The short version -- I was not the rider Secret needed me to be during the Michael Klimke clinic in March 2010. And the clinic had different, unexpected lessons to teach.
The long version —it all started two weeks before the clinic, with Venus, my spicy-red-hot mare. She handled our snowbound February fairly well until she came into season. Hormones tend to tighten her back and shorten her attention span, but since she hadn’t been able to roll and buck, she was particularly tight and distracted. On Sunday, I decided to let her run it off in the indoor arena. I pulled the barricade across the doorway, hung hopefully-scary stuff on it, and let her loose.
Yeah, that was a bad idea.
She bucked one 20-m circle, trotted up to the barricade, stopped, and jumped it from a standstill.
Well, there’s a reason Venus is not a show jumper.
On the way over, she shattered the barricade with her left stifle, twisted as she almost fell, scrambled back up, passaged through the snow up to Eclipse’s stall, spun around, and double-barreled the stone wall by his door. She, of course, was quite lame and swollen from this wild escapade. When she failed my The Three Day Rule (Simple soft tissue strains resolve quite nicely with three days off and a little anti inflammatories. If things don’t resolve in that time frame, I call the vet.), I began to worry and scheduled a lameness appointment the following Tuesday.
But Venus had other plans.
By Tuesday, she was beyond bored, and she started munching on straw. Combine that with sudden inactivity, Venus was working on a bit of constipation, which became the priority.
I didn’t want to go to New Bolton unless Venus looked like a surgical candidate, which she did not, so Dr. Crowley, the-most-amazing-vet-ever, and Leslie, her faithful sidekick, rigged an IV set-up in Venus’s stall. I spent Tuesday night changing bags and making sure the IV was running freely. Around midnight, Venus rewarded me with a beautiful pile of poo.
Wednesday morning’s rectal exam showed a clear colon (which, for anyone who has dealt with an impaction, is really quite fast for it to resolve), so I started the slow process of reintroducing food. Thanks to Carol’s help, I managed to go home and take a nap in the evening, then was back to the barn Wednesday night to give her small hay feedings every 2 hours.
So this takes us to Thursday, the day we leave for Klimke. After sleeping on the cold barn floor for two nights, I’m tired, stiff, and worried.
Then, to add insult to injury, I backed my truck into my I-love-this-car-and-will-drive-it-until-it-drops Honda.
So with all that baggage, Secret and I headed down to Maryland to ride for one of my idols. Between rides, I ran back up to PA to check on Venus, and bounced between worrying about impaction colic and worrying she had damaged herself beyond a dressage career.
Shocker, I didn’t ride well. Not either day.
We started with Klimke’s “forward, down over the back” warm up. This works great on 90% of horses. But then there’s Secret. Given her breeding, her tight shoulders and big neck don’t take kindly to that plan. Lateral work early in the ride loosens her quite effectively. I know better than to argue with a clinician, so of course I did what he directed, expecting him to see her reaction and adjust the exercise accordingly.