It's been a few days since Trilogy and I had our first show together, and it's taken a few days for me to recover, because holy crap that was exhausting. Monday I just became one with the couch for half the day while my body hummed in fatigue.
I actually enjoy doing all the prep myself--the bathing, the Show Sheening, the tack cleaning--there is comfort in the routine and ritual. But, as I get older (and more specifically, as my life has become busier), I spread it out over the days before the show.
|I never get manicures and rarely buy new shoes. Tril, on the other hand...|
|All clean and ShowSheened, showing off his manly maroon now-don't-go-lie-in-your-piss-puddle sheet.|
Now, this show honestly was not really well suited for Tril and me. While it was a hunter show and Tril is a huntseat pleasure horse, it was a hunter show--which means the rings were full of warmbloods, thoroughbreds, and thoroughbred-type other breeds brought by trainers bringing their clients along. When I filled out the online pre-registration for the show, I was vexed by all the names I had to enter that were all, essentially, me: Owner, Rider, Recipient of Award Money (??), Trainer. Um...yeah, no. I have a riding lesson instructor, sure, but at this point I had had precisely three lessons on him, the most recent a month before. But looking at the other pre-entries, everyone else there had a trainer, and a whoooooole lot of people were riding a horse owned by someone else. Doh. Welllll...let's just go do this thing anyway.
I gotta say first of all--I have amazing friends. A-MAZE-ing friends. One friend had already volunteered to be my groom for me that morning, but two others who happened to be at the barn that morning to care for their horses also stepped in to help wherever and whenever they could, as well as to be my cheerleaders. They also calmed my nerves during a brain-fart-induced panic of, "OMG Where is the other rein?? I look home my schooling and show bridle to clean and oil them; how do I now only have ONE rein for each bridle?!" GAH. Worry, stress, beginnings of frazzle...then my friend, looking at the reins, said, "Are they split reins?" Me: "Oh. Uh...no. I forgot, I didn't unbuckle the reins when I cleaned them so it looks like one long rein."
HowEVER, there was an "Aw, CRAP!" moment when I went to put on my freshly cleaned and oiled show girth. It fell so short with my saddle, it didn't even reach the billets--like, was 2-3" away from the billets. That's when I remembered--while I rode Tril in my old 46" schooling girth, I had stopped using it on Ana because it had become so stretched out it didn't fit her anymore. The 46" show girth had not stretched out, and Tril is a big beefy boy compared to dainty Ana. Her blanket size: 68. His: 76-78. That truly 46" girth was not happening. But, oh crud (literally)--my schooling girth was misshapen from years of use and stained with sweat salt--I mean, ew. And of course, all my leather cleaning products were at home. But my friend came to the rescue when she ran--literally ran!--back to her barn to get some leather cleaner and a rag. And I gotta say--that stuff was miraculous. That girth actually looked, well, not like crap on the leather parts. (The elastic--feh, but the saddle flaps covered that.)
I treated this show like a fresh start: new horse, right? And in a way, a new body. So let's have some new show clothes. My hunt coats and nearly all of my show shirts had both been purchased over 10 years ago and tailored to fit my pre-baby body--and while I can still get them on, they don't look or feel all that great. Certain things have changed since those babies were born, and I accept certain things just ain't ever going back to the way they were before. (My neck is thicker--WTF?--and that makes those hideous collars regular choke chains.) So, I exchanged some really nice but really unnecessary for me $120 breeches I'd won in a raffle at a local tack shop for store credit, and used the bulk of that credit for a new hunt coat and a few other goodies.
I put on my new show clothes, put Tril in his German martingale for some schooling, and was off to DO THIS THING. (eeek)
First, the warm up ring.
|Oh yeah, smiling now. No other pics of me smiling, sadly. That's notsomuch because I was that bummed, but that tired.|
My friend-trainer rides hunter/jumper on the A circuit, so she is well versed in all the doings and needs to be dones. She schooled me and I got my feel, and Tril was dang professional. My friend commented how much she liked Tril, especially for me--he was just doing his job.
Sadly, warm up had to end and The Real Thing had to start.
|I think I started holding my breath here.|
Our first class was walk-trot equitation, which is the most torturous of all as it's all about ME and not the horse. Deep breath, and...
Now, lemme tell yah. In my many years of showing on the local open circuit, walk-trot classes were nearly always small. Sometimes as many as ten, but nearly always under five. Not this time. Oh, crap.
|No really, breathe.|
Honestly, these classes are a blur because they went for FREAKING EVER. I cannot remember ever doing that much trotting in a class. EVER. First of all, walk-trot tended to use just half the arena, but because of the number of entries, we used to full circumference of that massive ring. Second of all, we rarely would trot more than once, maaaaybe twice, that full circumference. Not with this judge. I realized I was passing my friends at least three times in each direction. I was a panting, shaking mess after just the first class.
