Since the weekend of Quarterfest,(6 weeks ago) I have been trying to diligently ride at least 5-6 days a week at the arena. We had been slowly introducing more leg yields at the jog and lope and working on moving the hips over in hopes that Mr. Tom would work with us on getting a spin and a flying lead change by the end of the summer. We also started riding with one hand (the proper way with one finger between the reins,too!) as well as lope overs and jog overs. The latter by the way,never did get really clean and always felt like Hayden was imitating Bambi on ice.
Along with riding him as much as possible I was also trying to put weight on him in the form of fat. Remember when I hauled him to Quarterfest (7 hours away) he came off looking like a race horse!? We have been pouring Nutrena's XTN,SafeChoice and Empower to him. The last week before I hauled him I added Alfalfa hay to his diet too! He looked good! He had also been separated from the herd in his own paddock and then the last week was pretty much secluded to his stall and the grassy round pen in hopes that he would be used to being by himself and would haul better. Another precaution we did was to give 10ccs of Banamine to him IV before he loaded onto the trailer (as per a vet's recommendation) and put a full hay bag and a bucket of feed and salt in his front of the trailer slot.
At 4pm we were about to find out if the efforts were going to pay off! That's when he would be unloaded after a 3 hour bumpy 2 lane trip to Meridian where I was going to volunteer at the 4-h show.
After finally getting to Meridian up the mostly 2 lane,middle-of-no-where road,I unloaded and set up Hayden in a nice cozy stall right by the arena where all the action was going to be for the next 2 days during our stay. He actually didn't look too bad! He started to eat and drink immediately which was also a relief!
While he settled in,I went to check into a hotel room and unload my stuff. On the way back to the arena it was starting to get BLACK in the sky as a quick but heavy storm blew in.If I was going to ride,I was going to have to hurry up since I would have to saddle him at the trailer that was not out of the pending storm. As I pulled him out of the stall,I noticed he was in a cold sweat. Mind you it was easily 90 degrees and high humidity. A cold sweat was foreign to me so I chalked it up to nerves and went ahead and saddled him. We actually got into the arena before it started raining but as the temperature dropped and the wind blew the now hard,loud rain in sideways,Hayden was feeling suddenly energetic and I wondered if the ground and I were going to meet face to face!
Thankfully Hayden responds well to bending and flexing and understands that an energetic horse will see himself do many squares at the lope and rollbacks if he doesn't calm down soon! He was soon the mindfully,willing horse I loaded onto the trailer! As I walked him around to warm up though,he had actually DRIED off from his nervous sweat only to get all sweaty again after a pretty good hour and a half schooling session.
After his liniment rinse he was ready for bed but it was only about 7:30-8pm and people were still milling around getting their horses settled in. He wasn't sure what to think of all the activity. A before bed check at 10:30pm proved he wasn't too terribly concerned as he was out of feed,hay and water! Me:"Refills?" Hayden: "Yes please!"
The next morning at 7:30 he was saddled and we schooled until 9am when the 4-H roping was supposed to start. We were fortunate enough to be asked to help with the calves and steers so we scored them all out of the box and ran through the stripping chute a few times. Then we acted as honorary hazer and back up for any maverick steers or calves that failed to find the out gate in a timely manner. By 11:30a.m. we were in a full sweat and asked to go bathe (Hayden,not me!)for the next task of the day...
We then posed as a Pleasure Horse for the 4-H Horse Judging Contest. Hayden and 3 pleasure horses...hmmmm...interesting. But ya know what? I don't care what anyone says! He felt good! Sure he could have worked more from the hind end,but his head was down and we didn't pass anyone or run anyone over! We took all our leads and guided around in one hand like we've it done before! HA! We "survived" it is what we were told...
By the end of the day we had 8-9 hours in the saddle! We were both tired from it all and the heat didn't help.Gold Bond would be our friend the next day for sure!
