Sunday, February 11, 2007

Big Barrel Race yesterday

We took Lena to a really big barrel race yesterday at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. Katie says it's the most fun she's had ever at a show, even though there was a lot of standing around. We all learned something about big shows with lots of wild horses and not-so-polite riders, being patient, relaxing when it's your turn, and just having fun with your horse. Lena also reminded us that she really doesn't like stalls or being bored much.

No pictures, though, because it was inside and dark an rainy most of the day. Any pictures would probably have been blurry pictures of Lena's hind end, anyway.

We got to our barn at around 6:45 a.m., pulled the truck up by the upper barn, gave Lena some alfalfa and grain, and proceeded to load her tack in the truck. All this while being watched suspiciously by Spotty Horse, who had to be wondering what on earth her humans were up to that early in the morning.

She soon found out.

We got her loaded - in between Angel and Tristan in Shannon's trailer - without too much coaxing, even though it was breakfast time. The drive to the fairgrounds was fairly uneventful, though very rainy along the way. We got signed in, sent Steve and Brandon - Katie's boyfriend - to find straw for stall bedding, and unloaded the horses, only to be reminded forcefully by Lena that she does not like stalls. She tried to see the horses next to her through the walls, tried to sniff over the top of the walls, spun around in her stall, all to no avail. Then she stuck her head out and whinnied, hoping for an familiar voice to answer. She did get answered, but by another equally vocal horse over in the next barn. Later, she even made friends with a horse parked next door just to pass the time.

Even with her stall dance, we did manage to get her brushed and tacked up, after which Katie took her down to the arena to see about warming her up and getting ready for the time-only runs. We had two time-only tickets, one for me and one for Katie, but I got busy doing something else so Katie ran them both. She used them mostly as warm-up and for practice, and that was all Lena got to do in the event arena for about 7 hours until we finally got to my class, followed right after by Katie's class - the last two classes of the day.

In my own uneducated show opinion, they might want to consider letting the novice and novice youth go first, rather than making them stand around for 10 hours. It might help bring people into the sport better. Actually, since I'm not necessarily concerned with winning, we decided - for big shows, anyway - we might as well enter the open classes. We know the times we have to shoot for, and if it's all for fun, then it doesn't matter much and it would be much better for all of us than standing around between classes.

It might not have been so bad waiting if there had been something else for her - and us - to do. Unfortunatley, it poured down rain most of the day, which not only made things wet, cold and muddy, it made it hard to keep horses ready to go since the warm-up arena was outside. They did open up the main arena for a little while, but that was before the gigantic Open class - 130 horses - got started, so even though Lena got loosened up initially, there was a lot of time to kill before we got to run. We finally gave up and Steve and Katie each worked her in the outdoor ring during the day, which means she's filthy today. We also found out soggy, sandy rear boots have to come off. She's not a fan of rear boots in general, but the extra weight and grit from the wet, and muddy outdoor ring did not go over well. I thought she had suddenly gotten rude and was kicking back at other horses - which was kind of surprising and not like her at all. Peter said she probably didn't want her boots on and he was right, she stopped as soon as they came off. For now, we'll run her without them and see how she does.

Finally, we got to our turn. I rode her in the Novice class and did okay. I was really (really) nervous. Peter was manning the exit gate and as I waited for the entrance gate-keeper to let me into the arena, Peter told me to "relax." I actually did, for about a split second. Then we were out and Lena was really trying to do what I wanted, only I wasn't giving her great directions. We finally agreed to start on the left barrel, came around it, and went on to the second barrel. Then, when we came up onto the third and I found myself thinking - and holding her back a little in the process - "which side?!" I finally committed - correctly, as it turns out - to circling clockwise and then brought her down the center as fast as we could go. We got a 21 second time or so, which isn't terrible, and I'm trying hard to remind myself it was our first time and it's okay.

Then Katie's turn came and she says her main goal was to show how fast Lena can accelerate without use of a whip or spurs like some of the other riders use. Yeah, it's fast. Unfortunately, Katie got a little over-zealous and took out barrel number two. Katie says Lena 'felt' her back off a little after the barrel came down, and that's why Lena tried to skip the last barrel. Katie made her finish anyway, even though they had no time, and came out of that arena with a huge smile on her face, despite it all.

I think Katie and I are both disappointed that we didn't ride as well as we could have and so Lena didn't get the times she's capable of, but all in all it was a good experience for all of us. I think we'll try for smaller shows in the future, at least for awhile, and plan better for big shows if we decide to try more of those.

Phew. Long day, long post, muddy, crusty saddle that needed to be cleaned this morning. The saddle is currently drying in the front room and we are all pretty weary, but it was worth it on many different levels. I'll post later about the pony Lena wanted to follow all over, it was hilarious.

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