Sunday, June 4, 2017

The last dance

Even before we went to Burbank this weekend, we knew.

After the Del Mar fiasco, I said I wanted to take him to the Burbank show, just to see if he was calmer, to see if his performance improved when he wasn't stressed and exhausted. I said he'd definitely be retired at the end of this season.

But Niki knew the truth of it, and in the end, so did I.

Every lesson at home told me that his body moved differently. I was now doing a lot of work to keep his shoulders up, his hips pushing forward. Sometimes it felt like rubbing my head and patting my stomach--lifting the reins, sitting right, rubbing my right spur against him, just to get a left lead that would get us both over the poles. Poles that were flat on the ground.

By the time we loaded up for the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, I knew it was our last competition.

The good news is, Snoopy was happy to be there. He settled pretty quickly. When he wasn't eating large quantities of hay, he was asleep. He actually laid down at one point. The barn was a good place, unlike Del Mar.

As expected, though, his body tired easily and getting him around the courses was doable, but not pretty. I won't fault him, won't tell you he was being lazy. He responded to my leg, never ignored me. He gave us everything he had. 

As Niki warmed him up for his last class, she said at one point he laid his ears back and she could swear she heard him say, "Woman! I am TRYING to do what you're asking! THIS is all I've GOT!"

Maybe he did.

Usually, at a horse show, Niki takes him in a class to school him, preferably before my class. Even if she goes after me, she can clean up the areas I screw up on. At this show, her class was after mine. I told her on Saturday, that if she didn't want to show, there was no point in cleaning him up after my class. It wasn't like he was going to show, ever again.

"No, no, I'll do it," she said.

Stupid me. I was so focused on my last ride with the big goofball, it didn't dawn on me that she'd like one more time to take him around a course. 

I stayed focused on the task at hand and didn't think about what it meant. It turned out to be a hard ride, because everytime I did something I wasn't happy with, I'd think, I'll have to work on this at home. Then I'd realize I didn't have to. Still, I didn't cry until I was done and had dismounted. That moment, of my boots on the ground, signaled the end.

Niki waited until the end, too, because she couldn't risk having tears on her eyeglasses. There was crying, there was hugging. An era ended.

My friends Ernie and Tina were sweet enough to capture my last ride.

And I captured Niki's go (excuse the wobbly camera work).

So here's a little ditty for us to ride off into the sunset. 

Happy Trails.

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