I haven't been posting because I've been stuck. No, not like the horse in this picture, though this is exactly how I feel. (Photo from here.)
Let me first explain what "stuck" is. It's not getting your head stuck in a chair, no matter how coy and attention getting that might be.
Stuck is much less dramatic and possibly even less useful. A local riding school has some very reliable school horses. They can be relied upon to do what you ask, or perhaps not. But they won't do anything stupid or dangerous.
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, they get stuck. Maybe they will have been standing in a group while their riders jump individually, or while their riders were getting instruction on what to do next. At any rate, when the group of horses moves off, one (or more) might decide not to. Their riders will flail away with their legs banging the horses' sides in an effort to move the horse forward, but the school horse (or horses) don't budge. They are stuck.
You've seen it. You may have experienced it. The horse is stuck, all four feet planted on the ground. It's not going anywhere. It is stuck.
The instructor has to intervene. She pulls them forward. They come unstuck and it's like it never happened. "Sometimes they just get stuck," she tells the rider.
I've got something that I just have to write and don't want to. It's not hard, but there's a lot of it. I've done all the pre-work, the research and interviews. And try as I might, I can't make myself move forward. I am as stuck as one of those school horses, and there is no one but me to get me unstuck. I'm not doing a good job of urging me forward, but I am doing a good job of at least limiting fun distractions, like blogging.
I came a little unstuck this morning, since the deadline was last week (oops!). I'm a third of the way through. So long as I don't get stuck again (this is not writer's block -- this is an inner protest) I should be finished by Wednesday.
And that will unstick the rest of my life.
I need to post about riding horses in the ocean in the Bahamas last month. I need to blog about the Pony Club Quiz Rally, and especially tell you about the shoe table. But for now, I just need to stay unstuck. Be back soon.
Lily went to riding camp last week. The instructor's dog, Savannah, kept looking for a shady spot because it was usually in the 90s. If you'll look in the shadow of this jump, you'll see the dog. The instructor kept getting Savannah to move to a safer spot, but she especially liked the shade cast by this jump and kept returning.
It was probably a good experience for the horses to jump a jump-with-panting-dog combination, and none of them refused, but it's still not the best choice on the dog's part.
Between outages of almost every kind caused by lightning (now we've been struck THREE times this summer) and multiple fun trips plus a very welcome guest, I'm so far behind I may not be able to catch up. But I'll give it a shot.
Buddy is better, thank goodness. Thanks to all for your well-wishes and good hints on how to get him to take his medicine.
More later. Hope you're having a great, lightning-free summer!
This photo was taken in 2006 when Lily borrowed a school pony, Tudor, to ride in an event because Buddy kept bucking her off. Tudor was great and they had a wonderful ride and a great time. Too bad their dressage circles were, um, not very circular. Tudor was a good boy and did much to build her confidence. Since Buddy was doing a lot of bucking, I regretted that I hadn't found Tudor before the riding school did. I was one week too late.
If I had found this horse before we got Buddy, I would have bought him. He's a cute little QH-type kid's horse who's just perfect. He is fun and willing, and the riding school bought him a week before I called the man who was offering him for sale. Tudor was the one who got away.
Buddy is fancier and bigger. And Buddy is absolutely wonderful (now), though he will still buck. But I still have a soft spot for Tudor. I've tried to figure out ways to get him. And now he's available.
Here's the problem -- and the proposition. A while back Tudor went to summer camp and discovered that if he bucked, the little kids fell off and he was rid of that problem. So they put more little kids on him, and he bucked them off, too. So they put big kids on him. Guess what. Splat! Yes, indeed, he learned to buck the big kids off, the experienced kids, you get the picture. So the head of the riding school worked with him and restored him to respectability. An older, more experienced student then leased him and absolutely loves him.
But he's bucked her off twice. The second time, she broke her ankle. So now he needs a new home, though she still comes out to pet him, groom him, love him and wants to start leasing him again. The riding school owner is over Tudor and looking to find him a new career, new owner, new whatever.
The riding school owner, knowing how much we like Tudor, called with a proposition. We can have Tudor and work past this little difficulty. Lily is older now and very much experienced with a horse that bucks. When Tudor is back to the sweet self we all remember and love, we can sell him and get whatever we can for him, minus a small sum to go back to the riding school owner. Actually, it's not all that small of a sum. If we can't sell him, she'll take him back.
