Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - on to Canada

Part 1

The next step on the Arabian horse show circuit that year for the Arabian gelding and me was on to the Region 17 Championships in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. The original intention of participating at that show was to get qualified in the Bonanza program. Since the entries had been sent off before I'd even competed at Region 5 and qualified, my money was already paid and the thought was I might just as well go.

Looking back at that decision, it was really an expensive trip for a show I wasn't even qualified for when I could have gotten a refund on my fees. By the time I had to have Coggins and health certificate, inspection by the vet at the border (because of an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis), not to mention the cost of fuel and lodging at the show, it cost me almost as much for that show as it would cost to get me to Nationals. There was no guarantee I would even get to participate in the championship show. A pretty risky venture for a horse that wasn't doing all that well except in trail.

The trainer was gung ho for me to make this trip, but then she would be. She got paid about $500 in show fees and she got me to haul two horses for her that she didn't have room for in her rig. Hind sight is 20/20 that's for sure. Sometimes trainer's decisions about going to shows are based on their pocketbook and really not what's best for the horse or owner.

That was back in the early days. I was easily lead believing a trainer knew more than I. If a trainer thought I should go to a show, that's exactly what I did. Today, not so much. I've learned to look out for myself and my horse and only go to the shows that work for my long term goal. But in this instance, I just did what I was told.

I installed a 100 gallon fuel tank (currently that tank sits on my back porch) onto my truck at the trainer's request so we wouldn't have to stop so often for fuel. That way I could keep up with my trainer and her rig and not get lost since we were travelling together. Since it was to parts unknown to me in Canada and such a long trip, travelling with someone was important to me so again I did what I was told. (Another thing I've learned after making trips like this is before you decide to travel in a group with someone be sure you know their driving habits first. I don't even want to go into how scary this trip actually was)

We had to have an appointment at the border to have the horses inspected by a Canadian veterinarian before we could even come into the country. Timing of this appointment was crucial. If we missed our scheduled time we could end of waiting days for another appointment. As it was we ended up getting there early and had to wait for the vet. With all of that fuss about health concerns and dangers etc, I don't think that vet even looked at a single horse, he just signed us through.

The trip from my trainer's farm in Shelton, WA to Red Deer was about twenty-four hours, We drove it mostly straight through except for potty breaks (not nearly enough of them) and stops to eat (not enough of those either). Then in Calgary we ended up stopping in the wee hours of the morning for a couple of hours of sleep because the trainer was too tired to drive anymore. Just for the record that rig had three drivers and mine had me!

The most memorable part of that trip for me was rounding a corner and seeing a large herd of Belgian horses running off in a field away from me. The grass was tall. The wind was blowing the same direction the horses were galloping. Manes and tails and feathers were flowing in rhythm with the waves of grass. The sight was breath taking. It's etched in my mind to this very day.

It's funny how you can hear about places and shows and have an idea in your mind of what they'll look like. Then when you finally get there the place is nothing like you imagined. Red Deer was one of those places.

I guess it sounded somehow romantic and elegant to me. But Red Deer was functional and that's about it. I'd never imagined a horse show in the same arena that hosted an ice hockey team. That plexi glass perimeter still haunts me. With my double vision and the distortion of the plexi glass even looking at classes was difficult. I suffered major headaches from that glass.

We ended up in portable stalls set-up on asphalt for our assigned stabling. The stalls were only 8 feet x 8 feet. That's a pretty small stall for Dandy's 16 hand frame. I must have bedded that stall in about a foot deep shavings trying to keep my horse up off that hard asphalt surface. Standing on that for a week wasn't anything I would have wished for my horse.

I don't remember much about my hunter and western rides at the pre-show other than I didn't get qualified. I do remember that I got third in each class. At that time it took a first or a second to be qualified so I was just one placing short but my rides were decent in large classes.

Then there was the trail. I do clearly remember the trail ride, well part of it anyway. We had serpentines again and a really tight set of lope overs. Both were obstacles the horse and I had practiced even tighter than this course was set. The last obstacle was a chute of some kind. We were to back out of the chute turn to the left and then go to the mailbox.

We had a great ride. I think we nailed ever single obstacle. I know I had them talking about the way we did our serpentines again. Then we came to that chute. Dandy was great and didn't go on auto-pilot. No, it wasn't the horse at all that screwed up. At the end of the chute I turned the horse right and heard the audience gasp and saw the judge shake his head as I'd just taken my horse off course and gotten us disqualified. Up to that point we had won the class hands down.

So that was it for me and Dandy. Without qualifications we were left to schooling at breaks and watching the show through that awful plexi glass, no regional championships for us. That would probably have been what I remembered the most about this show if it hadn't been for that darn asphalt my horse was stabled on.

