Years ago I was at a Dressage show in Albuquerque judged by a friend, Brooks Busby, who I also had ridden under a lot. I had my Appy, Breath of Snow (Snookie) and we were “stabled” in pens made of pipe panels. Snookie’s had a bar over the gate where he just missed hitting his head until the second day when… he hit his head going in.
I had my ride time that afternoon for the Adult Medal class at Second Level which required four riders and we had four.
I went to get Snookie to warm up and he was afraid to go back out under the head banging pipe bar. I worked with him quite a bit and decided it was too traumatic to force the situation and sent word to the judge that I had to scratch while I ran to my van for essential oils and a shovel (I thought I might dig under the doorway).
The other riders at second level sent word to me that the judge would allow my ride whenever I got Snookie ready (just please don’t scratch!) and the lady told me, “Brooks said to remind you that a blindfold will do the trick”.
Duh! I thought! I hurried back to the stables. And there I saw a member of the staff of the barn inside with MY horse, beating him with a longe whip while another idiot held the end of a longe line, pulling from outside the pen. I went INSANE!
I won’t repeat the things I said (in the old days, I could reduce anyone to tears if necessary) because it was a tirade of profanity fit for any situation of horror spilling from a sailor’s mouth. The two girls left in a huff, giving Snookie a last swipe with the lash to which I screamed, “Hit him again and I will beat you to a pulp!”
Then, with lavender oil in hand, I sat with him and apologized and cried and held him until I felt I could place my jacket over his face/eyes and slowly ease him out of that horrific pen.
He was so trusting. We got out, went for a walk in hand then I tacked up, rode the test so everyone’s scores would count, untacked, loaded him in the van and left for home, crying.
I no longer compete. That was just one experience in a long line of personal traumas, dramas and observations that convinced me competition was rarely in the horse’s best interest. But, I share this today because of the miracle of that blindfold (my jacket over Snookie’s eyes). Had I thought of it right away, the monsters who attacked my horse in my absence would never have had the opportunity. I never want anyone else to go through such a brutal experience.