These photos were taken in the first two, I believe--Walk/Trot Equitation and Walk/trot Obedience.
|Not too bad, if I-the-ever-self-critical do say so myself.|
|Ooh, even nicer.|
|"And riders, return to the walk." OH THANK GOD|
|Pretty boy knows his job|
|Sometimes I think it looks like I'm riding a Breyer model.|
|More trotting. OH SWEET CRAP THE MORE TROTTING.|
Tril was such a dutiful boy--except on the straightaways, he wanted to go straight away a WHOLE lot faster. It didn't get out of hand, but it sure as hell couldn't have looked good.
Finally, the time came to line up. That's when I looked to my left and right and counted.
|I can't believe I haven't asphyxiated yet from lack of oxygen.|
|Nope, not me. Cute hunter paint pony though.|
I originally cropped this image thinking it might be a nice Facebook profile photo--until the crop revealed the complete "Aw, CRAP!"-iness of my expression and mood.
|Aw, it's okay. You might feel better if you breathe.|
I exited the arena dejected, but my friends were now in cheerleader mode and were having none of it. "You did great! Nobody even came close to dying!"
The next class was Hunter Under Saddle, and I withdrew figuring the writing was on the wall--my high neckset Arab was not going to be competitive against these long and low hunters. I debated scratching out of the Walk/Trot Over Rails class--basically trotting over poles--but my friends encouraged, cheered, comforted, and encouraged some more.
Know what was even more super-awesome? The show organizers encouraged me to go in. I was noticeably dejected and felt a bit out of place, but they gently sprinkled me with their positive words and energy and I took a breath and accepted it. You gotta love a show run by people like that, especially when the day of the show has to be so darn stressful to them.
I sat back, letting the others go before me so I could both watch them do the pattern as well as catch my breath. I realized--wait, this won't be so bad! The whole class would only last about a minute for me. I can do that! Then I can sit and rest some more! YES.
So, we went in, and my super excited friends forgot to take photos and video--but that's okay.
And it was just...wonderful. FUN, even.
We trotted in, trotted our courtesy circle, and approached the first pole. Tril pricked his ears like a happy little jumper and then happily jumped it at dead center. I laughed, then approached the next three poles--and he trotted right over them, dead center, ears pricked, me lifted up in a two-point like my body remembered from when I was a fearless jumper in my teenage years. I still remembered my training from all that time ago--eyes up, look at center, hands forward, eyes on the next "jump." And Tril, unlike the lesson horses I'd ridden as a kid, LOVED it. When we finished and did our final courtesy circle, we at one time were in front of the first pole, and he pricked his ears and readied his body--hee, he wanted to go over that one too. Sorry, boy, fun is over.
We left the arena and I was exuberant--it had simply been fun. Then I choked up remembering--this had been the last class I ever rode Ana in. She had jumped the first pole, causing me to burst out laughing--and Tril had done the same. Tril, whose back was sprinkled in white hairs from the show pad that refuses to shed them all despite washing. Tril, who wore Ana's retired tail bag when I couldn't find his during all the show prep.
Then, we placed--I yelped with pleasure when I heard we were fourth. Fourth! Of eleven! Even when Ana had won the class, we were just first of three. Tril and I actually defeated more competition.
I grinned like an idiot and wore than ribbon on my hunt coat like most horse show moms do with their kids' ribbons. I was so proud of him and me both, and so relieved, it made the rest of the day's stress melt away.
|I confess, I'm totally bribing him with a carrot here. Yes, I gave it (and a ton more) to him.|
We rode in one more class, hunter pleasure, and were blanked in it as I anticipated. That was okay. Honestly, it was. At that point I was more focused on just getting him to maintain his rhythm at the trot without racing away. I shortened my reins considerably, which is really the opposite of what you want in a pleasure class, but again my goal was to maintain his focus. (And not die. My friend said it was the longest flat class she ever saw. GAH.)
When I came home and reflected on the day, I realized what a wonderfully good boy Tril had been. Despite all the chaos of the show--EZ Up Tents all along the arena fence, folding chairs everywhere (both on the ground and being moved about), buckets and towels everywhere, a grill under the judge's booth spewing steam and smoke during the class, a dog that trotted into the arena (on leash, at least, and he only went a few steps) right in front of us, trailers everywhere, stuff and activity everywhere--he just didn't care. Not a flicked ear, not even the beginning of a spook, nothing. Even though we normally ride alone, he didn't give a hoot about sharing the arena with a dozen other horses. Not when they were to his inside, not to his outside, not when they came up a bit close on his butt, nothing. He was completely professional.
This excited, excites, me for the next show. I can't wait.
What a good boy.