Sunday, July 5, 2009

"I'm going to Denny's. Oh...oh, $#!+..."

The quarter horse show was absolutely wonderful. I want to write about everything that happened, but I really need to backtrack to the stuff that we did before the show.
We went to a local show last weekend. Stella was well-behaved for part of the show (including one class), but I was really upset by her behavior in our last two classes. In our equitation class, we were having a great time until we started cantering. Even then, we had a great time...until someone on a very nasty little horse upset Stella by running up behind her and then shoving herself in the tiny space between Stella's haunches and the rail. Stella took off and then had a terrible mare flare right in the middle of the ring. She started acting like she was going to rear, so I got her moving again and we managed to canter a few more strides before the judge called for the reverse. She wasn't the same after that. She threw her head in the air and hollowed out her back, and she even tried to buck while we were trotting. I wasn't very happy with her.
In the next class, I could feel that Stella was ready to do something crazy. I was so right. Stella absolutely EXPLODED. I don't know exactly what she did, but it had the upward force of one of her bronc bucks and felt like she jumped straight off the ground (No, it wasn't a buck.). It completely threw out my hip to the point where I started crying from the pain. I was absolutely and utterly loaded with a cocktail of painkillers even before I started riding, so I shudder to think of what the pain would have been like if I had gone without them. I decided to be really stubborn (read: stupid) and not excuse myself from the class. Instead, I decided that I would go into the center and trot some circles with Stella until the judge called for the lineup. She wasn't terrible after I semi-excused myself, but I was in so much pain and she was just too volatile for me to try to canter her again.
After that class, I was really, really upset. I took her back to the trailer and tied her up while I hunted for some sort of pain reliever that wouldn't conflict with everything else I'd already taken. After I'd taken a dose of ibuprofen, I longed Stella again in the schooling ring. I made her work enough to get her calmed down, and then I jumped on her for a short ride. She was quite good for me. I wasn't in as much pain, but I still didn't ride for a long time. I was actually really proud of her. Someone even commented on the dramatic change. As I was leading her back to the trailer, Angie, our vet (who would really like to buy Stella from Larry but probably won't do it because she knows just how much Stella means to me--she was the one who ended Mac's life, after all), came over to me and said that I handled the last class really well and that she would've done the exact same thing. She told me that it looked like Stella had been jabbed hard in the belly with spurs, but she knew that was impossible because I wasn't wearing spurs and would never do that even if I did have them on. She also told me that there was a horse in the class who seemed to upset all of the others, and that particularly nasty horse was near Stella both times that she erupted, as well as near another horse who had a "tantrum" in the class. That's something interesting to think about...
At that show, I also judged the therapeutic riding classes. My old riding instructor, Nancy, called Larry and asked if I would help her out. I was glad to do it because I love the therapeutic riding school and love to help them out whenever I can. The kids were great, and they were having so much fun. I was supposed to judge the classes on equitation, so I mostly looked for a relaxed, balanced, safe seat. It was nice to see Nancy again, and I got some experience as an actual judge instead of just a ring steward.
And now back to the show.
Stella proved to me that she is the most unpredictable horse I've ever worked with. She was...wonderful. Sometimes I think she has all of her little "mare flares" at shows because I get nervous or something. Honestly, though, I never feel nervous at all until AFTER she does something, so I can't be the cause of it. When we got to the showgrounds, I unloaded her and put her into her stall. She whinnied to the other horses for a few minutes, but then she settled down with some hay and water. She usually runs circles in the stall all night when we go to shows like this one, but she was pretty calm in just a few minutes. We fed the horses and took care of them before taking them out for a ride. I longed Stella in the big arena and then walked her around the rail up to all of the spooky things. She used to be afraid of the show office, announcer's booths, and a trash can that was in one corner of the arena. She didn't spook at anything, and I took her back to the barn to tack her up. We went out and had a lovely ride together. I was so proud of her. That night, I bathed her and got her ready for our classes on Friday. We went to dinner at Denny's late that night after we'd finished at the barn. The restaurant was right beside our hotel (hahaha, more on that later) and it was open at the hours we were able to go and eat. We had a great meal and then put the horses and ourselves to bed.
The hotel was great. For the past few years, we'd been staying in one hotel, but we decided against it this year because of a little "incident," courtesy of our intoxicated neighbors, that made our first night absolutely miserable. It was pet-friendly, had an indoor pool, and very nice on the inside of the rooms. The beds were amazingly comfortable. They were much higher off the ground than normal beds (I'm glad I fell off the bed last year instead of this one :P) and it was a little surprising to slide that extra six inches or so to the floor first thing each morning.
The pool was also great. We went swimming and sat in the hot tub for the last two nights. The warm water of the hot tub helped relax my stiff muscles, while swimming helped me stretch and allowed me to be weightless and take the strain off of my joints for a while.
On Friday, I took Stella out for showmanship. I personally think our patterns were very good, but we didn't place. She's still a little slow with her pivot compared to the other horses. She also halted slightly crooked when we started the inspection, but I was worried about correcting it because I'm sure the problem would've just gotten worse if I messed with her too much. We did walk-trot after that, and she was very, very good. She moved out like the huge 17-hand hunters that towered over us (Stella isn't a "trendy" hunter, but I like to fit my horse...), rounded herself up, came onto the vertical, and gave me an impressive go. I was so proud.
On Saturday, we did showmanship again. We got 3rd out of 5 under one judge, and 4th under another. I still thought our patterns were really good. The small trotting circle screwed over a couple of horses in the pattern, but Stella handled it perfectly. After that, I tacked Stella up and schooled her before our riding classes. Once again, she was great. The one thing that distracted her was a truck driving around a nearby arena to pick up some jumps. She was interested in the jumps as well as the noisy truck. She didn't spook, but she really wanted to look and see what was going on. In the walk-trot class, Stella worked very well. The judges asked us to extend the trot. Stella didn't quite extend; she really just quickened her pace a little. At home, I can get her to extend her walk and canter, but I'm having some difficulty in getting some real extension of her trot.
I've really got to finish this tomorrow. I'm tired...

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