Friday, September 24, 2010

Updates....before I start my WEG adventure!

I had to read back through my last few posts to come face to face with the fact that it's been almost 2 months since I last posted. It certainly isn't because I haven't been doing anything with horses...perhaps it's that I've been doing quite a lot. One thing I know for sure is that I've had so much on my plate lately that sitting down to write it all out seemed overwhelming. Not all of it was horse related, but some is/was.

So here are a few updates before I get to the current excitement....

July was spent getting ready for the SAFE Benefit Horse show. I had been practicing my Into-Level Dressage tests...ok, not really the tests, but the moves as Chrissy said NOT to practice it over and over since Coconut would memorize it and would rush it, we wanted her to respond, not think ahead. I think I was ready. Maybe not ready to win, but ready to see where we needed to improve and the relaxed setting of the SAFE show would be a good place to start.

The weekend before the show we set up our home arena as a mock trails course and all of the KCJ horses did a great job of going over faux bridges, through the scary plastic waterfall and standing still near the mail box (or sometimes getting the courage to even pass next to it!). This was our second "Play Day" and they always seem to be such fun. This year we even practiced having a pop-up tent & spectators nearby. After our ride we had a BBQ and celebrated a good day with our horses and friends.

Getting ready on an organizational basis for the SAFE show was also taking up quite a bit of my time but the work was well worth it in terms of success in getting arenas & classes sponsored. It's certainly encouraging that the community came together to support this amazing event.

Friday afternoon before the show (8/6) a very nice sized group of us reported to Donida to get things set up. We ended up working until late into the evening but (most) things seemed to be moving along well. Our fearless leader, Bonnie, was in a great mood at the turnout of volunteers and the way the show had shaped up. Having it at Donida was just a great change, not only in venue, but in the way we could add events to the show and attract the numbers we needed to make it a success.

The reason I say "most" everything was going well was because while things were getting accomplished at Donida, things back at KCJ had taken a very serious turn. Jan, one of the owners, had fallen seriously ill while out of town and had to be returned to Federal Way via medical transport and was admitted to the hospital that morning. Her family was understandably concerned and needed to be with her. Kelli, her daughter, was scheduled to haul a few horses from KCJ to the show. We'd had 6 horses slated to go to the show up until that week. Kelli's personal horse, Shasta, came up lame that week and would not be going to the show but Kelli was going to still haul 3 of them. As of the night before we had a ride for the remaining two but with Kelli needing to be with her family, there was lots of planning to going on so that we could take that burden off her plate. By 6pm on Friday, we had a rides arranged and since my phone was acting up, I shut it off content to press on with show-organizational duties. By the time we went to leave I turned the phone back on to discover a text that said "No one is going to the show now". I made a couple of phone calls and learned that a trailer had been delivered to KCJ but there was no one to haul it so Lynn (Fabulous Lynn who fixes my hand, volunteers for nearly EVERYTHING and is a wonderful friend!) offered to tow that trailer with her truck if I could meet her at 5am. We agreed and I went home to try to get some sleep before I set off to meet Lynn so that at least Coconut and Lola, our SAFE foster horse could get to the show.

I got little sleep that night and even when I laid in bed, my feet tapped out every walk, trot and halt of the Intro A & B test. I probably got a total of 3 hours sleep before the alarm went off and I bolted out the door to go meet Lynn. We both arrived at the same time & discovered that the trailer that I had been told was dropped off the night before...wasn't there!!!

It was far too early in the morning to start calling people and Lynn needed to be at Donida by 6am so I made the decision to get myself over to the show because, quite frankly, the show itself was more important than the time I was going to spend trying to find another way to get Coconut & Lola there. Even though I KNEW it was the right choice, it didn't make it any easier and I truly cried the whole drive from KCJ to Donida.

Once there, I had plenty to do to keep myself busy but I must have had to answer the horrified question "Where's Coconut???" and many times, fighting back my deep sadness, I explained what had happened. I do have to say that there were many offers to borrow a trailer to go get her but the truth was that I had never driven a trailer and under stressful circumstances like that seemed like the least ideal circumstances in which to test myself. So...Coconut did not make it...nor did Lola who had also worked hard to get ready for Halter & Showmanship.

The show, however, was amazing....truly heartwarming and just a pleasure to help and spectate at. Bonnie reported 102 Horse/Rider pairs and by the size of some of the classes, I'd say we had a better turn-out than ever before.

We battled the rain and competed with a couple other schooling shows but for those who came, I know that everyone was pleased with the event and had a good time. It's hard not to smile with pride in what we did as an organization but the biggest lump in my throat was in seeing horses we had previously seen in dire Ready Say Go, who had been an auction rescue last October, wining ribbons and getting adopted AT THE SHOW!!! There were many stories of glory for rescued horses and in fact, the rescue classes were among the largest. That in itself is a celebration of the horses and the people who care for them.

The show went on until past 8:00pm that night when we finally wrapped up the last classes. Many of the folks had gone home but there was still quite a crowd for the traditional "Bribe Your Horse" finale. Most of us were drenched and tired but closed the evening with a laugh before awarding the High Point prizes and drawing the SAFE rider Campaign winner.

In the end, Bonnie & the clean up crew were tying up the last few items so that we could leave the show-grounds. Gwen Blake came into the show office and gave us (and mostly Bonnie) the ultimate complement....that our show had been one of the best run shows ever held there. She went on to suggest that next year we consider a two day event because of the size of our show and the number of entrants. We all agreed that is worth looking into & there are already some exciting ideas floating around on how to make that successful.

My next update is revisit to the Great Paint Project...

