“Stoney’s so smart!” Haley’s pink cheeked, perky faced has just popped up over the top of the stall door. She’s beaming. “He taught himself #3. All I did was point to his ribs and he touched his nose to it.” By #3, Haley is referring to the sixty step system organized and outlined by Clinton Anderson. There is nothing really exceptional about this. She’s just mentioning it because she’s managed to memorize all sixty steps, in order, and has committed herself to teaching them all to Stoney. This an admirable achievement. But that’s not why she’s bragging. She knows I haven’t the remotest hope of remembering even a quarter of the steps, much less keep them in order. She continues with the ribbing with, “Two weeks from now, after PlayDay and after Clinton’s Down Under Tour, can I start teaching Chavali the hoolahoop of space?” She got the high beams on now. No matter to me. She can rib all she likes because she will keep her word.
Haley has joined Savannah, Shana, Victoria and myself half way through tacking up the horses. We were a little slow to start because Shana had to go over all the playday games; the obstacle course, the duffer race, pole bending, water cup relay, $5 bareback, etc… Shana will only be able to come mid-day for a few games. After reviewing the games, Shana has decided she wants to practice pole bending and the water cup race. As she has the honor of being the present kidslovehorses working student, Victoria will be attending PlayDay as a helper. Savannah would love to attend PlayDay, but her vaulting team will be performing at a fundraiser. It’s just as well because if Savannah showed up, no one else would have a chance at winning any of the games.
The goal for the day was to practice for PlayDay for an hour or so, then set up the obstacle course so that it will be ready for the event tomorrow morning. Shana worked hard at pole bending and zipped around the PVC pipe stuck up right into traffic cones for half an hour, at the end of which she said, “and if Velvet tries to break into a canter”, an automatic disqualification, “I’ll just tip her head like this.” Savannah paid no mind to anyone, took off Freedom’s saddle, took off her boots and her socks, put the saddle pad back on (no girth) and diligently practiced lying bent backwards over Freedom with a leg extended straight into the air or perched on one knee and one arm, with opposing arm and leg joined behind her back. Haley got it into her mind that she was going teach Victoria how to ride Chavali so that Chavali wouldn’t come off the rail at a trot. This required Haley to run next to Victoria for the better part of 45 minutes; hard work for both of them, but they did it.
It’s good to have Haley back. I really haven’t seen much of her for the better part of two years. But then came the foals and Michelle and Paicines and Clinton Anderson. “Deborah, can you take me to the ranch for winter break?” “Deborah, when are you going to work foals again?” “Deborah, don’t you think we should get Oona [one of the foals] a blanket?” As glad as I was that she’d gotten hooked by the ranch, I was hurting for lack of help myself. But having learned what the proper training steps do for foals, she had to then apply them to Stoney and Chavali and teach them to Savannah and, today, have at Victoria, who stood up to it well, learned a great deal and allowed me to fill buckets for play day and organize prizes for play day and set up no parking signs for playday and call Susan (“yes i’ll do registration, but don’t you think LAHHA should be considered a senior group?”) and Kathy (“oh I can’t make it to set up the obstacle course afterall”) and Alisa (“you left me three messages? I didn’t get any of them. What am I supposed to do tomorrow?”) and Patty (“PlayDay’s tomorrow?! That’s right, I did say I’d help with the score keeping. Let me check and see if I can still do that.”) and so on and so forth.
This PlayDay has been teenagers to the rescue. Haley will be ponying horses over for my students to ride. Caity Halliwell (one week shy of 18) will judge all the games, brought the boom box and talked half a dozen people into attending. Tara will be helping guide a group of riders down from Westwind and providing carrots. Caity and Haley organized the obstacle course with the definite opinion that it should be about skill, not just about who can make it through fastest. Victoria and Savannah were drafted to drag poles and jump blocks and move barrels around. Shana went around poking fake flowers into all the cones. After pronouncing the course finished, Haley said she had to test it out to see if it worked and hopped on Stoney. It was a success. Haley said. “I think I better do it again.” Caity and I were both in need of a little rest and enjoyed watching Haley do the course several times through, each time faster, when the it occurred to both of us at the same time precisely what Haley, who had her heart set on a particular prize in the prize basket, was doing. “Haley! You have to stop!” “No”, she says, “I’ve got to do it three more times!” “Haley, that’s cheating!” Caity added to this, “You can already do the entire course at a canter!”
After a ten hour day yesterday, seven of it spent in the saddle, and a day that started at six, by the time we were finally leaving the arena, I was as blurry eyed as I’ve ever been on the usually exhausting Saturdays. I had to lead the pony and the dog and carry Haley’s epipen and the spare set of reins and my pants didn’t have pockets, with the calls for organizing playday still coming in, the phone didn’t get to secured to a saddle and just two blocks shy of Campo Vista (Chavali’s barn), I noticed the phone was nowhere to be found, having obviously slipped from my hands. Fortunately, Cara, Shana’s mom, had arrived at Campo before us and Victoria and Savannah, who needed a phone to call their mom’s were able to use Cara’s. Before I walked off, Cara handed me a $100 bill. She said, “This is all I have. It’s for today and next week, but I know you can use it.” I said, “To be sure! Two parents forgot to pay this month and board is due tomorrow.” Usually the cash gets stuck in with the cell phone in the phone pouch, but lacking the pouch, I gripped the bill tight and hung on to it as if my life depended on it till I got to Quail, or so I thought. Obviously, more tired than I was willing to admit, the bill had slipped from between my fingers and I had not noticed.
Haley was at Quail waiting for her mother. She was dead tired also, but set to work in earnest looking for the lost bill, but not before thrusting the $2o I’d given her earlier (for her help with Victoria) back into my hand. “No Deborah, I insist. I won’t take it back!” I know better than to argue with her. “Oh wait, I need to look at it for a moment.” I dug the 20 out of my purse and handed it back to her. “Now fold it like you folded the 100.” I did. “Ah, hot dog shape. Now I’ll just stare and stare and stare at it until all the rods and cones around it are burned away, then when I look for it on the ground, it will pop out at me.” She searched the paddock, she searched Quail Lane, she searched Robleda and she even retraced my steps back to Campo Vista. She felt the loss as keenly as if it were her own.
I don’t lose money often. In fact, I think this is only the second time in my life I have done so. Keeping track of money and handling horses are incompatible tasks. With horses your hands are always full, you can hardly every free up one hand, much less two and you can’t carry a purse so I’m not too surprised this happened. I did find the phone and of the two, that one by far was more important. With the shoe string budget KLH operates on, the 100 is a hard loss. But with Haley’s dedication, I’m sure that if it could have been found it would have.