Horse Show Veteran

With my riding lessons still on hold due to technical reasons and with show season just around the corner, I thought I’d offer the following assessment of horse show parenting.

The article is actually part of a collection that I put together for my book A Horse in the House: Living With the Equine Addicted. Right now the book is available as a Kindle book from Amazon. For those who are interested, here’s the link:  A Horse in the House.

Horse Show Veteran

I am a horse show veteran. My horse-crazed daughters suffer from an addiction to riding in public, so I don’t have much choice. My efforts to break them of this expensive habit routinely fail and I’m left to spend my weekends and their inheritance on this … sport.

We’ve attended over a hundred horse shows. And we’ll probably go to a hundred more before it’s over and they cart me away on a broken down sulky, babbling a litany of judge’s instructions: “Trot your horse, trot please… reverse and walk … canter your horses … run like the wind! … every rider for herself! … line up and face judgment!” I’ll need to be sedated.

When the girls first started competing, I had no idea what was going on. All I could see was a herd of horses with miniature, but well dressed riders going in circles. How the judge picked one rider over another was beyond my comprehension. They weren’t racing, that was for sure. But to help pass the time, I pretended they were.

Now, I’m a veteran. I still don’t understand what the judge is looking for, but at least now I know that nobody else does either. Not parents anyway. Many get angry, and even feel cheated or insulted when their child does not place. Over the years, I’ve learned the louder they protest, the less they know.

New parents – the rookies – are the worst. Rookie parents are shocked and dismayed when they first discover the role politics and popularity play in horse show placings. “What do you mean the judge is a close friend of Suzy Tengrandhorse’s parents? That’s not fair!” Yeah, neither are death and taxes.

Of course one’s view of the role of politics in placings directly corresponds to the color of ribbon one receives. Those taking a blue know the judge is a direct descendant of Solomon – or a least a shirttail cousin of Judge Judy. Those who receive lesser ribbons or no ribbon at all regard the judge as fair and impartial as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There are other ways to spot rookie parents. They’re the ones whose kids have bloodstains on their back numbers. There is a trick to pinning thin stock cardboard to fabric and it takes a few finger pricks before you learn it. Safety pins are dangerous.

Rookie parents hurry. Then they wait. Then they hurry. Then they wait. They do this because they have yet to comprehend the salient fact of horse shows: Nothing ever happens on time. Most horse shows are behind before they even start. Rushing to meet a deadline that never comes on time always results in hurrying followed by waiting followed by hurrying and so on.

Veterans know better than to get ready too early. Scurrying around to get the proper tack, the right clothes, and correct equipment ready to go forty-five minutes prior to a class is never a good idea. The horse gets tired, the kid will have to pee and sweat makes mascara run. Daughters of rookie parents sometimes look like Alice Cooper groupies.

One of the worst mistakes I see rookie parents make is letting people – especially club leaders and kids – see them sit down. Veterans do not allow this. A veteran knows that the instant his or her rear makes contact with a chair, a club leader or child will descend upon the sitting person with a list of chores and instructions. Sitting areas should be chosen with care and out of public view. I prefer exploring and colonizing small patches in adjoining cornfields whenever possible.

Veteran horse parents do not have fewer questions than rookie horse parents. We’ve just stopped asking them. We have learned that knowing something is the first step to having to do something. It’s best to remain confused and oblivious. Just because the horses go around and around, doesn’t mean we need to.

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Jumping on the List

During Lesson #112 research efforts got underway for my 2015 List of Equestrian Things To Do. Progress was made in the areas of neck reining, the free-style vaulting routine and attending a horse show. And there were positive signs regarding Dressage. I also wanted to go over a cavaletti to get that done and checked off the list, but I didn’t see any on the ground.

I had the pleasure of taking Lesson #112 with Grace and Pete, two knowledgeable and helpful instructors. Grace rode her horse Diamond. The pair have been together forever – but not in this picture, because I forgot my camera and this is the only picture I have of Grace.

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Pete took Caspian and I was on Krystal.

The only thing I knew about neck reining is that you do it with one hand. I wanted to take better photos whilst mounted and I figured if I could master a one-handed riding technique, it might help.

After discussing the matter with Pete and Grace, I now know that neck reining is more about what the horse knows than what the rider knows. They actually get trained in it, especially for things like barrel racing.

