Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Show - A Sh!t Ride

An utter disaster.  Well, mostly.  I stayed on, Harley didn't try to dump me.  His "try" is just freaking amazing.  That's about where the good ends. 

Arrived at the show plenty early.  He loaded and unloaded great, happy.  Warmed him up on the longeline, in side reins.  Walk, trot, canter, left, All good.  *nice*  Walk, trot, can---can---... c'mon Harley, canter right.  Just wasn't happening.  I didn't have my longe whip with me, so I figured he was being lazy.  I would get a few strides, and then he'd quit.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I thought he was distracted by the big long trailers off in the field.  I thought maybe a fish jumped in one of the ponds.  I even saw water rippling.  Yeah, that's it. A fish. 

I took all the longe gear off, and quietly got on.  Walk, bend, exaggerated bend, all good.  Even got what felt like a slight shoulder-fore down the long sides, on both directions.  Asked him to trot.  Ouch.  He was super uneven in the back end.  I couldn't quite pinpoint what was wrong, but it was very uneven.   So I figured he had a rock up in his hooves.  The show scribe ran for her hoof pick.  I checked - clean.  No reaction to anything.  I poked and pushed on his heels, nothing.  No pull, no reaction.  I checked for heat in the hooves - nothing.  In fact, they were all cold to touch. 

By now, the judge had come back from her lunch break.  She asked me to ride again for her to see.  Walk, was okay.  "Short and lazy, but even."  Then the trot.  Oops. Yeah, she sees it too.  Then, the owner of the barn showed up.  "Well, let me move him on the ground a little."  She found it at the walk.  She asked to ride him a little, and I told her, "If he dumps you, it's all on you.  But go ahead."  Someone commented to me, "Of course it's safe to let her ride, she has been as high as grand prix."  I thought to myself, "Yeah, so what.  She's not competing now, and isn't riding other than some basic client repairs, so... hmm.. I haven't heard her reputation like I have other instructors or trainers... anyways.."  I watched her ride him a bit at trot, to see what was up.  Short on the right hind at trot.  She said something about, "Harley was telling her I ride crooked, and I don't sit evenly in the saddle, oh, and I don't use even rein pressure, and ..."  Something.. right about at, "I ride crooked, and I've made him hurt like this", I started fading paying attention. 

Ms N hasn't said I ride crooked.  The other friends I rode with a few weeks ago, didn't say squat about me riding crooked.  Jen has been around me for YEARS, and she hasn't said I ride crooked. 

Barn Owner hand-walked Harley a while, to "ground drive and chiro adjust him", saying he was out in his hips, topline, withers, and at the poll.  I watched from a distance - all I saw was a lot of inside rein contact (only), and pushing his hips over on corners, with a long of long & low free walk.  Not a forward free walk, but a very slow, relaxed, walk.  Hmm. I can do that.    So I walked over to her, and said (in an effort to be super polite), "What'cha doing, so I can do it when I get home this week?"  Her response was, "Well, it's really hard to explain, and I'll try to email it all to you, but now isn't a good time to show you.  Harley's in a very relaxed, super state of mind, and I don't want to disrupt him."  He sighed, and licked a little.  "See?  He's breathing quiet, licking & chewing.  All signs that he's relaxing and stretching out.  It's little adjustments, and I've already gotten his hip fixed, and his topline is improving."  She said he'd be good for a short ride in a little bit, and I could see if he was better. 

That time came.  I got on to ride, and at the walk, he was incredibly lazy.  The first thing the BO did was take the whip from me, saying, "You won't need that."  Then, over a few bits of walk, they shortened my right stirrup THREE HOLES.  "You ride so crooked, it's got to be the left stirrup too long from mounting from the ground all the time.  You need to work on riding without stirrups a while to find your balance."  What?!  WTF?  You really think I was going to ride PC2 crooked?!  It's not me, it's Harley!  The judge said to me, "Increase the energy in the walk."  Yeah, no freaking kidding.  I spent WEEKS trying to get a marching walk, and we lost it in 10 minutes.  I was kicking and squeezing, and I got a tiny bit more.  Then the judge said, "Try the trot."  BO and Judge both said, "Hey, look.  He's better.. He's not 100%, but he's better."  Try the canter.  No happening.  I got the same racing, speedy, strung out trot I had on the line.  I brought him back to walk, and said, "Not happening.  He's not giving that, so he must still be hurting."  Judge asked, "Well does he normally give the canter willingly?"  I said, "Yep, sure does."  (What I wanted to say was, "Nah.  I signed up for Prix Caprilli 2 just for the hell of it.  I wanted to see if I could kill myself or my horse today racing at a strung out gallop to a jump rail.")

After a little more trot in the other direction, judge, BO, scribe, and two other barn-folks said, "You should ride intro B.  It'd be good for him, and you could get comments on your geometry.  C'mon. Do it!  It'll be okay."  I said, "On one condition.  Give me back my stick.  I've spent weeks on squeeze, kick, smack, and without that stick in my hand, he knows I won't smack.  If I beat him, you can gladly take it from me, pull me off of him, and report me to any agency.  But I need that, otherwise, his walk and his trot will suck, and he'll get away with old habits."  BO reluctantly handed it back to me, saying, "You really should learn to ride without whip or spurs, but I'm not your regular instructor, so I will let you have it." 

So I did.  And I regret 98% of that test.  The ONLY thing he did well, and comfortable, was the medium walk and free walk.  His trot wasn't forward.  The bend wasn't there.  The circles were ovaly-squares.  His transitions were lazy and sloppy.  When we came down to the first medium walk, he let out a huge sigh.  When I let the reins slide out for free walk, another huge sigh.  And a HUGE free walk.  I scratched his withers with both hands, and muttered with closed lips. "mmhmm", in an upbeat tone of voice.  I wanted him to know he was doing good to tolerate all of it. 

After we finished the test, I walked forward, and saw Judge coming towards us.  "I know BO said she was unlocking his hips, and his topline & withers, and whatever, were out of alignment.  I didn't see anything like that.  I think he just had a rough trip up here, or a bad night, and he's sore on his right hind.  Bute him 1g twice a day for a few days, stay off of him tomorrow and Monday, then see how he rides on Tuesday.  You're a tough lady to stick it out and follow through, but I don't think he needs a chiropractor.  I just think it's in his right hind somewhere."  I agreed.  Were it his topline, or "my crooked riding", he would've dumped me instantly.  Harley doesn't tolerate pain that well, and if he were really that sore in the trot, it wouldn't have been irregularly occurring. 

Just to rub salt in the wound, we earned a 65.9%.  On freaking Intro B.  Humiliating.  Right now, I want to call out the BO by name, and the Judge, by name.  I really do.  I want to smear their names in the mud for telling me a sore-horse was fit for a show, just to give me a crap-score.  Common sense is getting the better of me, so I'll be the bigger person and not do it. 

1g bute last night.  1g bute this morning.  The plan is to repeat bute tonight, and tomorrow morning.  I'll give him a look over later, see if I can't see what's going on.  I just couldn't see a darned thing.  Tuesday, I'll wear the GoPro when I longe him out a little, and maybe it'll be more obvious when I watch it again later. 

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