Hayden was found passed out in his stall not caring about the hustle and bustle of the halter and pleasure classes that all the kids were getting ready for. He had eaten all his feed and had drank plenty of water so I just let him sleep without concern.Wonder why he was tired? LOL!
Personally I was envious.While Hayden was snoozing,I was called to duty as Ring Steward and worked with Glen Wells,an AQHA judge from GA. They couldn't have picked a more patient judge for those kids. He was great! He and I sweated gallons as we walked around kids,horses,ponies,and miniatures in the halter and showmanship in that arena. We broke for lunch at 1 or so for 20 minutes and then did the Pleasure,Trail and Western Riding.By 6pm,I handed the reins (clip board and radio) over to someone else since it was time for Hayden and I to make our way to Fayette,AL. for our first clinic and show with the Alabama Stock Horse Association!
After a 2 and a half hour drive on even more of Alabama's back roads,(thanks Garmin)we arrived mostly unscathed to the Agri-center in Fayette by 9pm and once again get unloaded and settled,trailer unhooked.Due to the bad roads and probably still recovering from the day before,Hayden was drawn up a bit.I went ahead and gave him another shot of Banamine just to be on the safe side and then headed to the only place open for dinner-McDonald's. Found our nifty,retro-without-even-trying,roadside inn and crashed after a shower and phone call home.
The clinic started at 8sm so most of us were all mounted by 7-7:30 and were ready to "get our learn on"! We were split into the Novice and the not-so-Novice groups with the latter partaking in the Reining Clinic hosted by Ed Wilson and the Novice's hanging out with Flo Nix to learn the Pleasure.
In the reining clinic,Ed asked right off the bat what it was we wanted to learn or work on. I of course,not being the shy one in the bunch,responded that my goals were to have a spin and a flying lead change by the end of the SUMMER.So we immediately started doing exercises for the spin. Turns out I haven't opened my opposite leg enough for Hayden to move into.What?..Rider error? No way! Ha!
Then we started the exercises for the lead changes. Simply put,Ed showed us how to leg yield to the left as we lope left then on the straight away,swap legs and lift the right rein. Hayden accomplished this our first time and even swapped in the rear first! Ed asked me how this was accomplished and I simply told him I had moved his hip over! I guess all that slow work has paid off! I was super stoked!
After the reining class we swapped and I went to learn how the Pleasure Class goes.This is less exciting than the reining for sure but definitely important!
After lunch we schooled the trail course out in the sun and nearly died of heat stroke! Ok! Maybe that's a little drastic but it was definitely hot out there!
We finally made our way back into the arena to practice on the flag for the Working Cow Horse and then worked a live cow on the fence briefly. Hayden remembered everything from last summer with the Hydrabull and the refresher course at Quarterfest with Mike Major. Now if only we had worked on how to make the cow go down the fence and do circles! Those parts remain a mystery to me!
The worst electrical storm came through with lightening hitting close and often all around us! This made getting to the trailer to untack and back to the barn a lot more interesting! Nothing like making a mad dash and sliding stop on the lake of slick,red clay at your trailer! As I swung off I nearly slid to the ground! Normally I would tie up my latigo and girth before taking off Hayden but in this circumstance with lightening hitting,I just threw that 40lb. saddle into the trailer to clean up later! Hayden wouldn't be getting bathed until later either!
After 8 hours in the saddle during a hot,sticky June Alabama day, I was ready for a cold shower and dinner!Luckily I was asked to join Chad and Anna Smith for Mexican and we made our way to the air conditioned eatery in town.
Dinner was filled with great conversation and not so great Nachos Supreme.But I digress since this isn't a food review blog is it?!
Hayden was fed and bathed which meant it was time for me to get back to the hotel and shower before getting a good night's sleep! I was going to need it!
The show was scheduled to start at 9am with the Open Cow Horse Class first. Although I have seen the class before and have even scribed it a few times,I have NEVER actually done it! Not even in a lesson! So I figured I would watch a few of the other Open riders first....NO SUCH LUCK! I was drawn to go first! Great! So I asked around to some of the veteran Cow Horse Class folks for a brief synopsis of what to do!
My first cow comes out and it's the slow cow from the day before and it wasn't moving any faster today. So after trying to get it to move this time with no success,I asked for a new cow. The second cow shot of out of the pen like it had just been shot out of a cannon! I felt like we boxed it no problem, and then it shot out off the fence towards the middle of the arena! Not having ANY experience I thought the right thing to do was to make it look like we were taking it down the fence.It turned to go back towards the herd and we raced it back before it could make it to the fence. So then I worked it down the other side of the arena,turned it back and proceeded to circle one way and then the other. This is when I heard someone yell from the outside the pen and I thought they were yelling at me. I stopped since I thought I had worked the cow enough...turns out the yell wasn't for me!Great.No whistle was blown and I had no idea how I did at all...
Thanks to Stack/Belskie for the photo!
Next was the Trail and Pleasure Class that were run in the same pen;the Trail Course set in the middle of the pen and the Pleasure was done on the rail around it. The Trail course consisted of the following obstacles/maneuvers: gate,jog serpentine,bridge,side pass,back through L,jog overs,lope overs and figure 8 drag. Hayden did them all but could have been a little smoother in his approach to the drag.
In the Pleasure it's all transitions on the rail from extended walk,jog,extended jog,lope,stop,roll back,lope,extended lope,trot,stop and back. Hayden wasn't bad but could have been smoother in his transitions...
Finally the last class for us was Open Reining! We were to execute Pattern I from AQHA. It had been 15 yrs or more since I had competed in reining and Hayden had never done it! We just learned how to do a Flying Lead Change the day before where we used 2 hands. Today we would have to adhere to the rules and use one hand. Gee. No pressure!
We went in and jogged to the center. Hayden didn't like the thought of being in there by himself and I could feel him want to drift back to the gate where everyone was. We came to a stop and paused. Spun 3 times to the right.Paused.Spun 3 times to the left.Paused.Picked up right lead and circled 2 fast circles.Took a deep breath and cued him for a leg yield to the right then asked for the left-and GOT IT! At this point it was ALL I could do to not squeal in delight and make a high five motion! Circled to the left 2 large fast circles.Cued for the leg yield to the left,then cued for the right lead-AND GOT IT!!!! Yes ma'am! Took a deep breath and blew it out getting ready to run and slide and roll back.Executed perfectly,picked up left lead run down the other side of the rail,slide stop and roll back right. Right lead to the other side,sliding stop and back up at least 10 ft. and then paused to show completion. WHEW! We got our flying leads! We stayed on pattern! YAY!
At this point I am on cloud 9 and shaking from the excitement! I got off Hayden and hung around to watch a few more runs and then text Mr. Tom to share the news!Texting is so hard when you're shaking!
The results would not be posted for a few more hours so I had plenty of time to bathe Hayden down and get hooked up and start getting ready to go. I also had time to visit with some of the great people that are apart of the AL Stock Horse Association. The group is small but growing fast and I hope the family atmosphere continues to stay the way it is! Everyone was so supportive of one another! I have not felt that kind of camaraderie in a long time!
Finally just before 4pm after the horse trailer was hooked up and loaded,I found out that I had actually placed 3rd in the All Around for the Open Division! Our FIRST show! I was dumbfounded! It made the trip home that much easier since I was on this natural high!
RECAP for the trip
660 round trip miles
3rd in the Open Division All Around
15 bottles of Gatorade
20 bottles of Water
24.5 hours in the saddle
20 new friends made
Granted this is just our first show of many but I feel like we have come so far since we've started this journey! And just in the last 6 weeks our focus and drive has paid off! No doubt the trips to the gym doing ab workouts the last 4-5 weeks has also helped! Just learning how to focus and block out everything else has been a huge help to get this far! Learning how to relax and breathe has proved important too!
I think it's safe to say Hayden and I have entered a new level to our journey and I am super excited to see where the next level will lead us!