This is a test of the horse show alert system. This is only a test. In the event of a real horse show, we would have gone to our first show... Please resume your normal winter activities.
January is undoubtedly the off season for me - safely cushioned from racing and riding seasons on both sides by winter days and winter weather. As I mentioned last time, I am a fair weather rider. In my younger days, much like the famous postal service slogan, neither sleet, nor snow, nor wind, et al. would stop me from saddling up. More recently, I find that I prefer staying warm and retaining the feeling in my extremities, secure in the knowledge that my horse doesn't need constant drilling to stay calm and remember her lessons. The weather this winter has been a delightful aberration, with largely dry conditions and temperatures in the 50s and 60s, making it possible for me to happily ride much more than I ordinarily would.
As it turns out, there are some opportunities to show during the winter months for the resourceful and adventurous. This past Sunday was just such an opportunity. While I wouldn't ordinarily consider taking a newly acquired not quite 3 year old to a show in January, Saxon is far from an ordinary horse. The plan was to let him look around the show grounds, and possibly take him in a halter class to see how he handled the show environment. Up until around 8:45 am, the plan went great. I bathed his tail and cleaned him up the day before. I packed the truck and trailer (it's very strange to pack for a show without taking a saddle - I kept feeling that I'd forgotten something). The morning of the show, I loaded him up (despite his lack of practice and the cumbersome shipping boots at all four corners, he walked readily on the trailer after mulling it over for a minute) and we got on the road. I hadn't even reached the end of my own road when I pushed the gas pedal to go up the next hill and nothing happened. %*($#@! The truck had stalled, just like it did in NJ the day before I was supposed to come home. A warning light appeared on the dash and it wouldn't restart, but I managed to coast to a safe area to pull over. Apparently the new alternator was NOT the solution. Poo. Once pulled over, it started up after a moment and we made it safely home.
Well, there is a bright side. I'm glad to have discovered the truck's continuing issues on a SHORT trip instead of hundreds of miles from home! This was great trailering practice for Saxon. He learned that not all trailer rides end with a new home environment. He disembarked my trailer at home wide eyed and high headed like he was surprised to be at the same place, and I learned to expect him to be a little "up" after a trailer ride (unlike his previous trailer marathon where we were both exhausted at its conclusion). [Mental note, be sure to pack a lunge line.] He learned to wear shipping boots. I determined that he will be very easy to teach to trailer load. He got his tail shampooed and conditioned. I found that my "skinny breeches" fit, even in the middle of winter. (Yay!) I learned that 15 minutes is enough time to fill half the trailer with stomped manure... I learned that clipping is something we'll have to work on.
The clipping story is kind of humorous, actually. I started out letting him sniff the unplugged clippers. I let the cord drape against his nose and neck. I rubbed them on his face, muzzle, and ears. As is his personality, he investigated them attentively, but wasn't the least bit frightened or concerned. I turned them on, and slowly approached. He kept a interested but unfrightened eye on them when I let him feel their vibration through my hand (without actually clipping him). I carefully attempted to clip one of the very long curly whiskers around his muzzle, and he jerked back as if hit with an electric shock. I rebooted and attempted again, but got the same reaction. After shortening several of his whiskers, I concluded that the blades were probably a little dull and were grabbing the hair. I attempted to clip his bridle path, but he shook his head vigorously from side to side whenever the buzzing neared his ears. I decided we should back up to where he was comfortable - just letting him feel the buzzing without actually clipping, and try again when we had more time. I used scissors to trim his remaining muzzle whiskers, though he got agitated before I could finish and I could tell he was running out of patience for having his muzzle messed with. When I took him out to the yard to work him afterwards, he immediately lifted his hindfoot towards his face and proceeded to rub the side of his muzzle up and down on his dangling hoof. After having long curly whiskers, I'm sure the close clipped sensation was very sensitive. Well, after the ride I let him out in the pasture and he proceeded to one of the nearby hay racks. He stuck his nose into the hay and immediately jumped back. He shook his head and did it again. Finally, he snatched a quick bite of hay, wheeled and trotted off 4 or 5 steps and chewed it angrily, holding his nose to the side and flinging it periodically. Evidently, the sensation of the hay stems poking his very sensitive stubble was more than he could take. I was starting to think that I'd broken my horse by trimming his whiskers. Maybe Saxon derived his abilities from his long curly whiskers the same way Sampson derived his strength from his flowing hair... He boycotted hay the rest of the day, but I found a nice soft bale of orchardgrass for his dinner which he reluctantly ate. I couldn't help but laugh at his behavior, but I also felt bad that I'd made him uncomfortable. If I'd known he had such a sensitive nose, I would have trimmed his whiskers a few at a time over the course of a week, but who would have guessed? They've toughened up some since then, so he's back to happily snarfing hay and he no longer pulls his muzzle back when I touch it, so I've opted to reacclimate him to clippers much more gradually.