Saturday, May 1, 2010

First Post Flashback - I've Been Tagged

Quixy at Quixotic Life tricked me into being tagged for this.  I read her whole first post and at the end, was tagged.  You know what they say about curiosity and the cat.  No problem, though, 'cause it's kind of a cool challenge.

It'll be interesting to see how far (if at all) my writing has come; if it's changed at all, if my voice has changed, etc.  I started blogging as a way to keep my family and friends in the loop.  I'd just been to Salida, CO to appear on Julie Goodnight's TV show and tried sending my story via email, but knew that I was missing people, so instead I started blogging and sent invitations to everyone.  It was so much easier.  Shortly after I got back from Salida, RCC and I got engaged and the blog continued to offer a great way to share with everyone.

I'm not going to pick out certain blogs to tag - I'd love for everyone to join in (see how upfront I am?  Not at all tricky like Quixy).  And if you still have it in you, hop on over to Tales from the Trail to see my first post there.

Warning: My first post is really long!

Horse Master with Julie Goodnight


In June, I got the unbelievable opportunity to work with Julie Goodnight on her show, "Horse Master with Julie Goodnight".  Estes, the equine love of my life, had a bit of an issue with standing still for mounting and walking off without a cue. Julie showed me how to fix it and what follows is my journal from that most amazing three days.

HorseMaster Cast:
· Julie Goodnight – Horse Master
· Heidi Nyland – Producer
· Lucy – Grip/Heidi’s “boss”
· Twyla – Grip/training assistant
· Brenda – Julie’s Office Manager
· Cheryl – Grip/Wardrobe Wrangler/Hair/Make-up
· Steve – Cameraman
· Bo – Film editing/camera assist
· Alle – Grip/Go-Fer (15 yo)
· Tara – Cosequin rep
· Linda /Stinger – came for water crossing, ended up being bad saddle fit and sore back
· Dave/? Horse – Versatility/flying lead changes

Day One  Finally got in to GTS about 5:00 pm as they were wrapping up the first day’s shooting. Met the rep from Circle Y Saddles who finally got us settled with Lucy. Unloaded Estes into an outdoor pen behind the high-dollar horses – she looked as good as or better than the others. Signed a million release forms for the show and property liability. Got my “party favors” – Dan Post socks, Circle Y t-shirt, bandana, and Troxel helmet (wow!).

Dropped the trailer at 4 Seasons RV park on the other side of Salida (GTS is closer to Poncha Springs than Salida). Really “cute” as Ash says. The bathroom/shower house was nice and well-kept (Thank God – I hate public showers). Went to dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant – Los Girasoles – where the waiter spent the night hitting on Ash. Now I know how Mom felt when we’d go to Mexico and the waiters there would hit on Nelle all the time.

The shower house, while well-kept, was much creepier after dark. All I could think about while I was taking my shower was all of the ‘80s slasher movies. Can’t say as I liked being so far away from the trailer by in a strange town all by my lonesome.

Day Two
Up and at ‘em and on the set (GTS) at 7:00 am getting my girl ready. Cheryl chose my tops to compliment Julie’s outfit (pink long sleeve and black vest) for the day’s shoot. Lucy took one look at my saddle and decided to oil it because it is so ugly. It was much prettier after it got oiled, but then the executive decision was made to put Estes in a Circle Y saddle in case Julie had to mount up. Her contract with Circle Y states that she can’t be seen in any public appearances riding in a saddle other than a Circle Y and there was a possibility that they’d have to film her working with Estes (and up on her), so Estes and I got to ride in an expensive Flex tree saddle – cool, but I’m not sure I could really tell the difference.

