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Operator Error

continued by Brenda Zeigenbein
continuation of previous story entitled, Murphy's Law

While working in the barn one night, we received a phone call. It was Rod Wilson from Illinois and he said he was looking for a big gelding to trail ride and show a little bit. He and his wife, Arlene, had wandered into a barn in Illinois asking where they might buy Missouri Foxtrotters. Ironically, someone pointed them in the direction of Julie Christiansen. Julie immediately began to show them her horses and also pulled out the Celebration Book and turned to our advertisement. Julie recommended the Illinois couple give Clarence a call to see what we had for sale. At that time we had two good three year old geldings, a black one and a sorrel with a blaze and flaxen mane and tail. Since Rod is tall, he wanted a big horse and both geldings were good sized. Rod and Arlene made arrangements to come see the two horses and to ride them. First I got out the black gelding and rode him, then turned him over to Rod to ride. Rod's wife, Arlene, seemed a little intimidated by the gelding and she didn't want to ride him. Then I got the sorrel out of his stall, saddled, and rode him. Rod rode him, too, but there again Arlene declined. It appeared to me that Rod preferred the big sorrel gelding, Lad's Lucky Seven Z., over the black gelding but the couple seemed reluctant to make a commitment. Clarence told them we had other horses for sale and he took them out to see some horses in the pasture. Almost immediately, Arlene pointed to a small black mare and asked if she were for sale. The mare she pointed to was Lad's Fancy Nancy Z. Clarence told Arlene that Nancy was my mare and I had been trail riding her. He said we hadn't intended to sell her, hadn't advertised her, and weren't trying to sell her - but would for the right price. He told them what it would take to buy her and said there was no use to get the mare in and ride her if they were not prepared to pay the price. Arlene said they couldn't give that much for a horse so the three of them returned to the barn. It wasn't long, though, until Arlene asked me if I would go out and catch Nancy and bring her in. I did so and after saddling and bridling Nancy, I rode her while Rod and Arlene stood and watched. When I got off her, I expected Rod to ride her but Arlene stepped up and took the reins. She made only a couple rounds of the barn when a smile began to light up her face. I knew right then that Rod had lost his horse. Sure enough, they had come looking for a big gelding for Rod and they left with a little mare for Arlene. It wasn't until later I found out that Arlene is from New York, had never rode a horse, and was scared out of her wits but strangely enough, she felt comfortable with the little black mare. Both Rod and Arlene have since told us that Nancy was the perfect first horse for them.

When the Wilsons first came to our barn, Arlene said she was not interested in showing and only wanted a horse to trail ride. Clarence and I had heard that story before so it was no surprise to us when we heard that Rod and Arlene were showing Nancy at some little shows in Illinois. In fact, we received a phone call from a very excited Arlene one weekend saying she and Nancy had won a blue ribbon in a fairly large foxtrot class. As Arlene and I got better acquainted and became friends, we communicated by E-Mail. It wasn't long until Rod and Arlene were back at our place looking for a horse for Rod. By this time we had sold the black and sorrel geldings but we had a three year old bay gelding Clarence had been showing. His name is Lad's Travelin Yankee Z. Rod rode him and liked him so they bought him and asked if we would keep him until the following weekend and deliver him to them at the St. Clair horse show. We agreed to do so. When we pulled into the show grounds, there was Rod and Arlene anxiously waiting. As we unloaded Yankee from the trailer, everyone was excited and we were all talking at once. I remember telling Rod that Yankee had not been rode all week, had been kept in, and I had given him a cold water bath before loading him on the trailer. I told him I thought he should longe Yankee before getting on him. I got my own horse saddled and headed up to the show arena. The next thing I knew, Clarence was at the arena gate telling me that Yankee had thrown Rod. I couldn't believe it! It turns out Rod had not heard me tell him to longe the horse so he saddled him, immediately mounted him, and Yankee promptly bucked him off. Clarence hooked a couple lead ropes together and attached one end to Yankee's halter and longed him a few minutes. Then Rod rode him. Yankee was just fine. In fact, Rod showed Yankee and placed in every class he showed him in that night. That was not bad for the first show they competed in together. Rod and Arlene showed Yankee and Nancy the remainder of the show season and trail rode them that fall. They rode and had fun with them the following year as well.

In the summer of 2000 I began to realize that Arlene was looking for another show horse. Coincidentally, we had just brought Boogy Bay's Daisy May Z., my former show mare, in from pasture after weaning a colt off her. Daisy and I had placed Reserve in the Two Year Old Open Championship class at the Three Year Old Futurity in 1996. Rod and Arlene were down to visit one weekend and I got Daisy out and rode her. I had only rode her a few times since the 1997 show season but surprisingly, she was already setting back up. Arlene rode her and liked her so they bought her and left her at our place for a couple weeks. Arlene came down and spent a couple days to learn to ride her new horse.

It was Celebration time and Rod and Arlene were going to Ava on Saturday and we didn't plan to get there until Sunday afternoon. When we pulled into the showgrounds, there was Arlene riding Daisy and they seemed to be doing great. That night I got my horse out and took her up to the warm up arena. Arlene was there with Daisy. After just a few minutes of riding, Arlene headed Daisy up the ramp and into the main arena. I remember thinking that she really hadn't warmed her up very much and the main arena was crammed full of horses. Soon I heard people calling out that there was a loose horse and there was a flurry of activity as spectators tried to catch the horse. A minute or so later here came Arlene limping and leading Daisy. Arlene said Daisy had thrown her. I asked if she wanted me to ride Daisy and she said she did. Arlene held my horse as I got on Daisy. I was really upset! I couldn't believe we had sold Arlene the mare and she had dumped her off, embarrassing her in front of tons of people. I got on Daisy and walked around the warm up arena, then trotted her, turned her around and did the same with not an inkling of any problem. I turned Daisy's head up the ramp and into the main arena. There again, she walked, she trotted, she did everything I asked of her. I was still angry, and it showed by the expression on my face, as I left the main arena. At the gate I met Randy and Shawn Heinlein, Rod and Arlene's closest friends. Randy said, "It was an operator error, Brenda, there's nothing wrong with the mare". I was proud of Arlene as she got back on Daisy and rode her again that same night. She did, however, avoid the main arena. Arlene continued to ride Daisy all week and showed her several times, placing in some of her classes. Since I didn't see the incident myself, I can only conclude that Daisy tensed up as the horses crowded around her, and perhaps Arlene got nervous as well. Arlene may have pulled too hard on Daisy's mouth causing her front end to come off the ground and Arlene to slide off her rear. I really don't know what happened. I do know, however, that horses bond with and learn to trust their rider. Since Arlene and Daisy were new to each other and both nervous, that probably contributed to the problem.

All three of the horses we sold the Wilsons have dumped them at one time or another. Even Nancy got out from under Arlene one time. Rod and Arlene were racing Yankee and Nancy, like a couple teenagers, instead of the middle aged people they really are. As they thundered up to the barn, Nancy saw some trailer mats lying on the ground. She put her head down to look at them and immediately swerved to miss them. Unfortunately, Nancy went to the left and Arlene to the right or vice versa. I am happy to say, however, that through it all, we have had a lot of fun and we have all remained good friends.

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