Fun or Not, It Still Whips You Good

First horse show, even if it is a fun show. It was a fundraiser for one of the people I take lessons with so she can go to Jozi for a rather important show. Note: all photos were taken by my awesomesauce mommy.

8:40 am: I get there and see there are already three people there. I am forever in awe of morning people who don’t even need one cup of coffee to get up (she says, downing three). Either way, it’s still so early that Fire is sleeping in his stall. Usually he looks semi-happy to see me in a if-I-have-to-work-it-may-as-well-be-you kind of way, but this morning he’s yawning every five seconds and blinking at me in a I-hate-you-forever-and-ever kind of way.

9:40 am: I am finally done grooming him, and possibly skimped on the last bit of brushing. All his winter hair decided to come out today. He’s weirdly passive while I saddle him and I kind of worry that it’s the deep breath before the plunge, but I’m hoping for the best. And I grab a crop just in case. When he sees it he looks even more meek…and then he falls asleep.

10:00 am: After a short warm-up in the small ring, Fire and the other horses are at least no longer droopy-eyed. Apparently small ring=coffee. However, the rest of us, who are used to riding for one hour at a time, are already feeling tired-ish. The grooming alone took three times as long as it usually does (it is a serious arm workout), and we’ve been riding for about 20 minutes. We go over to the bigger ring where the show will take place and walk around, doing our own little pre-show show, so to speak.

10:30 am: And we’re off. A fun show essentially means the following: a) you probably know the judge, b) no show attire unless you want to, but you’ll be very overdressed, and c) it’s most likely smaller than a non-fun show. Also, while you’re doing your thing, you get advice from the judge on how to do better before he/she actually makes a decision, so you’ve got a better chance of doing well. By this time we’ve been riding for almost an hour, and I personally am already tired and my back is aching. However, the excitement of the thing sort of keeps you from feeling too much of that.

11:00 am: I am shocked to find that I don’t ride too badly. I got 4th place for best walk, and a surprising 2nd for best trot. Now it’s on to 3-gaited. This is essentially a judgment on your walk, trot, and canter all at once, and on command; so it judges your ability to control your horse, the quickness of your horse’s response, and the usual judgment on how well you can get your horse to walk, trot, and canter. A note: the walk is the most difficult to get right because horses like to trot. When they walk, you have to make sure they’re awake and taking long, but quick, steps, and their necks must be rounded dressage-style. In the trot, they’re looking to see that the horse is using its rear legs to move itself forward instead of the “lazy” foreleg trot, which is natural to them. In the canter, they have to have rounded necks and…some other stuff…that I’m not sure of. I’m not an expert, okay? πŸ™‚

11:30 am: Performance riding. This is an individual thing, and at the show was as follows. First, you walk in a straight line up to the judge and salute. Then you walk to the middle of the ring, trot a figure of eight, trot in a straight line to the judge, halt, salute again. Then you dismount, cross your stirrups over the saddle, put the reigns over the horse’s head, hold the reigns just beneath the jaw, and stand beside the horse to wait for the judge’s nod. Then you turn the horse away from the judge, lead it at a walk in a straight line up to the top, and turn. Now you sprint while the horse trots, and lead it at a trot past the judge. Voila, it’s done. I tied for first in this.

12:00 pm: We’re halfway through the individual games. First was a normal bending race, where you have to weave through obstacles in a row, up and back, as fast as you can. I won the first round but finished last overall. Next was a can race, which is by far the longest. There are six “obstacles” all together; one tire at the start, then a drum, then three poles, then another drum. On the last drum are four cans. You have to bend back and forth, putting cans on the middle four obstacles, then go back again and retrieve the cans, and then race down to the beginning. I finished second. Then was a toolbox race, which was almost the same. By now, we are exhausted. In a show you put in much more effort because you’re being judged, and it drains you, even if it is a lot of fun. So no, you are not supposed to be slouching like I am in the photo, but I couldn’t sit up straight anymore.

12:30 pm: Ah yes, my favorite. The tire race. You bend up, dismount, pick up the tire and put it over your head, and let it drop to the ground. Then you lead the horse as fast as you can [read: you run like a friggin maniac and pull the horse after you] down to the tire. I got first in the first round, and came third overall.

1:00 pm: I’m finished. There were team games after lunch, but I was secretly glad we had to leave because I was way tired. The only other time I’ve been on horseback for more than four hours was when I was eight or so (and much more flexible and energetic) and went on a two-day horse ride in Ethiopia. But this was a lot of fun and I’ll do it again. When I get home, I fall on the couch and lie there until it’s time to sleep, at which point I do, and should have gotten another rosette for my deep sleeping skills.

Overview: I got one 1st place for the performance riding, two 2nds, one 3rd, and two 4ths.I know what I have to work on, and although I wasn’t too keen on shows, I can see now why they’re good to do. You get outside advice and it is fun to see how you do under pressure of competition. I was surprised to find that although I’m not cut throat, I can get quite competitive, but luckily I’m not a sore loser. The horses, on the other hand, were bloodthirsty, and if they had razor sharp teeth blood would have been spilled. Most of them are retired racehorses, so they got a bit…er…crazy. That is, crazier than usual πŸ™‚ Fire, especially, got very carried away and by lunch time my hands were raw. But it was amazing to have to opportunity to ride for that long, to be with other horse fanatics for that long, and to get rewarded for something you love to do anyway. I’ll definitely do more in the future.

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