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Finally got back from my big vacation odyssey in the Pacific Northwest this week, and tried to get back to work with Cally.  She’d been in work while I was away, with my trainer doing a couple of rides and one of the very nice junior riders at the barn hacking her a bit and doing a couple lessons while I was away, so I didn’t feel too crazy signing up for to show sidesaddle the Friday after I got home.  Maybe I should have.

Because the weather didn’t cooperate at all to prep.  We hacked lightly Monday for me to get my saddle-legs back, and planned to do a lesson Wednesday, but just ended up doing a light hack then, too, since it was so wet and sloppy.  But Cally was going well and seemed happy to be working, so we made plans to head up to St. Christopher’s with Julie and her fantastic mare Sophie, since she and Cally are BFFs and would be super happy to trailer together.  Also, for once, I didn’t have to drive, which was thrilling to me.

The weather looked ominous, calling for storms just as we were supposed to ride, but the horses got braided and loaded up and we got on the road anyway.  The drive went well until about 10 minutes from the show, where a car had slid off the road and traffic was held up for almost an hour.  So we were later than planned getting to the grounds, and Cally did not get her usual Walk Around The Showgrounds prep.  We just did a quick walk around the indoor, then went back to the trailer to get ready.  She seemed relaxed, but maybe too relaxed–as we stood waiting for Julie to mount and get her apron situated, the horse seriously almost fell over asleep, like had to put a foot out to catch herself.  It was very odd, but she seemed OK once I asked her to walk around again a bit.

We walked across the showgrounds to many smiling hellos (people are always super entertained by ladies aside) and Cally seemed good, if not entirely thrilled with the ring footing, which while totally OK and safe to ride on, was puddle-y and sloppy, which she’s not generally a big fan of.  But the sun had come out and the wind had picked up, helping to dry it out a bit more, so I wasn’t at all concerned about showing on it, because it was good footing, even wet.  But Cally wasn’t super thrilled, and also wasn’t super thrilled with the number of horses in the ring–it was a big division of 10!–so she was tense and a bit reactive from the get-go.  And it took 3 tries warming up to get her to pick up her left lead, which is really odd, but I just chalked it up to not having been in the sidesaddle since the last show we did aside, almost a month ago.  After that I just walked her, and did my best to try to get her to relax, stretch out and take a breath.

She wasn’t really having any of it, and was a bit of a tense, giraffey, super-roary mess during the undersaddle.  Even if she hadn’t been a giraffe who didn’t want to pick up her right lead, the judge would have been totally justified in not using us just based on the roaring alone, and I’m OK with that.  But I’m not happy with how the horse went, and hoped we could do a bit better in the hack.  That didn’t really happen; we had a few good moments, but she was still super tense, and was a bit sticky about picking up both her leads again.  I opted not to jump, but as we were waiting in the lineup for the other ladies to do their jump line, she once again got almost-falling-over-dozey, and was making this deep, rhythmic groaning noise.  That alone would have made me not want to jump her.  And if I didn’t totally know better (because 1. I trust my trainer and know she doesn’t work that way, and 2. I know the strongest thing we have in the barn is Ace, or else she’d had been sedated with it when we were trying to clip her ears last fall!!), I would have assumed the horse was tranqued and all tense because she was trying to fight through it.  It was so strange and totally out of character for her.  Was it the sudden shift in weather from cool, cloudy, and rainy to hot, humid, and sunny?  Was it being in season?  Was it the overnight turnout?  Were she and Sophie worn out from making out in the trailer the whole way there?  I don’t know, but it was both frustrating and mildly concerning.

But we did go back in for the Pleasure class, since I figured another flat wasn’t going to hurt her.  We walked on the buckle before they called the class, and while she wasn’t perfect, she was so much improved over the other two classes.  She really does need that warmup, then go to sleepy situation before she goes in the ring, and we just didn’t get that on Friday.  I was so much happier with how she went in that class, so it’s a bummer that it was a one-off and not a USEF-pointed class, because she finished 6th, and I was happy with her improvement.

Our friend Sophie had a really great jump round, and I was so happy that they finished with a 3rd over fences. The plan may be for Julie to ride Cally a couple times schooling aside, and try doing her over fences for me at one of the upcoming shows, because I know she’d be happier going and jumping, but I’m just not completely comfortable with it aside to the point that we can do a solid course yet.  I’d like to be at that point by next year, but we need work, and I think Cally going and getting a few solid rounds with Julie under her girth would be a wonderful thing.

Then it was time to load up and head home.  And my horse, who has trailered all over hither and yon in the DMV for years, refused to get on their (perfectly lovely, much nicer than my ghetto junker) trailer.  This mare self-loads onto my trailer.  We eventually had to put on a rope halter, pull Sophie off the trailer, and use a dressage whip to encourage her on.  So ridiculous and embarassing when you’re trailering with someone else.  So Miss Mare is going to get a few remedial lessons on Getting On Other Trailers over the next week or so.  I came down with a raging case of food poisoning (?)/GI bug (?) the night after the show, so we didn’t get a chance to work on it on my trainer’s trailer before she hauled off to a show yesterday, but we’re planning on working on it, because this is an important skill, and one I thought she had.    But also another thing that made me think she was Not Quite Herself.

But when we got back and got unloaded, Cally seemed to be her normal self.  She got her dinner, which she was hungry for, while I unloaded my stuff from the trailer, and got a bath to wash off all the slop and the sweat marks from the heat she’d worked up Not Getting On The Trailer, and was happy and enthusiastic to hand graze.  She was trying to drag me to the gate to her field, which I also took as a good sign and she seemed back to her usual self, if maybe a little chiller than usual while I was taking braids out.  I haven’t gotten any reports of out-of-character behavior while I’ve been sprawled on the couch attempting not to succumb to dehydration.

I guess we’ll just see, and hope she’s back to her normal self now that the daily monsoons have ended and she can go back to a regular work schedule.  Once I decide what our next outing will be, hopefully it will be better!