Friday, July 15, 2011

I miss you, Niki!

Ziggy/Henry and Jet are BFFs
Since Niki has gone out on maternity leave, I have been doing horsey day care duties. This is how my first week went:

1. On Wednesday, Monte the farrier came and shoed several horses. NOTE: Monte is a VERY good farrier.

2. An hour after being shod, Frostie was not just lame, but two-legged lame. She is very sensitive about the nail placement. Monte had to reset the nails, pour iodine into the holes and give her some bute.

3. I gave Ziggy (renamed Henry) a turnout and spent an hour washing the dirt out of his coat, not to mention the dreadlocks I had to comb out.

4. On Thursday, Cody threw the shoe that Monte had put on Wednesday.

5. While we were waiting for Monte to come back out, Sue's horse, Gracie, decided she did not like her new shoe and started limping.

6. As an act of solidarity, Elliot started losing the packing out of one of his shoes.

7. I tried all week to ride Snoopy, but by the time I got all the horses done each day, I was tired and there was no one around to hear me if I fell off. I don't require a lot of supervision. I just need to know I won't lie in the arena, moaning, for more than an hour before someone finds me.

8. Cody also broke out in hives again, so I had to medicate him and monitor that.

9. Elliot, again feeling the need to be in with the In Crowd, developed grunge all over his butt that had to be scrubbed.

After a week and a half, I texted Niki. "Your job is hard."

I'm sure she's still laughing about that.

At the end of today, I got an interesting phone call from a lady interested in riding lessons for her two sons, seven and twelve years old. I explained our program: a one-hour private lesson which consists of learning to groom, and ride.

"So, how long is the actual riding," she asked.

"It depends upon how quickly they get the horse ready, but usually it's 30-40 minutes."

"And how many lessons until they know how to ride?"

"I can't really say. It depends upon their motor skills, balance and focus."

This eluded her. "But how long on average would you say?"

"I have no average. I have some students who are fairly proficient by the fourth lesson. Then I have some that take months."

"Well, how long are you out on the trails?"


"We don't ride on trails. We ride in an arena."

"Oh, an arena," she said. "Like for racing?"

"No, there's no racing." I've never had to explain an arena to anyone, but I tried. "An arena is... a dirt area surrounded by a fence."

"Oh, okay." Then she stunned me. "Well, let me talk to my boys to see if they want to do this. They've never even seen a horse."

I'm fascinated: She obviously had no knowledge of riding, and her sons had not requested this activity. What possessed her to think of trying this?

Stay tuned to see if she calls back for an appointment. In the meantime, I miss you, Niki!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A new chapter begins

I have two trainers, Tina and Niki. They are both very good at their jobs. Most of the time, I work with one of them until we reach one of those sticking points where we're no longer communicating. Then the other one takes over. It's kind of like tag-team wrestling.

Last Christmas, Niki made a surprise announcement: she was expecting. It was sort of a surprise because for the several years I've known her, she's told me she didn't want kids.

I kept telling her to never say never.

I didn't want kids until I was around, oh, Niki's age. Then I understood the importance of having a family, and the sheer gamble of raising a child, with its risk of losing it all to heartbreak with each time you hit the jackpot.

Niki and her hubby were told they probably wouldn't get pregnant without medical intervention, so they prepared for rounds of drugs and shots and fertility rituals. Before they got to that, however, Nature intervened.

Niki lunging Ziggy
I had no idea I'd be so excited by her pregnancy. I've only got one kiddo. Hubby and I tried for more, but the baby factory was closed. So I've got 18 years of experience at child rearing, not to mention 9 months of pregnancy, that I have never been able to use.

It was lovely to be able to tell Niki what was normal and what wasn't, to talk about having a C-section (the doctor thought it safest due to an earlier surgery), to let her know it was okay to be terrified of bringing a newborn home and not know what to do with it. I sent her an Internet article about C-sections and babies. The best part of the article advised her, for the first two weeks, to have three things on her To Do List: take care of the baby, take a shower, brush your teeth.

She told me it became her mantra. Baby, Shower, Teeth. Baby, Shower, Teeth.
The last week

As she got closer to the due date, lessons got more demanding. Tina is currently dealing with a grandson who had a bone marrow transplant (aplastic anemia) in addition to running the ranch and teaching dog obedience, so our training sessions may be sporadic. I'm trying to be flexible, but Niki knows I will be riding Snoopy under less supervision than before. She was determined to teach me how to tell when he was out of frame and how to correct him immediately when he wants to be a lazy butt.

On Tuesday, her last day, we had a helluva course, out in the sweltering heat. I did a lope-jog-lope sequence until I was nearly blind with exhaustion. But we got it. Afterward, there were lists of things for me to do. I'm taking care of horse day care while she's away. We went over the list of who gets a turnout or lunge when. We went over a lot of things.

After I went home, I got a few more texts, going over a few more things.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent with more texting. At one point, I sent her a picture of Ziggy the pony's mane. It was in a hot tangled mess. "This is his mane one day without you," I said. "He looks like Ziggy Marley."

She wanted to know what the farrier said about the horses. She called the people who needed to be told about their horses' feet. She worried about us.

And then Friday morning, they wheeled one woman into the operating room and wheeled out one woman plus one baby. Little Tyler was here!

I had joked with Monte, the farrier, that after Friday, Niki would be saying, "Ranch? What ranch? I got a baby!"

Some people speculate she won't want to come back, but I think she will. I loved my son (still do), loved being with him, but needed a scheduled break from him. I wasn't used to being around babies. It allowed me to do what I used to do and know who I used to be, and his day care provider gave me another expert to call upon when I wasn't certain what to do with him.

We're, of course, going to do everything we can to transition Niki back to the barn, even if one of us rocks the baby while she rides. We're gloriously happy for her and her hubby, and can't wait to meet Tyler.

If in a couple of months, she thinks she just doesn't want to get back in the saddle, we'll accept that. But I really don't believe it. After all, how can she leave this face behind?