Still, there are different approaches a rider can take, especially in regard to where you place your fingers vis-à-vis the reins. I still have to nail down my finger placement and then stick to it. And then use a horse that’s good at it, my job being basically not to confuse them. Grace said that Maree or Windy might be good candidates.

Pete promised to help me develop a free-style vaulting routine. He said I could pretty much make up what I want to do. This is good news for me, because I intend on creating some Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. He also said my routine should last about a minute, which is about all anyone will be able to stand to watch anyway. Karin is hosting a Fun Fest in April, so I’m hoping to be ready by then.

Meanwhile, my son-in-law Andy was gracious enough to create this exquisitely detailed model to help me conceptualize and develop some of my Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. That’s a Lions’ hat on his head.

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Regarding the open horse show, Legacy is starting an independent 4H-like horse club this year and Grace is one of the coaches. She told me they plan on attending an open horse show or two and I could tag along.

When I included “attend an open horse show” on the list, my intention was to just sit and watch. Like the olds days. But Grace seems to think I should participate in a more active way. I can still sit, but it has to be on a horse.

And finally, I saw these the day after my lesson.

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Looks like we’ll be working on our letters soon.

A Connection is Made

Bert began the spring of 2014 the same way he spent the long winter: unemployed and restless. When he wasn’t challenging Lori’s horses, he was trying the doors and gates. Anything he could manipulate was fair game. Lori couldn’t put halters on her horses when they were in the pasture with Bert after he discovered that removing a halter from the head of another horse was in his skillset. The little Arabian needed a job, the sooner the better.

horse in stall

At the time, no one could have known that the solution to his problem was just thirty miles away, in the person of one hopelessly horse-crazed girl, 12-year-old Allie Ouendag.

Allie was having her own problems. Fair Week was just two months away and she suddenly found herself without a horse. Goldie, the Palomino Pony she had been hoping to lease and take to Fair, had been sold out from under her.

Allie desperately needed a horse. Bert desperately needed a person who needed a horse. In the immortal words of Ghostbuster Dr. Peter Venkman, “We have to get these two together.” Surely, in a Just & Happy Universe, the meeting would be inevitable.

The fact that these two did indeed get together was not the work of cosmic forces or even pure chance. It took the efforts and attention of a small group of people to make it happen. And that started with Allie herself.

When kids – and it’s mostly girls – get into horses, a culling process takes place. Those who are enamored with the fantasy of horses, but have little sense of the realities and responsibilities of horse care, are prone to drop out quickly. Others will stick with it for a few years and participate at some level, but they eventually drift away as other interests push horses to the margins.

Those who have the true passion, the real IT, are in it for the duration. Being around horses triggers something in these girls. Time at the barn becomes precious and they really don’t care to be anywhere else. Kids that have trouble making the bus by 8, will happily get up at 6 a.m. in the dead of winter for the morning feeding. They are fearless, relentless and eager. Some would say obsessed. They are likely to have IT for the rest of their lives.

When experienced horsepeople see IT in a young horse enthusiast, they become more inclined to offer their time and effort as mentors and advocates. I think veteran horsepeople sometimes see something of themselves in these kids. This support and guidance is an invaluable resource for any young person who is serious about horses.

Allie has IT. She began riding at age 8. After the customary begging and pleading, her mother, Danielle, finally caved and agreed to sign her up for lessons at Byron Downs (now Villa Maria Stables), a local lesson barn. At Byron Downs, Allie joined the 4-H group, Stable Mates and began taking lessons on an ancient Quarter horse named Stick. However, she had no interest in showing. All Allie really wanted was to take care of a horse.

Through Byron Downs and Stable Mates, Allie was introduced to the larger horsepeople community. She became friends with Mara and Alyssa Hehman. Both girls were a few years older than Allie and also had IT. Mara, an ardent student of all things equine and mature beyond her years, took Allie under her wing and served as a peer mentor to the young rider.

Last year, Allie started riding Jake, Alyssa’s Appaloosa. Jake was a veteran show horse and a definite upgrade over the other horses Allie had been riding. She also started taking lessons with Lynn Kamps, an equine dentist and experienced riding instructor whom she had met through Mara. Under Lynn’s tutelage, Allie grew in both riding skill and confidence. She rode Jake in the 2013 Kent County Youth Fair, placed in a few classes and discovered that showing horses might be kind of fun after all.

When 2014 rolled around, Allie was looking forward to going to Fair again. However, since Alyssa had turned 18, it would be her last opportunity to participate at Fair. Naturally, she wanted to take Jake. When the deal with Goldie didn’t happen, Allie was without a horse for Fair – or for the summer.

