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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Carriage Driving Garden Party

The Major General: I Like Shows.  I Love Parties.
Last night Major and I hosted a carriage driving demonstration for 18 members of the Eastern Iowa Dressage and Eventing Association.  I set up a dressage/cones/section E obstacle/gambler's choice in my 30m x 60m grass arena.  I am nothing if not creative with small spaces.  I polished the marathon vehicle and the gig, dressed for turnout, printed course maps and designed a short dressage test for the participants to score.  I put folding chairs in the back of my ancient truck for the 'judges'.  I laid out my patio table with magazines and info from the ADS and CAA, picked a vase of nasturtiums, made some foccacia and lemonade to welcome our guests.

Following a brief social half hour, during which Don Pecos, Ace and Kitten bleated pathetically at the guests that they were weak with hunger since I was starving them, I brought Major out of the barn to hitch.  "That's a stallion!" One of the guests exclaimed.  "Why, yes," I answered.  "He is."  Many more compliments followed: he is so quiet, so black, so beautiful- all of which Major soaked up like spring sunshine.

We proceeded to the dressage test, after a three minute warm up, which anyone with a forward, V8 engine-d Morgan will shudder to think.  Of course there were flaws, that the crowd all but forgot when Major powered into an extended trot on the very short diagonal, and then purred right into a collected trot to the finale.  He came to a square halt and stood quietly in front of the guests for more cooing from them, while I explained there are usually not trees at the end of competition dressage fields and how we would attempt to drive my very tight cones/section e/gambler's choice course.

I had utilized A, B, C, and E from the dressage markers, added in a D and 1-9 for the gates.  I added three half full water bottles on fence posts as a nod to Mike Rider's gambler's choice obstacle. Everything went very well until the last gate, 9, when I eliminated myself on my own course by driving it backwards.  Well, you show the good and the bad.  We still got cheers and applause and that is really all that matters.

Then the real party started.  I unhooked Major, put the lead rope over his back and turned him loose.  He pulled up a big creeping weed, started shaking it up and down and presented it to one of the ladies.  Being a good sport, she held out her hands and he dropped the weed into them, ever so pleased with himself.  Then he wandered off to a little boy holding a half eaten cookie and started tickling him.  "He is after your cookie," I told the wee lad, which sent the little one running off to protect his treat.  Oh Good. Tag. I Love Little Humans.  Major jogged after him.  Suspecting there might be an altogether easier way to get a cookie, Major gave up pursuit and returned to the party to inspect the table, where he found the source of the cookies.  "MAJOR!"  I darted after him, abandoning what was probably a really important conversation about a potential training horse.

"If I give you a cookie, will you leave the table alone and go and behave like a normal horse?" I asked him.  He looked at me with those melt your heart eyes.  I gave him a chocolate chip cookie and he showed his gratitude by leaving the table alone, albeit not behaving like a normal horse.  Instead, he mingled about the group, snaking in between all the guests, listening to their conversations, generally enjoying the networking opportunity and delighting the company with his character. When a couple guests took their leave, he escorted them to their cars and thanked them much for coming.  He wrapped himself around the lady he presented the creeping weed to and tried to sit in her lap.  He even upstaged Lucy, which is a considerable feat of itself.

I think it not a stretch to say this 18 year old Morgan stallion won the hearts of many more fans and hopefully helped convert them to the idea of driving.  After all the guests had departed, I sat down at the table, quite exhausted, but pleased and he came up and blew in my ear: We Should Have More Parties, My Human.  Then he pulled up a creeping weed and put it in my lap.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler