Last night I may have traumatized my cat for life.
First: I'm blind as a bat. And at night, I may as well be wearing a blindfold. If I need to get up to pee, I kind of feel my way with my bare feet and outstretched hands.
Anyway, I'd gone into the bathroom, and Eddie, as is his wont, was laying on the bathmat. We exchanged greetings. He's a talker.
When I finished and headed back to bed, he came with me. I stepped carefully and if I looked closely could see his darker shadow - he's black - stalking ahead of me.
At the side of the bed, he paused right in front of me.
I wanted to climb back in, and knowing that he's getting on in years and his former leap onto the bed now involves some claws and scrabbling, I bent over to pick him up, grabbing him front and back.
When I grabbed the back end, I felt something sort of cylindrical and a bit dry. Being an experienced cat owner I assumed a poop hadn't quite made it out the chute into the litter box.
And again, being an experienced cat owner, I tried to remove it - I could go back and wash my hands again, and with both horses and cats I am intimately familiar with animal poop.
I grabbed it, wiggled it, bent it. It seemed stuck. I flipped him over as I walked back towards the bathroom, intending to turn the light on to see what was going on.
Just before I switched the light on and at this point my eyes having somewhat adjusted to the dark to be able to see a bit, I looked down to see a little pink cat penis, now released, retreating back into its sheath.
And a very confused - though perhaps smug - cat looking up at me.
I apologized profusely, washed my hands really well, and we both went back to bed.
What a fun weekend! On Saturday, we all packed up (7 horses, 4 older adults, 3 younger adults, and a kid) and trailered up to Biddeford, Maine so that we could be coached in a different venue, preparation for the NERHA show coming up Friday. It was about an hour and 40 minutes, and I swear, the barn owner's husband - he drove one of the trucks - should do stand-up. It's not like his being this funny was a surprise; he's one of my favorite people and cracks me up all the time. But by about an hour and 20 minutes into the ride, I was actually starting to worry about laughing so hard I'd pee my pants.
Anyway... my pants stayed dry, and we all used the facilities, tacked up our horses, and started.
The indoor was smaller than ours, narrower and not as long, compounded by the fact that about 1/5 of one end was blocked off with fence panels with various farm detritus behind them. Given that the idea was to try to simulate the show experience - warm up and showing both - it felt a bit daunting. We also had to make what was left into 2/3 show pen, 1/3 warm up pen, with a wall post as the line of demarcation, so it felt even smaller. I hadn't expected to feel anxious, so I was surprised it bothered me as much as it did.
Jake Masterson, the trainer, put each of us through a run, then had us break the bits down... first, spin, then discuss: how did that feel? How do you think you could have made it better? (Also: this is practice: if you need to do something here to make them wake up, do it!). Then move on to the circles... etc.
My discomfort with the size of the arena flavored how I did things, I think. We were supposed to - and needed to, given how raw the day was - work our horses in the "practice pen" area when he wasn't working one-on-one with us. The owner of the property and another lady were also riding in there, so it was busy and cramped, which made trying out some of the suggestions Jake told us to practice difficult.
Anyway, I was pretty unhappy with a few things. Jake is good about helping you work through your issues though. Still, I was getting tired, and Cinch was getting impatient and a bit pissy - one time he managed to flick the reins up while throwing his head down, with both reins landing between his ears, on a large fast circle. I got them back, but that was one for the books. :) I'd been on him for over two hours at that point though, so when that one-on-one was done, I got off, loosened his girth and brought him to a cross-tie, gave him some water, got myself lunch (he'd had hay on the trailer but we didn't bring any into the aisles) and then got back on. While I was gone, some of the other ladies were worked, while others also took a short break. My friend Angel (whose horse we thought might have navicular disease despite being young, fit, and athletic, about a year ago - it turned out he had a deep bruise that was only able to be diagnosed with MRI, he went on months long stall rest, changes in shoeing, in supplements, and finally, slowly brought back to work a few months ago) also took her horse out - though he's been back to work for a few months now, that was a long time for her to be on his back and she did not want to jeopardize the progress he's made. She's not showing at the end of the week, either, so she didn't feel a pressing need.