Two days before we were to leave Red Deer, I came in the morning to feed and found my horse standing on exposed asphalt. The shavings were all piled up around the edges of the stall. Dandy had apparently dug down to the asphalt base like a dog digging for a bone, leaving a 5 foot bare circle right smack in the middle of that stall.

If that wasn't bad enough, the horse had evidently gotten tired standing on the hard surface and had laid down. When he'd gotten up, his left hing leg evidently slipped out from underneath him and clipped his left front leg. On the back of that leg was a huge lump. My heart sank.

To be continued...............

After Canada

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  1. I swear that is always the way it works. The horse gets hurt after you decided that going to that show was a bad idea. Poor Dandy! And poor you!

  2. Oh, no - this is the other piece about showing that I can't really do. The travel and stabling. Yikes. Eager to get to the other side of this cliffhanger!

  3. We all make the same mistake in the beginning thinking the trainer is always right and always looking out for OUR best interests, when in fact they are looking out for their pocketbooks most of the time and what you can do for them. Although,to be fair, some trainers don't fit into that category.Live and Learn.
    It is too bad about that turn at the end, but at least you know you nailed it before that tiny mistake. And good or bad going to that show was another experience under your belt. In all the experiences I have they either go in the good column or the bad column, but they are learning experiences that help us either way. Looking forward to more Dandy news.

  4. Oh my gosh, that really sucks...asphalt!!! UGH!

  5. Oh Good Golly MiKael!!! That sounds like the trip from H*ll there.... I could darn near hear your heart go THUNK when you went and saw Dandy that morning.

    Sure hope that there was no permanent damage done to that incredible horse...Cant wait for the next installment!

  6. Ohhhhh...noooo...my heart just sank too! ACK!

  7. Aging has certainly made me better at making my own decisions, and not getting stuck in uncomfortable situations. Maybe it's part experience and part planning.
    Poor Dandy. I'm sure you were ready to head home!

  8. I hate letting my horse down. He works so hard and does everything I ask and then I screw up. Aren't I supposed to be the animal of superior intelligence? The leader of our mini-herd? It sucks. At the same time, I know that the horse doesn't hold my mistakes against me, so I try to do the same when he occasionally lets me down.

  9. Yikes. That's a lot of disappointment for a lot of money.

  10. Ouch! You know, the ONLY talent I do not like my horses having is the one they sometimes seem the best at - hurting themselves! Poor Dandy.

  11. onthebit, it was only in hindsight that I realized this trip was a bad idea, after my horse was hurt. I wish I had seen it ahead of time, I'd have stayed home and saved myself the money and the grief.

    billie, I'm not big on the traveling part either but the stabling can really be the pits sometimes.

    grey horse, you're right about it being another experience under my belt. I learned a lot on that trip. It's still the one and only time I've gone off course in trail, thank goodness.

    beth, ya, ashpalt, unfortunately lots of portable stabling ends up on ssphalt or concrete. YUCK!

    mrs mom, I think they could hear my heart go thunk all the way hear back in Washington state. It was a really big blow.

    equinspirit, ya, there is nothing worse than the pony getting hurt!

    molly, I'm sure that experience has a lot to do with the maturity that comes with age. Although I wish there were an easier way to learn. lol

    katee, that's a good philosophy. I try to live by it too. I know that I've let Dandy down more than just this trail course.

    nuzzling muzzles, you're right. It was an expensive learning curve.

    L, I totally agree with you there. Horses do have a talent for getting themselves hurt.

  12. Oh crap! the right turn sucks, when things were going so well. And forcing participants to park their horses on asphalt!

  13. Just keeping track. Another nice post.

    Please, whatever you do, don't visit my blog today (Wednesday) as I lost my mind, I think owing to medicine from my hospital stay, and posted some really gross stuff. I certainly don't want to spoil your day.

    Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio

  14. MiKael you suffer (or at that time did) from the same syndrome as me, I cant say no and get myself into all sorts of situations I regret LOL. The drive sounded horrendous.

    I agree with Grey Horse, it was at least another experience under your belt even if it was expensive. I suppose the trainer didnt even give you a discount for hauling two of her other horses.

    Waiting in anticipation.

  15. For Quarter Horse Congress.. we put down rubber stall mats on top of the concrete. They make some nice light-weight portable ones that snap together.

    I agree about the trainers having their own adgenda...

  16. Oh dear :( I just hate those off-course rides!! You must have been gutted after going all that way!

    I hope Dandy was fine after that incident in the stall...

  17. Life is experiences, so this one has provided learnings and now you can go on to the next one.


    I write a blog for boomer consumers called The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com.

    To oldmanlincoln, I've just completed a series on prescription drugs. Take a look, and it might help you avoid problems in the future.