But just because you aren't having a lot of problems with your horse at any given time - have no fear. It doesn't mean that your fellow boarders aren't on hand to help you deal with this lack of excitement. They can be trusted to spice things up for you.
And this is where I made my first serious riding mistake with Ms. V, at MVA. Sure, I knew those around me were pretty clueless, but I assumed that they were also harmless, and really just irritating. But actually, clueless can pretty easily cross the line to dangerous.
Oh Curmudgeon, this is a mistake one should never make around big, unpredictable animals. That is how people get hurt.
Yah, good point. And they did like their donuts there, some of them were pretty meaty.
Actually, I do have a video (old school VCR, so don't bother asking me to share) of one of my first times riding Ms. V. I am aided by my trusty cameraman Mr. Motard. His arm appears in a "3-D House of Beef" style to hold her for me now and then, or pass me this or that, but his role seems primarily to yell helpful observations and pointers loudly into the camera while filming. They actually sound just as knowledgeable as anything that would have been dished out by the railbirds themselves. Things like - "can you make her stop when you want?" or "why is she opening her mouth - it looks like she is going AAAkkkKK - AAAAkkkKKK" or "she looks a lot better without you on her".
But the funniest thing about the video is that while I am taking these first tentative baby steps on my totally green horse, there is some nutjob running around the arena beside her horse wearing nothing but a halter (no, no...the horse.. she is fully clothed), doing some sort of clucking parelli / natural horsemanship dealie. No, there is no lead rope actually attaching her to the horse. I watch this now and wonder to myself how on Earth I didn't notice this stellar horsemanship display, and what on earth I was thinking when I decided to ride Ms. V at the same time as Girl who Runs with Horses (or whatever her aboriginal Canadian name might be). Very stupid on my part.
However, it was not Girl who Runs with Horses who caused problems for me eventually. It was Token Teenage Male who Rides.
Token Teenage Male who Rides is a regular fixture at many boarding stables. I must word this carefully as my nephew is a TTMwR (and is wonderful in every way, Mrs Curmudgeon). For the most part they are nerdy, gangly, and would have no hope of scoring a really hot, rich girl anywhere on Earth. Except of course, at a boarding stable, where they are perceived as some sort of precious gems on otherwise entirely XX desert islands, and are surrounded by flocks of fawning females who would not give their greasy pimpled faces a second look in any other environment. I guess it is god's way of rewarding them for doing something wholesome with their time instead of holing up in their basements playing World of Warcraft while masturbating, or whatever it is these little freaks typically do.
Of course, MVA had its TTMwR, who was a perfect specimen. Tall and dorky, not particularly good looking but passable enough to get the undivided attention of the 30 or so teenaged girls who came and went, with an equally tall, dorky, and passably good looking OTTB*.
Now, the problem with TTMwR really had nothing do do with any of this. The problem was that any teenager, regardless of gender or locale who receives too much attention for doing something entirely unremarkable morphs into an obnoxious little self important asshole. (Come to think of it... this does cover most teenagers these days, since each and every one is so very gifted and unique). And so, instead of perceiving himself as a typical, run of the mill teenager out enjoying his horse, the adoration turned him into a hotshot budding Ian Millar in his own special world, in his own special head. And as such, he was an early adopter of the blowhard railbird persona.
The passably good looking OTTB was actually a sweetie, and perfect match for TTMwR. He had been bought at auction but in a previous life, had been a fabulous Grand Prix jumper, or some such story (funny how EVERY horse bought at auction and now owned by a teenager was once a fabulous GP something-or-other, according to teen-owner folklore. They were never just garden variety ex-racehorses). They trucked around the arena together doing seemingly normal things and besides his verbal diarrhea problem, I really didn't mind TTMwR.
Until the day, for some unexplained reason, he decided to ride up behind us, yell "RAIL", then proceed to smash directly into Ms. V's ass. She went bananas (rightly so), gave a massive "get the hell away from me" buck, then proceeded to run around like a freaked out nut for the next few minutes as the railbirds waved their arms and ran straight towards her face yelling WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! Surprisingly enough, this just made her run away faster and in a more terrified fashion than when the whole affair began.
Now, this was all going on without me, of course, since the buck did me in, and I was lying in the dirt busily trying to remember exactly how it is one breathes. It usually seems so easy....
Eventually the excitement subsided - I was able to suck some air in, someone semi-sane caught Ms. V - and I tentatively climbed back abord and did a few laps of - whatever - just to be sure the event was all behind us.
Or so I thought. I knew I was in trouble when I saw TTMwR huddled with his teenaged sister and mother - damn, this is never a good sign.
Apparently I still needed my arena ettiquite lesson from TTMwR.
You see, he explained, the faster horse always has the right of way, Curmudgeon. So, even though you were ON the track, when I yelled "RAIL" you should have moved out of my way.
WTF? On what planet?
My horse is just learning to walk. On the rail. That is as exciting as it gets for us, it is not cool-down period. I can't steer her reliably in a straight line on the "second track" yet, so that is not an option. I certainly can't yank her out of your way in a hurry. I know this sounds nutty - but what you could have done is gone around us. Like absolutely everyone else does, all the time.
Well, we shouldn't have to do that. Faster horse has right of way. And - you owe me new stirrups too.
Sure enough, Ms. V had hit his stirrup when she bucked and broken it. I felt sick to my stomach imagining what would have happened if her hoof had hit his ankle instead. Or even worse, any part of the cute OTTB. Or, if her foot had gotten caught in the stirrup.
This post is already pretty long, and there is most certianly enough material for an entire rant on the subject, so I won't go into it today. Let me just say...arena traffic rules. FUCK. Why does it have to be so complicated. Here is a simple solution to all of the permutations of how people should interact in an arena.
1. Pretend you are a car
2. Pilot your horse in a manner, if she was a car, you would not die in a fiery crash.
i.e... pass left to left. Fast moving vehicles overtake the slow ones. If you see someone who looks like they are DUI or over 90 years of age - stay far away from them. And if someone has a car that is not running perfectly, maybe on the side of the road, hood up, flat tire - give them a break and move over. Driving up behind someone and laying on your horn, then smashing into them if they don't get the hell out of your way is not an effective death avoidance strategy on the highway, why would you think it is a good idea in the arena?
Well, long story short...the 30 days idea seemed good in principle, but was not a good one in practice. As I am sure many of you have learned as well, you just can't start a horse properly at a stable loaded with people lacking in common sense 24/7. It is just not safe and you all just irritate the hell out of each other. (Yes, as I write this, I know there is probably another blogger out there somewhere writing about how fucking annoying it is to ride with people starting horses. Fair enough).
So don't do it.
I think I was at about day 25 of the 30 days, so I hung up my spurs after that night (don't freak out...metaphorically, people. No real spurs were involved), and decided to wait until we headed to Liliput. I really didn't want to know what other interesting arena rules awaited me.
And, I was glad that I was leaving the vicinity of MVA soon. Rumour had it TTMwR was getting his 365 (or whatever it is they call beginner licences these days).
*OTTB - off track thoroughbred