Yesterday, I had a far too long session with Paula, my saddle fitter. I wasn’t happy with the way it fits Alydar. There doesn’t appear to be any room between the gullet and his spine. He’s done a lot of changing, building up muscle and getting lean. While I know the mechanics of fitting a saddle to a horse, I don’t trust my judgement, and it’s hard to do so when one is in it.
Paula is exceptionally busy. Her earliest booking is anywhere from a month to six weeks out. I was lucky. She contacted me and a few other folks to say she would be in the area, would we want her services?
The more people who sign on, the less the travel fee she charges. Count me in, I said.
Saturday, the appointed day, was marked by wind and rain. Our PNW fall had returned from a long summer with a vengeance. It was pouring. Thank goodness, the arena is covered.
I’ve blogged about Cher, the self styled trainer who would desperately like to be anointed (and paid as) the Staff Trainer of Bourbon Stables before. (see my post,“Shakespeare and Riding Instructors”,June 2012).
But calling one self a horse trainer/riding instructor and actually being one are two different things. Cher does the former. She is not the latter.
Yesterday, I had a very restive Alydar on my hands. Kate, his owner, and Paula, the fitter, joined me in the arena. Rae, the manager of Bourbon Stables, was there, too.
The rain hammered on the metal roof like something gone mad.
The arena is large, large enough so that a drill team, for instance, can bring in half a dozen horses, or a clinic with ten participants can all fit comfortably.
When I first entered the arena, Cher, aboard Miko, was talking to Paula.
Miko is a Friesien/QH cross mare Cher is ‘’’training”” for a woman who boards at the barn. This poor mare has been subjected to hours of what Cher imagines is ‘training’. Cher has turned what once was an uncomplicated, happy horse into a fretful nervous wreck.
I began to lunge Alydar, who was VERY hot. Kate came out to help, as he was really acting up.
Finally we judged him de-fizzed enough for me to mount, as it was my appointed time with Paula.
I rode in circles at the gate where Paula was being talked to by Cher. Rae stood alongside, listening. Finally, after several minutes of waiting for Cher to run out of wisdom, I called out, “Paula, I’m ready when you are.” Apparently, Cher took umbrage at this.
Cher trotted Miko out into the middle of the arena and stopped. Paula told me to trot so she could see how the saddle was doing on Alydar before we made any changes. I began to do so at the gate end of the arena. Cher sat on Miko at a most strategic (and purposefully chosen) point. By standing right at that spot, she was crowding me, and I unconsciously made small circles with Alydar in order to avoid running into Miko.
“Bigger circles, please!” Paula called. But doing so brought my path right past Miko’s nose. Cher snapped something about my ‘hogging the arena’. I didn’t say anything, as it barely registered in my mind.
Now you must forgive me, for from this point on, almost all of my attention was devoted to handling a very fresh and excited Alydar, and listening to Paula. My afternoon’s activities consisted of mount, trot in circles, dismount, undo the girth, adjust the saddle, redo the girth, mount, trot in circles, etc.
Kate, however, was able to monitor the proceedings-of Cher’s behavior, not mine. She trusts my handling of Alydar.
Thus goes ‘the rest of the story’.
When I began trotting in circles at Paula’s direction, what Cher had yelled at me was for me to “make up my mind where I’m going to ride”. Kate said that I responded with “Huh? OK, I’ll ride here, thanks.”and then ignored her. I was totally focused on handling the horse I was riding, not hers.
Cher rode over to Kate and complained that I was ‘taking up the entire arena”. Kate said, “No she isn’t, she’s down here for a saddle fitting. She won’t go any further than right here.” Cher then took Miko to the far end of the arena, where she galloped her in tight circles. Apparently, it was too much that no one was paying attention to her, because she then galloped Miko down to ‘my’ end of the arena and zoomed right behind Alydar three times.
