Kelli hauled Coconut, Sugar & Jack to Donida Friday afternoon & Ruth, Maeve and I returned to ride later in the evening. I got there just as the other two were finishing up & Coconut was quite upset having been left in the barn but Maeve brought Sugar back into the arena to cool off while I got a little ride in. Coconut’s been there a few times now and you’d think she’d start to consider their indoor arena one of those places that she’s comfortable in. After last month’s show success I figured she would do fine. With the lack of any other horses besides Sugar there to show how un-scary the place is, Coconut decided the mirrored end of the arena & the horse that was running at her, regardless how very cute she might be, was enough to make her refuse to complete even a hand-walk by. That bought her some corner circles on the lunge line! Sugar, however, was only slightly startled by the mirror until she caught a glimpse of a very pretty paint. If she wasn’t admiring herself, she sure took a long cool stare, side-passing the length of the mirror. Coconut finally settled in and I felt like she was going to be ok. We tucked the girls in for the night and went home to attempt to sleep.
That should have been my first warning that the day wasn’t going to go quite as well as I might have hoped. By the time I got there everything was in full swing and lots of other horses had hauled in. There was lots of commotion but I could see that Coconut was already upset and was pacing the stall wall trying to see through the crack between the boards to make sure Sugar was there. It was clear she was having a herd-bound moment. We’ve seen it before at the S.A.F.E. show last August and a little bit on our trail ride adventures. But I was hoping that after two shows on her own, she would be over it. This was not the case.
Our first class was the Halter – Novice (which we’re one Blue Ribbon away from being ineligible for) with Maeve’s daughter, Cassandra, who entered with Sugar. Coconut was very nervous and had a hard time standing still so I was very happy to have been called for the Red Ribbon, Second place but I got a little teary eyed with pride when Cassandra and Sugar were called for First and accepted their Blue Ribbon! I’m not sure if them getting the honor or seeing Maeve on the sidelines with big teary eyes too made me prouder. What an awesome start to the day.
I decided that we’d enter the Halter-Open just to work out the nervousness but that was the beginning of the big meltdown. Sugar was not in this class and Coconut was having none of it. We got a Red Ribbon out of it but we might as well have tied it right to her tail for the antics she was starting to pull. (a red ribbon is placed on a horse’s tail in the show-ring to indicated the might be a kicker…or in our case…a bucker…but we’ll get to that!)
Maeve entered the Showmanship Class and I opted to skip it to get Coconut settled down and tacked up if we were going to make the Walk-Only Novice/Green horse class. Of course all that prep had to be done sans-Sugar and did not go well. There was no way that I was going to mount that wild Arabian and I thought our day was over. I couldn’t foresee anything that would take the edge off of her so I was almost ready to just put her away for the day. Ruth’s husband Pete offered to ride her in the practice arena to settle her in. He’s a fantastic rider and has ridden her in the past. In fact, he says Coconut is one of his favorite horses to ride. I’m sure he means in terms of spiritedness…I’ve been told he’s competed internationally in the jumping world and I can’t imagine my little Coco-Nutty Arabian could compare with mounts of that caliber but she does have her personality.
Pete had her out doing circles and even got her cantering. She protested with bucks and kicking out, drawing lots of concerned comments from the folks at the rail, but Pete kept her on task and eventually brought her back to me and instructed me to keep a leg on her, that it seemed to give her some security. We did little circles and figure eights. He suggested that I keep her away from Sugar if I expected her to listen to me. And I tried really hard to do that…
Maeve came up to the practice arena to get Kelli. She had Sugar in hand and was very near tears begging Kelli to access Sugar’s walk. They’d had an accident in the barn and Sugar apparently kicked out the stall door. And when I say that I mean…kicked it to pieces, not just off the sliding tract but into literal pieces…even the bars fell out. I heard the words but I couldn’t wrap my head around what she was saying. It wouldn’t be until later when I saw what it looked like AFTER the clean up…. just how serious this was. No wonder Maeve was so distraught. Initially I wanted to go with them but I understood that if I went back with Coconut I’d undo everything with her. Sugar didn’t appear to be limping & I felt like things were going to be ok. I was horribly torn although I knew it was the right thing to get Coconut into the arena to prove to her that she could do this on her own. I wish there was more I could have done to help but I’m pretty sure that taking Coconut back there would have just intensified the drama. Typically I’m a “fixer” but this is one of those moments when I knew I’d be more of a hindrance than help.