Shooting day really was hurry up and wait. When it was finally my time on film, I was swarmed by Cheryl, Lucy and Heidi to fix my hair under my helmet (required by one of the liability releases) and “mike up”. We went up to one of Julie’s pastures that would look “trail-like” for my “before” shot. That shot went pretty well as far as being a disaster. I couldn’t get my foot up into the stirrup, Estes danced around and almost spun away from me, we had to resort to finding a mounting block (a rock, just like I’d have to find in the mountains) before I could mount up. Finally, after much gymnastics and horse vaulting, I climbed aboard and managed to get her to stand still long enough to get both feet in the stirrups. Then for my “B” role, we stripped the saddle and found another mounting block – a tree stump this time – for my bareback mounting show. I managed to get up, but again, it was a mixture of gymnastics and horse vaulting. I could really get used to having a “crew”; the minute I was done filming, Ash and Mom would step in and take Estes to get her ready for the next shot or start fussing with my hair to make sure I was presentable. Lucy was always ready with my jacket so I wouldn’t get too cold between takes – it wasn’t too terribly bad.

The “before” shot was the easy part – then I had to do the interview. Thank god I’m used to public speaking, because the interview was a bit tough. Mostly because I had to keep reminding myself to keep it short and not say “um” – thank you speech class. The toughest part, though, was trying to make eye contact with the camera, which was less than three feet away from me. Well, that and trying to keep from getting a splinter enema from the tree stump I was sitting on. The day was going pretty well until the wind kicked up. That stupid wind! We broke, had lunch, sat around and waited for the wind to stop. In the meantime, the other two people arrived with their horses: Dave, who happens to be the President of the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association, and Linda with her horse, Stinger, who wanted to work on water crossing.

Steve, Heidi and Julie decided they could shoot some footage of Dave despite the wind, because no one needed to be miked, so Estes and I stood down and we went to watch the versatility horse. Dave really needed to work on transitions; specifically his lead changes. We stood out in the cold wind for a long while watching them film Dave and his mare do each component of a VRH competition: reining, cow work, and trail. It was pretty cool and I know that Estes can and will do all of that. We also managed to take some footage of Linda and Stinger, who entered the water like a pro, so we had to go to Plan B for Linda, which was to work on Stinger’s canter. Linda thought it was too fast and wanted him to gear down to a nice easy lope. Once we left the pond and went back to the outdoor arena, it was obvious that Linda and Stinger’s biggest problem was not the water crossing, but that he was in pain. Her saddle didn’t fit him or her well and she was practically sitting on the cantle. His head was too high and he was hollowing out his back trying to get away from the painful saddle. I can’t quite explain how he moved, but when he went into a canter he would really try hard for a couple of steps, then it would just hurt too much and he’d lift his head, hollow out his back and lock his forelegs. A couple of steps like that and he’d set to bucking – not hard – but bucking sure enough. Poor Linda kept insisting that she was trying to “communicate” with him that she wanted him to slow his canter to an easy lope. That wasn’t the problem at all. Her idea of “communicating” was more like dictating – she was telling, but not listening to what Stinger was trying to tell her, which was “ouch, ouch, ouch”.

After all of the non-verbal shooting was done, the decision was made to move to Cheryl’s indoor arena, which wasn’t ideal, but at least we could continue shooting. By this time Estes had been tied at the rail for six hours or so and was behaving beautifully. I couldn’t have asked for a better behaved horse. None of the other horses had such a long down time without being used or broken down. Since Cheryl’s place was just a quarter mile away or so, I decided to ride Estes and Mom and Ash took the truck. It wasn’t a long ride by any means, but it certainly felt good to stretch our legs. Estes was stiff from being in the trailer on the mountain passes for four hours the day before and then being tied to the rail for so long. It took a while to get the whole production moved to Cheryl’s, so once we got there, Cheryl gave Estes a stall and run to be turned out in for a bit. It was only twenty minutes or so, but between the walk and getting turned out, she started to loosen up. The light in the indoor arena wasn’t great, but at least it was even and out of the wind. We ended up using the flatbed of Mom’s truck as a base for the camera. Mom just pulled the truck up to the door of the arena, removed the rail, and Scott and Bo set up shop. It worked out great, because then they had a good overhead angle and didn’t take up any arena space, so we had more work room.

