Thank You for Not Killing Me

I sit here this morning with a pounding head, my muscles ache, I am completely dehydrated and   overcome with feelings of “why do I keep doing this to myself”?  You see, I have a particularly bad hangover this morning.  I tied one on pretty good over the last couple days and now I am paying the price.  Like all hangovers this one was self inflicted.  But unlike most hangovers, I can’t wait to do this to myself all over again!  You see, it isn’t alcohol that made me feel this way.  It’s a horse show hangover and in my opinion the best kind there is!

It is a particularly warm Sunday morning as I sit here and try to collect my thoughts enough to recount the events of the Appaloosa club’s Fist Full of Silver Appaloosa and All Breed Horse show.  It was once again a great show with some beautiful horses and as both a lover of all things Appaloosa and a member of the sponsoring club it was great to have a nice turnout for the breed.

This show started off like nearly all the other shows.  We got there really late, it was stressful getting moved in and the horses settled.  I could feel myself starting to succumb to the stress of the day.  To add to that stress, I had to leave in the evening to show a house and I was praying that I would make it back in time to do the trail class that I had signed up for.  

The day moved along at a snails pace and somehow managed to make it through my showing and back in time for my class.  This is where it really went to hell.  My show bridle was not in the trailer, the bridle and reins that were did not fit Keno.  He was none too happy to have the ill fitting bit and too short reins.  At this point I was either going to curl up in the fetal position or sob my way through the entire course.  

After being yelled at for my tack mishap which caused a gate hold by the gate attendant, we were on the course!  Did I mention that Keno has only ever seen these obstacles one other time in a trail in hand class?  We managed to complete the course even though there were terrifying cones, horse eating geese, a bridge of death, oh and a side pass that Keno decided immediately that he was going to do “his way”. We got disqualified even though Keno’s way of doing that course was, in his opinion, the correct way.  The judges disagreed and our entry fee became a donation to our show committee.

Day two was exciting in so many other ways.  Keno and I gave our best attempt to complete the Hunter in Hand course.  For those of you who are not familiar, two triangles…one you walk and one you RUN!  Keno had exactly 2 days of work on this event and I only one.  Mostly because working on HIH involves running and well…I don’t run.   Not only do I not run, but running in the thick footing of the arena is a disaster waiting to happen.  

As I entered the arena, I was far less concerned with how Keno was going to handle the class and far more concerned with not taking a wrong step and falling flat on my face.  

We greeted the judges while they walked around us, then we were off.  We killed the walk!  I walked as fast as my short fat legs could walk and he kept a nice pace beside me.  Then it was time to run!  Running a straight line is hard enough, but running in a large triangle with its severe angles and turns is enough to bring any big girl down!  We managed and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and Keno…well let’s just say that Keno didn’t have to struggle to keep up with me.  I didn’t fall and he didn’t break gate!  It was a success and we took home 3rd in a pretty big class of Non Pro Hunter in Hand competitors!  Our day had started off with a bang!

We managed a 3rd and 4th in Non Pro Halter in a big class. In showmanship he was his best yet.  We got 8th from one judge and nothing from the other but the success for me was that Keno had a great attitude and did what was asked of him.

We only had 1 class left for the day…Non Pro Walk Trot Hunter Under Saddle…the scariest of all classes.  The one that I forced myself to sign up for.  The one I really didn’t want to do.  The one that I was completely unprepared for.  The one that would prove that we have something to work for or the one that permanently relegates me to the ranks of show mom and not show competitor.

The preparation for the class was a day long event in itself.  You see, I don’t have a hunt coat that fits me well so I have to do some cheating to get into it.  I only share the details of the preparation with you because looking back on it all I can do is laugh.  

It is funny that I own two body shapers that will allow my transition from western showmanship to hunt seat to be seamless and easy.  Could I find either of them?  Nope…no idea where they are!  So, I used the next best thing, my swimsuit!

You see, the reason that my jacket doesn’t fit is because I am a bit top heavy.  And by a bit, I mean VERY!  Do you see many busty broads going over fences?  Not often. Even though we are not jumping, we need to look like we could. What is one to do with the girls when they are the reason you can’t button your coat?  Well, spread them out of course!