We’d missed every walk-only class by this time so I heard last call for the Walk/Trot Pleasure Green Horse/Rider and thought that this was our best chance of getting in there without getting in other people’s way. She fought it a little but I think she did ok. We didn’t place but it was a win for me just to have her do what I asked, even if she kept pulling her head a bit. I left the arena this time without a huge problem but she was still very nervous. It was obvious to most of the folks that she was unpredictable so it floors me that people would just stand around her back end. I did my best to keep her contained and to call out when I could feel she was going to move. Thankfully no innocent bystanders were harmed in this exercise but I think I’d get clear of a horse that seemed unruly. Guess some folks just haven’t been stepped on enough!
We went back in for the rest of the Walk/Trot classes I qualified for and each time she did better and better. The last class we rode in was Walk/Trot Equitation and we got 6th Place out of a larger field. I have to say I was prouder of that Green Ribbon because of the hard journey to get there than I was of the Morning’s Reds…It just goes to show you that Color does matter. Speaking of that…I ran into the owners of “Tabby” from last months show again!! The very cute pony and her adorable girl with so many ribbons that her Dad said they "didn't matter"... a very nice family, by the way... it seemed they were doing great Saturday too. I kept hearing her name (Tabitha Magic, if remember right) called out for placements again this time!
Sugar did get a few more ribbons before what I think we’ll call “The Unfortunate Barn Incident” or maybe just “Incident” for short. I’m very proud of that girl even though she’s not mine. Just over a year ago she was practically a throw-a-way horse and considered not show-worthy by one former owner because she had “too much white…and that’s hard to keep show clean” …really? This sweet horse gives everything she has and even after the aforementioned “Incident” she managed to collect herself and in a short time was so calm she was falling asleep standing outside the barn in a halter & lead rope. She’s a gem! Needless to say, her humans were a lot more fazed by the whole thing and not in a show mind-set afterward.
We were all done by noon and it was decided that Kelli would take Jack home and then come back for Coconut & Sugar. I brought Coconut back to the barn so I could pack up. It was then that I saw what was left of the stall door leaning up against the wall and started seeing broken pieces of Maeve’s things about. I put Coconut in her stall. Sugar had been called to duty in trying to coax Jack into the trailer because apparently he was not ready to leave just yet. I stayed inside the barn to keep Coconut calm because now that she’d seen Sugar again, she was right back to her pacing and calling the moment one of us wasn’t in sight. Our stall was right at the barn entrance and a line of people had formed to observe the antics of the “Percheron” who wouldn’t load. I’m not even going to go into detail about what a spectacle it became and the catty comments I overheard before I finally told the peanut gallery to please go help if they had a better solution. Thankfully Ruth knows one of the grounds guys, Simon, from her days at one of the racing barns and he has experience with stubborn horses. They ended up pulling the trailer around to the quiet back side of the barn and Simon pretty much walked him right in. Whew!
So Maeve stood around with Sugar on a lead rope within Coconut’s view while I pulled my truck around and loaded up our gear. While waiting on Kelli to return we actually got to clear up a few rumors being told about us…and met some really nice people…like Mona, owner of the unbeatable Friesian mare, Isobelle. We also got to talk with Beth from the SAFE Message board who just lost her horse-love-of-her-life, Dixon last week after a long battle with lameness issues. What an inspiration to see her out supporting friends. Courage & a beautiful spirit…an amazing combination!
So if you heard about the “Crazy Arabian”, the Paint who took out the stall door or the Percheron who refused to load…that was us! If you heard any other stories, I’m betting we get them all attributed to us because we seemed to be the unforgettable team Saturday but in the end there were some very proud moments… Sugar & Cassandra won their first blue ribbon, Ruth was very happy with Jack’s performance and they actually placed quite well…including a couple of Blues themselves…and I was very proud of how Coconut eventually pulled herself together (even if it was just temporarily) and listened to me. I don’t care that we didn’t place in most of the riding classes & at a St. Patrick’s Day themed event…green turned out to be the best color for us!
I did go back on Sunday and just hang out with Kim & Mercedes, her Very Beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse. They did great together although I know Kim was a little frustrated at the beginning, but who wasn’t? By the end of the day after placing 4th in everything, Kim was the only entrant in the Two Gaited Pleasure Green Horse class so they asked her to hold over to the Two Gaited Equitation class and she WON IT!!!!! She says she’s never even entered an Equitation class before but even I saw how great they looked together & am not surprised at how well they did!!
I know each one of us ended up having a good experience and worked through some problems but everyone mentioned something about “next time” which tells me the tough times didn’t scare anyone off! The next one? The end of the Schooling Show series ~ April 10/11th back at Donida again!