Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How to piss off your trainer: Part 1 of Gumby Horse

Except for about two years in the middle of my horse career, I've always had a trainer to give me lessons. It started out with me riding in a weekly group riding lesson, and eventually morphed into a working student relationship where I groomed, cleaned, mucked, and rode for no pay. However, the experience I gained was invaluable.

In this kind of relationship you get very close to your trainer on a personal level - at least I did. Blair, whom I worked with for about seven years, was very easy to talk to. In fact, I think most of the time she crossed the line into oversharing of details. Let's just say I know more than I need to know about some of her ex-boyfriend's man equipment. Anyway, we always had loads of interesting conversation on trail rides, driving to shows, or just hanging around the barn. We became friends, even though I was ten years younger than she was.

However, at the base of the relationship was the undertone of don't forget who's the boss here. It's nothing she ever threw in my face, and something that I always respected. She was in charge, she had the experience, she brought in the clients, and by her generosity I was given an equestrian education. I'll be forever in her debt for that.

Over those seven years, we had three incidents where I just really pissed her off. They weren't mistakes that I made with the horses, because she knew that I was only human and that mistakes would happen (like the
clipping incident - I'm not saying she wasn't annoyed, but it really wasn't so bad.) And come to think of it, all three happened at horse shows. Maybe it was the stress of the show situation on both of us...I don't know for sure. I'm just glad that we were able to come to terms later and forgive and forget.

For awhile Blair had this purebred arabian gelding in training named Azul Nardin. His barn name was Synbad, but that morphed into Stinky because of his love for rolling in his poop and urine. Sometimes this animal would stink even before he got sweaty from work. And after he got hot? Whoo! You could almost see the fumes coming off of him. His owner didn't really like that we called him Stinky, but it was better than what Blair called him sometimes - Asshole Nardin.

Really, he wasn't a bad little horse. But he was small and Blair was really too big to show him. She did show him a few times, I think, and the owner tried to show him too, but mostly the owner was afraid of him. Of course I volunteered to show him, since I'd ride and show anything. I started riding him regularly and took lessons on him too.

This was the bendiest horse that I've ever ridden. It's like he was made out of taffy or something. Sometimes he'd spook, then bolt forward, and be heading right towards the fence, so I'd pull hard on one rein to turn him. Instead of turning, he'd just keep barreling forward with his nose turned back on my knee. He could also do the "drop, spin, and bolt" move like a champ. One day I handed him off to Blair to ride, and as I was walking back down the barn aisle I hear THUMP and then "Synbad, you ASSHOLE!" I turn back to see Blair sitting in the dirt, laughing. She went to get on him, and as soon as her butt touched the saddle he dropped, spun and bucked her right off. She made a very impressive butt-print in the sand - we could even see the stitching from the pockets of her jeans.

I forget what show it was, or even what year, but after riding him for a few months I was entered to show him English Pleasure and Native Costume. We arrived at the show with no problems, and on the morning of the day of his first class Synbad needed a bath. Cheryl offered to go with me to bathe him, so we grabbed the bath bucket (complete with shampoo, sponge, scraper, Showsheen) and hose and headed to the wash racks.

In case you aren't a horse person, a wash rack is a place to tie your horse while you give him a bath. Sometimes this is just a spigot and a tie post on gravel or dirt next to a building, but at bigger show venues the wash racks are very nice. Usually they are cement with some kind of tie rail or ring, and a drain of some kind. So you walk your horse into the wash rack, tie him up, and proceed with the bath. Sounds easy, right?

The wash racks at this show had a drain that the horses had to step over in order to enter the wash rack. It was a long trough that extended the entire row of spigots, and there was a large circular drain at the end that handled all the water. When we got there the drain had clogged with hay and gunk, so there was standing water in the trough. Cheryl was carrying all the bath supplies, and I was leading Synbad. We walked up and was contemplating going to try and unclog the drain. However, before I could stop him, Synbad geared up to jump over the water.

I said "Watch it! He's gonna jump!" as he sailed through the air. He hit the pavement, and to my horror, slid forward and smacked into the cement wall. Because he was wearing four shoes at the time and the concrete was wet he slid across as if on ice. He pulled his head up at the last minute and his chest smacked into the wall.

He still had speed going, and his front end had stopped dead. His rear end kept going in the only direction it could.

Synbad did the splits with his rear legs on the concrete washrack. He had each leg completely extended out to either side absolutely straight out from his hips.

To be continued...


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Rising Rainbow said...

I hate to say this, but I'm sitting here laughing at the picture of Synbad sliding towards the wall spread eagle. I hope he didn't get hurt but the picture is just so vivid of him launching himself over the drain trough and sliding into the wall. Can you tell, been there, done that! The washrack at the fairgrounds in Salem Or is setup just like that. I've seen some pretty interesting variations of your scenario.

Looking forward to the next chapter!

Anonymous said...

OMG - if AJ were a horse he would totally be Gumby Horse! Maybe the horse had hypotonia like AJ??
Can't wait for the next chapter!

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm still waiting on part two. lol

Hope Kaswyn is coming along fine.

I'm doin ground work with Dandy and he's a little stiff in one shoulder so will keep this up until he's not before I move up to riding.

Hope all is well there.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr