Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy, Crazy, Happy, Wild

So I'm down in Florida in a horseman's paradise for two weeks. This is so unbelievably awesome I can hardly believe I get to do it. I started several years ago going down for five days, then upped it to a full week, then, last year, upped it to two. I think that's likely my limit; even though my daughter and husband are coming down for part of next week I miss them hard already.

But. It's really amazing to be here. I've got pretty much the most excellent set-up possible, because my trainers, Angelica and Betty, stay at neighboring farms. There's a gate in the shared fenceline, so I can ride back and forth between the properties. The first few years I stayed at Angelica's place. Then I stayed at Betty's, for two years, and this year I'm back at Angelica's. They get along great, and they train the same way, so I do a sort of tag-team training where I get some kind of excellent lesson every single day. I don't have a trainer at home, so I have to pack in the training where I can, and every year I get some amazing revelations--oh! I'm supposed to do THAT with my inside leg! With horses you can have revelations til you die and still not know half of anything, but I'm making progress which is very very cool.

The other thing that's so terrific for me is that this whole place--both farms--is completely dedicated to horses and eventing. The stalls aren't paved with gold or anything like that, but they're clean and spacious and well-ventilated, and when you go to do chores, the pitchforks are right where they should be, and the wash stall is neat and organized, and the hay and shavings are handy. The grounds are immaculate--dressage rings raked every single day, cross-country jumps weed-whacked regularly. Over at Angelica's place we've even got a flush toilet. I kid you not. And also, everyone there understands horses. Everyone talks horses, and knows horses; when my horses got down there ahead of me, the text I got read, "Can they go out together and do they need protective boots?" not "do you want turnout?"

So we're in paradise, and my two horses--Sarah and my daughter's horse, Mickey--are being assholes. We tried to clip Mickey's heavy winter coat right before he left. He hates being clipped, so he fought it, so the clippers sort of stuttered over his coat, leaving clumps of hair. Then he stepped on the clipper cord and severed it, and that was the end of that. He was about 80% clipped. In patches. He came down to paradise looking like a bum. I didn't mind the people who asked what the hell was up with his clip job. I mind the people who stare, and then silently look away, thinking it's the best I can do.

Sarah and Mickey can't stand each other at home, but on foreign ground they are joined at the hip. Whenever I ride Sarah, Mickey weaves back and forth at the door to his stall, working himself into a lather, screaming his head off. (I can't leave him in the field when I ride, because he runs so hard he excites all the other horses.) The first day, Sarah did one better. I took Mickey out, and she leaned against the lower half of her stall's dutch door until she broke it, and escaped. She ran straight to Mickey's side. We fixed the stall and put a rubber stall guard over the door, so that she could still look out but couldn't lean against the door. The next time I took Mickey out, she reared up and tried to jump out the stall, hooking one leg over the door and coming closer than I'd like to breaking it. Now when I take Mickey out, I shut the top of her door.

Meanwhile, her lessons have been a series of temper-tantrums. I would be wholly frustrated by this--but. It's a problem that horses can't speak. Sarah was doing the worst, bolting, inverted, horrific canter of her life, in front of Angelica, of course, and Angelica said, "Wow, let's go back to the trot and re-organize," and we did, and then--half an hour into the lesson--Sarah started to limp. It was a tiny limp, but it was a limp. Angelica pulled out her phone and videotaped it, and then we called in a world-class equine vet, who just happened to already be on the farm, because that's how this place rolls. We jogged Sarah and rode her and--well, it gets complicated, but eventually discovered that she had an inflamed annular ligament in her back right ankle. So she got shockwave treatment, right there on the spot (they don't do this stuff in east Tennessee; any disappointment I had in having a lame horse in Florida was way mitigated by being able to properly diagnose and treat said horse, because I was in Florida). She had a couple of mild days, and we had to pull out of a competition this weekend, but today she was much, much better.

Much less lame, I mean. She was still a witch in high heels. It was dinner time, and cold, and raining, and she threw a giant hissy fit in the sandbox in front of Angelica, with me on her. I can tell you, my treadmill work has gotten me more fit, and that's a good thing, but I'd better start lifting weights, because that mare nearly pulled my right arm from its socket. But she was sound. Honestly, I'll take a sound fit-throwing witch mare over a docile lame one any day, and furthermore, tomorrow we're going to let her jump, which should please her. I just hope she doesn't break the door down again.