Saturday, August 16, 2003

Sometimes the Light is Too Bright

It all started with my ride to the Carol Coppinger clinic. My understanding, as it was explained to me by FF, was that anytime I needed a ride to a clinic or to borrow the trailer, all I had to do was ask. No problem. And don't worry about it, we will make sure you always have a ride to local clinics. What part of that, when you are specifically TOLD this, could be construed as "assuming"?

The original plan that was told to me was that my horse would be delivered to the clinic site on the Thursday before the clinic, and that after getting her settled, I was supposed to help the incoming L1 riders find their stalls, which I happily agreed to do. This arrangement was made at Bruce's clinic in May. We had discussed it several times since. All was a "go" for me to have the same hauling arrangement for Carol's clinic as for Bruce's. Of course, this was when I was still signed up for the Level TWO clinic.

Perhaps I should backtrack? Yes.

After successfully passing all but nine tasks on my L1 Assessment, I was certain that between May and August I could tighten up the problem areas and be ready for L2 in August. I registered for and paid for participation in the Level TWO clinic. I was accepted. All was well and good for the rest of May into June.

WF and I worked diligently to improve and to begin L2 tasks. I was only home 15 out of 30 days in June due to travelling, but our progress was going well. Then I was hit with a bombshell. FF, also the local clinic registrant and my supposed friend, informed me that I had been bumped back to the L1 clinic (without asking me first if that was acceptable) b/c the right was theirs to do and b/c several of the participants signed up for L2 had already passed L2 and therefore the clinic would be an Advanced L2 and too advanced for me to handle.

I was a bit put out. My response was to inquire as to L2 clinic requirements. I was told that I had to be Official L1 or have passed 90% of the tasks (I had passed 65%) and be working on L2 to qualify, but it was stressed that I would be so far behind the rest that they'd rather see me be the star L1 student than the worst-looking L2. Besides, it was being changed into an Advanced L1 clinic so I wouldn't be bored. Play on that self-confidence, why dontcha? But I backed down, b/c I still was operating under the belief that this came from my FRIEND, who wanted the best for me, who wanted to help me achieve my goals.

But my gut began to bark at me. I felt as if I was being manipulated, perhaps. A couple weeks went by. Then the story came out about the Other Girl. The Other Girl (OG) who had just passed L1 at Bruce's clinic and registered for L2 had been bumped back like me, and this girl stood up for herself and said, "no way—I paid for L2, I'm staying in L2." OG got to keep her L2 spot. The rest of the story developed later, when OG attended the first Play Group meeting that I missed due to being out of town. FF was demonstrating some L2 tasks and talking about the difficulties encountered with them, then focused pointedly on OG and said "you passed your L1 so you've been working on L2 now—you know what I'm talking about, right?" OG stammered and said that she hadn't really done anything with her horse since Bruce's clinic in May—then she said she supposed she'd better bump back to L1 as suggested, eh?

The response was "sorry, L1 is full, you'll just have to stay in L2 now" and that OG had better get her butt in gear and read ALL of the L2 booklets and practice like crazy between now and the clinic and just hope she'd be able to keep up, sorry but you should have taken my advice in the first place. When the story was relayed to me, FF said smugly "I could have been nice about it and just refunded her money and let her out of the clinic, but I wanted to make an example of her. Do you think that's too mean?"

I was horrified. I thought I'd best not push the L2 clinic spot issue much further. Just suck it up, stay in L1, and hope that it actually did become an Advanced clinic.

Then my pride got the better of me and I decided to call Carol myself. I called and explained that I'd been bumped to L1, but I'd already been to two L1 clinics, had nine more tasks to pass and two of them weren't a big deal, just nerves, and asked about requirements and Carol's response was to tell me what to do to fix the problem that was keeping us from passing the bulk of the tasks, then ask that I videotape them and send it to her along with the resubmit fee ($60) and she'd help me get out of L1 and if I did, there's no reason why I couldn't be in the L2.

Needless to say, I never got it videotaped b/c one task, the Figure 8 at the Trot, kept eluding us, and despite my asking my supposed friend for help, I never got it. Around the fifth time I asked FF to help, I was told that I wasn't supposed to know this, but Carol automatically assesses everyone during the clinic but does it secretly so that people don't try to "perform" rather than learn, and that the reason it was so strongly suggested that I stay back in L1 was so I could save my money since I was unemployed and pass at the clinic. I was like, OH. Well, gee, why didn't you say so earlier? All smiles. Relaxed. OK, I'll stay in L1.

