Sick and annoyed, I snap at my husband and my son who are trying to help me load my gear. I am about to spend five days in the back of my horse trailer, and I am sharing haul space with not only another human being but two horses as well. There is no way it is all going to fit. I’ve had some wretched respiration/gastrointestinal bug for about two weeks. I am seriously cranky.
I want to give you a snapshot of my mental and physical condition as we headed out on to what was going to be one of the grand adventures of my life.
My boss at the ranch is very concerned about my taking my horse off the property to an event in light of the current EH-V1 scare. He doesn’t want me to go, and may not let me bring the horse back if I do. I am sorry, I have to. I tell him it’s paid in advance, it’s not the largest reason but I know he won’t make me throw money away. I assure him I am going to a clean, horse savvy place. There will be no risks taken, and all the precautions.
Somehow all the gear fits. Thanks, David, for thinking up strapping the hay to the top of the load. Saved the day.
We are ready to load. My hyped up Arabian snorts at the loaded back of the truck. He dances nervously to music only he can hear. I scowl at him. I don’t like him very much right now. Why can’t he just stand calmly tied to the trailer? Wait a little bit? Be sane!
I decide to send him in. Colleen hung the hay bag for her horse, and I am sure as his ass brushes it when he turns himself around to ride facing backwards as he loves to do, he will panic, leap forward (yes follow the crazy train for yourself here.) and there will be a horrible wreck.
Colleen asks if I would like her to lead him on. I say yes, thank you that would be great. She does, there is some bunchy shuffle of his feet as he decides he would just as soon come off as stay on. She holds him lightly and tells him to hang in there. He does. She ties off the lead, loads her horse and we are on our way.
Two women, two horses, three dogs and all the gear you can imagine and maybe some you would not because we thought of everything. Just about.
On the highway I discover the semi’s going by bother the vertigo that has come with my nasty bug. Rather than drive us off the side of the road or into one of those guys, Colleen takes the wheel. I really don’t feel good but I am suiting up and showing up. I would not miss this for the world and as it turns out, one of my best decisions ever.
Camp sets up pretty smooth for me not ever doing this before, Colleen dives in and between the two of us, it’s pretty reasonable. I struggle a little with the tent cot but I know it can be done, and done it gets.
We have a little village established at the end of the row of trailers all setting up and plugging in. There’s my trailer, her tent, and our shower house, complete with potty. We are set.
First night. I nestle into my blankets. It’s chilly. I am wondering how long the small bottle of propane is going to hold out on the heater. I am terrified of propane, but with Colleen’s support, got the thing lit, and now only hoping we won’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning. (yes, I live in this brain, every single day. It does get old.) There is a highway nearby, normally I would find the sounds of it soothing, memories from Hwy 101 and childhood but this night it feels like they are driving through my very soul.
There are frogs. I like frogs but man, do they have to rock out all night? There is some chirping thing, no idea what it was, but it hung with the party crowd til daybeak.
Bottle lasts about four hours. In 30 degree weather, an electric blanket struggles to keep up. Thank God I brought the dog!
Around the edges of my mind, I am excited to have finally got Royal back to Peter. I wonder what he can do for us that will last beyond the clinic setting? Getting Royal right in that environment is not that difficult, it’s the world outside that brings us grief. Dawn finally arrives, might as well get up.
I stare at the camp stove. More damn propane. I glance at Colleen’s tent. No sign of life and I am NOT waking her up. I look up and down the drive, no peoples striding by that might be familiar with just how the heck you light one of these things without blowing yourself, your dog and all surrounding to kingdom come.
There is no one. Okay, cowgirl, just how bad you want that coffee?
There is a red thing to the left that I am pretty sure has something to do with the process. It has arrows, no words. That is not helpful. I look up in exasperation. I want to quit. This is a ridiculous waste of energy and I don’t have much to spare.
My eyes catch writing on the lid of the camp stove. Operating Instructions. Well, what do you know.
Even though I have to struggle, and I don’t think the damn thing will ever light, and it’s noisy to boot, it’s lit. Whoo freaking hoo!
It’s beginning to dawn on me that I still quit things a whole lot easier than I would have told you I do.
I make coffee, first time ever in a percolator. I had some really nice Italian dark roast ground specifically for the job. Turns out if you use twice as much as you need (forgot any kind of measuring device or even a spoon) it’s not going to be very drinkable. I fixed it the next day, and man, I am now a coffee cooking son of a gun.
We haven’t even made it to the barn yet, it’s almost 7 a.m. I go see my pony. There are things going on in the arena. I stop to watch. The gorgeous big black mustang, friendly fellow who lives next door to Royal, is in there saddled and riding. He’s obviously green, a little tight. The little gal riding does all right with him, and his owner who has sent him off for training here, steps up to check things out.