Spread them out?  Yes!  I wriggled into my speedo and smashed those girls down so much that the reached from my belly button to my chin.  They were hiding under my arms and nearly tucked into my breeches!   I couldn’t get my sweaty arms into the satin lined jacket so vet wrap to the rescue.  With arms wrapped and boobs smashed I was ready to try on my coat.  It was a team effort and the more we tried the more I sweated the harder it was to get on! Eventually, it was on and even though it looked like I was hiding a couple woopie cushions under my jacket I was ready to ride!

I threw my old saddle (the one that makes him sore) and hoped that we would both survive the 3 minute class.  We had all of 5 minutes to warm up and Keno was making darn sure that I knew he was not enjoying the atmosphere of the warm up.  They called my number and in we went.

“Trot your horses” was the first thing I heard upon entering the arena at the walk.  I asked for a trot and he obliged.  He was nervous and had no rhythm.  I would pick up the correct diagonal and within seconds he had bumped me off it.  We were giving a class in “what the judge doesn’t want to see”.  I was floundering around on top of him and he was floundering around underneath me.  I said a silent prayer, “please God let us just get through this class”.  No sooner did I think that and Keno spooked at something proped up outside the arena.  He stopped and spun and as I was collecting myself and him the announcer asked for a change of direction.

We were waking away from the thing that wanted to eat him and I was able to better get a handle on his face and he was listening to me.  They asked for a trot and I took a second to squeeze him up and gently asked for a trot and he went into a nice trot!  I picked up the correct diagonal and we had found our rhythm.  One, two, one, two….we were doing it.  I was posting, he was listening, we had rhythm…this class was a success!!

As we rounded the corner I see a horse in front of me spook and go straight into the air!  I mean Roy Rogers and Trigger style!  My initial thought was, “oh shit, Darlene’s in real trouble!” It looked like her horse was coming back on top of her!  

I had enough time to be concerned and in a split second the horse directly in front of me spooked and then my concern was far more self centered.  I am not sure what happened but the next thing I knew I had mane in my mouth and my helmet was on the ground. It felt like an eternity that I was there helpless, struggling to keep from hitting the dirt but wondering if it was my only option.  I really didn’t know how far out of the saddle I was or what Keno’s next move would be.  All I knew in that moment was, hang on! So I did. Keno seemed to freeze when he realized that I had been unseated and that allowed me to regain my balance without an unscheduled dismount.  When I was able to collect my thoughts and look around I realized that Darlene appeared to be ok, she had bailed and was standing there with her reins in her hand and Trigger (aka Truffles) by her side.

I am not sure why in that moment I began to laugh and said, “this is my best class yet!!” In a way I wasn’t lying!  You see, I often find trust difficult when it comes to horses and horses with big personalities are even harder.  Keno has a big personality and that makes trust real hard for me.  

A wise man once posted on Facebook about trusting your horse…always trust your horse to be a horse.  Of course I am paraphrasing, but he was right.  The reality is that trusting them to be a horse is the only thing we can do.  Keno acted like a horse when he was spooked by the two horses in front of him.  But, his training and his trust in me allowed him to look to me for his next move.  He had to wait for me to get back into my saddle for that direction, but in the end he made the right choice for both of us.  We came out of that ring in second place and knowing that we could handle a worst case scenario if it arises.

I thanked my little spotty for not killing me and climbed off.  He was still pretty well rattled from the whole ordeal but made it back to his stall in one piece.

Getting out of my hunt coat was as much of a challenge as getting into it!  You see, between sweat, satin and vet wrap it created some kind of bond that was nearly unbreakable!  I got it off with a few tears, cuss words and some good old fashioned try.  Then wriggled out of my swim suit which was now dreanched with sweat (did I mention it was nearly 100* and we were in the outdoor arena).  I went and collected my red ribbons and got to watch Kodee take second in her English Pleasure green horse class.

All in all, it was a very successful show.  We had some big successes and we know things we need to improve for next time.  No one got hurt and we all shared a few laughs and a few tears as well!

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