I should have been a barrel queen. I’m over it now, but I should have been.

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William (Clockwork Orange) tied to the trailer at his first and only western speed show.

Sometimes no matter how hard you train, some horses aren’t cut out for particular disciplines. For example, The Mouse was completely unimpressed with our attempts at dressage. Jordan, who was supposed to be my large junior hunter, excelled at the jumpers. Poor Murray just wanted to be on the front of a Hallmark card.

And my perfect equitation horse, William, was apparently never meant to be a western speed horse.

Let’s back up a bit.

It was mid-summer of 1994 and I was showing my Small Junior Murray (Custom Made) and dabbling unsuccessfully in the jumpers with Jordan (Nautical). When I got Jordan my intent was to make him in to my Medal horse and large junior star. Jordan, however, had little respect for the hunter ring (and my mom will tell you, no respect for much of anything!) and would land after a jump, kick out and squeal. No amount of sitting pretty atop this beast impressed the judges enough to win the equitation, so off to the jumper ring we went. Jordan was a jumper rock star on the local circuit. Me? Notsomuch. I hated it. But that’s for another time.

My trainer Kerry always had a slew of green horses coming in to the barn and I rode most of them at some point. That summer a very plain 7 year old chestnut thoroughbred with little personality, aptly named William, arrived at the barn. He had just come off the track, was a box walker and the minute you brought him out of his stall he broke in to a full body sweat. This horse couldn’t canter a circle, didn’t know how to jump and started out in a double twisted wire, drop noseband and draw reins.

Naturally it was love at first sight!

William was absolutely everything you could ever ask for in an Equitation/Medal horse. Had I been younger, and maybe a lottery winner, I truly believe we would have been competitive against some of the top junior riders of the day in the equitation. While he was plain to look at, had a trot like he was pulling a milk truck and had to be ridden in a twisted Pelham with a chain so tight I swear I’d cut his circulation off, he had a stunning work ethic and was all business when in the ring. William could turn on a dime, jump a 3’6” oxer from a stride away after a halt, make a broken line look straight… he was everything a fancy medal horse should be – and we won. A lot. I’d say he was one of the most talented and nicest horses I’ve ever sat on.

Eventually William went to live with my mom and dad in Door County, Wisconsin, in our front yard pasture. I rode him in parades, on trail rides and all over the county. A motley crew of horsemen and women from the area invited me join them on a weekend camp-out trail ride one September. You rode all day, returned to your campsite at night, then drank your face off in the party tent while attempting to two-step to a band? Canned music? How should I remember! My friend Paul and I stumbled back to check on the horses at one point and came up with the bright idea we would jump on bareback, navigate in the dark through approximately 1,000 other horses/campers and go back to the tent.

We arrived at the entrance. The flabbergasted staff asked us what the hell we were doing and informed us that we could not bring horses inside. Paul looked down, dumbfounded, stuck out his wrist and said, “But our hands are stamped!”

Not all ideas are good ones, boys and girls.

Paul and I created all kinds of havoc around the county in the summer. Paul was a cowboy, a big gay cowboy to be exact. His favorite saying was, “if you don’t have something nice to say, come sit next to me.” Paul had a really nice barrel horse named Okie and occasionally we would hook up his rickety old trailer and go to these little western speed shows, a chance to demonstrate my ability to knock over barrels and crash through upright poles at a full gallop.

One day we put William in the trailer with us and off we went to Cajun Acres. We tied the horses to the trailer and went to fill out our entries. I put down his show name, of course, because that’s what you do at a horse show. Or speed show. Apparently William’s show moniker was not family approved because the announcer promptly shortened “Clockwork Orange” to “CW Orange” for the entire day. Pronounced, “see – dubya orange” in a fake southern Wisconsin drawl.

Near the middle of the day some friends came out to watch. One of the women in the posse was a 13 year old riding student of our friend Maureen’s. She asked if she could walk around on William and I obliged. There they were, taking a leisurely stroll through the grass parking lot filled with cars and trailers. Suddenly they were trotting along the outermost limits of the fence line and the young woman began to panic. Of course this prompted my OTTB into a nice slow canter as she continued to scream. I ran toward them as they made the turn back to us. Everyone was now watching as they loped up the inside rail.

That’s when I saw it. Four people sitting at a picnic table about center court next to the ring.

I yelled at them, “MOVE NOW!!!” because I knew what was going to happen. This was my 3’6” horse, a 2’6” picnic table oxer ain’t nuthin’ for William. Confused but recognizing the panic in my voice, they scattered with about 8 strides to spare.

And William, with screaming child in tow, sailed magnificently over the obstacle in his path. He slowed to a trot and his rider fell softly to the ground, whereupon my horse stopped and looked quite proud of himself.

For years I was known around the County among all the horse folk as the “girl with the horse who jumped a picnic table.” No, seriously. It got to the point where Paul would introduce me to someone and rather than say, “I’m the daughter of J. Jeffrey Taylor”(my parents’ quite successful business), I’d indicate that I owned that fancy jumping horse. Their eyes would first light up with recognition and then disapproval.

I’m pretty sure that day tamped out any dreams I had that I should have been a barrel queen. I’m over it now, but I should have been.

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Riding William in our annual Jacksonport Thanksgiving Day Parade & Benefit. 

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1 Comment

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One response to “I should have been a barrel queen. I’m over it now, but I should have been.

  1. Lori

    I can’t believe this really happened! A picnic table?? What next.

    Thanks for sharing and making me laugh.

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