Paul immediately said, "no" because he is a wise man who knows that horses like to eat. Lily immediately said, "yes" because she's been looking for an opportunity like this. I immediately said, "Hmmm."
There are lots of reasons why this might be a great idea. We like the horse. It would feel good to rehabilitate him and help him go to a suitable home. Lily is trying to save money for a fancy warmblood (Buddy is half QH -- doesn't that make him a warmblood?). I like a project. I like Tudor. I like the riding school owner.
I called Jane today to run it past her. Jane doesn't have a crystal ball, but she does have a better sense of, well, better sense.
There are a lot of reasons that it might work. But between the depressed price of horses, the danger of bodily harm to Lily and the unlikelihood of us being able to make a permanent change in his behavior, I don't think I'll be able to say yes.
I'm sure Lily could ride him and get him where he didn't buck her off. But I'm not sure that he wouldn't buck off the next person. We don't need him, couldn't keep him, would have to sell him. I'm not sure we could find the right buyer.
And we're already very fond of this little horse. This might just be heartbreak on a stick.
At 13, Lily's too young to get a summer job, other than babysitting. There are no babies that need sitting in our neighborhood. But something even better has come through -- a neighbor and friend who does competitive driving and dressage needed a working student. So, Lily has a job, a place to go in the morning and she's learning a lot. Right in the neighborhood.
I just hope it's paying off for her employer/teacher. (Lily gets lessons, formal and informal, in exchange for riding horses, doing light chores and having fun at the neighbor's barn. Too good to be true!)
They usually quit around lunch time, which is a good thing because it's 100 degrees today. Lily rode three horses (including Buddy). She looks worn out but happy.
I was so afraid she'd spend the summer in front of the TV, and while she's getting her TV hours in (and has been reading a lot), she's gainfully employed in the morning.
Summer -- I love you!
And if you did win it, does that mean you won?
We're trying to take the focus off of ribbons. Some reasons for this are practical. Buddy is the cutest thing on four hooves but he's not fancy. He's nice, even handsome to my eyes, but not fancy. He's extra cute, too, when you get to know him. When competing with fancy, cute doesn't win unless fancy screws up. Fancy does sometimes screw up and cute sometimes performs spectacularly, but you can't count on it. So, unless we win the lottery, Lily will be competing on cute, handsome, unpredictable and full-of-yahoo Buddy. She has won some blues on him, including at his first horse trial last December. They work hard. But so do lots of other kids and horses.
So, how do you measure success other than by ribbons? Several ways. First, set goals for the competition. What's one thing you or your child have been working on, some special challenge? For Lily and Buddy, who went to their second horse trials last weekend (and competed two levels up from what they did last December), the goal was for Buddy to have a good experience and for Lily to have fun. Translation: no refusals and no taking off bucking. And an accurate dressage test for good measure.
I was proud of Lily for her preparations. We'll only foot the bill for one riding lesson a week and she'd had her one lesson last week. She doesn't take dressage lessons, but a neighbor of ours will give her lessons if asked. Lily knew she was weak in dressage, so she arranged a lesson with the dressage-riding neighbor and paid for it herself. That took a big chunk of her available funds, but that's what she wanted. And they worked hard. (Wonderful neighbor!)
So, on Saturday at the horse trials, Lily was first after dressage, turning in a decent ride in a division where she was the youngest rider. (She had also made the extra effort and was the only one who was braided. Really bad braiding, however. Need to work on that.) Her score was 30.
She was riding in the Special Novice division, which was her first timed cross-country ride. Since Buddy gets yahooey and bold, her coach (new -- another story) told her to do lots of transitions from the canter to the trot during cross-country to remind Buddy that he needed to stay focused on his rider, not all the fun he was having. Because Buddy is basically a frat boy all about partying all the time. Cross country? Yahoo!
Lily learned how to work a digital watch with a timer. She wrote the time limits for cross-country in different colors on her bare arm. She wrote the possible time limits at the half-way point in more colors and in more places. She looked like a tattooed WWII sailor. So she seemed really focused on this new aspect of cross-country: the optimum time.
(Photo of walking around before time to go in starting box, click to enlarge.) She and Buddy left the starting box at a beautiful canter and put in a hunter-round-quality performance for the first part of cross-country, the part we could see across the big field leading to the woods. It was perfect. Then she disappeared into the woods. After a while, they came out again at another place. Now Buddy was faster. Buddy's testosterone or something was back (he's a gelding). The blood of his great-grandaddy Swaps, who won the Kentucky Derby and broke several speed records, was stirred up and Buddy was going. (After all, it was Kentucky Derby Saturday). Buddy wasn't wild, though. Buddy was just having fun. The good thing was that he was less likely to refuse in this state of mind. The bad thing was -- well, the bad thing was that he started bucking after an uphill jump. We watched. Lily stayed on, then pulled him to a halt. Whew! Good girl! That's one of the things that she feared would happen. It happened -- and she handled it beautifully.
They cantered on to the bank and other more challenging obstacles. They no longer looked like a hunter round, but bold eventers. Buddy even jumped things that would normally have scared him. Attaboy! Attagirl! And they headed on home but maintained control. Awesome!
All goals achieved. Everybody had fun. No stops. Bucking controlled. Great ride..... Except, the first place holder after dressage -- the one with all the times written in Sharpie marker all over her arms -- had not only put her watch on UPSIDE DOWN, but forgot to check it at the halfway or any other point. And though they were doing a beautiful job in the parts we could see, Lily decided to walk, with some trotting, on the path through the woods.
This may have been a good choice. Maybe Buddy would have been even bolder (and worse) when they came out of the woods. But it would have been nice if she'd at least checked her watch. She had all kinds of time faults, which we didn't know about because the scorer (almost all volunteers are moms and dads whose kids ride at this farm) made a mistake and posted Lily as still in first place after cross-country. Oh well.
Due to parental error (that would be me, speaking of checking your watch), Lily had to rush to show jumping. Her warm up consisted of a fast trot there, and she kept hurrying when they entered the ring. She had quite the cowboy show-jumping ride. No mistaking this for a hunter round. Buddy was bold, she was still hurrying from her rush to the ring, and at one point they were going so fast she had to pull him up before a jump and circle (he would have jumped it -- yahoo!) to get herself organized. The right decision in terms of living a long and happy life. The wrong decision if she didn't want to get faults for a refusal. Still hurrying, she almost came off on a monstrous leap Buddy made over a fan-spread jump, followed by a sharp turn. The crowd gasped. Was she coming off? No! She regained her stirrups and balance and galloped to the next hairpin turn and jump. Wheee! They may have walked through the woods, but they were putting on a show now. When they left the ring, the ringmaster said, "And that was our speed round."
Not pretty. Not the way we had walked it and planned it. That rush to the ring had lost Lily most of her IQ points and whatever recollection she had of walking the course, planning the turns and her approach speeds. But she handled it. And if she'd been given the chance to be there early enough to catch her breath and school, she probably would have ridden it more conservatively and not had to circle before a jump. So I learned something, too. (Wait by the ring because they're going faster than you think -- show jumping was in numerical order and there were no loudspeakers broadcasting the show's progress, so we were eating hot dogs at the trailer when Lily should have been warming up. Excuses, excuses. Lucky not to be disqualified, though Lily did arrive within the time limit. I called later to apologize to the organizer.)
Anyway. When the ribbons were handed out, Lily was in last place. She knew she'd lost points for the stop in show jumping. But she thought she was in first place after cross-country because that's what the posted score said. She didn't know about the monstrous time faults for her pleasant walk through the woods.
Oh well. Score poster error. Not a big deal. It's a friendly event and everybody is just doing their best.
So she went from first to last. She lost after almost winning. But it was an absolutely fabulous day, filled with success after success after success in all the things that count the most for the future.
I asked her if she wished that she'd signed up for the division that jumped the same course but wasn't timed. "No, Mom. It's just a ribbon. If I hadn't been timed, I wouldn't know I needed to work on that."
Bless her. I'm resisting the urge to go out and buy her a big ribbon, because I think she's a winner.
But we don't measure success in ribbons, so I'll restrain myself. (Photo below from dressage warm up, click to enlarge.)
Second outing with the new used Yukon. Everything is great. Buddy hopped in the trailer with extra energy. We got off on time. We pull out on the highway and I glance over my shoulder before I change lanes only to see something that almost makes me scream:
Yes, Tiger is in the backseat on the way to riding lessons. He's quite comfy and not at all bothered.
It's too far down the road to turn around. So while Lily has her lesson I cat-sit Tiger. It wouldn't do to have him "Christen" the new truck. Tiger even has a chance to look at the scenery.
He never once meowed. He's always up for a road trip. He spent the day with the horse vet once by accident, going on all his rounds.
Lily said, "Don't let him get out of the truck. He might hurt the dogs." Tiger has attitude. A big one.
Lily was a member of the United States Pony Club for a couple of years when she was younger. I was also a member when I was a young teenager, though they weren't nearly as organized or picky then. I've written a little about them before here. Pony Club is why we have so many blue buckets.
Lily's 13th birthday is coming up and what she wants most of all is to re-join Pony Club. So I said yes and began the process.
I remember the people from before. They are horse moms who volunteer their time to help kids learn how to ride well and safely. They're concerned about the animal's welfare and teach the children and teenagers how to take the best care of their horses. It really is a wonderful organization filled with nice people and great kids.
But it's a little rigid. I couldn't find out if there was anyway to get Lily's application in fast enough for them to allow her to attend this coming weekend's meeting on horseback. Finally it became clear that I was the only one with a sense of urgency, which is fine because they are volunteers who have a life, too. It's not their fault that we didn't know we were going to re-join Pony Club until last week. Disappointing, though. I would have been glad to pay for FedEx or do whatever, if only somebody would answer my questions and say they'd help.
And though it's been more than two years since Lily was rated, which determines what a child can do at a meeting -- whether she's trotting over a pole over the ground or cantering a 3-foot course -- she'd have to ride with the group that has that low rating. I know, I know. They have their rules and there's a good reason for them. Lily is not too interested in riding at the level she was two years ago, and I'm not too interested in hauling her an hour-and-a-half one-way to a meeting to ride at that level, either.
And, since she's not been an active member, she can't go to the rallies.
Sigh. I can see when I'm whipped. And Lily's quite disappointed.
Maybe she can join next year and get re-rated. Trouble is, the next rating requires an extensive record-keeping history of the horse's condition, care and the money required to support this hobby. Lily's all set to do it and has started. I wonder if it will count since she's keeping the records while not a member?
I'm afraid I know the answer. They don't make it easy to meet the requirements or get the answers, which is a shame.
It's one thing to make the horses jump over fences. It's another to make the moms and kids jump through hoops.
I hope we can work it out in the future. I hate for her to miss out almost as much as I hate beating my head against a wall.
Lily's latest teacher is doing something interesting. She talks about how Lily needs to earn Buddy's trust, and how Lily needs to learn to trust Buddy.
Nobody has taken this angle before, at least not head-on. Lily's a good age for this concept, which can ward off a lot of problems and change their relationship. Lily loves Buddy, but doesn't necessarily trust him (nor should she.) But now they've both gotten better, and it's time to build trust and a partnership.
I like this approach. Will keep you posted.
In many ways, we've got our eyes shut about Buddy. We see what we want to see. Lily had a riding lesson yesterday with a new person because (1) her usual teacher just had a baby and (2) her usual teacher's price just went way up. This new person is an assistant that her usual teacher hired. Lily, Buddy and the new teacher seem to have very good chemistry, and the new teacher appeals to Lily's sense of adventure and risk-taking.
In other words, I don't necessarily keep my eyes open.
The new teacher watched them for a while and then said, "Lily, what you need to know is that Buddy is a 'Take-Advantage-of-You kind of horse.'"
He's so very sweet, gentle and personable. He wouldn't do anything like that, take advantage of his rider?
But we're on to him. And he's really, really teaching Lily how to ride.
And like many bad boys, he also knows how to work us. This morning he came whinnying and running up the fence to see me. He makes me feel so special. It wasn't because I was going to feed him. He loves me for myself alone. Right?
Every morning before Lily leaves for school he comes to the fence so she can kiss him on the nose. (There's always a possibility she has food. But truly, he's just about the friendliest horse you can find.)
Charming. Naughty. Capable and trying. That's our Buddy. Oh wait. Lily keeps reminding me. HER Buddy.