Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - The Warm Up

Part 1

Fortunately, the Arabian horse had been so fit before his stint with stall rest after Canada and Region 17 that he still was in very good condition. Even though my very first rides after he was back had been really good, I had counted on having so many rides to make the improvements we needed so we might have a shot at this thing at Nationals. Now, getting to Nationals and spending more time just standing around I was beginning to worry. The number of actual rides I was getting seemed to be nowhere near those I was thinking we needed. I was worried about getting back to work.

There was another thing that really concerned me. Kelly had decided that the horse needed to be in the western bridle even though he was only five. She said that at Nationals the year before, all of the serious contenders in Bonanza were wearing curb bits. Since the horse had been shown in a curb bit at the Red Deer show, the rules required he must stay in a curb. So even though it would have been my preference to show in the snaffle, I was stuck with Kelly's decision about the bridle. The horse didn't have nearly enough time in the bridle for me to be comfortable about trail at this level. Steering was definitely something we needed to be working on, instead the horse was standing in a stall with hives all over his body.

Fortunately we had arrived at Nationals early to give the horses time to settle in and get accustomed to the altitude before they needed to show. While it would have been best to be riding my horse during this time, it did give us some time for him to heal those hives of his. By day 5, the hives had diminished enough I could finally ride my horse but Dandy was still on regular injections to keep things under control.

I clearly remember my first ride in the warm-up arena. There's something about the air at Nationals. While you can't see the electricity running through it, you can feel it everywhere. Tensions are higher than the stakes, I swear and the warm-up arenas reflected all that tension. Poor Dandy could feel it too.

Horses were travelling in every direction imaginable. There were english horses, western horses, hunter horses and even driving horses all doing their thing will little regard for anyone. Grooms and owners running tack or other things in and out of the center of the ring added to the confusion. If you're at all intimidated by busy warm-ups, the arenas at the Arabian Nationals aren't for you.

My first class was the hunter pleasure aspect of the Bonanza class so to start off with, I was schooling my horse in hunter pleasure. While at home, I mostly school in the western saddle, at Nationals I was using the proper hunt tack like everyone else. Have I mentioned how insecure I feel riding hunt?

When we rode into that arena Dandy didn't know what to think. The horse was an absolute wreck. I could feel the tension in his body. Flexing and bending him trying to get him to relax just wasn't working.

I don't remember feeling particularly tense myself. Usually once I get into the saddle, all I think about is riding. Granted I have to pay attention to traffic so I don't run into anything or anyone but I'm usually ok with that. I do remember feeling some frustration to the fact there was no rhyme or reason to the traffic patterns. Trying to figure out where to put my horse was a challenge.

I kept at it, working the horse off my inside rein and then my outside rein. I tried to find a place in that huge arena to ride a few circles but that didn't work out. It was something like the experience of being dive bombed by a mother bird protecting her nest. Mostly those professional trainers were grabbing their patch of ground and plowing through chasing off all challengers. Dandy and I didn't have much chance.

The way things were going all I wanted to do was have a clean pass. Not a great ride, not a perfect canter transition, just one clean pass at any gait would have been enough for me. But Dandy was bobbing in and out of the bridle like a bobber with a fish on. The horse was sure that someone or something was going to try and eat him and he was hyper vigilant.

The couple of attempts I made to canter were nothing but a major wreck. The horse tipped his head upside down and took off for parts known only to him. I managed to get him stopped without causing wrecks to anyone else but my confidence was taking a real hit.

I finally baled on schooling in the main arena and instead headed for the big warm-up arena right in front of the stalls of Bobby Hart Jr. While there didn't seem to be as many horses in this arena, the electricity in the air was still the same. Poor Dandy wasn't buying that this ring was any different from the one he had just left.

I tried more flexing and bending. We actually did manage to ride a circle or two. But mostly it was Dandy pushing through the bit. Sometimes it was a little and sometimes it was a lot. I saw more of his head upside down than I'd seen the whole time since I'd started the horse under saddle. I'd even hung from his throat latch a time or two. It was not a fun time.

By this time we left that arena it was dark outside. The floodlights on the arena gave it almost an ethereal look but there was nothing heavenly about my connection to my horse. We seemed to be riding on two different planes and it didn't seem like there was much hope they were going to cross paths anytime soon.

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

The Warm Up continues

Dandy is still improving but has a ways to go. My guess is he is out of the woods but he won't be turned out anytime soon. He still has a slight distention to his belly but he appears happy and comfortable.

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  1. You have me on the edge of my seat here, MiKael! Can't even imagine riding in that kind of traffic, I would be a wreck!
    I am glad Dandy is doing better...interestingly, after reading your posts on Dandy's bloating, this Monday during our appointment my vet told me to try probiotics for My Boy's gassiness...he never gets bloated and has no problem passing it (we get made fun of because of this on the trail) but I suppose gas colic is not out of the question!