Seque to 4:00 pm on the Thursday before the clinic, when I had not heard from FF about when we were trailering the herd in. I began to panic. When were we loading in? Nobody had answered my earlier inquiries. (It never occurred to me until today that since I'd been bumped to L1 perhaps I no longer qualified for a ride in the L2 trailer.) I finally reached FF and was told that they weren't loading in until their L2 clinic. Maybe I could catch a ride with one of the other boarders who was taking his daughter's horse to the L1. (She shall be known as NewBie, or NB, b/c this was her first L1 clinic and she's only been in the program a short time. The dad will be known as BD, or Big Daddy.) I BARELY got ahold of them in time, and they graciously offered to trailer my horse.

Because of the mixup, we were late getting to the clinic site, and I could not assume my duties as signer-inner. Strike one against me. Or is that two? Then the clinic went by... great clinic, lots of fun, we played simulations without our horses that summarily fixed every problem I had with the riding tasks, and we started some L2 tasks like riding with Carrot Sticks. It turned into an Advanced L1, despite having one White Roper—our term for a complete newbie b/c if your lead rope is pure white, you've yet to play with your horse—who bought the equipment literally ten minutes before the clinic began.

After the clinic, we did our Assessments. The first night, Carol did full assessments on people who've never been Assessed for that level. I was so proud of NB, b/c this was her first L1 clinic and first assessment and she'd only been in the program for a couple months, yet she passed all but TWO tasks on the first go. You could see that she was a nervous wreck, though. Tasks that proved difficult had her near tears. FF was on hand to watch the whole time. She was very focused on NB and offered continual encouragement, as did I.

The second night, after the L1 clinic wrapped, Carol did the resubs. NB, the White Roper, myself and one other person did our resubs. As you know, I passed; so did NB. We were both so excited for each other. NB was surprised that she'd made it, despite a background in hunter/jumper which gave her the edge in horse experience. I wasn't. I was thrilled for her. Maybe this'll get BD off his duff and inspire HIM to get into the program seriously, I thought.

After Carol told me we'd passed everything, I did a Rocky, while still mounted. Arms in the air, VICTORY! YESSSS!!!!! And then my eyes welled up in gratitude for the wonderful horse that was responsible for us achieving this milestone. I sat on her, composing myself and taking in the moment. It felt like winning the Miss America Pageant. After a few moments, I dismounted, relieved, and walked past FF on my way to take out my horse. I expected congratulatory hugs, high fives, excitement. I got "Oh. Yeah. Nice job. Now. Here's what I need you to do with the incoming L2s and the outgoing L1s" and proceeded to run down this HUGE list of do's and dont's and explanations of the coding system and cash system and who paid and who hadn't and blahblahblahblah and here's a pen and take these papers on your way." Then dismissal and walk away. I was left standing there in disbelief, overloaded with carefully organized, precariously balanced papers, a pen, and all my equipment.

What just happened here? I wondered. Did I do something wrong?

The shit really hit the fan a bit later, when I discovered that my ride home was bailing on me. Some poorly mumbled excuse from BD about a wedding reception, no time to take both horses home. I was caught in the middle of panic at trying to find another ride on impossibly short notice, being devastated that my L1 was completely dismissed by my "friend", pissed at having to come up with three more days' worth of stall fees I couldn't afford, and frustrated at having to try to deal with both issues while an incoming L2 wanted to know where to put their horse. Not that I could figure it out from the scatterbrained instructions I'd been given.

NB, in whose trailer I had come, noticed I was upset and inquired as to why. When I told her I was upset at having lost my ride with her, she looked confused. The wedding reception was news to her. She left to speak with BD and came back and said I was indeed riding with them. So I scrambled around getting my stuff together and loading my horse, after dragging the L2 person in to meet FF and handing back the stack of stall sheets and pen and apologizing for having to bail but swaring I'd be back ASAP after dropping off WF at home. The trailer left on its way to its first stop, and I cleaned out my stall really well before leaving. As I left the site, a horrendous storm came up and I was dangerously trying to race through horizontal rain and 60 mph winds around downed tree branches to get to the barn in time.