While Allie didn’t have a horse, she was not without resources. IT had made her a bona fide member of the larger community of equine enthusiasts. The network that she now belonged to would provide.

The key connection was made this spring when Lynn was out at Lori’s doing some dental work on her horses. Lori told Lynn about Bert in her first visit the previous year. This time Lynn had the perfect candidate to offer and a meeting was arranged.

The chemistry was instantaneous: “I loved Bert the moment I saw him,” Allie tells us.

Bert accepted Allie right away. It only took a few minutes before he was following her around, no lead line necessary. This is what he had been waiting for.

It was also what Lori and Jamie had been waiting for. They weren’t going to let Bert go to just anyone. It had to be someone like Allie.

It was clear to Lori and everyone in Allie’s immediate support group that this was a great match. Even Mara, who would have preferred another Appaloosa or a Quarter horse for Allie, was impressed after riding the little Arab.

The Hehman family offered to board Bert at their farm. This was the ideal place for a horse with Bert’s insatiable curiosity. In addition to horses, the Hehman’s had numerous goats, chickens, dogs and ducks on the property. Bert was intent on making friends with every single one of them. He would stand quietly in between the chicken coups for several minutes at a time, just listening.

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Allie spent her summer with Bert at the Hehman’s. Danielle dropped her off every morning and Allie stayed for the entire day. For a kid like Allie, this was paradise. It gave her and Bert an opportunity to learn about each other and strengthen their bond.

two girls on a horse

With Fair looming just weeks away, the two also had a lot of work to do. They took three lessons a week.

“Bert knew English and we had to teach him Western,” Allie explains.

By the time Fair came in early August, Lynn and Mara had the pair as ready as they were going to be.

They started out slow, failing to place in showmanship. Bert was obviously bored with it and Allie couldn’t keep him from fussing.

Then, they nabbed a blue ribbon in English Pleasure.

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This was followed by a third in Western Pleasure.

They failed to place in two Dressage tests. Allie didn’t have much experience in Dressage and Bert didn’t help thing by stepping out and getting the pair DQ’d.

Then the big surprise: despite Allie having little experience in Dressage, the pair executed “two beautifully perfect circles” and stunned everyone by earning a first in Dressage Equitation.

Allie says that by the time they started the final class, Grand Reserve, “We were both done.” It had been a long week. But they still managed to get 7th in a field of 17.

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Bert and Allie had a great week at Fair together.

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With the start of the school year, Allie’s barn time has been curtailed. She still gets out to see Bert at least once a week. As the two continue to learn and grow together, their connection becomes stronger. It is a connection made possible by the active support of a community that welcomes those who share a passion for this noble and deserving animal.

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Duncan and Me at the Barry County 4-H Fair

decorated horse stall

Karin’s 4-H club, Blaze With Grace, was at the Barry County Youth Fair last week. Fair is kind of like the Super Bowl event for local 4-H horse clubs and the kids look forward to it all year. Karin’s club has a pretty involved group of parents and some even stay on site during Fair.

I went out for the morning on Tuesday. For some reason, I thought showmanship was on Monday. Which is why I went on Tuesday. 

I wanted to see some Speed or at least watch some Ride in Circles classes. But just like the old days, when Jamie and Hiliary showed horses, showmanship found me. That’s all they did Tuesday morning.

I have to admit, it was kind of fun watching Karin’s kids with horses I knew and I got some good pics. But after they were done, I lost my rooting interest. And finally, all of my interest.

Don’t get me wrong. I would never say showmanship isn’t important. I don’t know why it’s important, but I would never say that it’s not. Because it actually upsets some people when you say that. So curious.

But, you can say that showmanship is dull. Everyone says it at one time or another. Usually that time is when it’s someone else’s kid’s turn. Sometimes even when it’s your kid’s turn. Sometimes even when it’s you.

One time it took so long, that Hiliary actually sat down on ground right in the ring. She just got tired of waiting for that glacier jockey of a judge to get done checking the rest of the class. No one else in our group dared shout for her to stand up for fear of alerting the judge. I didn’t shout either because I was too busy beaming with fatherly pride. Yep, that’s my girl! I kick myself now for missing that photo op.

I’m not suggesting there is no action in showmanship whatsoever. You just have to open to it. For example, on Tuesday I took this pic…

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…then, I used my Veteran Horse Show Dad experience to kill some time. It’s an art.