It doesn’t go as well for her, and that 30 seconds sets the stage for one of the countless cool pieces that made up this incredible weekend. It also put my new friend in a very similar spot that I was in, two years ago with Riata. Hard choices, no matter how you slice them and no one can judge a person’s final decision, whatever it may be.
People are showing up at the barn, there are quite a few now that I have met before, shared friendly times and conversation. Still, for me, there is the awkward shyness of having just arrived and maybe not fitting in, not really being a welcome part of it all.
It takes me awhile to warm up and most of them are still strangers to me in the larger sense. Not all, the Donnie’s who own and operate the place are real friends. Roxanne our hostess with the mostest, Starr Zizza (so aptly named you cannot believe it) Deb Johnson, our next door neighbor Cindy, the Cindy from up north (so proud of you!) and more. I should never name names, I always leave out important people. If I left you out, you know you are one of them.
Royal is jumpy going through the gate into the arena. I don’t want him rushing and I make him pause in the gate. Peter says, hey just let him come through, he gets scared, gets hung up in that gate, then you have something else to overcome. Hmm, good thought.
How are we going to help him though? I do trust Peter and I figure that before the weekend is over, I will know the answers to my questions. There is still the small niggle of doubt, not of Peter at all, but of me and my ability to ask for help when I need it, to appropriately frame my troubles and what I want to take home from this considerable investment of money, time and heart.
What I didn’t yet understand is there was no way he was going to let me drown. Not me, not any of us. I didn’t understand that he would read our needs as easily as ten foot writing on the wall. Thirty years of clinics, 40 a year, he has some experience at this. We were probably not going to surprise or baffle him.
What I also did not get was Peter’s level of commitment to what he does. He was going to help us make the changes, like he would help our horses. He wasn’t going to sell us out. If we would only try, he would hang in til the cows come home.
Peter talks to us before each class. I would pay the price of admission all over again to be able to tape those talks, bring them home and listen to them over and over. He would say something amazing, my mind would grab it and then I would realize I am missing the next “amazing.”
Focus, focus! I have the attention span of a gnat, and I wonder why my horse does too . . .
We do some extremely cool things, all about relaxing the horse and getting the mind right. That’s the point of the entire deal. Get the mind. Get the feet. Get one, you have the other. Don’t have one, you can’t get the other to save your life. If you want to know how to do those things, Peter’s next clinic around here is in Lincoln, NE end of September, or check his website for dates in your area. If you do one thing for yourself, your horse, but mostly yourself, do this.
This photo is during the riding portion of the Foundation class. We do groundwork first and it is different every clinic. We get new pieces to the puzzle. Already, my antsy horse stands to be mounted, waits patiently while we listen to instructions. Changes. And, so do I.
By the time my Horsemanship class rolls around, I am feeling really crappy; sick, dizzy and exhausted. My friend, Stephen is there in the chair by the big wood stove next to me. I glance at him. I know how frustrating it is to want more than anything to be in there riding and be outside watching.
“You have your gear with you?”
“You bet,” he says, “Peter told me to throw it in, any time I come to one of these, so now I do. You never know what might turn up.”
Two years ago, it was a deeply troubled grulla filly that is now named Bella (princess name for a princess little girl )and solidly in the heart of his oldest daughter. Sometimes I make the right choices.
I offer to let him ride Royal in my second class. Colleen laughs, “she’s not giving this one away though.” and we all laugh about that. No.
Royal is not a “problem” either. Steve knows, he watched us this morning , saw the flitty mind that can leave peaceful in a blink, saw how it translated into crooked, bracey responses and also how the horse can soften and get right. Turns out, that was not the only horse Steve gets to ride, but more about that later.
That evening we do potluck. I find myself waxing into the situation and I am talking to a super nice lady. Dressage gal, she owns a horse that is being ridden in the clinic, big time jumper prospect. We share stories. I go into the litany of my turmoil's and tribulations with Royal T.
The wrecks, the stitches, the broken trailers, yada freaking ad nauseum yada. Why does this feel so bad? I don’t know, I just know that it does. Peter is standing a ways off, but I feel his distance like he is a million miles away.
Freezing in my covers, it’s dark and it’s damned cold. I had the foresight to bring in another bottle of propane as I know how this is going to go now. I get up, change bottles, and let the welcome heat fill my little Hilton on wheels. The dog is grateful. He can’t figure out why I let us get so cold in the first place.
The party by the pond is in full swing, the truckers are trucking, cars filling in the symphony. I feel my mind searching. Why did it feel so wrong to be telling those stories?
It finally broke loose and I understood. I was like a broken record. My needle was stuck, playing one part of the album over and over again, etching a deep groove in the vinyl. There was so much more music to hear but I couldn’t move on. Here I am thinking it’s my horse who is the one who is stuck.
Turns out, not at all.
Here is part one. There is a lot more. For those of you who care, stay tuned.