It's hotter than usual around our area right now. For us hotter than usual is in the mid 90's. It's not too bad, especially when you have central air (urgh - I feel so guilty about that but hey, the previous owners of the house put it in so why not use it those two weeks out of the year?) but it makes it hard to do some things. Like work in the garden in the sun if you're say me - who grew up here and my body thinks weather in the 80's is hot. It also makes it hard to work the horses because they too are from here and their bodies can't handle working in the heat because they're Pacific NW horses and they aren't acclimated to it. So, some of my outdoor projects and cleaning the garage type projects are on hold until the temperatures get back down into the 80's.
But with the hot weather comes the desire to "do more fun stuff". So Sunday we took the girl fishing at a farm up the street that has two big stocked ponds with trout. They aren't horribly over stocked like I've seen some, but enough so that you're pretty sure to catch a fish. In fact, my daughter caught three in a short period of time. I think that may have been an anomaly though because other kids weren't catching any and her BFF only caught one - even after we'd cut our daughter off and said three trout was by far enough for us. As it turned out, the guy who owns the farm apparently does not kill the fish for you so while everyone was standing there looking horrified I took the the task of trying to get the hook out of the fishes mouth - which was a big catastrophe for the first one and I had to ask the farm owner for help. Then I was the one elected by default (as in no one else wanted to do it) to kill the fish. I felt kind of bad for him but I also wanted to put him out of his misery so he didn't die a slow agonizing death suffering. It took me about eight wacks on the head before it killed him.
The second fish I was a little better at killing and it went faster but I still said, "I'm sorry, Buddy. Thank you for providing us with a meal," and felt sad. The when my daughter's BFF caught a fish her dad was having trouble getting the hook out so I helped him do it, then he said, "Since you seem to be so good at it I'll just let you kill him," to which I said, "I'm not very good at it," and he said, "No, no, please. I insist. You seem to be enjoying it," to which I said, "I'm not enjoying it," and he said, "Oh sure you are ..." to which I said, "Fine. But I'm telling your wife I had to kill your daughter's fish for you!" I'm kind of glad he didn't do it because this trout was 18 inches long and had a really big head and wasn't even phased the first two times I wacked him on the head, so the third time I hit him so hard that it killed him instantly and blood flew out of his mouth and splattered all over the inside of the white bucket. That's when I decided that I was screwed and it looked like I had a long future ahead of me of being a vegetarian.
The owner of the farm did offer his services for cleaning the fish - which was good because I haven't helped someone clean a fish since I was in 4th grade and couldn't remember how. My daughter stood up on an upside down bucket so she would be right there to see what he was doing. He made it look really easy - cut the fish open and scoop out the cuts all in one graceful scoop. I know when I try to do that it is not going to go even remotely like that. Then he told my daughter which organs were which and then showed her how if you poke at the heart it still beats. While he was cleaning our fish a little boy came up and said he'd been trying for a long time and couldn't catch any fish at all and what was he doing wrong? So the farm owner cut off a piece of fish guts and held it out to the little boy on the end of his knife and said, "Here, put this on your hook and you'll have one in a split second!" To which I said, "Fish guts? They'll eat their own kind's guts?" and he said, "Oh yeah, they smell blood and they pile on it like vultures. They'll eat anything, especially each other." To which I muttered, "So they're cannibals. That's disgusting. Phwew! Thank god I don't have to feel bad about eating them! I don't have to be a vegetarian after all!"
And speaking of things that people make look easy and go terribly wrong when a person like me who has no idea what they're doing tries it ... I learned a little about driving mini's the other day. When I say "driving mini's" I mean walking behind a miniature horse with long reins like you are driving in a cart with them (only without a cart yet because you don't use a cart until you and them are well trained). My friend, Star took my favorite little mini-stallion, Rex, out for his first training session on long reins with a surcingle and halter. It looked so easy - or at least easy if you already know how to ride a horse. How different could it be? So I asked Star if I could try and she handed me the reins and said, "Hold them just like in dressage" and next thing you know Rex is spinning and bucking and freaking out. While he's dragging me by the long reins across the arena, Trainer Jim (a new trainer at our barn who was actually Trainer K.'s trainer in the past) yelled out, "Star - oh Star - could you do something for me?" Then he said "Ask --- to give you back the reins for a second, ok?" So I handed them to Star and Trainer Jim said, "Now, don't give them back to her again. That is a recipe for disaster!" It was seriously as bad as if you had put a person who'd never ridden a horse before on the back of a horse who had never been started under saddle. I had no idea that driving could go so wrong. I seriously thought, if I can ride and work with a horse on the ground why couldn't I just instantly know how to drive a horse? But it doesn't work like that - there is a lot to it that is complex and isn't readily apparent. Much like riding. So, now I have a new thing I want to learn.
Unfortunately for Star she had a family emergency today so I took her horses in and out of turn-out for her and fed them lunch. Rex was a perfect gentleman as always but I had some trouble with Sonny. He's her Arab that broke down the arena gate a couple weeks ago when he panicked so badly and tried to jump it and didn't make it over. He decided when it was time to come in from the pasture that he wouldn't let me put his halter on. So, after a few minutes of trying I said, "Fine, stay out here until last!" which he hates because it makes him panic to be the last one out at pasture. But when I came back from him after the other horses were back in the barn he was not only not letting me put the halter on but was now panicked on top of it. I was trying to ascertain whether the not letting me put the halter on was fear or being a stubborn jerk. It appeared to be a bit of a mixture of both. I tried a couple times and he whipped his head away and scooted across the paddock away from me. So I walked around next to him for a minute or so, dangling the lead rope trying to figure out how I could get that around his neck so I could convince him to hold still long enough to get the halter on. I thought I could toss it and make it over his neck - and I know him well enough to know that if he had the lead rope over his neck that he is well trained enough he would stand still because that is what you do when there's something rope or rein like on your neck. Unfortunately, I am not a cowgirl and the lead rope just flew up in the air and scared him and went no where near landing over his neck. So he went and stood in the corner with his face against the corner of the fence and I was able to walk right up to him and put the halter around his neck. I led him away from the gate a little ways, then slowly was able to get the halter off his neck and over his nose and then he was a perfect gentleman all the way back to the barn. I have no idea what changed that he gave in but I'm glad it did.
I had a good ride on Toad during training today. We worked on my steering and her listening to my steering and getting her to listen to my leg. I was a lot calmer today riding her although I was still in hyper-alert mode and seeing and hearing everything that might make her spook - apparently spooking myself way more than she was going to spook. I have developed my own fear of going by the big open arena gate at the parking lot end of the arena because that's where she spooked and I fell off. So, we rode by there only once today right on the rail, most of the time I turned her a few feet before the wall. The one time we rode by a breeze came through and I felt her sides start to twitch and her whole body tense up. So baby steps for me. Usually it is the horses scared of that big open side of the arena but then I'm pretty sure I'm kind of a Thoroughbred myself. So maybe calmer is not the right word - but more confident with her. I felt more confident about giving her instructions and insisting on her listening than I have in the past. And it worked well. She let out some nice "starting to relax" or at least "resigning to listening to me" sighs which she doesn't always do for me. Once again, I felt like today was another positive step in the bond that's being built between us.