I took a walk to the restroom, then wandered around reading signs…

No base uncovered.

No base uncovered.

…checked the work schedule to make sure no one snuck my name on it like they used to…

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…caught Karin red-handed with a bulging bag right by where all the parents and kids keep their stuff (if anyone is missing anything, let me know) …

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… met a show dad who was also a Lions’ fan brother and was gracious enough to  show me his tattoo…

More dads and Lions fans at the shows these days. Both good to see.

More dads and Lions fans at the shows these days. Both good to see.

…checked the inside this can and confirmed that the sign was accurate…

No horses are in this can.

No horses are in this can.

….then returned to see how it was going in the ring:

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Note that in the second photo, the young lady in front of the line turned her head 90 degrees. To appreciate showmanship, you just have to be open to the action it offers.

The hammer is about to fall.

The hammer is about to fall.

While we were all waiting, it started to rain.

Yes: it rained on showmanship at the Barry County 4-H Youth Fair. Most people headed for the first structure with a roof. They halted the class for brief period when the rain became a downpoor, then hustled everyone back when it slowed again.

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While some folks ventured back out into the light rain, others – including myself – clung to the narrow dry area between the out facing stalls and the wet ground. A mother standing next to me told her party of people: “We’ll just watch her from her…” Our view:

far away view of showmanship class

Following that class the same mother told her daughter, “You did a great job!” As if she actually knew.

As I leaned against one of the stalls, I started dozing off. Sleeping while leaning up against something  is an old Horse Dad trick. Then, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I wasn’t alone. Right behind me, a gelding named Duncan was taking in all the action right along with me and feeding off my energy:

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Duncan is one of the most kindly looking horses I’ve ever met. I felt an instant bond.

Horse Show Survivor

Jenny and I just got back from visiting daughter Jamie in Florida and I’ve been out of the loop at Legacy Stables. Looking forward to my first lesson in three weeks this coming Thursday. Meanwhile, I’m going to post a couple of old magazine articles I did several years ago. Since the show season is just around the corner, I thought maybe these would be appropriate. Look for more horse show fun on Thursday!

Horse Show Survivor

According to The Great Book of Horse Knowledge, one of the most neglected topics of the horse show scene is the phenomenon of the Adolescent Horse Show Helper (male).  This is the politically correct, sociologically preferred term for what is otherwise known as a “Show Boy”: the cruelly exploited boyfriend wannabe of a Horse Show Princess.  Show Boys can be seen hauling water for Princess’ horse, holding her horse for undetermined lengths of time, fetching her cheesy fries, and cooling off Princess’ horse after a class so that Princess can talk to her friends.  A determined Horse Show Princess can keep her Show Boy hopping for hours.

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If you’re wondering what a Horse Show Princess is, then you’ve probably haven’t been to enough horse shows.  The typical Princess suffers from what The Great Book calls “Advanced Cheerleader Syndrome”.  This syndrome is characterized by the belief that horse shows, 4-H, the world, and indeed the entire universe, were created for the sole purpose of making her the center of everyone’s attention.  This notion is reinforced by the Show Boy, who hovers around the Princess, anticipating and satisfying her every whim.

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There is no mystery why Adolescent Horse Show Helpers (male) do all of this.  As a former adolescent male and a current father of two Adolescent Horse Show Participants (female), I have no illusions.  But I do not condemn the lads.  There is no sense in objecting to the mandates of nature.  However, I do enjoy amazing the boys with factoids such as “Did you know that over eighty percent of show horses are geldings?”  And I like to point out that the gelding procedure, while drastic, is remarkably simple.  Why, anyone could perform this simple task!

If you are a Show Boy, please let me reassure you, I’m on your side.  After all, we have something in common: we both need to survive the horseshow.  For me, it’s a matter of not being bored to death.  For you, it is a matter of not being worked to death.   Remember, son, the word “male” is one short vowel away from “mule”.  Despite the way nature is torturing you, you must learn to preserve the “a”!

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After years of going to horse shows, I have discovered interesting ways to keep the “a” right where it belongs.  The key is to have fun while making it appear like you’re working -when in fact you’re not accomplishing anything. One of the easiest ways to do this is to volunteer for tasks with undefined time limits.  Does Princess demand a diet-caffeine free-one cal Pepsi, but the concession stand sells only regular Coke?  Then volunteer to go to town!  And here’s the secret:  “town” can be as far away as you want it to be.  Princess isn’t particularly adept at geography and you can take your sweet time and return a hero.