It was a breather both Cinch and I needed: when I went back in we worked the pattern one last time - and it certainly wasn't flawless but all the pieces were done much better, for a better whole.
Soon after, we all packed up and headed back to Dunstable. It was a long day, but it felt like we accomplished something.
Sunday's lesson, with Angel and her horse too, was outstanding. We warmed up outside because it was GORGEOUS out, and Cinch and I did perfect circles, rating down for the small slows with barely a twitch. Angel and TMan worked circles too, though she's only started doing pattern work with him again, so not quite as perfect... but pretty darn good.
Then back inside. Jake is helping me ride Cinch's sliding stop... by making Cinch do a better sliding stop. By getting him to drop his head and round up when he slides, the stop isn't as jarring... which means I don't brace for it, so we're both happy. It's still a work in progress, with me not quite getting it, so he had me run Cinch at the door, pushing him until the very last minute (or he slammed his head into the door, which was hardly likely), then sitting deep.
Well, every run at the door got his head down and his back up and back legs tucked, then I rolled back and ran him the other way and got his head down, back up, legs tucked... and it was comfortable, I wasn't bracing, and it finally is starting to click.
I took Cinch in, gave him his mango and peach coconut water (he literally drools when he sees the bowl coming out), groomed him up and put him back in his stall with carrots and an oat and honey granola bar waiting for him.
After the lesson I went out and got the Great White Wh^H^H^^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Tico, cleaned him off (he's FINALLY starting to drop more coat!), found another tick (crap!), cleaned it up and tacked him up and we went out to the power lines. By that time it was around 4PM and other horses were being hayed, so he wasn't exactly thrilled with me.
Photos below courtesy of Elizabeth deSmet, who loves taking photos of me with my head in embarrassing places.
We ambled out to the far end of the property, through the gate, and to the right, eventually angling over to the left and the power lines, to follow them back towards the pond. A dirt bike had been going out there when it was still pretty wet, and had dug up the dirt in a few places, but we walked by them without much of a lookie-loo taken.
The path along the power lines on the far end of the field, besides tending to be a bit boggy this early, is uneven. Given Tico's fetlock bone spur, we usually just amble along until the ground is less... undulating, let's say. Then I offer him the chance to take a nice canter (or gallop, if he's so inclined), heading towards the pond.
So, once the ground was flatter, I said "Whatcha think... canter?" and he jogged. I said, "Canter? That's a trot!" so he trotted faster. Eventually that worked its way into a canter. I had my phone out and was recording it (maybe I had a preomonition, since videoing our canter along the power lines seems to invite some kind of horse insanity) when we came to the churned up mud of death.
Granted, this wasn't the same churned up mud we'd already passed. And I was starting to ask him to slow down - he gets really into his canter around this part and often takes off the last 20-30 yards going to the pond (probably because the grass is really nice and green there and he lives in hope.)
So I was asking him to slow down, but wasn't actually expecting the rapid levitation and relocation about 5 feet to the left. I got it all on video, too.
Anyway, once we examined the deadly mud up close (and he tried to eat it), we moseyed on along to the pond. As we were passing the old bee hive boxes there, we startled a blue heron into flight.
Tico twitched. Perked his ears. Watched.
After the heron landed across the way, still on the banks of the pond, I tried to take Tico closer for a photo. He had no problem with it, of course. But there's a small but deep brook/ditch that separated us from the heron, so I couldn't get a good photo.
Blown up from the photo, the best I could do
I took a few of the pond itself, then headed over to the other side, hoping to get closer to the heron.
I don't know where it came from, but I like the magenta rainbow...
We succeeded only in making him (her?) fly away again. Oh well.
We did see a goose taking a bath, though it flew off as we approached, too.
So we had one last gallop in the field next to the barn, headed back (with a short stop for Tico to graze a bit - I'm sure he felt it was his due) and ended the day with a quick grooming, an oat and honey bar, and his hay waiting for him.
I thought it would be nice to add an update, after just getting back yesterday from a three-day reining show, the Northeast Reining Horse Association Independence Classic 2. I'd gone to a show in April as well, and we'd done better than last year, so it was a good show (I like to get better at things I try, after all) but I never got around to blogging about it. So... to summarize:
I got personal high scores in the "Green Reiner" classes, one on Saturday, one on Sunday, of 68 and 67. "Perfect" is 70; though you can be "plussed" on some manoeuvres, you usually are "minused" if you're in my experience level.
