Saturday, November 14, 2009

Farting is NOT Allowed! (Part 1: Our First Reining Show)

Last weekend Mercy and I were invited to the reining schooling show at the Tacoma Unit in Spanaway, WA by some close friends. Since I don't have a haul-worthy vehicle right now, they volunteered to pick us up so we could get a good ride in, and maybe enter a schooling class or two! Of course I said I would come! It was an awful rainy, windy day complete with thunder and lightening and I am glad for any chance to ride in a covered or indoor arena.

The only thing I was nervous about with this whole adventure was loading Mercy into their trailer. Their trailer is a massive 4horse with a monster sized tack room up front and a rear tack room in back gooseneck... with a ramp. That's the part I was nervous about. She loads in any trailer with other horses and hay, but I have never squeezed her into that narrow of an opening after climbing a ramp. Plus it had been months since I'd loaded her. Hmmm....

Well, my good friends got to my place around 12:30 and pulled up in front of my house. We loaded Mercy's tack up and then I went to grab Mercy. I quickly brushed her down while my mom grabbed her cooler (just in case) and we headed up to the house. Mercy took some very slow steps toward the trailer, but she never stopped moving forward. I lined her up with the ramp and trailer stall and walked in in front of her. She took one big step onto the ramp, paused, and then came forward easily . She wanted to smell the horse in the 3rd stall, but that's not allowed! No touching of the other horses! LOL! When I told her 'no' she backed out slowly, starting to get a little nervous. I asked her to come in again, which she did, and showed her the hay in the hay bag. Oh! She liked that. she reached forward and took a nibble, then backed out. One of my neighbors had been patiently waiting in their car to drive by so I took Mercy off the ramp and let him pass. After the very short break I tried driving Mercy into the trailer instead of leading her in. Voila! It worked! She climbed in and dove into the hay while I closed the butt bar and tied her in. We were off!

She hauled great and when we got to Spanaway she unloaded like a pro. I tied and tacked her up quickly. We were running late, the show had already begun! Not only that, but this was the largest showing of participants this show had ever had- a new record for them! This meant that I had no time to ride in the indoor arena and every rider was working or waiting in the smaller covered arena. No big deal right? Wrong.

That was a horrible shot. Her ears look as long as her head, Ugh. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to take many pics and most of them were in REALLY low light, so ya...

A little better, kinda. This time it's her suspicious/evil eye going on. I should have known this was to be a challenging day...
We walked over to the arena, where the steers used for sorting and cutting were mulling around in their pens, and mounted up. Mercy was very calm and taking everything in stride while I walked her around the other horses and equipment on that side of the arena. The other side of the arena was the 'active' side; riders were loping and jogging their horses in preparation for their runs. After I checked Mercy's 'whoa' and bending, I aimed her toward the rail to join the start our warm up.

Mercy basically bolted down the rail all the while trying to kick the horses working around us. I couldn't believe it. I had zero control of my horse. I was finally able to gather my reins, but Mercy was already way too flustered to calm her down quickly. We had bolted back to the 'calm' side, so I worked on bending her head around and getting her mind back with me. We progressed into walking and then trotting small circles around the other groups of horses that were 'resting.'
She had relaxed so much that I thought we would try going to the other side again. I asked her to walk a few steps at a time into the chaos, then stop and stand there. We almost got half way around the circle when it became too much and she bolted again. She would swing her butt out and back into other horses to kick them. Talk about some serious confidence issues...
We went back to the calm side and I worked her butt doing small circles and backing. Then I took a break for myself. I had no idea what to do. I wanted to be able to work on this issue, but it was also my number one priority to keep everyone else in the arena safe from my poorly acting mare. We worked on spins for a while and then I just parked her over by the cows. After about a half an hour, my friend came over and suggested I let Mercy walk with her horse into the active side, which was far less busy now that the show was almost halfway through. I took the rail and my friend and her gelding took the inside track. I just forced Mercy to stay by his side, no falling behind and no blowing ahead. When she was calm, she got a loose rein. When she got bothered I took ahold and corrected her, then released to see if she would stay with me. After maybe 3 times around the circle, we switched directions and we took the inside track. My friend suggested that I let her trot as long as she stayed in control, so I asked her forward and away we went.
She got a little bothered with the speed and tried taking off, throwing in a little buck and fart. My friend suggested I try getting her to relax her neck and poll by massaging her mouth with her bit- basically squeezing each rein alternating left then right and so on, but without steering her off the circle. It worked! Mercy finally relaxed into the bit and soon we were changing from a slow jog to an extended jog back to a walk, all without issues. And while other horses had joined the circle again. After another 45 minutes of this, changing directions, speeds, and gaits, we took a break in the middle of the circle. She had relaxed so much that she had come off the bit, lifted her back, and collected her whole body, so her break was well deserved. *sigh*
From that moment on I was able to ride anywhere in the arena and feel confident that she wouldn't bolt, buck, kick, and carry on in any way. I pretty much spent the next hour or so jogging circles and practicing our stops. We had made a major break through for the day, so I didn't want to push her anymore. While waiting for my friends' classes, I took her to the trailer and untacked her. She wasn't sweaty, but I threw her cooler on anyway since it was really cold, wet, and dark. I walked her back to the arena where the cows had just been fed. They were really hungry and in their frenzy to eat they had pushed most of the hay through the fence. Mercy really wanted the alfalfa, so I had to hand her off to my friend while I pushed the hay back in.
Mercy wasn't real happy about this so she had to stare down the cows after I took control of her again, tee hee!
We hung out until the show was over, at about 6:30, and walked into the indoor arena so she could look around. Maybe next time we will get there earlier so I can ride in a larger area. And maybe *gasp!* we could actually enter a schooling class! That was the goal for today before this whole Mercy-acting-like-a-stubborn-appy thing happened. Just one class, that's all I was looking for. Oh well.
She loaded like a pro heading home and boy was Star happy to see her. Mercy just wanted her hay, some water, and a good place to sleep. She make life way too difficult lol!


cowgirlwannabe said...

I'm glad you stuck with the appy attitude. My appy had trouble with my loading another horse in the trailer while she was on, she was not a happy camper! Good luck with the reining.

Cowgirl Sprat said...

Thanks! We've got some good things going on right now, even with all of the naughtiness! LOL! I think it's crazy how many horses have trailering issues. Both my mares have had their seperate issues, but always revolving around trailers...grrr. I can see where that particular issue would be really hard to solve. Hopefully everything has been worked out?!