A video camera is another excellent tool for this kind of work.  A guy wandering around the show grounds with a video camera always looks busy.  Whether or not the camera works is unimportant.  All you have to do is walk around and pretend like you’re filming.  Make sure Princess gets plenty of camera time.  There may be some explaining to do later, but isn’t there always?

Another way to have fun without working is to fix things that aren’t broke.  Or break things and then fix them.  “Hey, the handle came off your water bucket, Princess!  I’ll fix it!”  No need to say how the handle came off the water bucket.  With China as our main trading partner, everybody sort of expects things to break for no reason.  All Princess needs to know is that the part you need to fix the bucket is in town.

“Creative Listening” is an essential survival skill for all Show Boys.  There are times when Princess will want to talk to you.  But don’t expect some form of discussion or dialogue.  This is a one way conversation and your presence is necessary only to keep her from appearing like she’s talking to herself.  Without exception, the purpose of this monologue is to whine.  She will complain about her enemies, her friends, her parents, her sister, her brother, and even her horse.   She’ll criticize the judges or her 4H leaders.  She’ll grumble about cows and dogs and the weather and about that cheap crap we get from China.  You need to show concern.  And the best way to show concern yet maintain your sanity is to look directly into her eyes, nod intermittently, sip on a regular Coke, and think about baseball.  Or think about tanks.  Think about organizing your bedroom.  Think about what you could break and fix next.

The most important thing to remember about surviving a horse show is that it takes a little work to avoid a lot of work.  While this concept may be difficult for you younger mules – uh, males – to master, sooner or later you’ll get it.  And then when Princess dumps you for a quarterback, you’ll come out of it a proud and highly skilled survivor.

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If Dr. Seuss Went to a Horse Show

 

It’s that time of year again. Here is something from my pre-equestrian days when I was still trying to figure this all out. I never did figure it all out, but it was fun trying. The following is what I thought might have happened if Dr. Seuss ever stumbled into a horse show.

One Horse.

Two Horse.

Smart Horse.

Fool Horse.

My, what a lot of horses there are!

Some are white

And some are black

And some are never, ever coming back.

Where do they come from?

I cannot say.

But, I bet they’ve come a long, long way!

After all, it’s horse show day!

 

Horsegirl:  

HOORAY!  It is horse show day!

Dad: 

It is horse show day you say?

Then I must pay.  And pay.  And pay.

Announcer: 

Yes you will pay.

Or you cannot, must not, will not stay.

Judge:

I’m willing to bet

You will soon be in debt.

Dad:

How true!  How true!

But what can I do?

My daughter is horse-crazy

And my wife is too!

Mom:

It is not much

Just write the check

What the heck!

Dad:

This is bad and sad.

I am mad and NOT glad.

I am a sad, mad, not glad dad.

Horsegirl:

Oh my dear!

I really do fear

My first class is near!

Mom:

Be calm

Be steady

Your father will help your horse get ready.

Dad:

I just sat down.

I will not get up.

I will not help the horse.

To move me would take force.

Mom:

If you do not help my dear

I will dump out all your beer.

Dad:

Of course I will help the horse.

Announcer:

Riders enter the ring!

Horsegirl:

I don’t remember a thing!

Mom:

Sit straight

Sit tall

Sit true in the saddle

And do not fall!

Dad:

There is no hope for our daughter.

Mom:

She will do as I taught her.

Dad:

Forty-four horses!

It will be a slaughter!

Announcer:

Trot your horses and trot them well.

Mom:

Our daughter is doing just swell.

Horsegirl:

I want to throw up.

I feel like … heck.

Announcer:

Reverse and walk I say!

Do it now!

Do not delay!

Mom:

The judge just stands there!

He will not look!

He will not write things in his book!

Get him out.  Get the hook!

Judge:

I have seen enough.

Line ’em up.  And don’t be rough!

Announcer: 

Here are the placings

Listen up!

First place goes to a man named Gup

He rides a horse he calls “Wup”.

Second is for Cindi Loo Who

Riding on  “Who Knows You”.

Third place goes to Sally and I

Riding double on “Fruit Salad Pie”.

Fourth place goes to my friend Mike

He has no horse, only a bike.

Fifth spot is Sam I Am

Riding on (what else) “Green Eggs and Ham”.

Sixth place goes to the girl

Who rides a horse she calls “Earl”.

