Here there be dragons...

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

Highs and Lows

Wow, so today was...  interesting.

Let's see -- a few weeks ago Chelsea (one of my students) and I signed up for an indoor xc clinic with Ian Roberts that was to run today.  Sweet.   Expecting normal ride times, I arranged to have somebody in to take care of the horses so we could go play.

Then I found out our ride times -- we didn't even have to leave the barn till 1.  Ok, so plan to leave at noon, meet there at 11.   Which means I *could* actually do the barn myself, but since S had already booked off work to do it for me, I figured I'd A - sleep IN!  Woohoo.  And B - get some stuff done for next weekend's clinic.   Sweet.   Can't remember the last time I slept in, and can't imagine I'll get another chance for a while...

And then I got this wicked ear infection :(   Booo.  And was feeling sick.  And just generally unhappy.  And not sleeping because of all of the above.  So instead I got up and went to a walk-in clinic.  My sleep-in didn't happen and nothing got done for the clinic, but at least they gave me three different sets of drugs.  And since none of them knock you out - I was still good to go.

BUT - I did get to the barn in time.  Chelsea beat me there, but not by an insane amount :)   So we got the truck all packed up and hooked up the trailer.  Then time to load.  Yikes.  But Athena was actually fairly civil about it.  S helped me with her and she got on on about the third try -- I'd say less than 5 minutes.   And Lissy of course loaded like the saint she is.   Good for Chelsea to learn with :)

Despite the weather, the drive up was fine.   Although I have to admit I don't care for driving automatic.   And I kept going for the clutch when I wanted to slow down -- since the break's in the same spot, it had the same effect, just a little harsher than necessary.  *sigh*

We got there in plenty of time and unloaded the horses into their temporary homes.   Being together, both mares settled very quickly.   Chelsea and I went and watched a bit of the group before mine, and then went to get all our gear.

Brought Athena in -- really not sure what I'd get from her;  I don't know her all that well yet AND she hasn't been ridden since Wednesday (whole me not feeling well thing).   We were in a PT group, so I figured the jumps would all be small enough to be a non-issue regardless *g*   She was her usual pushy self on the ground and a little anxious while I was getting ready to mount -- but once I was on she was great.   Warmed up quietly and listening really well.   Focus on controlling horse's stride length through body position.  Since stride length is something we work a *lot* on, it was a good comfort thing for her to practice.  But what I was thrilled with is how much MORE responsive she was than how she is at home.   Totally dialed in to what I was asking her.   Was pretty excited at that.

Was highly amused that the clinician took one look at her and just stopped and stared: "that horse has the longest forearms I've ever seen"....  ummmm yeah, she's a bit conformationally challenged.   "well, it's not necessarily a bad thing..."  hahaha gotta love it.

We started jumping with a very basic gymnastic - trot poles to an x, that eventually became a 1-stride.   Athena considered the poles carefully a couple times (to say she's not a fan of trot poles or cavelletti would be like saying a giraffe on crack is possibly not the epitomic dressage mount) but she managed it nicely each time.

Then we moved on to xc -- first trotting, then cantering over a little brush fence.  Was a couple strides off a square turn, so accuracy counted.   He also had us land both directions.  I was super proud of Athena here because in each case she kept her balanced canter, landed and came back to me within two strides.   That's pretty much a record for her *g*   Leads are a non-issue, so the both directions wasn't a challenge.  But I wasn't sure how the square turn in the canter would work.  She impressed me though.

