Schleese had brought their whole saddle fitting rig (truck and trailer) into the indoor arena to do the fitting. While they were setting up Jochen Schleese came over and told me that since no one else is ready, and that since Phoenix and I had big issues (the local tack store owner came there with them to train so they were all filled in) he would start with us and then as people came we would take a break. I made it very clear that I understood that I was a low man on the totem pole and that the other two woman should go first. The organizer of the fitting and I had already talked about having Phoenix spend the night at “the Crik” if things went too late so I was not worried about time. I brought Phoenix out to walk him around the ring naked (I got lots of comments about his purple camo! Poor Phoenix).
Jochen Schleese had barely looked at him when both of the other women came out. So I set about my original hand walking goal of getting Phoenix used to everything. Poor guy, his eyes were bugging out of his head. He had what I affectionately call “double stuffed oreo eyes”. Just like Gen, Phoenix has dar eyes and dark skin around his eyes. That makes it very obvious when he is nervous because the white part is very clear to be seen. Phoenix was trying very hard to keep it together, but he would lunge forward and pull against me at the slightest of sounds (and sometimes without sounds). Nothing dramatic, but enough to make it very clear that I did not have a happy horse at the end of my lead.
Once he had calmed down on the side of the ring near the saddle fitting area, I walked him over to the other side of the ring where a rider was on their fancy warmblood. My big fear at this barn was that people would be rude to me just because Phoenix and I did not fit the norm. I had not even taken 10 steps on the other side of the ring when the woman riding yells out in the snottiest voice you can imagine, “Can you just let me have my side of the thing. My horses is having a hard time and I don’t need you to cause more trouble”. Ummm…okay. She might have used the phrase “can you” in the sentence, but I can assure you it was not a question. I was totally taken aback. Just the tone she used was rude let alone what she said. And trust me when I tell you that her horse was not having a hard time. He was being a total saint, her horse could have cared less where Phoenix and I want. She made it clear to me that she was the one with a problem. Not only that, but who tells someone that they cannot be near them?!?! I mean, we all pray that a crazy horse and ride combo will ride away from us, but to say something? Who does that?!?! And last time I checked sharing the ring is pretty standard at every barn…rings tend not to be broken up into “my side and your side”. It was a good thing I was so shocked because I walked away before I could so something I would regret.
The thing is, I am not scared of taking Phoenix to fancy places or recognized shows because I am worried about us standing out, we stand out WHEREVER we go so I have already experienced that this year. It is one thing if a trainer that I do not respect says something, it is something else if Courtney King-Dye were to make a comment (not that she would…I am just saying). The dressage world is a small one. I have less than 3 degrees of separation from all 4 members of the 2008 Dressage Olympic team…what does that tell you. I am afraid that I will not react well to someone being rude to myself or my pony because of the way I look and that will hurt my reputation. I was not sure if I would cry or deck someone who was mean, and not knowing how I would react scared me. As rude and bitchy as that woman was, she helped me in the fact that now I know I will be stunned enough to walk away, and that my reaction is more one of wanting to hurt them back than to cry. Good to know.
I took Phoenix back to the side where the saddle fitters were and stewed a little bit more. It was just so rude the way the woman said it. You can say somehting like “I am a little nervous right now, would you mind waiting to walk your horse over here until I am done? I will be off in a few minutes” or, I don’t know, do what we all do and just suck it up and ride (PO often will take a crazy horse on training board for a month or two so Phoenix and I have often had to ride around an explosive horse, not fun, but it is part of life). I was also mad because Phoenix was really not being that bad. He was never out of control in hand, he would lunge forward a little and I would catch him. All 4 feet stayed on the ground the whole time and he never even turned sideways. I was so mad at what a bitch that woman was. Luckily, I hand walked Phoenix for a long time after the woman left the ring before it was my turn to be fitted so I was much calmer when Jochen Schleese called Phoenix and I over to get started. Phoenix seemed to be settling down as well. His eyes were still popping out of his head, but he was at least starting to be the mouthy monster that I am used to .
To Be Continued…