The clinic was held at the fantastic facilities at McPherson Quarter Horses in Bristol, TN. Mack & Darlene McPherson are just plain folks (like most of us!), but have a HUGE 148' x 225' covered arena to offer, complete with box stalls along one side, a concession stand with restaurant equipment, restrooms with showers, and other amenities. I have visited there several times before, so I had a good idea of what to expect when I got there. (If you live anywhere near Bristol, there is a PNH study group that meets in the indoor arena on a weekly basis. Contact Darlene for more info.)
For several reasons, I decided to haul Guinness down a day ahead of time. The biggest one was that I wanted to give him time to relax before breaking it to him that he was going to be spending lots of time in a stall.. (See previous posts for details about his issues regarding being stalled.) Also, our visit was extended by an additional day, so that I could observe the first day of the Level 3/4 camp also being offered. In total, we spent 4 days and 3 nights there.
I’d intended to pack up ahead of time so that I’d be ready to head to Bristol early on Friday, but instead wound up packing everything that morning. Surprisingly, I still arrived at the venue around 3:30 pm.
Guinness is a very brave boy, however, I decided that with the multi-hour trailer ride by himself, and the odds on me needing to put him into a stall immediately upon arrival, that it would be in his best interest to give Guinness a dose of Quietex before we hit the road. This is an herbal paste that contains Valerian and St. Johns Wart, among other things. The effect wasn’t noticeable, however it seemed to take the edge off of his nerves (and my concern about him).
I somehow manage to pack all of the right items, including some accidental ones! The only thing that I forgot was a hay net, but the stalls have hay racks built in, so it was not a problem. (Normally not an issue, but I was expecting to have to tie him some while stalled.) Darlene made coffee for everyone in the morning, however no food was for sale during this clinic. Instant oatmeal packaged in a microwavable plastic cup worked great for breakfast - and Guinness enjoyed licking my leftovers.
Friday evening, after playing and riding in the arena, I decided to sleep on my cot in the barn right next to Guinness’ stall. I had been leaving him in the stall for increasingly longer periods of time (starting out tied) and he was pretty cool about it, however I was concerned about leaving him unattended the entire night.
Sleeping in the barn was really pleasant and made me feel like a teenage girl in a horse book! I fell asleep to the sounds of horses steadily munching hay – sounding like an army of caterpillars. Before bed, I gave G. an additional ½ dose of Quietex. I awoke several times in the night (nothing new) and checked in with him. He seemed to really appreciate me being there. He must have felt pretty relaxed because he lay down for a nap just before dawn. Sleeping in the barn worked well enough for me to repeat every night, with my friend, Sara, joining me overnight on Sunday .
On Saturday morning, I woke up right as the sun was coming up and the birds started singing - about 5:30 am. I put up my cot, changed clothes, and prepared some instant oatmeal for breakfast. They I did my horse chores and took Guinness out to graze on the 22’ rope. After that, we went indoors for some Liberty in the arena before everyone else joined us. We repeated this routine each day as well.
The clinic started each morning at 9:00 am and ended at around 4:00 pm? We took an hour or so lunch break at noon, and smaller breaks to tack-up the horses, etc.
For dinner, Jennifer (a new friend who lives about 15 miles from me) and I ate at a good Italian restaurant just down the road on Friday & Saturday, and with Sara at a Mexican place in Bristol on Sunday. The rest of the evenings were spent socializing, doing horse chores and getting ready for bed. It was very relaxing.
The trip home was uneventful. I started home later than expected since Carol C. was giving the L3/4 students 15 minutes of individual time with her to address particular issues. This was so interesting to watch that I put off leaving and arrived home in the dark. Thank goodness for my new trailer safety decals. I also realized that the lenses on my truck headlights are plastic and have become yellowed, drastically reducing my ability to see at night. I'll be replacing them very soon.
When Guinness arrived home, the other horses didn't come to greet him. I think that they had given up on his return! When at last they showed up, Smokey charged at Guinness as if he didn't remember him - and then stopped in his tracks. They wrapped their necks around each other as Smokey gave Guinness an upside down nibble-kiss. It brought tears to my eyes. Next, Cody went up and swung at Guinness, as if to say, "Now don't get any ideas - you are still low man around here." Then they all happily went off to eat hay together.
One last thing that I've discovered that was helpful on this trip: Equitea, alfalfa tea mix for horses. This product is made by Equine America. It contains alfalfa powder, molasses powder, and several kinds of salts. Its primary purpose is to encourage picky drinkers to consume water when away from home, however the magnesium in it seems to have loosened Guinness' poops a bit, which has to help to prevent colic. Guinness loved it, especially when I added some extra sugar. I put it next to his water bucket and he would alternate sips. When he first tried it, he had it all over his face and looked so pleased with himself that I wanted a photo, but couldn't find the camera in time. :-) I plan to keep this stuff in my trailer for future trips and trail rides.