Recently I brought along my husband and two year old son to their very first recognized horse trials. For those of you planning on bringing your non-horsey family along for the first time, let me offer some helpful advice. Better yet, you might want to let your spouse/boyfriend read this so he knows what’s coming…
Lesson Number One: Always check your horse before you load.
Day 0, Friday morning, we were moving along on schedule. Everything was loaded in the truck and trailer, and all we had left to do was load the two horses in the trailer and head out on the road. It was about this time my friend realized she’d left her purse in her office, so we decided I would load the horses while she fetched it. The timing would work, and it wouldn’t put us behind. Off she went, and I headed out to fetch Johnny. After putting on his shipping boots, I turned him out into the arena while I went to catch Wolfie. In case you’re wondering, yes, Johnny immediately started running around–he knew something was up. I only hoped he wouldn’t completely trash my shipping boots. Why didn’t I just ask Ryan to hold him? He took one look at the big pile of manure Johnny had just dropped and said, “there is no way I’ll be able to keep Carson out of that if I’m watching Johnny.” Good point. So, I grabbed Wolfie’s halter off his stall and ran out to his pasture. He walked right up and put his head in the halter, and I brought him out to the trailer. After catching my now sweaty horse and re-adjusting his boots, I handed him off to Ryan. I headed towards the ramp with Wolfie, and…he balked. I grabbed the dressage whip for reinforcement and headed up the ramp again. This time, I gave him a little tap on the rump as he started to balk. Long story short, by the time Elisabeth returned, I did NOT have the boys loaded. She grabbed Wolfie and started to head up the ramp. It was about this time I got a good look at him, and at the same time she said, “Wolfie doesn’t look like himself today.” True, he didn’t. I wondered if he was sick, and then we realized about the same time that the reason Wolfie didn’t look like himself was because it wasn’t actually Wolfie! In my focused, horse show state of mind, I had grabbed the wrong horse out of the pasture! Granted, they do look very similar (minus this horse’s great big white star). While Elisabeth retrieved the correct horse, I loaded Johnny. Wolfie then loaded right up. Thankfully the doppelganger was reluctant to load, or we might’ve made it to Lexington before we realized my mistake!
Lesson Number Two: Do a thorough vehicle maintenance or have a qualified professional check your towing vehicle before you head out.
Still Day 0, Friday afternoon. We arrived into Lexington right on time, and Elisabeth and I had a plan mapped out that we would take care of the boys while Ryan and Carson went to pick out a campsite. About two miles from the horse park exit, we ran into stalled traffic as a result of an accident. We had been sitting for about 2 minutes when Ryan suddenly said, “crap!” The truck was overheating. We chalked it up to hauling two 1500 lb horses and camping gear through the hills then sitting in 95 degree heat and moved to the grassy median to wait out the traffic while the truck cooled down. Thankfully the boys enjoy traveling together, and with the rear hatch and escape doors open, there was a nice breeze moving through the trailer so they didn’t overheat. Elisabeth and I fed them carrots while Ryan entertained Carson. Incidentally, Lexington folks are particularly friendly and helpful–about a dozen motorists rolled down their windows as they creeped by and asked if we needed any help. We remarked that we were thinking about just setting up camp where we were and then riding the horses to the Horse Park. If it wasn’t for that pesky, “No animals on foot allowed” sign posted on New Circle Road, we just might have… After the traffic cleared, we managed to roll back out onto the road, but after about a half mile of travel, the truck overheated again. We pulled over again to let it cool, and hoped it was just the heat and strain of towing that was causing it, as there appeared to be plenty of coolant in the reservoir. We finally arrived at the horse park, now a solid hour behind schedule, but still plenty of time to get everything accomplished.
Lesson Three: Be sure you have the right paperwork with you.
As we pulled up to the inspection point, I handed the guy Johnny’s coggins and health certificate. I prepared to get out of the truck and show him Johnny so he could match him to his papers, but he waived us on, saying, “okay, you’re good.” I said,”uhm, do you want to see the other horse’s papers?” Seriously, we could’ve brought anything in… He checked Wolfie’s coggins, pronounced it good, then reviewed his health certificate. He then said, “this certificate is no good.” What? We had just had them done, maybe two weeks ago! Another long story short, Wolfie is stabled in KY with Johnny, but Elisabeth resides in TN, and her certificate was a TN certificate. The KY Horse Park requires a 30 day certificate for all other states besides KY, and she hadn’t brought the one we’d just had done, since the TN certificate was only a couple of months old. We ended up parking and waiting for the on-call vet to come out to prepare a new certificate. Luckily for Elisabeth, thanks to technology, she was able to pull up Wolfie’s current vet records, and she didn’t have to pay an extra $45 to get a new certificate. We finally rolled up to the show office and checked in to receive our stall assignments. We off-loaded the boys and snuggled them into their ‘comfy’ stalls.
And we’ll end on that note for now. This post will be continued…