Monday, July 02, 2007

How to piss off your trainer: Part 3 of The Critic

Part 1
Part 2

Liz and I had been working hard for the whole show, doing our best to keep the stall area cleaned and perfect in our quest for the groom's award, and we were tired. In my experience, there are three stages of being tired for a horse show groom. They are Tired, Slaphappy, and Grouchy.

You get Tired from running back and forth from the stalls to the ring, standing for hours in the sun, and toting equipment across the show grounds. If you can push through the Tired stage, you get your second wind and end up at Slaphappy. Everything is funny, even things that are clearly not amusing. The dumbest thing makes you laugh, and laugh for a long time. This stage is most fun when you have someone to share it with.

When you get done with Slaphappy and still have work to do, there is nowhere to go but down, and you hit Grouchy. This is the "Why do I have to do everything?" stage, and even your Slaphappy buddies are "lazy" and "worthless". Even the smallest job is a huge task and is accompanied by much whining and martyrdom.

By the time 12:30 am rolled around and it was time to get Andrea ready for Blair to ride, I was Grouchy. I'm sure Liz was too. We just needed to sleep and re-fuel for the next day. I remember there being a lot of grumbling out of Blair's earshot about "What's the point of riding this horse in the middle of the night?" and "How is this going to help anyone? I'm sure the horse is tired too." But being the good little grooms we were, the horse was ready to ride at the appropriate time.

I remember going to the ring with Blair, because I think she lunged Andrea before she got on her and someone needed to carry the lunging equipment back when she was done riding. I can't remember if Liz was with me or not. But I remember watching Blair get on and ride as I leaned on the fence, bleary-eyed. The horse looked good, except for an occasional uneven stride in front when she tried to take too large of a step with one front leg. We used to call this "hitching". Other than that the ride was pretty good.

Blair's face was glowing when she rode up to me, knowing the mare felt good. She asked, "So, what did you think? How did she look?"

This would have been the prefect opportunity for me to say something nice, and then mention the hitching. But instead, in full Grouch mode, I snapped "Well, she was hitching in front."

Blair's face fell. She was silent for a second, and then said "You know, it would really be nice to hear something positive out of your mouth every once in awhile. You're always picking the horses apart, and I'm really getting sick of it." With that she got off of Andrea and walked back to the barn without another word to me.

I felt terrible, but I didn't know what to say. I hadn't realized how negative I'd sounded in the past. I always looked at it as pointing out problems so that she could fix them. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings or make it seem like our horses were crap. Granted, that evening I was Grouchy and was probably snottier than usual, but after the incident I decided that I'd make a concerted effort to say something positive about the horse in question before I brought up anything negative.

Regardless, the damage was done for that evening. I can't remember putting Andrea away, so maybe Liz did it. I know that for the rest of the show Blair was short with me, only speaking to me when necessary. I don't think I ever really apologized to her, which is bad. I should have, but I just didn't know how and it seemed awkward to bring it up.

To top off it all off, we didn't win the grooms award. And I think that was the last time I went to the Cow Palace for a horse show. Kinda sad in a way, but that was one show that I was glad to have over and done with.


craig said...

"I always looked at it as pointing out problems so that she could fix them"

Wow... haven't you and I had this exact same conversation, except not about horses?

Anonymous said...

My sister in law (and best friend) and I used to call those slap happy moments Bazooka moods for a reason involving the popular bubble gum, the details of which I have forgotten. Slaphappy was neat, Grouchy was never much fun...

Rising Rainbow said...

Oh, you're right about those stages. Did you even think that maybe Blair hit those stages too! She may not have meant what she said because she too was at the grouchy stage.

Sounds to me like you two had a very special relationship.

Jessi Reed said...

Great story. I think this has happened with every groom out there. I know I have been the victim and villain of the "Groom Terror Alert Color Coded System".

It is nice to have those mentors to look back on. I know I certainly wouldn't be the person or handler I am today without the bickering and chastising that has happened between me and my trainers.

Fun blog.

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