The Sprinkler Bandit and I got through our respective workdays, hustled through respective packing and corgi-wrangling, and I arrived at her place around 1:15. After some creative stuff-management that resembles the Wolf, Ducks, and Grain On A Boat puzzle, we got the rental car sorted out and loaded up. It's a seriously swanky economy car, actually, a Chrysler 200. It has an analog dash clock, even.
|I say! What time is it, old chap?|
And off we went in the general direction of Bend, OR. The drive was entirely uneventful, which was a good thing. We discovered the fun and helpfulness of the talking GPS on TSB's magic talking box, too. Eventually we decided that the box needed a name. She has this slightly peeved sound when you take a wrong turn or do something she doesn't expect, and we got into a discussion of whether James Bond would ignore his GPS if he had one. I posited that he does do so all the time -- he has M, who sounds like the GPS and is in charge, and he ignores her whenever it's convenient for him to do so. Ergo, TSB's phone and GPS is now christened M.
M got us to the hotel in Redmond with no problem, where we unloaded the bags and the riding gear (gotta clean it, yknow, make a good impression), then got some much-anticipated dinner, then went back to the hotel to clean leather and watch as much of the Olympic opening ceremonies as we could. We crashed around 11.
Turns out the sun rises REALLY early in that area of Oregon. TSB and I both woke up several times thinking we had slept through the alarm and were LATE!, only to discover that it was ungodly early and we could sleep a while longer. Sheesh.
The drive from Redmond to Sisters was gorgeous, and M did a great job getting us where we were going. Time to try the pony! As a reminder, I had expected the pony to be interesting, but I wasn't expecting to adore him or hate him ... kept an open mind.
|"So, you're a pony. How's that working for you?" |
"Swag, baby, swag."
The pony's owner and her mom were SO nice! The pony was adorable and funny. Little bit rotten with the ground manners, but it didn't seem like something that couldn't be dealt with after a few knock-down-drag-out pony vs. human fights. :) His owner rides very nicely, and the pony went great with her. I had some inklings from the outset that this might not be the thing -- he's "exciting and fun," a very different ride from the owner's other horse, a steady-eddie, 21 year old thoroughbred schoolmaster. Hmmm ... TSB loved him from the start, thinking he'd be a great ride for her, and knowing that that meant that I probably wouldn't love him. :)
Saddle fit, when I got on him, was completely wrong. It put me in a chair seat I couldn't get out of! I couldn't feel the pony under me. Which is ridiculous, because he was a lot of pony.
|I seem to be headless and riding a saddle, not a |
pony. Wonder which is worse?
So we got my saddle out and changed the gullet to fit the pony. Incidentally, that was some of the best advice TW gave me: take your own saddle along. Thanks, TW!!
Back to riding the pony. I think we just didn't speak the same language, as it were. He's used to going on a looped rein, and his owner is significantly taller than me. He kicked out and crowhopped some, just at the trot, pretty much just being a pony who knows what he likes and not getting it from his rider. I decided this wasn't my ride. Wonderful pony for a brave kid or someone who likes the fast pony ride, but not what I need. So we said our thanks and goodbyes and turned toward Spanaway, WA to see the next horse.
I would absolutely recommend Miko to anyone who's looking for a spunky pony, though. Nice people, cute pony, and nothing wrong with him. Just not for me.
M got us on the road to Spanaway, and boy did she choose a gorgeous drive for us! :) We went through Sisters, through some national forests, and past some amazing vistas. I absolutely love living in the West, I tell you. The trees in OR and WA can get a little claustrophobia-inducing for Idaho scruffies, used to being able to see their road way in front of them, but still. Unspeakably beautiful. I wanted to stay and relax for a week or two.
We arrived at Signature West Farms right at 5. Alygator, an 11 year old thoroughbred, was waiting for us in the aisle, getting tacked up by a working student.
|Gator! Not-old red guy with the awesomest|
Oh, you wanted to hear about the horse? Right.
He was quiet and calm in the cross-ties, very sweet and interested in cuddles. I noticed he had a very odd conformation in his hind end, a high and short croup with a weak loin. He kind of looked under-conditioned in general. The working student got on him first, although apparently that came as a surprise? Shannon talked about how he comes out stiff and works out of it; I'm prepared for that and don't mind. He was stiff, and he worked out of it. Working student jumped him over a bunch of stuff up to about 2'9, and he was good.
