Forrest Gump would be a thoroughbred if he was a horse.

‘Tis spring and therefore time to let the horses out onto the “big” pastures. I think most people have visions of horses grazing in lush acres wide pastures in their imagination. Obviously, they are not from western New York. Here, if you let your horses out on your pastures year round, all you will have is cuppy, weed ridden, clay lots. So the alternative is to have “sacrifice” paddocks that you know are going to be destroyed and ugly. Then part of the year, you can turn your horses out onto lush (for a brief period) pastures to graze themselves into fat little beach balls with legs.

Of course, this is very exciting for the horses. Its a pain in the derriere for the humans. This is because horses are the creatures that evolution forgot. Remember the horse that you are investing a good chunk of your hard earned money into Рit can die of a stomach ache. This means that after some preparatory hand grazing, the horses can go out for an hour before we have to chase them back in. In case you have not noticed, horses are faster than humans. The first night is not so bad. The herd has run around making celebratory laps at full tilt for the first twenty minutes. After which, they  are hot, tired, and want an escape from the evening bugs. The second night is a different story Рthey ate first and now on a much cooler windier night, they are now ready to run. This is when you send your husband out to bring them all in on his own. You take a pile of admiring boarders up on the first night to bring their own horses in. Not only does this provide a great cardio workout for five former track horses and one egomaniac Morgan, but it is also an excellent workout for said husband. Sometimes, you just have to test your marriage.

The fat draft horses are exhausted from traversing the pasture and meet you at the gate, hoping you will tuck them into their stalls where they won’t have to worry about getting any exercise. Since the drafts all belong to the husband and the wife is blamed for the OTTB’s, regardless of ownership, you can figure out how that works out in the evening conversation.

 

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Sometimes, sportsmanship stinks.

How do you like the alliteration? I have to admit, that was one of my favorite words from English class. And for the teachers that read this, perhaps you read that “alliteration” and “onomatopoeia”, are obsolete words (thanks common core!) and no longer relevant. Figures, I liked both of those now irrelevant words. Okay, back on to topic –

Whitman went to his first show last weekend. He was a complete and total rock star. I was not certain at first that it was going to go so well. We took the stock trailer and I thought I would be nice and let him turn around and walk off the trailer. Well, Whitman went with a Wile Coyote move and walked straight off into space, not realizing that it was about 16 inches to the ground. He attempted to save it with a big push from the hind end, but really just looked like he was having a mid-air seizure. Yes, folks, dressage is a classical art that is comprised of thousands of years of history and is an endeavor to achieve equestrian perfection. Whitman just did not get that message. If you know Whitman personally, you are aware that he is 50% amazing dressage athlete with breathtaking gaits, and 50% complete moron – hence, the barn name of NitWhit. However, that was the low point of the weekend.

Whitman was enthralled with the show grounds and all of the horses off doing “important and serious” work. He was quite vocal, but went out and did his work Friday night and was able to hack around on a long rein. Many of the objects that normally spook other horses did not phase him. Evidently, the curly eared devil had not forgotten the trailer exit incident, so anytime there was a shadow over the ground or a change in footing, Whitman went with a wobbly impression of the Spanish march over it. We are nothing if not dignified.

Saturday went really well. He was a very good boy, but a little tense in his first test. He tried to leave at the open end of the arena and then when I put my outside leg on to stop it, he had to leap back in. After that he fell apart for a few minutes in his canter work and I was trying not to crack up. In an act of questionable vision, the judge gave us a 65% – which I considered to be about ten points high.

Our second test was about 1/2 hour behind schedule which meant that my baby horse was pretty exhausted and we spent a lot of time walking around the warmup arena. Bless his little performer’s heart, he was amazing in the ring. Bold, attentive and the trot work was great. I was absolutely over the moon with him. Then the scores were posted and he received a 60% for a test that I thought should have approached the high 60’s. The comments were fairly snarky from the judge as well. I wanted to have a bit of a fit and tell her just where she could shove the “6” for gaits she gave us in the collective marks. Especially, since the Arab cross that went later in the class had just had his headset gear (illegal in real competition) removed before he entered the arena. I have no qualms with Arabs, but forced head sets are not part of dressage. However, being an adult, I had to suck it up with some minor eyebrow raising. Mind you, poor sportsmanship has no place with children either. Its just a lot easier to model good sportsmanship when you are winning.

I sent the video of the ride to three people whose opinions I highly respect and who would provide honest feedback and took a hard and somewhat objective look at the video myself. There are some aspects that could certainly be improved on and some work to do before our next real show. Having had Whitman since he was a weanling and having done all of the riding myself (with some awesome instruction), I am willing to concede that perhaps I am a bit sensitive to having my horse critiqued. I guess I will have to put the temper tantrum on indefinite hold.

Whitman spent Sunday sacked out in his stall. If he was not eating, he was stretched out in his stall snoring and groaning. I keep joking that Greenpeace is going to show up at any minute to push him back in the water.

Sometimes, its not about the horses.

It has been a roller coaster of a couple weeks, and I have been one of the passengers in the middle car. One of our boarders & families has had a terrible turn of luck that I am not discussing here, but they have been a true study in grace. If you wish to have it termed in grittier eventing lingo – then they really seem to know how to sit back and kick on. Suffice to say, that the kids in the barn along with their parents are some pretty great people. However, its probably because of the parents that the children are really great.

And whether or not you want to attribute it to Churchill or Shakespeare, “something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man (or woman, or teenage girl, or small boy)”. My preference is Churchill, but that is largely due to a latent but lingering resentment of Shakespeare created by the vile Romeo and Juliet movie that was shown in schools for the last three generations. Tangent aside, sometimes, the four legged ones have an amazing sense of timing for their antics or basic snuggly-ness, and are just a great distraction.