I pulled out my chair from the trailer, grabbed my cooler, got a little organized. Smokey had his hay bag.
I decided to walk him over to the road area that leads into the parking lot. One of my goals is to work with him on pavement every chance I get since it seems to make him (me) nervous. He was perfect, lead nicely, looked about but didn't get worried.
We headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO and B. I tied him to the trailer and tried to settle down to eat a little. I changed into something suitable for swimming. Still nobody.
How long does it take your horse to unravel? It took mine about 10 minutes of waiting. Then he was a fish on a line, twirling around, convinced that the other horses should be here.
I had to agree. I needed to give him something to do, something to focus on. And me too.
I decided that we'd go swimming. They'd be there soon, and could meet us in the water.
I locked my cell phone and truck keys in the trailer tack room and headed for the lake. Smokey was a little less well behaved, so we corrected here and there. His head was high, he was looking for others, calling once or twice. We entered the water and he was initially doing well.
Then he began pawing at the water. Then pulling on the rope. I only had him in his web halter (mistake number 3 of about 79) and had trouble making my messages convincing. Then it happened.
It was the thing that if I was a more knowledgeable horse woman, someone who understood young horses better, I would have nipped in the bud. He gave the tiniest rear.
Honestly, it was just beautiful and that's part of the reason I didn't think of correcting it. Then came the head moves in the water, and a second, bigger rear.
Don't get me wrong, he was never in danger of falling over, nor was he rearing "at" me, but he was definitely doing this as a show of strength. Not to me, I believe, my sense was it was more of a display meant for anyone who might dare come to eat him.
Right about then I decided to get us out of the water. I'd tried to ride him in the water, but he was too headstrong, too full of himself – in a bad way. He seemed to blank out about me for moments, I reminded him that I was there. He was that frazzled.
We walked out of the water – I turned him twice when he got ahead of me – and we headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO or B.
That's it, we're leaving, I thought to myself. I secured him to the trailer, stepped in to get a manure fork to clean it out, and shut the tack room door. As I was shoveling out manure I saw him rear – again – as he was tied.
That's it! I thought, my last shred of patience gone. I gave him an immediate verbal correction and headed out to do some circles. He was a mess, but eventually got two braincells focused on me. I re-tied him and went to put up the manure fork.
Which is when I discovered that the tack room door was locked. I checked down at my pocket. It was flapped open and a quick check showed there was no key there.
Seriously? I'd lost it during our brief lead line lunging? And how did the door even lock? I was so pleased that I couldn't accidentally lock the tack room door because it requires the key to lock it. Yet I was so gifted that I somehow managed this feat.
And my cell phone?
In the tack room. Cuz, you know, it's safer in there.
Now who was frazzled?
I seemed to remember I'd beeped opened the truck, so I checked the doors. The passenger doors were still locked, but the drivers side was open. I started rummaging for the extra key. Gone. With all the recent moves we were constantly moving keys around.
We have a hidden key, though. I grabbed a dirty towel from the back and lay it on the ground under the truck. Well, now we know why we call it hidden. I sure as heck couldn't find it.
I attempted not to hyperventilate.
I looked back at the tack room door. It has a window. Maybe I could break it, I'd hung the keys on a hook inside the door, surely I could reach them. Fortunately I hadn't locked the window from the inside, and I was able to slide it open and punch out the screen.
I reached down blindly and touched the knob for the door. I figured that this door would have some sort of safety built in so you couldn't lock yourself inside. Sure enough, the knob slid , and the door was open.
See the round knob? I love that round knob.
No sign of the tack room key, but big deal, I already figured out how to break into it anyway. I quickly grabbed my truck keys and cell phone and put them in the checked-three-times,-yes-it's- unlocked truck. Now, to load Smokey.
I don't even have to tell you this part, right? He refused to load. Right about then the BO and B showed up, looking like they'd had a heck of a ride themselves. (they did).
“Will he not load?” the BO called out.
“Oh, he's going to load.” I said. Shortly there after he did, without any help from anyone else (my lone source of pride at that point).
I drove back as rain started to hit my windshield. I was so disappointed, I'd made choices that day that set us back, way back. What was I doing with a five year old horse? I had no clue. I let him unravel because I couldn't see it coming. I bit back the thought that I shouldn't actually have this horse. It's a mental road I've driven many times, thinking I don't "deserve" this horse. I'm over that now.
When championship reiners are being left to starve, I have no illusions that somehow the fact I'm not a top level trainer and dressage rider is a horrible fate for Smokey. Frankly, I'm of the mind that we are both just going to have to deal with our mutual shortcomings. I'll work on mine, he'll work on his, we'll get somewhere because I'm too stubborn not to get somewhere.
At the barn I unloaded him and took him to the round pen. We had a brief session. He listened well after some quick turns. But I knew we still weren't ending this on this note. He needed to get back in the trailer.
Before you think I was totally insane, remember, we are in an extreme fire danger zone, even a day of rain won't cure that. I can't have a horse who won't load.
And we were not ending on a good note. He was going through the motions, but he wasn't connecting with me.
We had another battle at the trailer. He wouldn't come near it, acted like he had no idea where I wanted him to go when I was trying to line lunge him. This is a horse who will change direction in the round pen with a slight movement of my shoulders.
I finally got a glimmer of cooperation. He turned in the direction I asked. We went back to the trailer. He put a hoof in, then back out. I turned him once and went back to the trailer and stood there with him, dropping my head.
“Come on Smokey. We're way past this, we know how to do this,” I said softly.
And he jumped in the trailer.
I stepped in after him. He stood in place, his eyes still wide, but something coming back into them, something I was surprised to see.
The only way I can describe it is it was that look your child gets when they drop the tough guy act and they are there, your kid again. Accepting of your help. Accepting of your role. Letting go.
We stood in the trailer together for a minute. Maybe two. Neither one of us asking to leave. Then I stepped away and said “back.” He calmly stepped back and I walked him back to his paddock and the rain went from a sprinkle to a gentle steady fall.
When I got home to get cleaned up I found the trailer key. It was stuck in my pocket.
I had apparently not dug deep enough.