Saturday, May 2, 2015

Every time you think things will be the same.

By Gayle Carline
Still Horse Crazy After All These Years

Snoopy and I went to a horse show last weekend. It's a show I've been going to for a long time. I rode my old trainer's horse, Copper Kist there 15 years ago. The Hollywood Charity Horse Show is held at the L.A. Equestrian Center in Burbank. It's a fun show, tied to a fundraiser for different therapeutic riding groups.

I went to this horse show believing it would be much like every other time I've been to this horse show - with Snoopy, that is. My trainer Niki would ride him in a class ahead of mine, to school him, and shake out the bugs, so to speak. Then I'd ride him in the Novice Amateur class and we'd try to make it around the trail course without looking like idiots.

Easier said than done, I might add. I have an entire list of things to remember when I'm showing that big goofy horse of mine. Don't let Snoopy close to the silk flowers. Don't let Snoopy look at the gate. Don't get complacent and stop actively riding him. In addition, there are "Niki tapes" that run through my head as I'm riding. "Sit back. Put your hand down. Keep your leg on him, Use all your dirt."

I went into our first day thinking it would probably go the way it usually goes. Niki would make it look easy, then we'd do some obstacles well and some clunky and we'd get at least one 4th place from one of the judges.

We seem to be popular at 4th place.

The course looked extra decorated and colorful. There were potted bushes and grasses at the ends of the poles. Flower boxes were decorated with orange silk flowers. I knew Snoopy would want a mouthful of all of them. What I never imagined was that he'd try to grab them all when Niki was riding him.

Let me be clear: Snoopy has NEVER acted up for Niki in the show arena. She is The Exalted Trainer, never to be messed with. As soon as they took the course, he tried to grab at each plant he came near, ignoring her cues so he could get one more chance at the ficus on the corner. By the time they reached the gate and he opened his mouth for a silk flower, she'd had enough. She schooled him right there, in front of the judges. It was a Disqualification, but it had to be done. He could not get away with being a brat.

I got on him with the idea that I'd have to "handle" him on the course. If there was ever a time to ride him assertively, this was it. I couldn't let my guard down.

He was an angel for me. There was no plant grabbing, no loss of attention. We got our 4th place from one of the judges... and a 2nd place from the other.

By our second and last day of competing, I thought Snoopy had learned his lesson, and we'd go back to normal. I thought wrong. The photographer was in a new location, standing in front of a truck and a lot of trees. She was not making wild gestures. She was pointing and clicking, like she's done a bazillion times before.

Today, it spooked the Snoop. As Niki opened the gate, he looked at the photographer, tossed his head in the air, and tried to run. Niki shut him down, schooled him again (for another DQ), then made him complete the course. He tried to spook once more and she had to spank him one last time before they finished.

Then it was my turn. This was going to be more problematic. We could not get close enough to the photographer to get Snoopy acclimated to seeing her. I could warm up on him forever but there was no way to know how he'd react the second time through the course.

"Do you want to keep warming up, or go do the course?" Niki asked me after loping him in circles as close to the photographer as we could get.

"Might as well show," I said with a shrug. As I walked Snoopy toward the gate, I whispered, "Be good. It's just the photographer."

Again, he was quiet and responsive for me on the course. I kept my focus and rode decisively, but I felt myself smiling and relaxed by the time I walked over the last three poles. I survived.

We got another 2nd and 4th places, which wasn't as important as getting through the course. Our scores even earned us the Circuit Championship. Still not as important to me as achieving my personal goals, to do well riding my horse and have fun. 

Niki may get mad at his antics, but she still takes his mane out of its bands.

Now I'll wonder what the next show will hold. With Snoopy, I guess anything can happen.

What's been happening on your end of the world?


Laura Crum said...

You know, I have to comment. I'm done with competition. But if you do choose to compete--Gail has the attitude that counts. Thank you Gail. For showing perspective. That was a a lovely post.

Gayle Carline said...

Thank you, Laura. In my earlier days, I was always stressed about winning. When I stopped trying to be perfect and started focusing on the time I spent with my horse and how we communicated, it was like a huge weight lifted from me. Now we go out and have fun. I much prefer it this way.

Laura Crum said...

Oops--sorry I spelled your name wrong, Gayle. The protagonist of my mystery series is named Gail, and I have typed that name so many times with that spelling that it's sort of ingrained.

Gayle Carline said...

Oh, I don't mind. I blame my mother for giving me the "unique" version of my grandmother's middle name. I was named after both grandmothers, Myrtle Gail and Susie Marie, combined to make Gayle Sue. Coulda been worse - I could have been Myrtle Marie.