I can usually take a hint. However, when my mind is made up about something, it requires a whole pile of them to get me to change my mind. When I first got Saxon, I allowed myself the luxury of daydreaming about the progress we'd make and the things we'd do in our first year together. I would look at class lists for showbills throughout the year and think, "maybe we'll be ready to _______ (canter, do patterns, do a trail class, go to a night show, go to ________ <insert spooky location here>) by _____ date." The date would come and go, and we just wouldn't be ready. I know he's just three and we have literally decades together. Still, after waiting so long to find just the right horse, it's hard not to want to do all of that stuff I've been dreaming about. Naturally, debuting at Standardbred Nationals was high on the daydream list. The ultimate dream was to take both him and Legs to New Jersey. It seems that circumstances have been conspiring to dissuade me from my grand plan.
The first factor is Saxon's inconsistency. At home, he's nearly always laid back or even downright lazy. Away from home, however, he's more of a Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes he displays the same calm, nonchalant attitude that he has at home, and calmly deals with things I wouldn't have expected him to (like spectators under a large umbrella, or trail obstacles magically appearing in the arena). Other times, he melts down into a 1,000# pile of irrational, inconsolable goo. The worst part is that I can't seem to predict it, and once he has a meltdown, it is hard to get his brain back together. I've learned that extensive walking and lunging in a new place helps (but is no guarantee). I've learned that he simply can't comprehend or deal with carnival rides or truck pulls, even from a distance. Rain, also, seems to liquefy his brain cells. People on the rail are ok as long as he had been petted by them, but if he hasn't met them yet, they might be carnivorous. Sometimes large classes are good, and sometimes they're a problem. I keep telling myself that he's still a baby and one day he'll always be as relaxed in new places as he is at home. It's just hard to remember that when he's wheeling around while tied to the trailer or balking and rearing in the ring. Certainly, I don't want to drive a thousand miles to New Jersey if he's going to have a "Hyde" kind of day. I talked myself into believing that with enough time to scope out the facilities, he'd be fine (and probably tired from the long drive). But then...
Then there's our trailer accident. Certainly, a traumatic thing like that could sideline our show plans. After all, we can't exactly show if we can't get there. Thankfully, the trailer was just fine, and the truck has been worked over and given the seal of approval. And though Saxon still shows stress about trailering by prancing
and grinding his teeth once in the trailer, even after the incident he continues to load and unload
without hesitation. With the propensity of gastric ulcers in show horses and horses in training (over 60%), I have wondered if this plays into his trailering anxiety and inconsistency at shows. As a precaution, I bought him some omeprazole paste to try at our next few events.
Okay, say we go, armed with our omeprazole and our lunge line. What classes do we go in? While we're still working on our canter at home, I don't think he's ready to do it consistently in the show ring. Nor do I know if he's ready to handle some of the humongous classes like 2 gait Eq or 2 Gait HUS (see Jekyll and Hyde reference, above). That leaves In Hand, Intro Dressage (since I once again own a dressage saddle =) ), and the 2 Gait Rookie class. I had hoped to debut him in Western walk-jog earlier this year, but there was a ferris wheel that was just visible from the arena ... so much for that idea. That's not a lot of classes to justify 2,000 miles of driving and 3 days away from home.
Okay, so I'll bring Legs, too, and they can each do a modest number of classes. I finally have the trailer for it, and though I've been taking it easy with her, she's been doing great so far this year. No sooner had I convinced myself that this was the way to go then I noticed her consistently resting her left foreleg on August 1. While horses frequently rest a hind leg while dozing, it is not normal for them to rest a forefoot. I finally found that the nail had pulled through one of the holes in her plastic horseshoes and was being pressed between the shoe and her foot. I had the farrier out to fix it and she spent a week on Bute and stallrest. After about 10 days, she was finally sound enough for light riding. That didn't give me much time to work her fitness up. Still, maybe if I just aimed for a limited number of classes ...
Enter the evil side of Mother Nature. I love having my horses on my property, but it also comes with more than its share of hard work. On August 3, I was pulling fence staples from my woven wire mesh fence in preparation for replacing it with horse friendly flex fence. I knelt down to pull a low staple, and realized that my right knee was smack in the middle of a poison ivy patch. I did the rubbing alcohol thing after hiking back up to the barn; nevertheless, within a few days my entire knee was blistered and oozing, and I was smattered with itchy patches all over the rest of my body. Did I mention that I'm highly allergic to poison ivy? By the 9th, my entire right leg was swollen and oozing. I kept looking down and wondering why I had the right leg of a fat person. Besides the misery of itching, it also prevented me from riding (though I tried once anyhow). By the 14th, with my knee plastered in gauze and Vetrap, I was determined to try riding anyhow (I wonder if the horses noticed stronger leg cues from my fat right leg?). It went ok, then on the 15th, Mother Nature struck again, in the form of a stomach virus. I spent the second half of my first day back in class bedridden (I got nauseous even trying to crawl to the kitchen) and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep my stomach contents in place. I dragged myself to class and back again on the 16th, but typing on the computer from bed is about all that I feel up to.
The final factor conspiring against my nationals bid this year is my class schedule. I'm in class 5 days a week for 4-7 hours a day. Going to New Jersey would invariably mean missing class the following Monday to make the 12 hour drive home. Wouldn't you know it, I have an examination scheduled that day and the class has a firm policy about attendance (miss 2 and you lose an entire letter grade) and make-up work (there isn't any).
So that pretty much seals it. With so many factors seemingly conspiring to keep me in Kentucky this year, I guess I have to take the hint. I hate that I won't be able to show with my friends yet again this year, and I am disappointed that Saxon won't be able to make his National debut this year. But I guess I should heed the subtle half-dozen or so hints this time.