Kate was amazed that he didn’t blow up, but honestly, Alydar was paying attention to me, not Miko. He can be a real butthead on the ground, but under saddle, he can be a very good horse.
Cher went back to the far end of the arena. But not for long. She apparently had to come back down to my end of the arena.
She raced down the wall at a flat out gallop, and yanked Miko to a stop at the gate. (dressage horses don’t normally do sliding stops, but there you have it: Cher is attempting to be another Anky and go from dressage to reining on the same horse, I guess.).
Kate was sitting about ten feet from the gate.
Cher yelled at Kate to “say something!!!” Startled, (as she’d been watching me), Kate said, “hello, Miko” whereupon the mare (perhaps at Cher’s urging???) turned her rump to Kate and backed up. Cher stopped Miko no more than a foot from Kate. Paula was standing next to her, watching me.
Cher then ordered Paula (who I was paying to watch me) to open the gate.
Paula obliged. She had to stop watching me in order to do so. I saw this and stopped. Cher then stopped Miko in the middle of the opening, and resumed the conversation she’d been having with Paula that I had so selfishly interrupted. She was fully aware of the fact that this was MY saddle fitting session, and that Paula was supposed to be working for me. Paula said, “Look, I’m busy” and turned her attention back to me.
Cher then moved Miko completely out of the gate and headed for the barn.
Paula, Kate and I finally had the arena…and Paula’s attention to ourselves. Rae had left, I don’t know when.
We had another fifteen minutes or so of Paula’s time.
I had been riding for two hours. Both Alydar and I were tired. I dismounted, Kate took our horse to the barn, and I talked at length with Paula about the issues with my saddle. By the time I had paid her, Kate came out of the barn, running for cover from the rain. She had untacked Alydar, put him up for the day, and put my tack up.
I noticed that she was extremely tightlipped. I thought she was angry at me, but I didn’t press it. It was late, it was raining, so we all went home.
She called me today and wanted to meet me at the barn. I did. She was still so pissed off she could hardly speak. She told me the entire story regarding the Rude Queen Cher.
“She’s a bully” she said of Cher, “she tried her best to screw up the saddle fitting. I’m so surprised Alydar didn’t act up when she charged him.”
“I’m not afraid of Cher. I’ll go tell her to stop being such a jerk.” I said.
But Kate is afraid Cher will do something to Alydar in retribution or mess with our tack. Cher helps herself to other people’s tack. When I had my tack in ””her”’ tack room (even though she doesn’t board a horse at Bourbon), she would routinely ”borrow” my halter and lead rope. I’d find it re-adjusted on a hook across from where I kept my tack. Once I found it on another horse’s stall hook.
Only because Kate’s and my tack is in a different tack room can we be assured that our tack isn’t being messed with.
Neither of us can figure out what Cher’s issue was other than she was jealous that no one was paying attention to her, or was having a tantrum because no one had asked her permission to use the barn’s covered arena. It annoys me that Rae let Cher get away with her rudeness, but I think Cher intimidates her.
I’m not afraid of Cher. I don’t start fights, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to walk away from one that’s thrust on me. But Alydar is Kate’s horse, so I will defer to her wishes.
The best way to get even with her, I said, was to ignore her, and by no means, ever, ever, have her train your horse or instruct you.
It’s so sad that there are people like Cher, who are so ..well, I don’t know if the word is evil, or stupid, or just plain ol’ JERK. We were minding our own business, and that didn’t set well with Cher. What was she hoping for, to see Alydar buck me off? Or was I supposed to consult with her about how a saddle should fit, despite the fact that she has no training in how to do it? Or was it because we had intruded on HER ARENA, apparently, while she was supposedly schooling Miko? All I saw was a rather snooty woman running a horse in circles until the mare was lathered.
I wish I could go tell Miko’s owner just how hard Cher handles her mare when she’s not around.
The bad news is that I need a new saddle. My wide tree’d Albion doesn’t fit my narrow withered horse.