Horsegirl:

Cindi Loo Who is ahead of me?

This is not right

How can this be?

Mom:

This is not fair

This is not good

Nail that judge to a piece of wood!

Dad:

Why whine and cry and complain and such?

It should not matter all that much.

Horsegirl:

I sat straight

I sat tall.

I sat true in the saddle

I did not fall.

Judge:

You came in sixth

But should have been first?

It could have been much, much worse!

I will tell you why this is so

And after that, you must go.

All you did was sit, sit, sit.

And I did not like it.

Not one little bit.

You have dirt on your hat.

Your horse is too fat.

And you spit on the ground like a batter at bat.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Dad:

Emotions run high.

And I don’t know why

I think it’s time to say good-bye

Mom:

We cannot go

We must not leave

We must stay here

Until eight in the eve

Horsegirl:

Yes, we must stay

Stay all day, I say!

ONE class alone

Does not make a horse show day!

Return to Sunset

Hiliary sent a note to me on Facebook asking if I wanted to go to horse show. It was being held at the show grounds where she won season high point one year- about 20 years ago. Her old 4-H club, Sunset Riders, sponsored the show. I was only vaguely aware that Sunset Riders was still around.

A couple of years ago, I would have declined the offer and suggested that we go to Barnes & Noble instead. But now, as I prepare to celebrate my first anniversary as an equestrian, horse shows are more interesting to me. I wanted to see if everyone was keeping their heels down. They were.

I expected that after 20 years everything would be different. There would be different kinds of people, different kinds of horses, and different kinds of classes. And just a whole different feeling.

Here is what was different: nothing.

I take that back.  The tow vehicles are bigger and better. So are the trailers.


The horses and riders look pretty much the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parents and other by-standers look the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dads and brothers are still doing what they’ve always done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the 4-H leader was the same: Shirley Thompson.  And Shirley hasn’t changed a bit. It was as if she had been plucked out of 1992 and set right in front of us.  And she was still in her Octopus Mode, doing eight things at once.

I guessed that she had been at this for 50 years. She said it was more like 35. Well, good enough.

She remembered both Jamie and Hiliary. Considering the hundreds of kids and parents she has dealt with over the years, I thought this was pretty remarkable.

We stayed for several hours. Hiliary tried to explain to me how to tell when someone is on the wrong lead. And I tried to listen.

The day brought back a lot of memories. And Hiliary was bitten by the bug again – big time.

This will make my job as Equestrian Grandpa so much easier.

A Photogenic Horse Show

Jenny and I went to the Tulip Fest Vaulting Fest and Clinic at Centennial Acres Equestrian Center in Holland on Saturday. We took a bazillion pictures.  Well, 742 photos to be exact. And I lost track of how many movie clips we got.  We’re still sorting through all of it.  I expect that my next few posts are going to be about vaulting.

We only stayed for half the day, our cameras were filled and our batteries were running low. Next time we’ll stay for the whole day.  Or maybe just come for the second half.

It was fun.  It was like other horseshows in many respects. There was a judge and there was music. There were excited kids with nervous parents. And there were excited parents with nervous kids. And bored siblings.

And we weren’t the only ones taking pictures. Vaulting has to be the most photogenic of all equestrian disciplines.

Our good friends Caroline and Sherrin joined Jenny and me.  It was fun having them there. Both Caroline and Sherrin are knowledgeable horsepeople who appreciate all things equine. I like listening to them.

More on vaulting next time….

Cold Calculation

Karin’s Fall Fun Fest was a cold affair.  Holding a show in late November in Michigan is always a risk and like Gump’s box of chocolate or natural selection you can never be sure what you’re going to get. However, with no precipitation and calm skies, conditions were tolerable enough for this hearty band of riders and their parents.

A Tough Crowd

While the air was a little cool, the competition was flat-out brutal. Downright Darwinian. I entered three classes.  The first was the Western-English-Walk-Trot-Maybe Canter, Maybe Not-Horsemanship Pleasure Class, ages 3 – 98.  The show bill did mention something about combining classes.

In a tough fought contest, I managed to earn a red ribbon.  That’s second place, right? The Handless Judge must have given me some kind of AARP benefit. Vinnie and I goofed around a lot.

A Worthy Opponent

The competition was fierce

Yes, I got to ride Vinnie.  That alone was worth going to the show. He’s a very good horse.