This was followed up with a basic control exercise.  Two little coups - about 6 (?) strides apart (sorry - tired, memory failing...)   Jump one, circle around some stuff, jump the second one.   Athena was an absolute pro-star the first time.  Like text-book perfect.  Yeah, I'm still stunned.   The second time was way less good :(   Rider error in that I didn't create the correct quality of canter before approaching the first fence, so she landed discombobulated, swapped leads, broke to trot...  all sorts of ugly really.   Got it back together in time for the second fence, but I was disappointed in my ride to that one.   However, it did reassure me that my thinking that she'll be an awesome schoolie once she has a few more miles under her is probably valid since her brain stayed put through that whole thing.   hahaha she may be the first horse I've ridden since hs who'd tolerate a mistake like that >;-P

Then we introduced the ditch - which actually looked remarkably like a ditch, although in reality it was a black tarp framed with two logs.   Athena couldn't care less -- this I was reasonably certain about since she showed me that when I schooled her at Grandview last summer.  If anything, she doesn't have *enough* respect for them.   But then, I don't intend her ever to go past training, so I'm not terribly concerned *g*

From the ditch we worked our way up to the coffin, which we had one true xc-get-er-done ride and all the rest were more traditional eq rides.  hahaha I felt the get-er-done ride made up for the pathetic coups earlier.  That was all kinds of "dealing with bad situations" riding.   And it worked, because all the other efforts were no problem.

Then it was just a matter of putting several courses together.   By the end Athena was *tired*.  Like not willing to move tired.  Poor girl.   We sat out the last course because on the second last one she was telling me quite clearly she was done and she'd been so very amazing.

Now the jumps were all small -- it's possible one or two were pt height, but I'm not even convinced of that.  But even still, I was really thrilled just with the simple fact that we could canter several courses, under control, balanced, hitting every stride, and holding reasonably straight lines.   And that when she got tired and started to say no and I told her she had to do it anyways - she did it.   Important to know what kind of heart your partner has when you're setting out on xc.   And I was pretty happy with what I learned :)

So then it was Chelsea's turn.  She and Lissy were doing PE, and it was their first outing together (possibly Chelsea's first outing ever?  Not sure about that, def first with me though...)   And you know what?  They were absolute superstars.  Properly turned out and ready on time.  Stayed focused, paid attention, and rode well.   I was really proud of them!   As for what they did and how it felt and the lesson itself...  Well that's Chelsea's story to tell :)

Then time to go home.  Chelsea, who's loaded all of one horse ever on a trailer, is the only person available to help me load Athena.  So I was a *little* concerned about how that might go...   Remember that first time loading last summer?  TWO HOURS later...?   I certainly was.  And now it was dark and bitterly cold to add to it.  So my mare who doesn't load took one look at the trailer, hesitated for about half a second, and walked on perfectly straight, absolutely no problem.   Did I mention how happy I was with her today?   That was pretty well the perfect ending.   Bring Lissy on and we were off.

Had a minor detour on the way home since I have no idea what Guelph Line is called way up north >;-P   But I just picked a random road heading south and when we got to 7, was able to relocate us :)   The rest of the drive was completely uneventful.  Sweet.

Unload horses - all good.   Bring them in the barn and someone's coughing.  Like really coughing.  Bella.   Unload truck.  Bella still coughing.  Respiration way up.  Looking at water but not drinking it.   Very unhappy and lethargic.  Very not good.   And the way she's coughing and chewing as though she were eating but with never taking a bite had me very worried she was choking.   Suddenly all the fun of the clinic is overshadowed.  :(  

Called the vet -- by the time he got there she wasn't coughing nearly as much but all the rest of the signs were still there.  He tells me not choking but still a good thing I called as some weird respiratory issue.  A couple signs didn't fit exactly as they should so he drew blood to have it tested.  In the interim she got quite the cocktail of drugs...  Antibiotics, broncodilator, and...  I don't even recall what the third one was at the moment.  Is that bad of me?   Put it down to a very long day and trusting my vet.   Have to say I did appreciate him telling me it WAS worth calling him though -- after-hours calls are always something I struggle with; I never want to disturb somebody's time off for what could well be my over-active imagination.  And I was wrong - she wasn't choking.  That she still needed his help, made it ok but it wasn't actually what I thought I was calling him for.   Ah well.   There's no way I could've left her there like that and there was nothing I could do for her at all, sooo...   He'll be back to check on her tomorrow and let me know what, if anything, the blood test shows.   Poor pony :(   I really hope she's feeling better soon!

So yeah, started out the day with a people-doctor, ended with a pony-doctor.   But the in-between was pretty amazing!


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