...he was just FREAKING out about everything (not in a scared way...in an I-don't-want-to-leave-my-friends kind of way). I brought him in from the pasture to ride him and he was screaming his head off and trying to spin around in the cross ties (to go where, I don't know...) I don't mind him whinnying and I tried to be nice at first and soothe his frazzled nerves, but the situation eventually went from ruffled feathers to down right rude and dangerous. When I went to lay his baby pad on his back he REARED in the cross ties while whinnying to Emmy (who wasn't helping because she was whinnying back) and then tried to spin in circles again. When he couldn't because of the cross ties, he reared again! WHAT THE HECK? He's never EVER been like this before! I barely got him saddled before he CHARGED out of the barn, nearly knocking me down, and then I had to practically do a running mount onto his back because he was rearing at the mounting block. I took him on trail and thought that he might calm down once he was away from everyone, and he did stop whinnying, but he was jigging something awful so I let him trot almost immediately and before I knew it we were full out running down the back drive. I let him do it, thinking that we would run once and be done, but nooooo way....I held on while that horse for half an hour back and forth until he was quiet, brought him back to the barn dripping with sweat, only to have him start the same stuff once we were back by the other horses. Trying to hose him off was a nightmare...he was trampling me and spinning in circles some more. He was completely ignoring me...he could have cared less that I was mad at him. I finally just gave up and took him for a walk out on the trails. When we got into the field behind the woods he practically ripped the lead rope out of my hand diving for grass. I yanked his head back up, shanked him and backed him up and then made him stand until I let him go, and then I just sat down and cried.
I've got all the patience in the world for horses...I'm never mean or aggressive unless I have to be, but never in all my 12 years of riding have I ever felt as frustrated and angry as I was that night. I cried until Johnny was dry and the sky was turning dark, then I took him back to the barn, fed him a cookie and groomed him until his coat was glossy, told him he was rotten, but apologized anyway for being mad at him, put him away and went home, deflated, dejected and in a terrible mood. What do I do? Make both of our lives easier and just not ride him when the other horses are out? What is that teaching him though? That he can get away with being bad, right? But trying to work him when he's in a tizzy gets us no where either...what a double edged sword this one is, huh?
The next day the weather-man was calling for storms. The rain held off all day, but by the time I got home from work, the dark clouds were gathering and thunder was starting to rumble off in the distance. M was in the barn mixing feed for dinner and I told her to hold Johnny's because we had some unfinished business. I brushed him down as quick as I could, wrapped his legs and put on his surcingle. We went up to the top part of the field where the ground is flattest and the footing is the best. The air was thick and heavy with the approaching rain but I Johnny and I had to work this out. He took off trotting before I even had my lunge line organize. After a few warm up laps in each direction, I stopped him, attached his side reins and sent him off again. I've always kept his side reins pretty loose to avoid making him feel trapped (I knew a girl who put side reins on her horse for the first time and didn't adjust them properly. Her horse hit the end of them, freaked out, reared and flipped over into the arena wall (which was cinder block) hit his head and was instantly neurological. He lived for three days.) since working on the contact is still fairly new to him. For the first time ever, he got mad when he felt the side reins, he took off bucking and leaping for a lap before stretching into them. We lunged both directions for almost 30 minutes (wayyy longer then I ever do) until the first streaks of lightning shot across the sky. When he wanted to stop I drove him on...it was essentially round-penning on a lunge line. When I dropped the line he turned to face me, ears pricked, nostrils blowing.
He's been a perfect angel ever since.
The next day I rode him again and this time set up a jump to work some more of his energy out and to let him do something he really enjoys. The second he saw it he wanted to charge at it, but I made him wait when he wanted to go long the first time. I set the warm up fence as a small cross rail, but finally got off and made it a vertical, probably around 2'3". He jumped it perfect every time! (See my previous post titled "When In Doubt") It seems that our problems are behind us for the moment. I gave him yesterday off and the rain has unfortunately kept up all day today, so he might be super fresh tomorrow...we will see!
Yesterday I did the same exercise with Emmy. She was also raring to go and was FLYING over the jumps! I love riding her because she and I have had so much time to build a relationship that we are just so in tune with one another...I can get whatever distance I want on that horse; short, long, perfect...whatever I tell her she will do. It's such an amazing feeling! The thing people have trouble with on her, is the fact that you HAVE to tell her where the distance is, otherwise she makes up her own (especially when she's fresh like she was yesterday) and it's not always very pretty. I'm sure that, if she were jumping loose without a rider, her distance would look beautiful and her form would be perfect no matter where she chose to leave the ground from, but it's us riders that screw her up. We make our horses jobs harder!
Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I've got the day off work...but not really. Lol. I still have to get up and change my horses blankets before they go out in the morning, then come back later and clean stalls and hopefully take Johnny for a hack if it's not too muddy? For now though, it's time for bed!