Horse Trainers and Hoarse Throats

When my husband showed last Saturday the day consisted of quite a few firsts for the pair.  It was the first show this year, the first show with the fancy wood cart, the first show requiring proper formal turnout for the driver, it was the first time they competed in timed event fun classes like cones, barrels, and “poles” (which were actually cones, too).  It was the first time they missed the blue ribbons, too.  It was also the first time in my entire showing history that we were running so far behind at a horse show. 

We got to the show TWENTY MINUTES after it began and they were already on class 9.  Their first class was #12, so needless to say, we zoomed around getting them tacked and dressed and into the arena.

Never before in my life, in 10 years or so of horse showing, have I ever been so rushed.  It was insane.  The first 11 classes were all halter and I think totalled they had maybe 12 horses for all those classes.  It was pathetic.

On the plus side, they did have 6 competitors in each of the driving classes, which is actually a great turnout for this area with driving.

During the driving classes, the show manager and show organizer, a woman who’se been driving for 30 years came over to my husband and told him the pony should be in a gig harness for better weight distribution.  After the show I emailed the lady to clarify what that was and where I get it. 

She then proceeded to tell me that it was clear the pony is uncomfortable and needs the gig harness because the weight he’s pulling is too much and he’s not happy and was struggling at the show.  She proceeded to say that the judge and several competitors noted the pony having trouble in the indoor arena, especially with the back up and that the reason he bucked at the show was because the cart is unbalanced and it rode up on his butt and made him uncomfortable.

I’ve got to say, all this information from her spontaneous judgement really pissed me off.  I’ve ridden with a LOT of horse trainers/riding instructors. A LOT.  Some of them actually want to work with you and teach you regardless of what you’ve got  (type of horse, quality tack, etc..) and over time they educate you and improve you.  Some of them are just hell bent on everything being their way and if you’re not doing it like them you’re completely wrong.  Some of them want to terrify you and criticize you so bad you’ll feel like you have to scrape up the bottom of the barrel and hang off their every word or you’ll never improve.

Let me rehash the days events to clarify…. The indoor received new footing over the winter. It’s a synthetic substance that felt a lot like Styrofoam and was very, very , very deep. EVERY driving horse in the arena with wood wheeled carts was having a hard time.  Luke more because he’s smaller and is pulling a lot of weight.  We’ve always been carefullly aware of the weight he’s pulling and the footing he’s pulling in, and have asked several trainers about the weight.  They all said he’s fine, and he does pull fine. No one ever mentioned a gig harness, so until this week I didn’t know what that was.

So, anway, they proceeded to move the driving classes outside, thankfully, and that went really well. It’s much easier to drive a road cart on harder surfaces.  Outside, another competitor’s horse was rearing and bucking and running around it scared everyone so bad it was amazing she kept control of the horse at all.  When my husband’s pole bending event came time, they started on to the pattern and about halfway up their entry line, the pony tripped in a slight hole in the ground and the cart did probably bump forward on his haunches a little bit and the pony tucked his tail and humped his rump. He never bucked. His back feet never left the ground.  The regrouped and continued on course fine.  That was the only “incident”. Other competitors noted what a perfect gentleman Luke was.  This little slip up did cost them about 10 seconds of time and put them in 4th for the class.  Not bad anyway considering they were going against horses in the first place.

So, because of that “issue” this woman determined that the pony was uncomfortable and clearly bucking because of the pain he’s in.  She also said they didn’t do bad for their first time showing.  She said it’s clear he’s pulling too much weight.

 I basically told her she’s full of shit.  She might know what she’s talking about when it comes to driving, and it’s good to know about the gig harness.  The pony’s show harness is a very high quality $650 harness- but it’s not a gig harness. It’s actually meant for a viceroy (a 4 wheel carriage).  I’ve talked to top trainers in the ADS that have competed with ponies about the same saze pulling the same (or MORE) weight in MARATHONS and do just fine.

I’ve found someone who will make a gig harness for about the same price, so I’ve got to save up and buy that.  Will it distribute the weight more? Yes. absolutely. Will that over all make it better and easier for the little pony to pull the big heavy cart? Yes. Certainly.  Am I all for that? Of course.  Do I have the money to just jump up and buy it for the pony right this very second? No. But will the gig harness suddenly improve the pony’s ability to back up in deep footing?  If it does, I’d be shocked.

