Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'll Take One In Every Color Please & The Road Riders

I’ve been writing, I promise but the next post in the Coconut Chronicles is kinda tricky for me and took an unexpected turn recently. I’m not happy with the post, or the recent outcome so I need to sit on a little while longer.

I am, however, very excited to be able to write about real life horse adventures this weekend. Two days of horse fun and I’ll try to make it into one post.

My inner 10 year old

For several weeks I’ve been getting really good rides out of Coconut so I thought I’d put our work to the test and take her to the Donida Farm Schooling Show. This is a spring series of shows that has an internal point system and a high point award at the end. While I have no hope of a high point award in this, I have shown 2 out of the 3 so far & have 2 more to go.

Riding at Donida in a schooling show is kinda like running the bases at your local major league baseball park (ours is Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners!) if you’re a baseball fan. It may not mean anything to anyone else but for me, getting to take your horse to a show at the same venue where you’ve seen some very talented horses and riders perform at a much higher level gives me that feeling of ‘pretending’ that we’re something special. Like Velvet & the Pie headed to the Nationals in National Velvet. You know the story, right? Small village girl, pretending to be a boy and the wild but talented horse she rescued from the slaughter house train with the help of a jaded jockey before entering England's Grand National Sweepstakes…now wait, were we fantasizing about being in a movie or competing on the bigger level like my friends Bonnie & Barbara who show at what I consider Big League shows…for real points…that count towards real status in the horse world? Maybe a bit of both…

So after a hauling challenge (the fact that I am dependent upon others for trailer rides) We got up early on Saturday and hauled out to Donida at 7am for a show start time of 8:30am. Kelli hauled and stayed with me for support and my cheerleaders Corey & his girlfriend Larissa showed up just as we were about to start and proved to be talented photographers AND ribbon monitors!

I didn’t have a clear plan going into the day but thought some in-hand classes would be a great start and I’d try some walk only classes to see how we did. Best Case Scenario: Coconut would stay overnight and we do a few classes on the second day of the event.

We started English Day with Halter Classes. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of horse show event; they’re pretty much judging the horse on confirmation & grooming. The funny thing is that I opted not to bathe her the day before because it was a little chilly. I keep her blanketed most of the time so she stays pretty clean but on Friday she had some mud on her mane, which I was able to brush out almost completely and upon inspection I decided that her tail was an acceptable shade of yellow given our cold weather and probably a dash of laziness. At summer events I am slightly pickier about her keeping a white mane and tail but I honestly was just thinking I wanted to have the experience of the event. I went in with no expectations so imagine my surprise when she won both of the Halter events!!! This was our first blue ribbons ever…so you can just imagine how completely thrilled I was.

Next up were the Showmanship events. This is also done in a halter (or bridle) and not only judges you on the appearance of your horse but your ability to handle it by performing a walk, trot, back up and pivot in a pattern set by each individual judge. That early in the day you don’t get a lot of time to remember the pattern, although in a green or novice class it’s generally pretty simple. This particular pattern included pivots in two places and I spaced the second one and we placed 4th (which is still a ribbon!!)

We went on to ride the Walking classes and a couple Walk/Trot classes. We placed well in most of the Pleasure events, which judge the horse but didn’t place as well in the Equitation events, which judge the rider. We can safely say that Coconut did very well in the show, I, however, need to work on some things.

In two hours we competed in 11 of 16 events and won ribbons in 9. Here’s a little run down of our morning:
Class Number ~ Class Title ~ Placement
1 Halter – Green Horse or Novice Handler ~ 1st
2 Halter – Open to all levels ~ 1st
3 Showmanship – Green horse or Handler ~ 4th
5 Walk Only Pleasure – Green Horse ~ 2nd
8 Walk Only Pleasure – Adult ~ 3rd
9 Walk Only Pleasure – Open to all levels ~ 2nd
10 Walk Only Equitation – Green Rider -
13 Walk Only Equitation – Adult -
14 Walk Only Equitation – Open ~ 5th
15 Walk/Trot Pleasure – Novice Rider ~ 5th
16 Walk/Trot Pleasure – green horse ~ 6th

You can see that things weren’t going as well later in the morning. But I would like to say that I was 90% very happy with Coconut’s performance. After 9 classes she was on overload and started the head tossing/bit-pulling thing. There was an incident in one of the classes towards the end where a horse threw it’s rider and the free horse ran right at us, scaring us both a bit. After that Coconut did not want to exit the arena so we kept entering classes because it was easier to ride in the next class than to get her to exit the arena. That probably shouldn’t be a reason to compete, thinking back on it!

I opted to take a break once I was able to get her out of the arena after class 16 and put her in her stall before joining up with Kelli, Corey & Larissa who had been my ribbon keepers while I was competing. It had grown to quite a pile and having a chance to look at them all together gave me quite a sense of accomplishment. While watching the next few classes, I decided I was very happy with the results of that morning and since I had a ride home built in with Kelli if I wanted it, I opted to load her up and go home.

We did sit and watch the youth classes and I was seated next to a Mom & Dad of a very cute little (I’m guessing) 10 year old on what I think was a Quarter Pony they were calling Tabby. Mom was saying things to her daughter even though her daughter could not hear her from the grandstand. It was pretty cool because it was more like Mom was hoping her daughter would make a certain move or slow down/speed up/etc…and sure enough the daughter and Tabby did just that! They ended up taking second place in that class and we noticed that the kid handing out the ribbons gave someone else the second place ribbon. Mom seemed a bit frustrated over that so I mentioned that I’m sure the show organizers would fix it for her but Dad said "Oh well, she has so's not important!" so I turned to Mom with wide eyes, leaned in and said "Clearly he doesn't *know*" and she smiled and nodded at me...

Clearly ribbons DO matter and while I’m saying it, COLOR does too!

My inner 10 year old is so thrilled with the ribbons that they promptly were hung on the wall in my office at home! But much like a child, I needed a nap when I got home too!

Somewhere in the midst of one of my catnaps yesterday, Lynn called & was very excited about our trail ride today. I vaguely remember her mentioning that it was Kitty’s first trail ride and how glad she was to be going out with experienced trail riders…and then I dozed back off…WAIT a minute!! Experienced trail rider? Me?? Uh…. nooooo, we’ve been on exactly 3 trail rides ever and with more experienced trail riders than myself. I’ve always borrowed my confidence from them…but then I dozed off again…maybe I didn’t hear that right ;)

I woke up just long enough to watch and thoroughly enjoy the HBO Movie Temple Grandin, thanks to a couple of reminders at my typical haunts around the web from Monica (Thank you Monica…good call!!) PLEASE see this movie, It’s a wonderful story and a truly inspirational tale about an autistic young woman who was motivated to help calm cattle before slaughter by observing their behavior from a scientific angle. It’s very interesting how she could understand animal emotion but so clearly had a challenge when it came to the human kind. I also saw a bit of the 10 year old horse crazy girl within me in the Temple character…right down to the Horse Show ribbons on her wall, even as an adult.

Temple Grandin's Official Website

HBO presents Temple Grandin

The Road Warrior-esses:

Three women / rescuers & three mares who don’t have a ton of trail miles (one of them None!) and a trail ride that begins with about a one mile stroll through Lake Tapps neighborhoods on the streets or grassy/gravely shoulders along side them must equal an adventure…wouldn’t you agree. It started off as an idea to get together and ride under the covered arena at the place Lynn boards and grew into a trail ride “nearby” there...

Kim offered to pick Coconut and I up at KCJ stables so we were on our way by 11am. Neither of us were sure exactly what to expect so we got to Lynn’s and saddled up, but not bridled up immediately as I figured out that I neglected to grab my bridle bag this morning, still loaded with my bridle from yesterday. Thankfully Lynn’s Kitty is an Arabian too and managed to throw a headstall, bit and reins together for us AND loan us a crop too! Whew…that was going to be a big letdown for all concerned if we lost out on the riding part of the trail ride because I didn’t pack well! We rode the arena for a few minutes and then it was time to hit the trails…I mean the streets.

It turns out this was Kitty’s first trail ride…ever…and so we all got to gain some new experiences. The mile long ride along the streets provided distractions like a shiny metal-sculptured driveway gate, several mail boxes, a small gully with water in it that two of our three horses crossed (guess who didn’t!?), black top that looked like water, a white painted circle on the street, barking pugs, some horses who came to greet us, including one very cute gelding version of miss Coconut.

I can’t speak for Kim & Lynn but I was just a bit nervous about riding so long sharing the road with cars & trucks but we eventually made it all the way to the trailhead in one piece…or 6 pieces if you count all of us!

Upon finding the right trail head, which Lynn had been told was marked with a “No Trespassing” sign (now there’s a “sign” right?) we were confused because every way to get to it was actually blocked (another sign, right?). It was clear we were not going to be riding that particular trail today so we headed back but Lynn was feeling quite confident and suggested that we try this one little trail head we’d passed a block back. I’m not sure I had the same confidence but we followed and when they went in Coconut was not going to be left out (or behind!) and went right in. We got in no further than probably half a football field length (a nod to our choice of Super Bowl Sunday to ride) before we realized this was not exactly a well groomed or traveled trail. Ahead were some large fallen tree branches and it looked un-passable. We stopped, took some nice “trail” photos and headed back out to the street.

Our ride back to Lynn’s was feeling quite comfortable and relaxed. In fact, we were actually riding the street 3 wide and chatting away. We’d made it out with no real issues so the ride back should be easy…right!? It was…until a herd of wild Alpaca’s tried to eat Coconut. I’m not sure whether it was the way they softly chewed their grass or slowly lifted their heads from the grazing stance they were in (insert chirping crickets) that most spooked her, but spooked her they did! And she started to turn and run back in the direction of the trail head(s). I had to one rein stop her which got a little treacherous on the pavement and somehow in the process I managed to cut my finger (ok, just the cuticle but it did bleed noticeably) and rip off a big part of a fingernail (and here’s where I add that I also forgot to bring gloves!) but we made it past the alpaca farm eventually.

Coconut and I were a little on edge after that but we got within 30 feet of the driveway to Lynn’s barn and a car passed us…so what, several cars & trucks passed us, even one that honked before it crested the hill we were on the other side of and no one seemed too phased by it… this car that passed Lynn’s barn was followed by another one close behind and then another and another until Coconut was on car overload and spun her back end around and started backing up…right in front of the next car headed in the procession of probably ten cars total that all stopped about two houses down the road. Did any of them slow down or acknowledge that we were there or might be having difficulties with their sheer numbers? Not that I could tell. Luckily (or by practice, talent or sheer will) I got her to the side of the road again and remained seated while the cars all passed. Suddenly Coconut was not content to be the last horse in the line and she headed for the driveway once it was safe and was the first horse back to the barn…even this unfamiliar barn was a better place that outside that gate! Whew! And very well timed too because just as we rode up the driveway the rain started falling. Much better there than a half mile or more back on the asphalt. That would have turned into an in-hand stroll back for me! Slippery pavement holds no appeal to me when riding. Sorry, I’m just not that adventuresome.

All-in-all, the three gals did fantastic ... and the riders weren't to shabby either ;) I hope we have many more adventures including some actual trail miles .... did I say miles? ok...maybe miles! Today's ride was probably our longest, even though it wasn't actually on there's another accomplishment too!!

I’ll post a smilebox montage of photos from the Donida Show yesterday, including some really cool artsy ones taken by Corey & Larissa…I had no idea they saw such cool things through the lens! Hope you enjoy them.


  1. Congrats on your accomplishment! I was thinking it would be fun to do the spring series at's such a beautiful place! I've only been there once, but knew I'd like to ride there someday. However, like you, I suffer from lackatrailer-itis. ;) Hopefully that situation will be remedied by next year & I can participate next spring!

    Sounds like you had a great horsey weekend...the best kind! :)

  2. any time you guys want to trailer up and ride the trails around my barn, let me know!! there's even a nice park (Farrel McWhirter) that you can do a nice loop in the woods with no road work with a big nice arena to start and end on :)

    trails are a great way to do your equitation (half halts! leg yields! collection!) and have it not seem like work :)

    hugs and treats to coconut!
    --Anne-Marie and Raji