June 7, 2009
in the ribbons
yesterday was the horse show our 4-H club has been organizing for months. Cookie & I were not quite prepared for everything I had wanted to do (including riding in all the Western classes), but that's OK. We competed in all the halter classes we were eligible for, and all the English riding ones. The halter class is equivalent to dog shows you see on TV, with the rider handling the horse from the ground, showing the horse at a walk, at a trot (in hand), and then set with feet square. I got a crash course in how to do this the night before the show, but we managed to bring home ribbons (2nd, 4th, and 5th place) in 3 of my 5 classes (one of which was a championship class; we didn't place in that one). I had thought going into it that we had a great chance of doing well, given that I am constantly complimented on how beautiful my horse is, so it's good to know she lives up to my opinion of her! We probably could have done better, in fact, if I had known what I was doing and if we'd practiced at all. (The class in which we placed fourth was, hilariously, the class in which I could not get her to stand still at all; we circled the whole time. Lord knows how we would have done if she'd stood correctly).
In my English classes I did not do as well as I had hoped, primarily because Cookie was so high-strung and full of nervous energy that she wanted nothing more than to run and run. Despite running her before the show, and then again before the riding class -- and then despite riding in TEN English classes, many of them at the canter -- I was forced to pull on her face so hard in every class that my fingers were raw and red by the end of the first half. We placed in only one class -- a fifth place in my age division in English Pleasure (which judges the horse, rather than Equitation, which judges the rider). Our barn owner was on the ground with the judge, and told me that he would have placed me every time if only I could get Cookie to slow down. I showed her my hands. "I can't hold her back any harder," I said. It's something I have not really encountered in regular riding, and so had no way of knowing I should expect it. But that's what schooling shows are for.
For this reason I decided to pull us out of the Western classes, which I was pretty unqualified to ride and which require your horse to be even slower and more collected than English riding does. Instead I hung out and helped anybody in the show office or in the show ring who needed a runner; I drank hot chocolate and threw a sweatshirt over my show shirt; I flirted momentarily with the judge (a trainer at our barn who, incidentally, gave me his phone number Wednesday night, after an impromptu mini-lesson which he refused to call a lesson. I was relieved to see it didn't sway his judging). It was fun to hang around and feel like part of a team again: I know all the kids in our 4-H club, and all their horses, and it was so satisfying to watch them and cheer for them and joke around with them. Afterwards we all helped clean the tack rooms and trailer the horses, and then in a long stream of cars we returned to the barn, where we each led our own horse back to his/her stall. Rather than having one person toss hay, everybody pitched in and fed her own horse, and then communally fed the others who hadn't come to the show.
When I got home I ate a bagel and was asleep on the couch before 10 PM. When I got up this morning at 8:30 I trudged out into the kitchen, ate a bowl of cereal, and then flopped back on the couch for a 2-hour nap. I got to the barn yesterday at 6 AM to start prepping for the show; I showed in halter class for the first hour or so of the morning and then rode for four hours after that. We didn't get back home to the barn until 8:30 or so. I can't even imagine how much more exhausted (and sore) I would have been if I'd ridden in the second half of the show as well. Those folks are superstars.
Four ribbons is definitely better than none. It's easy, once you're at the show, to forget what your real goals are and to feel very competitive, and ultimately disappointed, when in class after class you're not placed. But my real goal for the show was simply to see how Cookie would do in the environment, and to learn what we needed to work on. I also hoped not to get bucked off, and to avoid having her bolt in the ring. So we were pretty successful. Although it's understandably a little frustrating that I managed to come home with three ribbons in the event I learned overnight, and only one in the thing I've been doing for fourteen years! :-D