No, sadly I'm not back in Louisiana. But a Kris Kristoferson song just came up on my iTunes playlist. Ah yes, the "cool days" are so over. I don't think I even have a shred of "cool" left in me. Anyway, it was hot out this morning and I rode my horse despite the 90+ degrees in the arena and now I'm not feeling so good and neither is my daughter. So, we turned on the air conditioning and are lounging around the house the rest of the day. I hope my daughter's not sick because this weekend my husband and I are going to Cle Elum to spectate (or in the dressage world they call it "audit") a clinic with Buck Brannaman. I didn't sign up even remotely early enough to take my horse but I couldn't have afforded to anyway. I've read one of his books and watched the documentary about him and he has so much the same philosophy as Trainer K. but she vehemently denies that and says he's just a showman who does tricks and doesn't really know about horses. I don't think I can convince her otherwise. Maybe if I see him working in person I'll end up agreeing with her but I don't think so.
I did have a good ride this morning even if I got overheated. And I didn't even wear my eventing vest (also known as my "Ninja turtle vest" and "teddy bear vest"). But once again I weighed the possibility of falling off Maiden versus getting heat stroke and heat stroke seemed a much bigger risk especially because she's been really good lately. And when we're working hard she has been spooking less. The other day one of the boarders had a not-too-familiar-with-horses family out visiting at the barn and one of the kids ran up to the big gate that closes off one side of the arena with the aisleway to the barn and we were just coming around the corner at a fast trot. So the little girl runs up right in our blind spot, sees my horse coming around the corner and jumps and screams at the top of her lungs just as we pass. Hell, that spooked me! Maiden was so good though, she just skidded to a stop and I quickly gave her some leg and said, "Keep going" and she picked up the fast trot again and we were off. Luckily, I believe I heard the girl's dad chastising her for that move but regardless I was lucky that's all she did and it gained more trust in me for her.
Maiden has also been stretching really well and hasn't been fighting me with the bit. The whole balking and weaving into the center of the arena thing is a thing of the past too. I was thinking today about the horse I bought in January and how much we struggled to be able to communicate well with each other and how far we've come. We've also built a relationship and trust between us and I'm thrilled by small reminders of that when Maiden reacts to me without me having to barely move because she anticipates what I want her to do. And I'm able to read her better and what she is wanting and needs. She no longer even pins her ears when I go in her stall when she's eating now, she just politely moves her butt over to give me room to come in and continues eating.
I was thinking about the crazy-ass-bitch-dressage-trainer yesterday and how she said one of the horses was pretty spooky so be careful around him and I said, "Yeah, and he doesn't know me," and she said, "What does that matter? He's a horse. He's not a pet! He's a horse and horse's don't know or not know you they just react on instincts!" I completely disagree with that. Well, they do act on instincts and whether they know you are not they're still going to spook and test boundaries and such because that's what they do. But if they have experience with you and know what to expect and have built up a relationship and communication with you they DO react differently than if you've never met each other before. They aren't robots or insects with brains that just say "eat, sleep, mate, try not to die". They do have memories and some emotions ... well, scared, content, angry, scared, relaxed, scared and scared. But that's bullshit that it doesn't matter if they know you or not. I've seen a horse act completely different with Trainer K. than with someone else because they know where they stand with Trainer K and they know what to expect from her because of their experience of her being consistent and fair. Maiden definitely knows one of the trainers in the barn whom she doesn't like and he doesn't like her and she will react with tension just by hearing his footsteps at the other end of the barn. It just pisses me off that there are Grand Prix level trainers like crazy-ass-bitch-dressage-trainer who know so little about horses and then spout off in such an arrogant way like they do and put out all this awful misinformation. Urgh. Don't even get me started.
Gandolf is a good example. He's the beautiful Friesan who a new friend brought to the barn a few months ago. And I mean beautiful! Although he's too thin because like Toad he burns a ton of calories just by standing still and fretting. So, they are struggling with different feeds to try and keep weight on him just like we did with Toad. What worked for us was a supplement called Cool Calories and lots of soaked alfalfa pellets. Her new owner has her on beet pulp which is working well and I think alfalfa. But it took awhile to get the right combination and they're going through that with Gandolf right now. Anyway, he is an example of a horse who reacts differently with people and it is very dramatic. He is a very difficult horse and I don't fully understand why but he is actually the first horse I've ever met where my instinct was "this is a dangerous horse - stay away from him!" He's sweet as can be but he is completely unpredictable and in his own world so when he spooks he will plow right over whatever is in his path. It's like humans don't exist in his world except something in his way. Even Toad at her worst would react if you reminded her you were there and jump away from you. But Toad wasn't "dangerous". She was hot and high strung and spooky and poorly handled and super green but she wasn't "dangerous". I've never actually met a horse until Gandolf that I felt was dangerous. Which is sad because he's so sweet and so anxious and needy that it makes you want to help him. But I'm always offering to lead and groom (and ride) horses for people and Trainer K. and he's the first horse I've said no, I don't have enough experience and I will get hurt. But Trainer K. does fine with him. And it's cumulative. The more she does fine with him, the better he does. But give him to me and I bet you anything he will not act with me the way he acts with Trainer K. And he still freaks out so I don't see a day when I'm going to want to be handling him myself. But he is a dramatic example of a horse who is different with a person he knows and trusts than with a stranger. I would really like to see what Buck Brannaman's take on him would be. In the documentary he met a horse that was truly dangerous and said that no one but a professional should handle that horse. I'm wondering if he'd say the same about Gandolf? Too bad we can't just give him to Buck as a project horse for him because he's a tough guy and I don't want Trainer K. to get hurt. Or Gandolf's owner who is awesome and really nice. Well, I don't want Buck to get hurt either but then he's an old cowboy - I think they're invulnerable.
In happier news Trainer K. just came back from a clinic with Andreas Hausberger from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. I told her I wanted to take Maiden next year but didn't think I'd be welcome because it's all Lipizaans and Warmbloods and Friesans and I'd come waltzing in my rescue horse of unidentified breed. She said I should go and it would be fine and nobody's going to care. And I guess if someone with their $50k Warmblood or their $100K Hanoverian looks down on me with my cute little rescue-horse-that-could then they're a snobby bitch and who cares what they think. Hey, my horse piaffes when she has tantrums so there! Of course, they're poorly executed piaffes but still it's a fancy little tantrum! Trainer K and my guess are that she's Quarterhorse and Thoroughbred but who knows. I need to find a place to do a breed DNA test because I'm curious. Whatever she has in her she's quite lovely so who cares that she doesn't have fancy breeding papers.