I guess I'll start by adding a really funny detail from District. It was horrifying, yet so terribly cute and funny. My dad is still really unfamiliar with the whole horse show thing, and I asked him to hold Stella while I checked in with the paddock master. Stella was all set for showmanship in her clean bridle and polished bit. When I came back, there was a little flock of children surrounding Stella. I thought it was so adorable--until I realized that the kids were feeding her clumps of grass! Stella's bit was disgusting and her mouth was covered in green foam. I was fishing for a rag to wipe her off when judge Ken yelled at us to come over for the callback pattern. I ended up wiping it off with my glove. They're nasty already and so holey that I should just throw them out, so I didn't really think the green slime from Stella's squiggler would make much of a difference :)
Now for an update from the local horse show last Sunday! Stella and I went into showmanship, hunter go-as-you-please, hunter equitation, and hunter under saddle. I got her all straight for showmanship and then we went out to school in the deep sand arena. The arena is a real challenge to work in, regardless of whether you're riding or doing showmanship, because the sand is terrible. The judge even made a comment to everyone at the end of the showmanship class commending us for a job well done in the ridonkulous sand. She didn't say "ridonkulous," however :P The pattern was sort of P-shaped, without the closure of the loop. We walked from A to B, trotted a loop around C and all the way to the judge, halted and set up for inspection, backed one horse's length, did a 270-degree turn, and walked off. Stella almost, almost broke around the loop because it was very sandy and because it required a very sharp turn to go around the cone and align perfectly with where the judge was standing. We pulled it off, though, and I was really proud of the pattern that we did. One of the other people in the class (the woman who owns Blondie, the horse Larry was working with a few weeks ago) even congratulated me on a great pattern while we were standing in the lineup. When the judge turned her back, I planted a kiss on Wellaphone's nose because I was so pleased with how hard she tried for me. We came out of that class with second place, which I thought was amazing considering most of the people in the class have really nice showmanship horses and some of them were practicing showmanship before I even started riding.
Stella was also really good in hunter GAYP. We just trotted when the judge called for us to choose a gait. I didn't want to risk getting Stella worked up. She went beautifully for me, and we took first. Hunter equitation was okay. Wellaphone had a little mare flare when I asked her to pick up the right lead, and unfortunately it occurred right in front of the judge. She took the left lead for a stride or two before I halted her, but it was all too obvious to the judge. Oh well. We placed fifth, which was pretty decent considering what happened. Hunter under saddle was much better than a lot of classes we've had at other shows recently, but Stella repeated her little mare flare/wrong lead act, once again right under the eyes of the judge. The odd thing was, both times she did it were when I asked her to pick up the right lead. She took the left lead perfectly both times. She behaved herself during the class, though, and we took another second. I ended up with reserve champion in the division, which was a pleasant surprise.
The kids who've been coming to the barn came to the horse show to watch, and the little girl wanted to brush Stella. I'd just dumped a few buckets of water over her and she was soaking wet, but I let the little girl run a soft brush over her while Stella grazed on the lead. That little girl really likes me, evidently :) Her mom told me about how she asked her daughter which horse is the prettiest, and the daughter replied with my name. (I don't know if I should be offended or not, hahaha :D Nahhh...) Her mom asked her again, reminding her daughter that I'm not a horse, and the little girl asked what my horse's name is. The little girl really likes Stella. Maybe one day Larry will let me pop the kid on Stella for a short pony ride. The only problem is, well... If you've read this blog at all, you'll understand that Stella isn't a horse you'd trust to babysit your kids. She loves kids and wouldn't intentionally hurt one, but she just...does things...and doesn't think...and... Yeah. You'll get to hear some more of that as I continue with this particular post.
Mindy came over on Monday and we worked the horses. By "working the horses," I mean that Mindy schooled several of them and helped Larry longe the new paint mare, Curly Sue, while I rode (AND JUMPED!!!) Stella. I can't do but so much "crazy stuff" anymore, and I think Larry is very cautious about putting me on the babies now. Everything exacerbates my pain problems, and it doesn't help that I wear very visible knee braces now. (My knee pain is about 97% gone, though :)) I'm willing to acknowledge my limits and step back if it'll prolong the amount of time I have to ride before everything gives out, so I don't mind that Mindy and Larry get all the fun of working the little ones.
