Lord knows I can use some help with Skeeter, so I applied to be a cast member this year and do double duty. The stars lined up and I was able to work it out with Mom and Bill to haul Skeeter to Julie's and back since I was going to be working.
Skeets has tons of holes in her training, but the one thing she does well is trailer loading. When they brought Ranger down to babysit, they left the trailer, so we did a quick practice run with it. She loaded into the unfamiliar trailer like a champ, which assured me there wouldn't be a problem getting her to Julie's.
I headed to Julie's on Sunday, and Skeeter was scheduled to arrive Monday evening. I tried not to fret too much, but as it got later and later in the day, I started to worry. Mom and Bill drove in about 8:30, just before full dark.
|"Mom? Is that you?"|
Skeets unloaded from the trailer like a pro. I was a little worried that she'd want to bolt off of it after being locked in for five hours or so. I needn't have worried.
It was after she was off the trailer that things got exciting. She circled and circled, trying to take it all in. So many different things and so many different smells. I let her circle until I got dizzy and then stopped her nonsense. Walking her from the trailer to her run was like taking a kid to their first day of kindergarten - she was both excited and unsure. We stopped and soaked it all in a couple of times, but before I knew it, she was loose in her temporary home.
|So many smells to check out.|
We had two episodes to finish up the next morning before it was Skeeter's turn, so all she got was a run-by "I love you" as I headed to the arena to work. Bill and Mom did a good job of keeping her company and getting her all pretty-fied.
|Bill says, "no autographs!"|
When we finished the two episodes, I ran up to the house to get myself dolled up for the camera and thus began the process of hurry-up-and-wait.
|As ready as I'm going to get - or so I thought.|
|I got the star treatment from Cheryl, who decided to re-do my braid so it wasn't so loose.|
|She stood so nicely outside the pen.|
|Getting my mic turned on. They probably should have left it off.|
What actually happened: Skeeter lost her mind. Her brains fell out her butt. Everything we'd learned and practiced went right to hell in a handbasket. We managed to do a bit of circling and leading. We tried standing and taking deep breaths to calm down. We walked around some more and circled a bit more, but Skeeter was having none of it. I finally got to the point where I felt like, "well, this is the horse we've got, so let's get going" and had them bring in the mounting block.
|Bill might end up on camera, since he came in to help out.|
We removed Skeeter's halter and turned her loose in the pen with Julie. I perched on a hay bale on the other side of the pen so I could see and still be on camera. It was amazing to watch.
At first, Skeeter did her level best to ignore Julie. She did what was asked, when enough pressure was applied, but made it very clear that she wasn't happy about it. In fact, she very clearly told Julie to eff off more than once. Slowly, very slowly, she began to regain her brain and focus on Julie. It was a pleasure to watch and I'm fairly certain Julie was having a good time with my challenging mare. After about fifteen-twenty minutes, Skeeter came around enough that we could move on with the episode.
Or so we thought.
Skeeter is good about getting haltered. If she balks at it, she takes fewer than ten steps before she's "caught" and then stands quietly for haltering.
My horse. My stupid, wild mustang, decided that she didn't want haltered and took both Bill and Julie dirt skiing. I heard her husband, Rich, telling her not to get hurt and all I could think of was if Julie got hurt it would be my fault. After a few minutes, they were able to get the halter on the fire-breathing dragon as I watched, absolutely horrified. Skeeter's first haltering wasn't nearly that crazy and I have video to prove it.
I should have just gone back in the round pen to halter her, but there's this whole thing about having to stay clean for the episode and Bill has haltered Skeeter almost as often as I have, so I didn't expect it to be a thing.
I don't have any pictures of the round pen work or what happened during the teaching segment of the episode, because cameras aren't allowed while taping the actual episode. All of the pictures we have were taken between shots, but I know the finished product is going to be amazing.
Dale quietly slipped a bit into her mouth and adjusted it, then taught me how to "work over the withers" with her to teach her to give to the bit.
We put her in a 3-ring combo for the episode, which seems to be the favored bit on the show. After talking to Dale, I understand why. The 3-ring combo has five points of contact: the nose, curb chain, poll, tongue, and bars. It's designed so that the horse first feels nose pressure and then the other points of contact back up the nose pressure.
In "real life", though, I'm going to start her in a Myler 04 snaffle to get her used to carrying it around in her mouth. She'll get to do her ground work and circling work while wearing a bridle for the next couple of weeks until she's ready to move into the 3-ring combo.
I brought home two bits: the Myler 04 snaffle and the Myler 04 3-ring combo. Both will be excellent bits for her. I also brought home a new set of Julie's rope reins and her bitting system. When Skeeter is comfortable carrying the bit in her mouth, I'll add the bitting system to the equation to help her learn to carry herself properly. The beauty of the system is that it's not dependent on my ability to time the release on time - the release is completely controlled by Skeeter's movement.
|The 04 snaffle with pretty rope reins|
|It's not a "pinchy" snaffle like most are.|
|The 04 3-ring combo|
When it was time for Mom and Bill to pack up to leave, Skeeter was over the trailer and didn't want to get in. I'll admit, I had them resort to a bit of bribery to unstick her feet. It occurred to me that while I thought the whirlwind 24 hours she was at Julie's with me was fun, for her it was a lot of work and learning. It couldn't have been easy to get trailered 5 hours each way for her first trip, and then get left alone in a pen with strange horses next to her over night, and then get tied to a patience post for hours (not exaggerating, she probably spent two to three hours standing tied), and then get worked in the round pen, followed by having to get a metal bar put in her mouth and learn about that. It was a lot of work for her busy little brain to process, but it was good for her (and me).
I'm so thankful to Julie and Dale for their help and patience with Skeeter. I'm also very thankful for the support of the rest of the crew that I've been lucky enough to work with for years: Heidi, Sharon, Cheryl, Lucy, Twyla, Mel, and Steve. It was fun to get to have my friends (and Mom and Bill) with me through the whole process.
If anyone has the opportunity to apply to be a cast member for Julie's show, jump on it! It's an experience you won't forget.
Click HERE to read about Mom and Bill's version of the events. Those two are crazy - 36 hours away from the lodge and they consider that a vacation.