Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Finally! My first xc outting of the year :)

(from GRS Blog)

So today was... oh my.

Well let's see -- I had a xc lesson booked for 12:00 at Grandview (about 2h away). Plan to leave at 9:30. All good. Get to the barn for 8, wonderful working student(WWS) Hailey meeting me there so between the two of us s.b. able to get everything done and be gone on time. Good plan right?

Except that I woke up this am before the alarm went off, feeling awake. Ummmm that never happens. Warning bells start flashing. Look at clock w/ heart in throat. 8:10. Frig. No idea why alarm, diligently set for 5:15 didn't deign to go off; I freely acknowledge when I do something dumb like hit snooze for an hour, but this time there was no beeping to snooze. Booo. So I basically roll into some clothes and fly out of the house, pausing only long enough to feed the critters. Great start. Frig.

Get to barn and WWS who knows morning routine *very* well by now and her groom have brought in, watered and fed appropriate horses as well as brought in her pony to take adventuring. Yes I have awesome students.

Decide stalls can wait since I'm very very late and go get the truck and trailer. You know all about the Beast. You know the next step in the story right?

No - amazingly the Beast deigned to start on the very first try! Yeah us! Hook up trailer and drive over to loading area. Touch base with L to see if she'll help me load (unrelated experienced horse woman -- if there are any issues novice people, even WWSs, cause more grief than help, and I haven't loaded Athena other than to move her in...) Np. She's around and willing. Great.

Brush ponies and pack truck. Go to load... Bella walks on. And back off again at top speed. Argh. She is the only horse I've ever known who zero issues loading but pretty serious unloading issues. And she's little enough to go *under* the bum strap. Booo. Any experience horse people dealt with this before? Loads well, then you have about 10 seconds and she throws herself backwards and out - whether tied or not. If you close the door in time has no concerns about hanging out on the trailer. Trailers just fine. But when you open the door on the other end, again she bolt backwards pretty much instantly. Interesting challenge. Have tried feeding/treating her on the trailer but she doesn't much care. It *is* getting much better -- she mostly walks off now instead of top speed. But there is no wait till you're told...

Anyways so Bella left. Alright fine, we'll get Athena on then put Bella back on after. Uh huh. Athena very quickly makes it *very* clear she wants nothing to do with this. Went and got L to come help and got WWS and supergroom out of the way and went to work. I've worked with a LOT of difficult loaders, but never seen anything like this. My lovely little black mare turned into a nightmare. All 4 legs were weapons - kicking out and rearing and striking. Always smart enough to not harm *herself* but watch out to everybody else. Behaving very much like a terrified foal except A - she's a LOT bigger and stronger and B - there was NO fear. Everything we saw was anger or just plain "NO!". Got away from us *3* times. I'm not sure I've ever lost a horse loading before, but this one THREE times. Insane. Although I admit I had a good laugh when she bolted into the indoor, started to run around the ring (which she's never been in) and then halted to call to the horse in the mirror. Made her very easy to catch since she was absolutely fascinated by it. This was NOT a fun start to the day.

Couldn't put Bella on to keep her company so tried to think of what horse *either* of us had who would both load well and STAND for who-knows-how-long without having a meltdown over the drama behind. Si loads like a saint, but would *not* tolerate that -- esp as it's another mare. Bella loads and leaves. Apollo I think would get really stressed. Jack was a maybe, but I was concerned because he's only 5 and loads like a pro -- so I *really* didn't want to risk changing that. Lissy loads well, but she didn't used to so def didn't want to give her any reason to revert. Dixie doesn't load brilliantly to begin with, is injured, AND doesn't like Athena - so I figured that was a non-option... So that left Nick. Nick loaded ok when we got him and has gotten better every time out. And he's pretty chilled about life. Ok try him. Supergroom goes out to bring him in and he veerrrryyyy slowly walks onto the trailer. One. Slow. Step. At. A. Time. Took prob 5 min to get him all the way in -- but totally just cause he was taking life at his own pace. No stopping or backing up or concern, just slow. Ok so he was on and all done up and Supergroom was given a bucket of grain to reward him with (Nick can use a few extra pounds). Nick is also the current love of Athena's life. So we had hopes that would help.

Yeah, not at all. *sigh* Was worth a try, but Athena really couldn't seem to care less about her boyfriend being in there. Same drama as before. And she's *smart* Figured out if she comes up the ramp and then turns perpendicular to the trailer and kicks violently with the hind leg closest to it, we can't even get her facing the correct direction, much less in. Cute game. Nick was a saint through all of it.

By this point starting to wonder if we're *ever* going to get her on, but know fully well that if we don't, next time will be even worse. *sigh*

The only saving grace? She's not very fit. Eventually she got tired and would just stand on the ramp. From *there* we could do something. And with a bucket of grain, a lunge line, and moving her feet one at a time, we got her on. Thank Epona. Sheesh. Almost 2h later. *sigh* And I could NOT have done it w/o L. Was not an appropriate situation for students or well-meaning bystanders. But the two of us eventually got her on.

But now it's 11:30. Remember the schedule from waaaayyyy back at the top? We're supposed to be unloading and tacking up now. And I've got two horses on the trailer -- one of whom is not supposed to be going anywhere and whose part-boarder is standing looking very confused about what her horse is doing on said trailer. And the other who is supposed to go but is exhausted, sweaty, and frazzled. Somehow trailering her for two hours, riding her xc, trying to load her again WITHOUT L or Nick, and trailering her back home again did *not* seem like a good idea.

So there's no way we can make it to GV for 12:00 at this point. Leave both horses currently in trailer ON trailer (with back up etc). Borrow a smart phone and look up the phone number for GV. Can't find it on their website. Sheesh. Ok, lateral thinking. Look up omnibus page for their show and grab contact number from there. Finally luck turns my way and I got a person rather than a machine. Sweet. But Bob was out riding. *sigh* So they go away to find him and ask if reschedule is ok, while we unload the two horses and put them away.

Arrange with L to do another trailer schooling session tomorrow. Starting to wonder if Athena just didn't want to leave -- we feed her here. But hopefully if we can get her on and off a few times over the next couple weeks -- maybe throw in some "around the block" trips -- we'll be good to go. Worked with Si and Lis... So fingers crossed.

Honestly if it hadn't been for WWS at this point I'd just cancel. The whole point of going was because I wanted to take Athena and see how she did. So really, after less than productive morning, 2h trailer battle, and NOT getting to take the horse I wanted to, I really just wanted to call it a day. But WWS really is W and it would be her first time going there and her pony was all ready and I know how excited she was about it (there's no PE fences at GV -- have to do E! Sweet. Even if many of the E fences are PE height :) And I was pretty sure she'd accept it reasonably maturely if we didn't go, which made me *less* inclined to cancel on her.

Alright so options... Sienna, Jack, Lissy. Those are the three I could reasonably pick from. And I'll admit I almost instantly disregarded Jack. I was hot, tired, and grumpy. So a ride that's almost entirely physical was not going to be a good choice. Esp after the disappointment of not taking Athena. So Sienna or Lissy. And to be quite honest, I think it took me almost 5 mins to make up my mind. Si plus sides: can jump the moon, a TON of fun xc, has been to GV several times, trailers super well, and is basically easy and fun -- a good combo for my current mood. Down side -- she's only been back in work since Monday after carving a chunk out of her hoof on a stone. Despite that she IS 100% sound and she IS at TB and we were only going to do E (well and with Si maybe some PT/T - let's be honest :) so it'd be an easy outing for her. I was in her field with her halter when I realized I should actually be professional.

You see Lissy doesn't have any of the fun upsides Si has -- her main upside is that she's *very* easy to ride. Down sides: fairly green, doesn't really carry herself well yet, half-halt only partially installed, not nearly the same athleticism over fences (I know - not many horses show that kind of athleticism; I've been spoiled, what can I say :), not terribly fit... But the simple fact is I want her to be an Entry level packer. And the only way that's going to happen is if I actually *ride* her. I've been focusing on her dressage, which is HUGELY improved lately (albeit still has a long way to go), but haven't jumped her since the Wayne Roycroft clinic, and that's the only time we've jumped since early spring... (She's jumped - intro/PE level - in lessons. But only super low/super simple. No balance or hocks under her or anything like that).

*sigh* Lissy it is. She's never going to learn if I don't teach her. And I do really adore little Lis, she's just not quite as much wow as the other two. But that's also what'll make her a good schoolie. So I brought her in and supergroom took her and got her ready for me while I answered the phone. Sure enough, good to go. Bob managed to fit us in for a 2:00 slot. Sweet!

Alright so load both horses and both just stroll on. Very very good ponies. And away we go. Brief stop to grab a muffin for breakfast (remember flying out of the house way back when?) and we're off. Fortunately made it with no traffic in good time. Parked, unloaded, tacked up all quietly - no rush. Both horses were superstars. And with an extra set of hands everything was SO much easier. WWS and Supergroom held ponies and I tacked them both up and we were good to go. Wandered down to the dressage ring (mostly to let Lissy see the blue footing; she couldn't care less). No Bob, so headed up to the jump w/u ring. Still no Bob, but we were a little early (well if you discount being 2h late!) so warmed up a bit and figured he'd find us when he was ready.

When he got there we did some stadium first. Little x with placing poles on either side, then a vert, then putting together a few random fences. The only thing Lis wasn't sure of was the first time we tried a 2-stride line. *That* we had a discussion about. But in the end she saw it my way :) General analysis of Lissy "great attitude, good form over fences, needs more gymnastics and dressage" -- hahaha always nice to have my own assessments validated! The lack of half-halt in the canter makes it *very* tricky to accurately ride a course. But we'll get there. Bella and H were pretty much superstars. A few scary long spots, but got better as they went.

Then out on XC we went. And XC is *fun* No matter what you're sitting on. And it's my FIRST outing of the year! How sad is that?!?!?! My students have done WAY more than I have so far this summer. Sheesh. And the other thing that was fun was I *actually* had to ride. I know. Imagine that. But it wasn't till I did that I realized A - the instincts are still there and they WORK and B - I haven't had to do that in a while. Cause let's be honest, for all Si's occasional drama, the jumping part is usually very straight forward. Point her at a fence, keep your rhythm, stay out of her way, and you'll go over it. Lis was more of the "ummm are you really sure? Cause we could go around. Or maybe stop of a better look." Or my personal favourite "Seriously!?!?! WHAT do you expect me to do with *that*???" <-- that'd be her first ditch. And that whole speed/balance/impulsion thing -- very hard on a horse with no hind end who's not sure about the half halt and has no idea how to carry herself; esp when the entire terrain is rolling hills! But while we had a couple interesting jumps, she was an absolute superstar. And definitely did everything on the first try. And didn't melt down when Bella galloped away from her. In fact super quiet from the moment she stepped off the trailer. So all signs still point to my future entry-level packer :)

H and Bella were superstars. Since B's a little fitter and H has ummmm zero experience they played a little more and started putting together some courses. Lis was pretty tired by then so we just supervised *g* We schooled banks, ditches, water and a couple miscellaneous, but didn't do all the inbetween random entry jumps cause I was reasonably certain she'd jump them pretty honestly and didn't want to exhaust her. The other two though did a great job jumping all the courses with very little nappiness. A decided increase in speed towards Lis than away from her, but managed to keep it under control :)

So overall, while a rocky start, an excellent end to the day :)

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