Stella was quite good working on the flat on Monday except for one little thing. We were cantering a circle around half of the arena. As we neared the fence and prepared to continue the circle with a right turn, Stella felt like she wanted to turn left. I tightened the inside rein just a tad and applied a bit more outside leg to focus her mind on turning right. She complied with my request--until we were one stride from the fence, where Stella whipped around and decided that she was making a left turn whether I wanted to come or not. She completely fooled me; I was certain that she was going to go right! My upper body continued toward the right and both my left leg and my butt started to follow until my left knee was up above the pommel. I yelled something that I'd rather not put into writing, which sent Mindy into hysterical laughter, and then I halted Stella and regained my seat. I really, really didn't want to hit the fence, which is what would've happened if I had managed to fall off. Other than that silliness, Stella was well-behaved. I trotted her over a crossrail a few times, and it was fun. I quit while we were ahead, while Stella was still willingly taking the jumps and while I wasn't in pain. Stella's learned that jumps are fun, not scary, and that they're another way to use the excess GO that builds up in her haunches.
Mindy said something so adorable about Stella. We schooled showmanship for a bit while the sprinkler was watering the arena, and Stella started squiggling her lips when I asked her to back. Several months ago, I stated that Stella's head contains a small metal pail full of white ping-pong balls. When she has a mare flare or otherwise goes berserk, the bucket has toppled over and the balls are bouncing around all over the place. In order to calm her down, I have to pick them up and put them back. Mindy said that when Stella squiggles, the ping-pong balls are moving around in the bucket. Stella also has a habit of popping her lips whenever she's confused or a little scared, and Mindy said that was when a single ball popped out of the bucket and onto the floor.
That makes me smile so much :) :) :)
Another day this week, I set up a "carnival" for Stella. Some of the "attractions" were REALLY scary. I set up some small cones to weave through, a jump standard with my jacket thrown over the top, a rag thrown over the fence railing, two poles that we could back through, two tiny beach balls and an inflated latex exam glove, and a paper feed sack. Stella was okay with everything except for the "balloons" and the feed sack. I eventually got her to wear the sack on her back and over her neck, basically everywhere on her body, but I decided to hold off with the "balloons" so that she wouldn't feel overwhelmed. They're still in the tack room for the next time the "carnival" comes to town.
The little kids also came back for another lesson. Once again, the little girl, whose name is Shelby, helped me groom and tack up Tina. I led her around for most of the ride, but I also let her walk around by herself for a little bit. I just walked nearby in case she needed a little steering assistance. Tina takes a lot of leg, even for me, so I know it's difficult for such a small little girl to steer her around. Her older brother, Dylan, has been riding a bit longer and got to canter in the lesson, so I tried to think of some exciting things for Shelby to try so that she wouldn't feel left out. She rode without hands and stretched down to touch her toes. I probably would've gotten her to do an around-the-world, but I personally hate to do them in western saddles because there's so much stuff to catch yourself on. Perhaps that's just part of the challenge :D Then, I brought out two poles and put them out so the kids could walk over them. Shelby told me that she wanted to jump, so I assured her that learning to ride well on the flat and working over poles is the best way she can start to learn to jump. She loved the poles and kept asking me to lead her over them.
After the kids left, Larry told me that I do a good job teaching the kids. That made me really happy. Maybe I should avoid playing crash-test dummy with the baby horses, but at least I can teach future generations of equestrians when I'm not riding Wella.
Wella did something really, really bad when I was tacking her up, but she was excellent when I rode her. I guess she got all the naughty out in one go! I had her all saddled and fly sprayed and everything. She just needed her bridle. Normally, Stella is PERFECT when it comes to being bridled and taking the bit. I don't know what happened tonight. As soon as I slipped off her halter, she took a step forward. I told her to whoa, but then she bolted out the open barn doors, dragging my bridle with her. I was scared to death that the bridle was going to catch around her leg and hurt her, and I was terrified when it actually did wrap around one of her legs. I was begging for it to break (It was Mac's bridle, but I really don't think he would mind.). Eventually she slowed down enough for me to come over to her and hold her head. I immediately unbuckled the reins in case she took off again, but she stood beside me until someone could bring a halter over to us. I checked her legs over for injuries but didn't find anything. I didn't even bother to see if the bridle was broken until after our ride. I grabbed one of Larry's western bridles that has a snaffle almost identical to Stella's on it and just rode in that.
Our ride was excellent. Stella was on the bit and driving beautifully from her hindquarters, moving at a nice pace and being wonderfully responsive to my aids. We did a great simple change. I know she's athletic enough to do flying changes and balanced enough to do them with a rider, but Larry says that he's never tried to get one from her. Since I've never really asked a horse to do one, I think I'll let Larry give it a shot before I try anything. I'd hate to confuse her or teach her incorrectly.
Oh, how I love Stella. She's the greatest horse in the whole world.