I never shared with the blog family when Lola got injured because I honestly believed it would run its course and she would be fine. Long story short: she injured her neck and two days later, she laid down and wouldn't get up. She was down for 10 days and despite still being bright, eating, drinking, and lifting her head to give me a kiss when I crouched down at her head, she just did not want to stand. We lifted her in a sling and she made no attempt to right herself and stand on her own, so a couple of hours before I was ready to leave for the clinic, we made the decision to put my sweet girl to sleep.
If you care about them at all, losing any horse is difficult. Losing a horse that just turned a year old just about kills you. Two weeks ago, I was thinking about the things I would do to get her fitted up to show this fall - a week later, I just hoped she would live, even if she was never anything but a pasture pony. It's enough to make you want to quit. I think mom, dad and I all said that at least once on Friday - that we were quitting horses.
Love you, sweet Lola. <3>3>
|Who's gonna photobomb all my pictures now?|
I won't lie - I had a little meltdown. When stuff like this happens, the only things I can think are that there are people out there who overtly abuse their horses, who don't even care about them at all, and things like this never happen to them. I think that nobody can possibly understand my anguish and heart break, and people far less deserving than I am don't have their horses taken away from them this way. Most of that isn't true, I know - but that's how I react. So you can imagine that the last thing I wanted to do was pack up my gear and my warhorse and go spend time with people who couldn't possibly understand.
(It's wrong, you know. Logical me understands that everyone has a different journey with horses, and that sometimes hearts get broken in different ways than mine do, and it's no less valid or important. I just get unreasonable when I am grieving.)
I packed up my gear and my warhorse and went anyways, and in the end, I was glad.
I went with my friend, Nicole and her gelding, Kizz, and we hauled up the night before. The VHSC is a local club with the coolest facility going. They have a shedrow barn, warm up ring, huge outdoor arena, announcer booth, bleachers and washroom with showers on a site that is fenced and gated. There's also space to tent, which I intended to do until I saw the weather forecast. Thunder and lightning prompted my mom to offer her van with an air mattress, which was really well appreciated by the end of day 1.
Bronwyn had never hauled with another horse before, but she was A1. Even though it took me forever to catch her in the field, she practically put herself on the trailer, which made me smile - if I had jumped out of the way, she would have self loaded, I bet - which is unusual for her - usually there are a couple of tries but she gets on without too much issue. I could have seen a loading issue turning into something monumental, probably involving tears.
Horses settled in great that night and we parked the van not ten feet away from the front of their stalls so we could hear anything going on. It rained hard at some points through the night (hard enough to wake me up), and Nicole didn't sleep a wink.
|Dad was worried she'd come out through that hole in the stall door... so I put her feed bin there. GUARANTEE the girl would not jump over it because that might mean she'd miss a feeding!|
The clinic format was 2 x 1.5-2hr group sessions per day, for two days. We rode at 9 and 1 on both Saturday and Sunday, with four horses in our group - Nicole & Kizz, Myself & Bronwyn, Amanda & Prime and Kendra & Fluke. I had the only war horse. Since there was a double dose of Amanda in the class, I got called Bronwyn, or AmandaBronwyn a lot. :)
The first session, it was pouring down rain. I had enough foresight to pack my "waterproof" coat, but it soaked clean through within about 30 minutes. At the beginning, the clinician, Mitch, asked what I wanted to work on - I said I wanted to work on consistency and making her lighter to my leg aids. I clearly had no idea what I was talking about as it was soon pointed out that I ride with my legs off and then goose my horse when I ask for upward transitions, which causes the frantic rushing that I really hate - which really actually puts me off of working and schooling her. Sometimes you just need eyes from the ground, I guess!
I wish I had the same kind of memory that Nicole had when she blogged about this clinic because I can't, for the life of me, remember what we did in each class. All I know is that my little war horse got better and better, that she gave me every single ounce of work she had in her and then gave me more. That she jigged and danced and was excited to get into the ring and do work. That when I felt like quitting, she just didn't.
We worked on consistent pace, rhythm, bend and I worked at relaxing my leg onto my horse.