My turn -- starting in my own saddle this time, which fit fine -- and as soon as I got on him, I thought "ooooh. I LIKE this one." Walk, trot, canter ... yep, I liked him. I got what I asked for when I asked for it. His gaits were comfortable to me, if a bit short; and short is okay at first.
|Canter; I'm shortening my reins here.|
I swear I ride better than this.
|A better trot, if inverted.|
And then on to the jumping. I put him over a little cavaletto, and he was totally fine. So I took him over some cross rails, and it was ... was ... FUN!! I wanted to find more jumps to jump! So I did. Vertical, brush box, more cross rails. Nothing higher than 2' this time, but fun. I never felt threatened or run away with, and he kept a lovely rhythm between fences. He took a long spot, chipped in, and I still went with him. I haven't felt that great over fences in a LONG time. Certainly not a bunch of fences all run together. ;)
Here are some videos:
Then I took him around a little walking path at the barn. He wasn't keen on the big dumpster that was positioned so it looked like a giant hole in the ground from where we were, but that's okay.
|Whew, we're past the scary dumpster|
So we helped groom him, said our goodbyes, and headed on out to stay over with Pia's and Prairie's Mom, where we'd meet Wildponybeast and Supermom and P2's husband. What an awesome group of people! Everyone was so gracious and kind, and I got introduced to cucumber spears with lime, salt, and cayenne and to candied bacon. NOM. I look forward to going out there sometime when I'm not distracted by horse shopping and getting to socialize properly! I crashed out before TSB or P2 did, and I spent a blissful night sleeping.
The rest of the house got up early, either to get ready for a show or just because, and I slept until the alarm went off. Bliss! TSB and I headed out to catch the first class at P2's show and meet her giant marebeast. The giant marebeast is SO gorgeous! Beautiful! Impressive! Noble! And HUGE! She trotted politely around her hunter course, and we said our goodbyes and thanks, and headed out to see Mambo, the Standardbred/Paint cross.
The farm he's at, Traumhof Dressage, is beyond words. Utterly beautiful, idyllic, and absolutely the fulfillment of a dream. 100% amazing. And then some. The trainer is nice, and professional. The seller/owner was kind and friendly. Mambo himself was handsome, well-behaved, and obviously cared for impeccably.
|Y halo thar.|
He was a lovely mover, lovely horse, even with some spooking and concern about his very terrifying owner in the corner. :) When the trainer went to jump him, he stopped to inspect the cross rail the first time, then jumped with great enthusiasm thereafter. That cross rail was NOT going to leap up and bite him, and he was going to JUMP it, by God. When I got on, we discovered that he doesn't quite understand aids that happen from on top of the saddle pad. ;) I am very short, y'see. But once we got the canter aid figured out, things went nicely! He's so on the bit. So different!
|It's easier to look good riding when the horse is nice ...|
Jumping him wasn't as fun as jumping Gator, at all. And Mambo's gaits, although beautiful, were a little bit jackhammer-esque. All this adds up to me not loving him as much as I expected to. Not as much as I loved Gator. This shocked me no end. On paper, Mambo is everything I should like. And Gator ... isn't. And yet.
Anyway, so after riding Mambo, we headed out to Olson's to experience big-city tack shopping. :) Neither TSB nor I bought much -- a bit for her and a bit sizer and spur straps for me -- but it was nice to shop in the amazing store. Meanwhile, I'd talked to TW about Gator, telling her what I thought and asking advice on what to do next. Advice was to try him in as close a situation to cross-country as I could, so I put in a call to Shannon seeing what we could arrange.
And then off to lunch, and to meet TSB's longtime friend and the friend's BF and his small daughter. I suspect the pizza place had to milk the cow, make the cheese, grind the wheat, et cetera, based on how long everything took. Good folks, though -- the friend and her BF were funny and kind, and the daughter was remarkably smart and engaging!
A second ride on Gator was arranged, albeit just in a pasture at his barn because no close XC course was open. Bummer. But yay for riding again! I got to warm him up this time, and I got to feel his stiffness and when he worked out of the worst of it. Then, on to jumping!
|I ride his canter decently|
|I ride his very short, inverted trot decently|
I took him out to the pasture to try him in open space next. The pasture was pretty rocky, so I chose not to do much in the way of speed. There was one moment when a couple of dogs came charging up toward the fence, barking quite aggressively, and Gator spooked to the right ... I went ACK PANIC, until I realized that nothing was happening. Um, okay, let's go on then. :) He was a very good boy. Ridable and kind.
|Horse R gud? Yes, horse R gud.|
(I think this might be my favorite picture of the set)
|I has bad hind end, I know, |
but maybe I can has person of my own anyway?
|Oooh, teh skritchiez|