So, Saturday we gave a sidesaddle demonstration to a group of 4H kids over on the "other side". That's the Eastern Shore to you non-bay folks. I had given Owen a bath the day before, a process he absolutely detests, no matter how hot and sweaty he is, and he routinely gives me his wicked witch melting routine and piaffes on the cross ties. Once he was squeaky clean I led him out to the field and turned him out still wet since I had places to be, and to keep him clean I drove him away from the dirt around the gate to the grassy area of the field. Twice he tried to flop down in the dust and twice I shooed him on until he grudgingly rolled in the grass. But once he got up he gave me what could only be the evil eye back over his shoulder before snaking his neck and charging off to take a bite out of Renegade to make himself feel better.
Of course, I waited until the absolute last minute to pick a habit from the closet (the brown Victorian) and since I had no idea what to expect in the way of facilities, I still hadn't picked my freestyle music until I arrived at the grounds. Owen was his usual happy traveling self, stomping and carrying on any time I had to slow the trailer and when we pulled through the toll booth on the western side of the bay he started plunging so hard the truck and trailer were bucking in place as I tried to hand the operator my money. "What HAVE you got in there?" he asked while counting my change. Had I been quicker on the uptake I would have said, "rhinoceros" or "Spanish fighting bull" but as it was I simply said " a horse."
"Just ONE?" he sounded incredulous. "Just Owen," I said.
As we pulled out of the lane I looked back in my side mirror to see the attendant leaning out of his booth, waving at my trailer and calling, "BYE, OWEN!"
When hauling Owen I often check my mirrors for flashing lights...one time the state police pulled me over, not because of my driving but because Owen was so frantically throwing his head around that the officer thought he might be having a seizure. Bruce, after following behind the trailer on our way to New Jersey one year, said that never again could his nerves stand 200 miles of watching Owen flinging himself around.
Overall, he travelled well enough, but once we arrived he absolutely refused to stand still while tied to the trailer and after digging a substantial hole in the ground and kicking the bumper of my truck, he finally broke free and strolled over to a group of girls that were passing by. Barb and I had about an hour to get ready before the ride, and Barb gave a lecture on basic form and position with some dispelling of myths while Owen demonstrated his lack of tact by trying to chew the running lights off of the trailer.
Eventually, Barb and I managed to get me up, Owen practically running her over in the process, and he pranced into the arena. The freestyle rode pretty well, right up to the point where the biker club roared by on their Harleys, drowning out the music and giving Owen a little extra bounce in his stride. And then there was the loose horse that ran around the outside of the ring for a little extra color. But most of the attendees managed to pry their attention away from their texting to watch us for 5 minutes or so, tho' it seemed that they were largely western riders and I'm not sure they were into our moves.
Once finished I discovered to my horror that I'd popped a habit button in a conspicuous spot...how humiliating! We did a little more explaining, and once I'd dismounted Owen was surrounded by teenage girls giving him carrots and generally telling him how handsome he was. I think that perhaps his prehensile upper lip impressed them more than any of our riding did.
Once untacked I led him back to the arena and its deep sand footing to let him have a nice roll, and once again all eyes were on Owen, who raises rolling to performance art. Of course, there is the all important venue search, requiring him to stroll along sniffing the ground like a bloodhound, and once the perfect spot is found he minces in place for an impressive period of time before flopping to the ground with a satisfying "umphf!"
Once he'd finished he leaped up and took off across the arena, reminding every soul on the fairgrounds just How Magnificent He Is, snaking his neck and calling out to the ponies and quarter horses that Owen Was Still in the House! I let him gallop around a bit, tail flagged over his back, before calling him once; he immediately slid to a halt before calmly walking up to me like something from a Monty Roberts lecture, but it wasn't joining up that he was interested in. It was the snacks in my pocket.
After all was packed we dropped him off at Crab Alley Farm where Barb keeps her horses before heading out to lunch. Before we ate ourselves, however, we took several pounds of carrots out to Max and Beau who appreciated the attention but seemed to think that we hadn't brought enough out with us. It was pressing on dinner time when I finally loaded up and headed for home, making the day a rather long one. I discovered when I reached the farm that I'd failed to tie Owen for the trip back and he had tried to turn around in the trailer and gotten partially stuck; that's something that has potential for severe injury, but as usual Owen took out his frustration on the trailer and was undamaged himself.
As Barb said, we have a lot of fun doing these little events and we're planning on repeating it in two weeks with another group. Perhaps this time one of us will remember to bring a camera.