Wood wheels and deep footing don’t mix.  Regardless of if it’s a horse a pony or a donkey… wood wheels sink into the footing and cut through it rather than gliding over it.  Wood wheeled carts are not off road vehicles – they are meant to be on the roads or solid surfaces.  Carts with bicycle tires can be pulled through footing that is less than firm, and will generally go over sand footing better. 

I told this woman that I’m not a total idiot.  I’ve been riding for 20 years and my husband has been showing that pony for 3 years now and receive praises and first place ribbons at every show.  There were no issues at the show and the pony has never been in any type of pain, never through his back or shoulders and he’s never been lame. 

I feel a little bad that I was kind of mean to her, but I was really put off by her “end of the world” type commentary about all the terrible things we’re doing to the pony.  I rode with an instructor once, after I’d been riding for 13 years and had lots of experience showing hunters and schooling 3′ even a little 3’6″.  This woman was so critical of every move I made she said I was riding completely wrong.  She went on to berate all the training I’ve ever received and basically had me in tears by the end of the ride. 

Things like this frustrate me and I have no tolerance for it.  How could someone make so many determinations based off a few minutes of time? While one horse is damned near breaking out of his harness going insane she thinks Luke was “bucking” because of discomfort??  Call me crazy but doesn’t a buck consist of the back feet actually leaving the ground???  If the feet stay on the ground, how is that a buck???  And I don’t know, but in my 10 years experience as a licensed equine veterinary technician, I generally have learned that horses in pain or discomfort from bad fitted tack or the like, typically… oh, I don’t  know… show signs of pain?  Like sore backs, shoulders, lameness, head tossing, pinning ears.. something?

After owning Spyder for 2 1/2 years, I believe I’m something of an expert in horses soured by tack or rider problems. 

So to me, judging that a pony is uncomfortable and not happy by seeing him trip in a hole and have trouble backing up in deep footing is an unreasonable assessment.  Making all these judgements after watching the horse go for 30 minutes is not a reasonable thing to do. 

I really let her know I wasn’t pleased with her assessment and told her she doesn’t know Luke and made a lot of judgements against him that weren’t true. I let her know that not only did Luke NOT BUCK, he hasn’t bucked at all in over 2 years, and that was only from the “feel goods” from a lot of time off before he was driven (and not lunged). LOL. Oops.

Boy, I can’t wait to hear back from her. She’ll think I’m a bitch, but so what?  She’s wrong on many accounts.  It was good information about the gig harness though.  I’ll start saving to buy that.

And… on to other news… I’m STILL SICK!!!  I’ve got a horse show tomorrow – MY first one since August 2006, and I’m SICK!! Ugh!  I’ve been sick all week and while I feel better generally, my throat is still sore, I can’t talk without coughing and the cold air from the A/C in our home makes my chest hurt. The other day I had completely lost my voice and a few days ago I think I was running a fever.  Plus, IT’S RAINING!!!  Can my life be any more cursed?  Really… How many more black clouds can I have haunting me about my horse endeavours?

Ever since 2002 when I sold Lickety Split  my riding has never been the same. Every pursuit of mine horse related has been a failure and absolutely riddled with problems and black clouds.  Every one of them.  Am I just not meant to succeed at the one thing I want to succeed at??

From making horse treats to writing a horse book to just having a horse to enjoy, whether bought or leased, I’ve encountered issues every step of the way, and yet still, I’m determined.  Sick or not, rain or shine I will be showing tomorrow and I can’t wait.

I have nothing but positive feelings about this horse and that this will all work out in the end.  So we’ll see.

Thanks for reading!  And check out my other websites!


About kshai1715

I am a lifelong equestrian, photography enthusiast, sci-fi lover, and sci-fi convention & costuming geek that also loves movies and video games. I am a hard working 30 something woman that survived cancer and am looking forward to a long, healthy, self-empowered life. Welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy reading about my horses (and the rest of my life) as much as I like writing about them.
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