Your ride is judged in pieces: each manoeuvre is given a score. You start with a 70 and then as you perform a manoeuvre it gets a mark: 0 if you did it right, according to the description in the rule books (so not marked down); "plus" some value (usually no more than 1) if you do it exceptionally well; "minus" some value if you obviously are aiming for the manoeuvre but things didn't quite work out right. If you forget one of the manoeuvres, you go straight to 0 from 70; similarly, if you do something in the wrong order, do something in the wrong direction, etc. There are also penalty marks for when you do the manoeuvre sort of acceptably but some part of it wasn't quite right.
For instance, I got a 64 in the "Ladies" class, but I would have had a 66 had I gone about another foot before initiating the sliding stop: I got a penalty on the manoeuvre of -2. I made sure from then on to zero-in on the cones marking the three-quarter and half way points of the arena.
I was also signed up for "Prime Time Green Reiner" which is basically a subset class in a single larger class, you pay as if you're in a separate class but it's all part of the Green Reiner class. "Prime Time" is a euphemism for "Old Fart".
So in the Saturday Green Reiner class, I tied for 4th (out of 22) in the regular Green Reiner, but got 2nd in Prime Time (out of 8, I think: smaller number of people to compete against). I actually won a few bucks for each (just under what I paid to enter them. :) )
In the Sunday Green Reiner, I was tied for 8th out of 21, but got 2nd out of 7 in the Old Farts part of it. So another bit of cash, just under $25 (again, almost as much as I paid to enter Prime Time).
For whatever reason, they scheduled Green Reiner on Sunday to be the first class of the day (it's usually in the afternoon). The pattern for that class was one I hadn't done before. So between the fact that when I get up at 5:30 in the morning I'm not exactly a bright and shining intellect, and that I'd never done the pattern before, I spent some uneasy time visualizing it while in the warm-up pen.
A little aside about Cinchy-Poo and warm-ups. Briefly, he's against them. As far as he's concerned, we really don't need to expend any energy if it's not the class. So I tack him up, get on him, and get an aerobic workout for about a half hour or more trying to get him to not four-beat canter.
He can even tell that it's not show time when he's in the show-pen during the time that it's available to everyone before the start of paid warm-ups. If there's more than one horse and rider in the ring, he just knows he doesn't need to work hard.
The first few times he did this, I genuinely believed he might be tired, so didn't push him... and ended up with a fire-breathing dragon when it came time to show. I've learned better... but boy is it tiring.
Anyway, back to the second Green Reiner class and the pattern I'd never done before:
In the past, the patterns I've had to do have all been "walk or trot in to the center, spin both ways, do three circle in each direction, then do U-shaped or down the middle run-downs and sliding stops, roll backs (turn around 180 degrees), then on the final run down, instead of rolling back, back up". The direction of the spins (first one to the left or first one to the right... always ending up facing the judge), and the size/speed of the circles (big fast, small slow, big fast; big fast, big fast, small slow, etc.) would vary - though generally if the spins ended turning to the right, you started the circles to the right and vice-versa.
The first Green Reiner class was one of these - here's my run:
For the pattern above, you're judged on manoeuvres like this: 1: spin. 2:spin. 3: three circles in one direction then change of lead to the other direction. 4: three circles in that other direction, then change of lead to get to the first direction again. 5: run down to the sliding stop, then roll back. 6. run down to the next sliding stop, then roll back. 7: run down to the final sliding stop, and back up.
In this unfamiliar-to-me pattern it was walk or trot to the center, then start circling to the right immediately, small, big, big; change to the left and small, big, big; change turning to the right again, go to the end of the arena, run down the middle past the 3/4 mark, sliding stop, roll back to the right (towards the judge), run down the middle again past the 3/4 mark, sliding stop and roll back to the left (again, towards the judge), run down the middle past the 1/2 mark, sliding stop, back up 10 feet... and then, while facing the exit door of the arena, spin to the right four times, stop, spin to the left four times, stop.
