Since it is no longer considered socially acceptable to ride the wild and woolly West for to mete out range justice wherever it may be needed, we horse folks have been forced to turn to other venues for our entertainment. To this end, one of the local riding clubs sponsors a monthly Gaming Day. Gaming consists of timed events, the most well known being Barrel Racing. Other events have catchy titles such as International Flags, Cal Stake, Texas Rollback, and Pole Bending, to name a few.
As you’ve probably surmised by now, today was Gaming Day. The weather could not have been better, and there was a great turnout. DN2, DN3, and I would be riding today.
These gatherings tend toward the chaotic for the first few hours, what with many of the horses being rather high strung, combined with a number of people of questionable breeding. Smokey, being half Thoroughbred (I like to blame it on that, anyway), reacts very strongly to his surroundings. This tends to manifest itself in a general unwillingness to be parted from the horses of his “herd”. Disregard the fact that he treats them with a general sense of disdain, if not outright hostility, at home. He suddenly has the epiphany that they are now his best chums.
During warm up, he spent a great deal of time throwing his head around, in part because he’s part doofus, and in part because I was constantly on the bit to prevent Flash Gordon from bolting to make the mad dash back to the trailer where his pals were. Needless to say, we both had a pretty good sweat going prior to the first event.
The first two events weren’t much better. With ants in his pants, he absolutely would not stand still while waiting to go in the arena. While making our runs, he was headed only he knows where, causing us to zigzag down the course as I constantly corrected his direction of travel.
By the end of the second event, I was ready to hang the FOR SALE sign around his neck. Perhaps trade him for a bottle of water, or a cold beer.
Now, the horse folks reading this have probably already figured out what is happening here. Horses are very sensitive to their rider. As he got amped up, I got amped, in turn causing him to get more amped up, which caused me to get more amped up, ad nauseum. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s up to the rider to break the chain.
After the second run, I dismounted, collected my thoughts, and put myself in the correct framer of mind. Remounting, we rode over to the end of the arena where the entrance gate is. My only goal was for him to stand still. We didn’t actually spend any significant amount of time standing still, and I must have said the word “whoa” about 1456 times, but we never left the area near the gate. A great many circles, plenty of backing up, but he did not get his way.
When we entered the waiting box for the Pole Bending competition, he stood stock still. Success! I was relaxed, and in turn, he was relaxed. The event went perfectly. To wit:
We clearly didn’t set any course records, but we were in control the entire time, and didn’t knock over any poles.
In the next few events, I really opened him up. Damn, he’s fast! Sadly, no one got video of those times. I’ll correct that situation next month.