At the end of the first day, I overwhelmingly felt grateful. I felt that the things in this life that are worth doing and having are worth the hard work, and the heartache, and the pain, because the good is just so damn sweet. Bad things happen and they shape the way that we respond and deal with other things that cross our path - whether it is making us stronger or better equipped to handle more sorrow, or appreciating the good things a little more. It's hard to embrace misfortune or pain when it comes because it hurts like hell, but (and I've been told my theory is flawed before, but it helps me sleep at night) the way I see it is that so far, every thing that has happened in my life that has made me say "I quit" or felt like the end of my world has become a lesson, a tool in my belt, something I could use later on in life. I had to be there to be here.
So maybe I wouldn't have appreciated Bronwyn's try as much if I hadn't been upset about Lola in the first place. Maybe I would have gotten frustrated when she felt rushy and out of control at first, when she got silly at the mounting block, when she tried to chase Kizz up the knoll to the ring, and not have appreciated as much when she balanced out and gave me a beautiful, round trot on the bit, when she improved at the mounting block. I was in a humble, broken type of place so any goodness was good. And maybe I'm just having a sentimental, nonsensical train of thought here.
75% of the second ride on day one was drizzly, but it cleared up a bit at the end. We were frozen clear through so we drove the van to the nearest town for dinner at a truck stop to warm us up a bit for a second night in the van.
I woke up Sunday good and stiff - but at least it wasn't raining! Gave Bronwyn a little lunge in the warm up ring after breakfast as I imagine she was a little stiff, too, after being in the stall overnight.
Sunday was filled with "ah ha" moments and I said on more than one occasion "THIS is the horse I want to ride!".
I don't know if I have written about it here much but cantering is scary for us (read: me). Bronwyn is unbalanced and rushy (again, because I've been goosing her with my leg when I ask for it). I actually came to this clinic thinking we would not be able to work on the canter with everyone else and we would just trot when it came to canter work. Of course, you know Mitch didn't allow that!
A few of our canter efforts were just exactly like they were at home - I had the feeling of being out of control, unbalanced, leaning to keep the saddle from sliding off, etc. Basically, whenever we canter, I give up and just hang on for dear life and don't steer or ride - I just try not to die. Somehow they weren't as scary - probably because I had someone there saying "hey, you're not gonna die!". We even had one canter where I could not transition her down until I employed some serious outside rein and it didn't fizz me a bit. We were in a huge arena and while she has never actually run away with me, I live in fear that she'll just take off at the canter and I will tumble to the ground. Didn't happen.
We did a lot of "think canter" but not actually cantering to help me stop leaning forward. What I have been doing is throwing my upper body forward several paces before I actually ask for the canter, in order to not get left behind* when I goose her (we see how this is a problem, yes?). We worked a lot on sitting deep with leg on, balancing a beautiful trot and then asking for the canter. If the canter didn't work the way we wanted, transition down until we have that beautiful trot again, and then ask again.
*In watching a variety of shapes and riders over a period of time, I think this can be an issue for all sizes of riders but feel it tends to show up the most in bigger riders. Because we've got a bigger mass, obviously, it's a lot easier to get left behind (especially if you are particularly top heavy), and the last thing I want to do is topple arse over teakettle off the back of my horse. Deep seat really helps this.
The crowning jewel of the entire weekend came in the last lesson. All weekend, I had heard Mitch say to other riders "I can't change anything". I decided I wanted one of those. It's a pretty serious compliment! Toward the end of the last session, we decided to try just one more canter. I sat deep, eyes up, leg on, hands low, and asked for a canter and my war horse produced the most beautiful, balanced, gentle canter I have ever seen her produce. It's the one that I always see her do on the lunge line and wish I could get under saddle. It's a canter I could ride all day and then some! I know from the first stride, I had this huge stupid smile on my face because it just felt so good. And I thought I can't change anything.
I had somehow convinced myself that the canter would always be terrible and we would always just suck at it or only do it on trails or just hang on for dear life.I am now convinced that we can have a beautiful, balanced canter, just like everybody else. I wish there was video!
There are, however, a few pictures from our very last session on Sunday, and I'm going to share!
(READ: I know I will get asked, so I'll tell in advance. Those INCREDIBLE (or eye sore, whichever you prefer ;)) breeches are the Fuller Fillies Rosy Posie denim breeches and they are pretty dang awesome. Not only did I get tons of compliments on them but they were COMFY. Less formal than tans (though I did bring those along as well), and helped Mitch keep track of us (as if you could lose track of the girl and giant warhorse careening around the arena!))
|Making the faces! :) I make a lot of weird faces when I ride anyways... THIS one was on purpose!|