Where I left off, Chrissy had come out and worked with Sugar a bit, Basil was recovering from getting gelded and Maeve and I were immersed in getting these two in good condition before we offered them up for adoption.

John warned me when Basil turned One that the next year was going to be difficult but to stick with him as he'd get over it and would end up being a great horse. Sugar, however, was coming along nicely. She had proven to be a sweetheart under saddle. While she was out of condition, she just has a really nice heart and tries very hard. As our three-month project deadline approached, Maeve informed me that she wanted to keep Sugar as her family horse. I was delighted because that meant that she'd stay at KCJ and I'd get to see her all the time. Eventually, Sugar ended up moving into the stall & pasture next to us. Sugar & Coconut became great friends, in fact I call them BFF's. I do believe they actually LOVE each other. Sugar's certainly the Alpha but they really enjoy each other's company and get turned out together often. I really love one of the posts that Maeve shared about how initially not being very moved by Paints (ok, I think she actually said "I don't really like Paints"!) she admitted how this misfit horse seemed to blossom with love & care and just captured her heart. Here's one of her updates on the SAFE Message Board:
"Sugar is continuing to bloom in her new life as a riding horse. She is responding beautifully on the ground and under the saddle in walk trot and canter and even did some cavaetti work today. Even more, I am responding beautifully to being an owner of a horse- I have just gained so much from this experience. I just can't get enough from all the natural horsmanship training- I really enjoyed the Clinton Anderson clinic recently (and yet I somehow managed to get out of there without one of his pretty pink sticks!), and I look forward to every minute I get to spend at the barn. As much as Sugar needed a "rescue" I feel like she has rescued me- this last year has just been so difficult financially and just all around depressing. In my line of work, success and prosperity is so dependant on an good frame of mind and outlook on life, and some how this little mare has brought an endless supply of that for me. Life has been better with a little Sugar in it."

So Sugar found a home in Maeve's heart but Basil seemed to attract the wrong kind of interest and I got very discouraged in the beginning of my search for the perfect home for him. At some point over the summer of 2009, I decided that he would stay with me until I found a better home than I could provide...admitting that I was probably not the best home, but better than most that had expressed an interest in him...and so he stayed with me.

John, our farrier, continued to sing the praises of Basil each time he came out. I had to trust because in my eyes, he was nippy and somewhat awkward in his growth patterns but John has a reputation for having a good eye for horses and so I trusted him. Early on he told me that this horse would take me to the "Big Show" but when I told him all I really wanted was a good trail horse, he said this would be the best darn trail horse out there if that's all I wanted to do with him (ya' know...if I was going to keep him or something!) And that awkward year passed and this handsome horse emerged on the other end. A horse that kind of takes your breath away when you see him ... or when you get those glimpses of the Horse he's becoming because that second year is still full of changes.

In that year I was up and down on the subject of keeping Basil and at some point early in the summer I had to make a decision and that was that he'd be better off in a situation that would be able to turn him into the stellar horse I felt he could be. Maeve and I decided to put him into training to give him 30 days of solid ground work and then get him out there and get him exposed to new situations and hopefully new interested people.

I missed an opening to send him to a trainer I respected a great deal but a fateful conversation in Maeve's studio one day with Kelli opened us all up to a project in which Kelli would become his ground trainer and then we'd get him out to a few schooling shows.

The first day of training went really well, I'm told. I wasn't able to make it but Basil was a champ and did everything Kelli asked and looked great doing it. His movements were solid and his brain was engaged. By his second session, he began to draw a crowd and at the end of the first week, folks at the barn were asking what his training schedule was so they could watch. Kelli had really connected with him we were witnessing something really special. By the end of the first week, he had taken to saddling up and even accepted weight in the saddle. He quickly understood giving to pressure and seemed to already have the knowledge filed away in that beautiful head of his.

After a few weeks, Kelli admitted that she was afraid to go any further with him...not because he couldn't handle it, but because it would mean that their work together would come to an end and I'd get him out to the shows and I'd get MORE than I was asking for him. What it came down to is that she had bonded with him deeply and didn't want him to go. In an unexpected show of support, her family actually came to her and made it possible for her to keep him at KCJ and so she made me an offer and I didn't even have to think twice. SOLD!!! I can't think of a better outcome for him than to be with her AND...I get to see him because he won't move anywhere. It's like it was meant to be.

Now he lives like a King...Kelli's built him his own stall & remodeled a shed as his tack room. He's got a whole new (to him) wardrobe of colorful, quality blankets and lots & lots of love from his new Momma!! She has plans to show him eventually but for now, he's still growing and working on her lessons with him. I'm so happy for both of them!!

...and NOW....I'm on my way to the World Equestrian Games (WEG)....I'm actually sitting in a hotel in Chicago after spending the day with my husband, Les & my son, Corey. I tagged along with them to a baseball game at Wrigley Field followed by pizza at Gino's East (YUM!) and tomorrow I leave them to their Seattle Sounders soccer adventure here in Chicago while I head down to Louisville where I'll pick up a rental car and head out to Lexington where I'll be a volunteer at the WEG. I have lots to tell about that process...because it didn't just happen overnight by any means, but hopefully, I'll have lots of time over the next two weeks in the evenings to write it's after 1am and my best standby flight will be at 9:45am so time to end this update.

Thanks to everyone who's been on me to get back on the "Hoofprints Across My Heart" project. I appreciate the support and that you enjoy it. I really like it too, but as I said up top, it can be overwhelming at times when there's so much to write about. Hang in there...I am!!!!

PS: I'll try to post photos. The computer was not liking my SD card and I have one back up so we'll see if that works better tomorrow!

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