At first, it wasn’t clear that I was going to be able to use Vinnie. When I arrived at the barn, a young gentleman around three-foot six in stature, approached me with an announcement:

“Hi Bob. My sister is riding Vinnie.”

I looked around to see who was speaking to me, before glancing down and spotting the source.

“Oh…. Well, hi. Okay then. Who might your sister be?”

“Joselyn.” He declared the name in a chest puffed out, hands on hips, chin in the air sort of way.

Interesting. I always wanted to meet Napoleon Bonaparte and here he was standing before me at Karin’s Horse Connection.

“Ah, yes.  Well, that’s fine. She can ride Vinnie.”

He nodded as if expecting nothing short of absolute compliance. I predict this young man will be running in some kind of primary by 2036.

However, both Joselyn and her Mom assured me that it would okay if I used Vinnie for a few classes. Although I felt a bit selfish, I sure appreciated the gesture.

Class #2 for me was the “Boys ONLY” class. I didn’t actually sign up for that one and didn’t want to do it, but Karin was short of male riders and needed all she could get for the class. I tried every excuse I could think of to get out of it, including the “I Don’t Have a Horse” dodge.  But Karin was determined and I think she would have made me go in Monty Python and the Holy Grail style if I had to.

The Young Napoleon admires his bauble, as sister Joselyn looks on. I get a white one.

The competition was fierce. I ended up with a fourth (out of four, by sheer coincidence), a white ribbon and some additional instruction from the Handless Judge.  She was very nice, very knowledgeable and I appreciated her taking a little extra time with me.

The Handless Judge

My last class was the M&M in a Spoon Event.  In this class, you’re suppose to ride around with M&M’s in a big spoon and follow the judge’s instructions until you lose all your candy to the bumping and jostling.

Vinnie and I and the M&Ms were fine at the walk. But the M&M’s bailed as a group somewhere between “trot” and “your horses, please”.  They didn’t even wait for Vinnie and I to actually break into the trot. They just heard the word and up and out they went like the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne.  My spoon was empty and my day was done.

I consider my experience at Karin’s Fall Fun Fest to be a huge success. By earning a red and a white, my set is complete.  I now have red, white and blue.

That’s what I planned all along.

Show Sores

Jenny and I made it to Karin’s show on Saturday.  It was big fun, despite my suffering from a number of physical aliments.

Now, I know it’s unmanly to openly discuss one’s maladies.  Actually, it’s more man-like to drop subtle hints or provide “inadvertent” evidence of whatever happens to be wrong with you. That way, you get double credit: once for being tough enough to keep going despite the injury and once for not whining about it.

The problem with this should be obvious.  If you’re too subtle, the injury might not get noticed and all the suffering is for nothing. In this case, Full Disclosure becomes your best bet. This can be justified as a public service if you’re using yourself as an example in The House of the Rising Sun sort of way:

Mothers….

Don’t let your children

Do what I have done

With this in mind, I’m going provide a short list of my horse show afflictions. In hopes that others will learn from my mistakes, of course.

First, I had some kind cold virus going that day. Felt like I had been run over by an angry UPS truck.  Now, there’s not much you can do about a cold virus. Actually, washing your hands is the best prevention. So kids, make sure you wash your hands after… well, everything. And before everything too.

Second, I was suffering from some major stiffness after my lesson on Thursday. Learning to post at the trot puts considerable strain on the leg muscles. And if you don’t stretch before, you pay later.  And later for me is normally the day after the day after my lesson – which happened to be Saturday. I couldn’t the mount the darn horse without assistance.

Prior to my next lesson, I am going to actually make the effort and do some proper stretching.

Finally, because I’ve been doing my lessons in jeans – despite repeated warnings from experienced quarters not to do this – my legs are all beat to hell.  And of course, on Saturday the friction from my jeans on these open sores was, well, a little distracting.

I’m never impressed when people post photos of their wounds on the Internet.  Often, I’m not even sure what body part is being represented and I wonder if maybe they’re doing something wrong. However, I’m doing this as a public service and I hope these body parts here are easily identified:


So how did I do at the show? Well, first of all, unlike Karin’s show in August, I had to go head to head with other riders out of my age group (actually I don’t think there was anyone within three age groups of mine). So, yes, I got slaughtered.

I’ll have more about the show next time, but for now I just want to make it clear that I realize I got trounced in the show ring because I ride bad in any case and not because of my aliments.

Not only that, but I feel a little ashamed talking about my physical problems when after all, we had judge who had no hands. Talk about a trooper.