“Fi is seventeen hands what?” Alisa is standing at the shoulders of the big, bright bay mare. Fi’s withers rise at least six inches above Alisa’s head and Alisa is not short. She replies, “seventeen something. I’ve never measured. When I bought her she was 16.2. That’s as tall as I wanted her to get, but she was still butt high so I knew she’d grow some.” Fi may actually be eighteen hands. Half Dutch Warmblood, half Thoroughbred, she is magnificent. We don’t see Alisa and Fi at the arena very often. Alisa is in her thirties, in an accomplished equestrian and competes in three day events. Alisa had arrived at the same time as we did. She said, “I’m doing grids, want to join me?” The girls all wanted to eat lunch and decided to do just that before deciding on anything else. I turned to Savannah, who was sitting on top of a picnic table, eating a sandwich, and said, “Do you want to do grids?” She said, “What are grids?” I said, “I thought you’d know.” This is how i ended up standing in the arena talking with Alisa, who knows a great deal about grids. I explained to her that the girls were down in the dumps today.
Today was clean the tack room at Campo day. This was Stan’s idea. He’s the barn owner. After six years of renting his barn, he finally agreed to remove the four, ancient, Schwin bikes that he was storing in there and that were taking up about a quarter of the space. When he pulled the bikes out, he found a carpet of rat droppings. I cleaned those up, but the discovery motivated him to schedule a clean every corner project, which he expected myself and the girls to participate in. None of the girls, except Sara, were very happy about this, though it was actually very considerate of him to have us work with him. Quite simply, I don’t want anyone but us moving our gear about.
Sara showed up at ten and I set her to work cleaning and organizing the tack cleaning supplies and the horse washing supplies and what not. Clean, well ordered gear is a delight to Sara and she took to her task with relish. Savannah, Jackie and Rachel all showed up about half an hour later. Jackie, who is allergic to hay and dust, had to stay outside with Sara, but Rachel and Savannah, both equipped with dust masks, were set to work hauling saddle racks, storage boxes, tools and grain cans out of the room. Once the room was cleared, Stan got the shop vac and set to work. Relieved of their tasks, Rachel and Savannah started to use the grooming gear to comb and braid their hair into two long braids each, which matched the way Sara was wearing her hair. Then someone noticed that Jackie’s hair was only in one pony tail. Over Jackie’s objections, they set about fixing that pronto. I don’t remember why, but while the girls were giving Jackie two braids, Jackie mentioned that her parents had been in a bad mood that morning. She mentioned it again while we started to tack up. Then Sara said, “Do you want to know what my parents said to me? They said I had to do track and field in the spring. My mom said I had to do more than one sport. My dad said if I don’t do track and field than I can’t ride horses.” This stopped me cold. Sara is very serious about school. She regularly curtails her riding time in order to meet her own high academic standards. She is also expected to take piano lessons and practice every day. Jackie is also expected to practice piano every day. Turns out her father figured out this morning that because of all their family obligations, they wouldn’t be home till after 10pm and told Jackie she needed to practice instead of go to horses. He said to her, “Horses are a privilege!” Both girls were sick at heart. Sometimes they come out to the barn and all they can be is sad and that makes it kind of hard to ride.
Even though they had no heart for riding, Jackie and Sara sat on the fence and watched Alisa put Fi through her paces. A grid, as it turns out, is a series of poles, in this case five of them, that you gradual raise bit by bit. First the middle set was raised to one foot, then the last set, then the middle and last were raised to a foot and a half, etc… They watched in awe as Alisa cantered Fi the Magnificent with precision over the series of poles. What was a trot pole of Fi was a jump for Stoney and the spacing was off for Stoney. Even so, it didn’t take long for Rachel to take up the challenge of riding the grid. Where Rachel goes, Savannah is soon to follow and she and Dancer decided to give it a try. On entering the arena, Dancer took one look at Fi, stood stock still and looked shocked. He just did not know what to make of a horse that size! He also hardly knows what to do with trot poles or what to do in an arena, for that matter, but they gave it a try. It took Stoney five or six go round before he figured out how to co-ordinate his feet with the poles and he finally did so nicely, but not at a canter. Unlike Stoney, Dancer did not need to jump to one foot poles, though he was not the least bit bothered if he knocked them down either. Fortunately Meera had shown up by this point and we had someone on the ground to set them back up again. Sara tried to get Chavali over the grid and got frustrated, then took Jackson over the grid, which was not frustrating, but he also knocked them down. Meera was able to get Chavali over, but could not get her to trot around the arena as she is a fussy horse. Finally, Alisa set the middle and last poles at three feet and we all watched in awe as the magnificent Fi flew effortlessly over the grid.
The girls were quiet for a bit, then got going again in their own way. Savannah started working on her training of Dancer and the Spanish walk. Sara decided to tease Rachel by pretending that Stoney was her horse so Rachel decided to tease Sara by pretending Cowgirl was her horse. They had a teasing competition that escalated into hysterics. Meera got it all on video.
We rode home the short way with Rachel and Sara talking CG and Stoney back to Quail while Meera, Savannah and I were left with buckets and paddock cleaning and finishing putting everything back in the tack room. With the barn chores finished, Savannah and Meera headed over to Quail and I waited at Campo for the horses to finish eating so I could let Jackson, a normally mild mannered horse who gets positively psychotic around food, all of which he thinks should belong to him, out of his stall. When I arrived at Quail, about ten minutes later, the girls were sitting in the middle of the paddock making a racket and squishing each other. They kept at it all the way home. What I don’t understand is how a healthy, fun day is considered a privilege.