We got everyone settled, and then it was Estes’ turn again. “My” crew was busy helping the camera crew get settled, so Heidi’s crew helped me get Estes ready. They practically fell on her – Twyla was putting gel in Estes’ mane, Alle was cleaning out her eye boogers and runny nose, and Lucy was brushing out her tail. Cheryl, in the mean time, was trying to make my hair look presentable and Heidi was getting me miked up. Twyla did a final dust off of Estes and Heidi attacked my vest with a pet hair remover. In just a few minutes they had both of us looking better than we had a right to. Estes looked as good as any show horse I’d seen by the time they were done with her. And she LOVED every minute of the primping and pampering.

She put on a heck of a show for the camera again, dancing around and spinning away from me when I tried to mount up. I managed (as I always do) to get up and get her under control, but she wouldn’t stand still for Julie to talk to me, so we spent a long time circling. Then it was Julie’s turn. Julie attached a longe line to her bridle and talked me through mounting up in slow motion. The minute Estes got out of line (when she felt the weight in her stirrup), Julie sent her out on the longe and worked her. It was amazing how quickly she was able to get her foot out of the stirrup and set Estes to cantering. That’s all it took. One correction. Once Estes realized that she was going to WORK if she didn’t behave, she settled right down. It was freakin’ amazing. Julie talked me through the correction one more time and we were done other than our practice time with Twyla. During the time I was riding for Julie, Estes was acting up and playing a bit – nothing big, but enough to impress the hell out of Dave. He offered to work with me at any time on the VRH skills I’d need to compete. He seemed to think that we’d be into prizes right off the bat with just a few lessons on what was expected of her.

I rode Estes back to Julie’s, turned her out, and went back to Cheryl’s to see Julie work with Dave. I learned so much about lead changes during his session. Before, I never had a clue how to cue for a lead change, but I think, once we get Estes’ mounting issues straightened out, I’m going to start working with her on figure eights and lead changes.

Despite the fact that Estes only needed one correction from Julie to be “fixed”, I still had to practice with her, so it was back over to Julie’s at 7 pm for my practice session with Twyla. She did awesome! It only took one correction from me to get her straightened out. I mounted her from the on-side and the off-side and she never moved a muscle. So, as a final test, I had Ash mount up. Again, she never moved a muscle. It was miraculous! She stood quietly and waited for her cue to move out. A totally different horse after just a few minutes. Since she did so well in the arena, I stripped her saddle, took her out of the arena and mounted her bareback. Twyla was shocked at how well she did bareback (me, too). Finally, by 8:00 we were done with our day. Hallelujah!

Day Three 
Last day! Kind of bitter sweet. I’m so thrilled with Estes’ progress and so proud of her. She won everyone over with her easy-going personality and her intelligence. Even Julie was surprised that it only took one correction from each of us to change 18 years of training.

6:00 am we were on set and getting ready; Cheryl was digging through my clothes to find the perfect complement to Julie’s outfit and “my crew” was getting Estes ready – I really could get used to this. A quick breakfast in the Bunkhouse and it was hurry up and wait again. Mom walked Estes up and down the yard for a long while to warm her up so she wouldn’t be shivering on camera, and then I rode her around a bit – no standing on the rail for my baby today. Finally we were called to the set for our “after” clips with Julie. Estes stood like a champ for me to mount up in the arena so we moved out to the field to give her her “Final Exam” for Julie. She did the first take perfectly, but Heidi wasn’t happy with the ending, so we had to do it again. By that time, Estes was done playing and because we didn’t have the longe line attached, we couldn’t correct her and we managed to undo the training we did the day before, but it’s still fixable. We knew we’d have a set back now and then, so I’m not too disappointed.


Julie then used Estes for her “Quick Tip” for the episode – where to stand and how to hold the stirrup to help reduce the chance of the horse walking off. And, just like that, our TV stint was done! It felt good to get loaded up and get on our way, but it was hard to leave the crew – everyone was so nice and went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable.

3 comments:

Momma Fargo said...

Awesome pics and great posts! I know the country you live in very well. Beautiful place.

Taylorvillegirl said...

Great video. You're a natural! Looks like a pretty cool experience.

GunDiva said...

Momma Fargo - Welcome! I agree, I live in a beautiful area and wouldn't trade it for the world.

Taylorvillegirl - I hate my interview; but I love the riding segments. It wasn't until I saw the clip that I understood why my back hurt after mounting.