I was convinced I'd forget the spins, since they were "out-of-order" in my mind and as I said, I'm not exactly a sharp tack early in the morning.
But I didn't, amazingly. A few people zeroed (as opposed to 70) because they were so used to end a spin facing towards the judge, they just automatically kept going past "4" to 4 and 1/4, then going off by more than 1/2 a spin when they didn't readjust to the point where they were supposed to start and stop and do 4 the second time again.
So all in all, I consider this a really successful show. I won about $67 (ok, I spent about $150 on entries, but I did at other shows too, with nothing to show for it. :) ) We had good runs, better than ever.
Cinchy-Poo, who I'm really getting to like more and more, was a Very Good Boy. He's definitely started to understand that I'm his human (and the jealous posturing between Tico and him can be epic when I have Tico on the cross-ties that are next to Cinch's stall). Despite some of his nippy ways - which I've reduced considerably by channelling the mouthiness into "kisses for carrots", which may not be intuitive, but it works, and he's much gentler than Tico when he does it - he is a cool horse with lots of personality.
He got lots of carrots, apples, bananas, and oat-and-honey granola bars, and was told he was a Such a Good Boy all weekend, I think he was pretty pleased as well.
I had a lovely ride on Cinch last night. A lot of times when I go over there after work, between work insanity and rt 3N traffic (Northern MA-NH people probably know what I'm talking about) I'm as jittery as a meth junkie... but yesterday I was relaxed. He was *up*, but it was fun.
I had left work about 15 minutes early, picked up a chocolate cake at Demoulas (their cakes are surprisingly yummy) as a good-bye gift to our barn manager, and took back roads to finally get there around 6:30.
I should have organized it sooner, but with a number of people off at the Quarter Horse Congress earlier this week, things just didn't gel.
I'd bought a big cake, and though I'd tried to get a few more people to come over, the workday logistics didn't work. We couldn't wait until today, because Sydney's last day is today, a half day. :( She's moving back home to Maine for personal reasons - we all love her and are going to miss her.
Anyway, Sydney, the barn owner Frani, my friend Angel and I ate cake, and she still had 3/4 of a cake to indulge in for breakfast and during the morning. It was a really good cake. :)
After that, and feeling a bit bloated (I wonder why?) I went to see Cinch and Tico, having decided to blow off riding, just clean them up and spoil them a bit. It was getting late, and the barn closes at 9.
Once I started brushing Cinch though, I thought... what the heck?
I tacked him up and as we walked out into the indoor Angel said, "He's probably going to be a bit goofy - remember, he hasn't been ridden since Sunday." The trainer had also been out at the Congress, so Cinch hadn't gotten any kind of work for a few days.
Well, last Saturday was a similar "first ride in a bunch of days" situation (I'd missed that Thursday, they'd gone out to Congress on that Tuesday) and he'd spent most of our first canter circle boinging along like Pepe Le Pew before he settled down. Just a teeny bit of pent-up energy.
I'm happy to say that I felt quite safe despite the somewhat unorthodox forward motion - I kept his head away from his ankles and he just canter-boinged happily until it settled to a plain canter.
Last night I figured that was a possibility...and when I got on him it was definitely to sit on a horse looking to stretch his legs.
The thing about quarter horses: they are built for impulsion. They have super-duty rear-ends, and Cinch's maybe bigger than most :) They aren't really built for suspension typically, but Cinch - unlike Tico - has quite a bit of that as well.
So, after barely settling into my western saddle, he was off. We powered around that ring in a very extended trot, which was actually pretty easy to sit as long as I let my back do what it needed to do. It felt so much like we were doing a "dressagy" trot rather than anything approaching a western jog, I thought... I'll ask him to leg yield.
And so he did - from one side of the ring to the other, big strides, big movement, lots of suspension, lots of impulsion. It was a blast!
After about ten minutes of that, I brought him back to a walk, and we did more western-type stuff. Our canters still started out zoomy, but no extra bounce to them.
I really think some of my dressage-riding friends would have a blast on that red horse of mine. Anyone want to drop by, bring their (wide-tree) dressage saddle, hop on the big boy and see what he's got?