By this point in the clinic, I was so shame-weary that I just wanted out. I stayed because I wanted to see if maybe SOMETHING good would come of it. And something did, she wrote with a crooked smile.
So Buck grabbed my horse's head. Mind you, I was still SITTING on my horse. I was situated in the middle of the arena up against the wall. Everybody had gathered around me--extremely close. It was so quiet you could hear a cricket chirping in the far corner of that huge building. I chuckled because I was the only one who didn't really take the whole thing quite as seriously as I ought to have. Nobody cracked even the slightest grin. I did some of my own eye-rolling at that point.
Buck came up to the left side of the horse and straddled Timothy's neck with his arms. He grabbed both reins. So the dude was basically in my lap. Odd, right?! Anyway, he started shouting into the microphone and telling the following made-up story: "This horse has been ridden in gimmicks! Look at these huge muscles in his neck!" He said grabbing a chunk of Timothy's flesh just behind his jawbone. Now riding in gimmicks means he's been trained using over checks, side checks, Martigales, draw reins, etc. These are aids that are used when training horses to drive. I said, "Yes Timothy is a Morgan. He was trained to pull a cart before he was ever started under saddle." Buck ignored this reasoning. Timothy's breed is a light draft breed. They can actually do pretty much anything but the Amish still use Morgans almost exclusively to pull their buggies. They look pretty doing it and they generally have good minds. Morgan horses are famous for their stamina as well. Buck knows all this. Very well. Yet he presses on with his ridiculous unfounded assertions as if they were gospel.
"This horse has been passed around, given up on, started and stopped, started and stopped and he's a mess!" He is SCREAMING this into his Madonna-phone. People on Lake Michigan could have heard him, I'm sure. I tried interjecting, "Well, I just got him right before he got sick." He completely ignored me and continued on his fitful rant "You see this poor animal?! He doesn't stand a chance with this type of situation!" I was incredulous. At this point I just lost it and started laughing my a** off and I did the unthinkable. I hauled off and punched Buck Brannaman square in right the deltoid just about as hard as I could and said "That's ENOUGH already. You've made your point. You needn't belabor it." He shot me a glance over said shoulder like 'how dare I?' and continued about how dangerous this situation could be, etc. And so I did it again! I punched the man again, laughing. And I said it again, "Dude, that's enough. You made your point. I JUST got this horse. I can't really speak to his entire past. It's not fair of you to come at ME like that. I did the best I could. You punk! Don't be such a punk about it. Go make your point on somebody else!"
He finally softened just a hair. And when he didn't punch me back, a few people relaxed enough to crack a smile. I guess he doesn't get that much. Bullies will lull people into submission with just the FEAR that they'll come at you. In all fairness to the poor bastard, it is pretty standard for somebody who took as much crap as he did in his childhood. They just mow the playing field down before anybody has a chance to suit up. I know bullies. But the Irish side of my brain would never easily submit to them. Not without some kind of fight--stupid, embarrassing or pointless as it might end up being.
I came away from that clinic like I said before in a state of PTSD. It took about a month to recover the will to ride again. It took the past 8 months to make sense of the ass-whoopin' we all took that weekend.
Looking back on the whole thing, I don't even TRY to assign any kind of grand metaphorical significance to it. I'm not saying it's not there. I'm just saying -- ugh, I don't want to think about it. It was the weekend I met some really nice people. I suffered through something crappy (with a bunch of expectations attached to it) with as much dignity as I could muster. All the while I was missing my kids and the rest of my support network and quietly re-grieving the loss of some beloved friends. So, you know, just a day at the beach, really.
When I returned home, I sent a Zingerman's Ultimate gift basket to Dave and Lisa. They called me and thanked me profusely and made me promise to come and visit this summer. About a week later I got a pretty heavy package in the mail. Funny, I thought, I didn't order anything. Wonder what it is...
I opened it up to find the most beautiful thank you note and a brand new, beautiful, totally assembled Mecate. I just burst into tear-filled laughter.
Darren McCarty would be so proud.