Once there, I heard the Rumor of What I Had Allegedly Done. Subsequently, after being pulled aside by several also-recently-enlightened individuals, I gathered the following information, things that FF had done:

1) Told BD to come up with a lie and strand me and not take me home

2) Said that the reason to strand me was to use it against me in retaliation for the "conversation with PNH" that "got them into trouble"

3) Was planning to make sure I paid for all of the stall time including keeping my stall cleaning deposit before agreeing to haul my horse with their trailer at the end of the clinic to take me home two days later

4) Was planning to have a change of mind at the last minute, pick a fight and leave us there without a ride

5) Told NB that they would pay for her clinic, never telling her it was the free L1 spot—then made NB do 70 loads of FF's family's laundry for a week to "pay it off"

6) Heavily pressured NB to assess before she wanted to because it was necessary that she "beat" me to L1 certification

7) Was extremely happy that I'd been "beaten" to L1 certification by NB by two minutes

8) Didn't want me to pass my L1 at all, which is why no additional help was given to me by my so-called "friend"

9) Wanted me and the OG out of the L2 class so the class wouldn't be slowed down by our "inexperience" b/c FF wanted it to be an Advanced L2/Intro L3 class and if newbie L2 students were involved, Carol would have adjusted the pace accordingly.

10) When it was discovered that I was purchasing some PNH equipment on behalf of another non-PNH boarder (at their request), NB asked how much the bill was and then proclaimed loudly that they would happily pay for it and that I should tell the boarder that—but was secretly planning to find some excuse later to refuse to pay for it, hoping the boarder would blow off paying me, get pissed at me for lying about FF's intent to pay for it and subsequently I'd get stuck paying for it (which is the same amount, interestingly enough, as what my extra stranded stall fees plus cleaning deposit would have amounted to, had I not found a ride AND cleaned my stall and foiled the plan of cheating me out of the deposit.)

11) Is telling everyone that matters that the reason I tried to "put a stop to FF's demo" was because I was trying to sabotage them so they wouldn't be able to become an instructor—by messing up their "résumé video opportunity"—because I'm afraid I won't make it into the program unless they are not in it (or some such nonsense like that, I really couldn't get a grip on the bassackwards logic even after it was explained three times) and that I don't want anyone in the area to know about PNH until I'm an instructor so I can have all the L1s to myself. Or something like that.

12) Thought it was cool that their horse wasn't afraid to go up onto the seating area during the demo. DUHHHH!!! Can you say, "liability insurance"? Doubt it. I still can't believe they're in denial about that. Think about it. Would Pat Parelli allow HIS horses to do that? No? Well, why do you suppose not?

13) Tried to cheat me out of my stall deposit by claiming they had someone else pick it out for me (since I'm "too lazy and undependable to do it myself" and assuming that due to the ride home mixup I'd planned to put it off until morning and play into FF's hand), not knowing that after loading my horse into BD's trailer, I'd picked it out while missing Carol's public demo on the second day, and that I'd looked at all the outgoing L1 stalls the next morning to compare them to mine before confronting FF about the deposit. The reaction? A sneering "Oh. Well, I was going to give you back your deposit anyway."

14) Purposely kept me away from Carol's public demo so that I would not be able to communicate with the newspaper reporter, who, incidentally, was only there because I initiated the conversation about PNH with her during an interview with me for an article on favorite places to walk in the county. I wrote about riding WF in the woods, and they contacted me in July for an interview (during which I brought up PNH), sent out a photographer, and published it in the paper, the same weekend as the ill-fated "demo/clinic". I specifically invited my PNH barn buddies to ride along AND passed on FF's email to the reporter so that FF could have an "in" to promote the clinic and the "demo".

And what is the reasoning behind all this? I am dumbfounded. I've been nothing but a true friend to this person. I've been supportive. I've gone out of my way to help them promote PNH locally. I've shared secrets, allowed them to cry on my shoulder, stepped in when they were in trouble... and this, THIS, is how I'm rewarded. I should have learned my lesson from the last time we had a falling out, when once again, I became the scapegoat for something that may or may not have happened the way I was told it did. Funny the things that happen when your back is turned. Every time something happened that was supposedly my fault, my back WAS turned, so I could only go by what I was told.

I was persona non grata and desperately confused and hurt by their betrayal following last fall's incident, until winter passed and suddenly I was needed. Suddenly, I had some purpose for FF's master plan. They didn't tell ME what it was; all I know is that the Autumn Incident was waved away as a misunderstanding, all was forgiven, let's be friends again, they were wrong. Peace offering: a hand-crafted stall sign for WF's door.

I was hesitant; but... not many people in the barn are studying PNH, and it helps to have support from upper-level students... and I really had liked this person genuinely from the moment we met after I moved into the barn, despite being warned off of them. Surely no one could be as bad as they were saying, right?

Yeah, and Tanya Harding was just misunderstood.

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