  2. Very glad to hear that Dandy is better!

    I may have to go do yoga to relax after this post though! :)

  3. I am soo glad that Dandy is feeling better :)

  4. I agree about the warm-ups at Nationals. It's really hard when the "big boys" feel like they own the rail or whatever part of the ring they are working in, and you can taste the tension in the air. It gets a bit better for dressage, except when dressage was still at the US Nationals instead of it's own Sport Horse Nationals. At the US Nationals they specified a warm up just for dressage so there would be no english horses, no carts, and no lunging. Non-dressage riders didn't understand why this was so important and either threw a big fit or just ignored the rule. Then they bitched when they were asked to leave the warmup. They didn't get that dressage horses don't just do circles and stay on the rail, and that we can go in all kinds of directions and still (mostly) not collide with each other because we have an idea of what the other rider is doing. Dressage people live by the rule of "pass left shoulder to left shoulder when approaching head on" which is not anything I had heard of until I rode dressage. It's the only way to keep a dressage warm up semi-organized and collision free. Maybe Arab people need to learn to pass left to left!

  5. I'm laughing about his head upside down. Only an Arab...
    I'm glad he feels better these days.
    And, thanks for the "care award." That was sweet of you.

  6. hives, tension, poor Dandy!

    I have never been a fan of 'busy' warm up areas. Too many rude people.

    Glad to hear he is out of the woods and is more comfy, belly aches arent any fun.

  7. Glad to hear he's feeling better, Curious to find out what happens next in the arena!

  8. pony girl, yes, that gas is nothing to mess around with. You never know when it's going to become more than the horse can handle.

    billie, it's surprising sometimes how writing about this things can trigger that old tension as well. I was thinking I might need a massage just thinking about that experience. lol

    lovelee, me too. I was having problems continuing with his story while the horse was sick. I think on some level I was afraid I might jinx him. I'm really glad to no longer be worried that I might be losing him.

    dressagemom, Last time I was there it was the reiners that had their own arena for warm-ups and they were complaining about that too. But they complain when the reiners are warming up in the regular arenas too. The singlemindedness that happens there was the most disconcerting.

    I have seen the left on left rule in action but when you're not used to it, it looks confusing. I suppose it would be easier if I was used to it. Because I used a lot of dressage in my training, I don't really warm up just in circles either. I have had to learn to improvize big time.

    molly, you deserve the award. I can't even imagine what it's like getting cactus out of manes and tails. Just thinking about it makes my hands hurt.

    As for the head upside, I'm not aware of it being an arab thing. I've seem many other breeds assume that position. lol

    barngoddess, I don't know anyone who is a fan of busy warm-ups. I think you'd have to be a masochist(sp?) or something to be comfortable out there. lol You are right about the rude people, there was little if any consideration for anyone. It was something I had not seen before.

    callie, this whole nationals thing was really a huge learning experience.

  9. O M Gosh sounds like my worst nightmare!!!!!!

    Glad Dandy is getting a bit better each day.

  10. Oh goodness...looking forward to reading more! And I'm glad to hear Dandy is doing better! Hope he'll be 100% soon! :)

  11. So glad that Dandy is getting better! When our horses are sick it's just like having a child sick.

    I HATE busy warm up areas, they make me tense. Just watching my niece warm up for her lesson in that big arena with 10 horses and ponies going in all directions made me so nervous! I guess I have been out of it too long to ever do it again. I also hate how the 'professionals' hog all the warm up areas like the rest of us are just nothings.

  12. Good to hear Dandy is nearly out of the woods. Been thinking about him and hoping he gets some relief.

  13. Wow. I used to go to the big arabian show they had in Albuquerque until the city managed to lose that event.

    I'm a complete backyard horsewoman, and I am always in awe of those of you who ride in those big shows. I love how you write about it. I feel like I've been there too! It's very cool to have that insider insight that you give those of us who will probably never have the experience.

    thanks. ;-)

    Pax. Kimberly

  14. Lori, I think it was my worst nightmare too!

    equinespirit, Dandy is improving each day. I think the vet said ti could take a couple of weeks to get his gut totally back on track though. But as long as he's acting normal I'm not going to stress.

    midlife mom, ya some of those professionals can get pretty intense and forget that without us little guys, there would be no shows. We all need to work together for it to be a go.

    photogchic, he is feeling much better, he's actually getting a bit sassy!

    Hi Kimberly, I'm not all that happy that the show has moved permanently to Tulsa but the Youth Nationals is still held in Albuquerque. It is at the end of July.

    Funny, I think of myself as a backyard horsewoman too. There's nothing fancy about this outfit except the horses. But I'm glad that sharing my experience lets you feel connected to that aspect of horses.

  15. My mom and I are going to be in yelm, and you are on our way home, and I would just love to come see your horsies if at all possible! they are so beautiful! :)

  16. Sure, Kim, if you are coming on a day that I am here. I have a horse show coming up, not this weekend but the next one so I will be gone for that. When are you planning on going to Yelm? You can email me through my farm website and we can get details figured out.

  17. Sorry I'm late on commenting. I am glad to hear Dandy is feeling better, I was worried about him.
    As for the warm up arenas, they are a disaster at the big shows and I really hate doing anything in them with rude people. Try adding a bunch of idiots jumping to that mess and you really have something to be tense about.