Monday, May 30, 2011

Save The Drama For Your Llama

Easier said than done, since I don't have a llama.

The run-up to Carriage House was fraught with much angst and turmoil. It all started with a well-meaning attempt at trailer loading. As I have alluded to before, trailer loading is not one of Royal's strong suits. Especially because of his tendency to freak out in the trailer, which causes a self-perpetuating cycle of doom. To wit:

1. Royal nervously gets in trailer
2. Royal freaks out
3. Royal does something that results in him removing hair or skin or both
4. Royal is even more nervous of trailer
5. Royal more likely to take more action that removes skin/hair/both...

And so on.

Saturday illustrated this concept clearly. Royal got in the trailer - and immediately wheeled around. Unfortunately, he forgot to avoid the head divider and smashed the right side of his face into it, and he looked like this:

Ouch. But, no blood and he wasn't particularly sensitive about it. And I created a new rule: he only comes out of the trailer if he's calm. Of course, if he absolutely freaks out and starts backing out, I won't stop him; doing so would only escalate the nervousness into panic, sheer bloody panic. Which I have experienced, and it is fun for no one. But otherwise, he has to do something like blink or sigh or lick his lips before I lead him out and I don't allow him to charge out. We walk out in a sane manner.

Spent about an hour at this and Royal was significantly calmer about the whole thing. Went to turn him out when the barn owner asked me check up on the young horse (Q) who has been Royal's buddy the entire winter: it was his first time with just Royal and another gelding and no mares. I find the Q soaked with sweat and the older gelding, mostly dry, at opposite ends of the paddock. All of a sudden, Q takes off, going for the gelding's throat. Now, this was a horse who was too submissive to be turned out with other horse besides Royal and all of a sudden he's starting fights. Royal trotted up to him, all loose and friendly, when Q tries to bite Royal's face. Okay, I think while standing by a tree, that was jerky. Royal tries to run away and goes on the opposite of the tree as me. Q chases after him and comes at me with teeth bared and everything. He changed direction to do it. So, that's when my thought process changed from "Jerk." to "Oh hell no!" I was able to catch Q and bring him into the arena to show my BO what happened, and Q went into a different paddock.

To be clear, I don't think Q is a mean horse. I just think he got himself overwrought because he saw the other gelding and Royal as competition for mares, even though none were there. I think he still has some maturing to do.

Sunday dawned bright and early, with me getting up at 5am in order to get everything ready and be at Carriage House by 7am. Well, my truck and trailer had other plans. I pull the trailer with a 17-year-old truck, which I found has a tendency to die in reverse if it isn't going fast enough. I thought it was totally broken, so I had to call my dad to help me. We were able to get the ball under the nose of the trailer, but the cement block we used to prevent the jack from sinking was too big; we couldn't get the trailer low enough to lock on the ball. It took a while to get that out and after connected everything else, we were ready to go. Royal, to his credit, loaded like a champ and we drove to Carriage House.

But the mishaps didn't stop there. I went into the wrong driveway at the show and got stuck in the mud. They ended up pulling me out with a tractor. I drove to the right place, turned in my registration stuff, walked my courses, and got Royal out of the trailer. Royal was his usual self: freaked out, yet curious. Which I could work with, and we had a nice warm-up. The jerk trainer who called Royal a "nag" last year was back, and parked himself in front of the vertical I was trying to warm-up over for a while. Finally, he realized other people needed to use the jump and moved into the open space between the jumps. Royal gave me a few deer leaps, but mostly good jumps.

So we went to the jumper ring, got in line, and did our first course. In a magnificent show of flaky-ness, I did the second course. I was supposed to be following the white-on-black numbers, but did the black-on-white numbers instead. Whoops. Didn't matter, since Royal saw a lot of demons in the jumps and we ended up having four or five refusals. The judge was nice and let me continue since this was a schooling show. The second course went a lot better, with no refusals until the second-to-last jump. You had the option of going up a bank or over a grey flower box covered in shrubbery. Royal doesn't have a lot of experience with banks so I went for the box, which Royal ended up not liking. It looked really weird, especially with the shadows from the shrubbery. Three refusals there, eliminated. But we had a strong finish over the last jump so I was more than happy.


Round 1:

Round 2:

All in all, a good day.

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