We’re Still Here!

Sorry to have taken a break from the 30 Day Blog Challenge series; I promise I’ll be back full force tomorrow. It’s been a very hectic week. Johnny’s grandfather passed away after a long illness last week, and we drove to Lubbock, Texas for the funeral. As we were returning to Oklahoma on Monday, I saw some scary things on Twitter about what the weather was doing.

I live in the Tulsa area, which is about 100 miles east of where the F-5 tornado plowed through Moore. However, another storm system was spawning tornadoes immediately west of where my horses live in Talala. I checked with my friends in the area, as well as my boss/barn owner; everyone was hunkered down, waiting. Mercifully, the tornadoes fizzled out before they reached Talala; my horses, house, and friends are all totally fine.

The devastation in Moore is immense. Many horses are dead; many others are homeless. If you’re able to spare a few extra dollars to donate, please do.

  • The Oklahoma Humane Society has been helping with large and small animals. 
  • The AQHA is collecting donations for equine tornado victims.
  • Plain As Bay Eventing lost all of their horses; you can donate to them through the “Randall Weidner catastrophe trust” via Wells Fargo. 
  • The Red Cross is on the scene, helping (mostly) people.
Since I’m fairly local, I’m sending all my extra veterinary stuff (bandages, Vetwrap, antibacterial/antimicrobial washes) with my pal Trista, who’s making a trip out there this weekend to deliver those types of supplies as well as horse feed to owners in need. 
If you’re unable to contribute, please send thoughts and prayers to Oklahoma. And go hug your horses.

Field Trial

My friend and fellow equestrienne Holly is a woman who wears many hats. I think of her as a dog and horse person who volunteers at my workplace. Some of my student workers think of her as their professor, as Holly has a PhD in communications and teaches at a local university. Johnny thinks of her as a fellow fan of 80s and 90s music, as Holly has done extensive research and authored a book on indie music.

Holly is an enthusiastic adult amateur rider who aspires to compete in dressage on her horse Roscoe. She’s also a lifelong owner and breeder of Irish Setters. So when Holly and our mutual friend Anna asked if I’d volunteer my time riding at a recent field trial, I had no trouble saying yes despite a) not knowing what a field trial was, and b) not knowing exactly what I’d be doing.

Basically, a field trial is a test of hunting prowess for dogs. This trial was hosted by the Irish Setter Club of Greater Tulsa, of which Holly and Anna are officers. It was held on a lovely piece of land owned by some friends of the club that breed pointers. All pointing breeds were welcome to compete. Quail were planted, and the dogs went out in braces (sets of two, who competed against one another) to find them. The dogs were expected to point at the bird while their handler flushed it. Once the bird was flying, the handler fired an air pistol, and the competitors moved on to find the next quail.

My job was marshal. I was mounted, riding a horse provided by the host site. I was to ride behind the judges (who were also mounted; competitors were on foot) and keep the gallery, or spectators, at a safe distance from the judges and competitors.

On Saturday, I was given a small palomino Tennessee Walking Horse gelding to ride. His name was Charlie, and he had the smoothest canter of any horse I’ve ever ridden. On Sunday I rode another TWH named Tango. Tango had a lovely running walk. If not for the supremely uncomfortable saddles, I think I could have ridden all day.

Sweet Charlie.

Riding behind the judges and marshal, trying to learn.

We had a beautiful view.

Feisty Tango, my mount for Day 2.

Riding between the judges as a handler looks for his dog.

Charlie was eager to get going!

Flashy Tango.

I had such a wonderful time at the field trial! It was certainly a different kind of riding experience, but everyone was so nice and the riding was so fun that I’m already planning to help again in the fall!

Respect

For most of my life, I’ve ridden english. When I was very young and just beginning to take lessons and learn to ride, I rode my Shetland pony Daisy in a tiny western saddle. My pony came with that saddle, and I think my parents thought it would be easier for a 4 year old child to stay on with a deeper-seated saddle and that horn. There’s photographic evidence somewhere of 12 year old Stephanie dressed and ready to go in the local Bridle & Saddle Club’s western pleasure class, bandanna and all. But for the majority of my life, I have ridden english. I ride in an english saddle on trail rides, when I’m schooling a therapy horse at work, and when I’m tootling around the arena for fun. I’ve even attempted a barrel race at a fun show on Moe in my jumping saddle.

Although I’ve never been a western rider, I’ve never felt that western riders were somehow beneath me. Sure, I’ve thought that riding in western pleasure classes would be boring. Or that trying to gallop in a western saddle seems counter-intuitive. But I’ve never thought that people who choose to ride western are bad or less capable than their english counterparts. There are good and bad riders in every equestrian sport, right?

Unfortunately, two new employees at work don’t seem to share the same views. Both are rodeo competitors- one a barrel racer and one a roper. Both have the attitude that english riders are somehow less capable because we don’t chase livestock around and wear silly jackets. I’ve been on the receiving end of comments like “Dressage? That horse dancing stuff? That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen” and “The only good horse is one that works cattle” and derogatory remarks regarding the ability of english riders.

While Oklahoma is certainly cowboy country and horses are still an integral part of ranch life and culture, I am totally bewildered by the lack of respect for equestrians in different disciplines. I never tell these two, “Yeah, your horse must be so good at working cattle because he LOOKS just like a cow” or “If you didn’t have that horn on your saddle you wouldn’t stay on” even though I’m tempted to. I bite my tongue to keep the peace at my workplace, but it makes my blood boil to be treated with such contempt.

Have y’all ever encountered rude riders?