We sat down for dinner last night after returning from a schooling show in Madison, Wisconsin smelling like roses and dressed to the nines. We kindly asked the bar keep if he might bring us something to quench our thirst when he had a moment free. Then we carefully selected healthy items from the menu, as we are athletes and must treat our bodies as temples. Conversation centered around international affairs and how the stock market is performing.
You know what really happened – we rolled in to a crowded sports bar right before Wisconsin took on Kentucky in the Final Four wearing our farm baseball caps, stinking like only the inside of a horse barn in winter can, and immediately demanded beer and fried food be piled on to the table. Which we then set upon with the gusto and grace of a horse to sweet feed. Jess remarked, “I don’t even need to shower today – I did that yesterday!”
Horse show season is here, and of course, I couldn’t be happier 🙂
I posed this question to our table – what makes it official? What is the quintessential thing in your life or the trademark that the next however many months (usually 4 ½ for me) will revolve around standing ringside in the hot sun, pouring rain and hurricane force wind, which truly marks show season?
Trainer Lane, with a rather frightening and harried look in her eyes, replied, “I have a list in the back of my head of things that need to get done that just keeps rolling and rolling…” She also described her car as “full of stuff” but I jokingly argued that was a day ending in Y for her. Something true of everyone at the table.
Nine year old Sydney, who had proudly participated in her first over fences horse show earlier in the day, initially responded with one important word – FUN – before declaring that the first thing she thinks about are “my diagonals” when it comes to horse show season. I couldn’t agree more. On either point.
Jess was next. She exclaimed, “Oh, I know! The majority of my wardrobe is found in my trailer (dressing room).” Starting my now second show season with Foremost Stable, I personally attest to the validity of this statement. Makes it so much easier for her to pack than the rest of us.
For me, the truest sign that summer show season has arrived is that the ring I wear on my right hand is always covered in poultice. Inevitably I’m either out of gloves or in a rush or frankly just don’t care, and dig that hand in to the vat of clay at the end of every day to spread on Jorge’s hind legs before wrapping. Despite washing my hands, taking (semi) regular showers and giving (regular) horse baths, a thick layer embeds itself underneath the sapphire. And honestly, I like it that way. When I’m sitting in a dull work meeting between shows I can look down and remind myself that soon again I’ll spend my entire weekend traipsing between rings with cameras, grooming boxes and Littles before mounting up myself to compete.
Ah, the life!
We went on to discuss that the start of our summer local show season has typically been celebrated by a competition held since at least 1983 (which I do believe was their first year) over Memorial Day weekend called Run O’ the Mill, or more affectionately, ROM. When I was a kid, my grandmother would always make pudding filled cupcakes, both vanilla and chocolate, and bring them to this show to honor my birthday. Usually this was the only thing I ate all weekend, and I miss her and that kind gesture every year.
Another bold sign show season is here? Dry cleaning bags. I do not dry clean anything in my life other than my hunt coat and show breeches. Nothing. Not even the cashmere sweaters or the wool pants. I have washable suits for work. Somehow those things seem relatively unimportant when compared to ensuring the navy show jacket and skin toned pants are promptly taken to and picked up from the professionals.
It means I never really unpack. My show trunk remains at the barn, containing Jorge’s show bridle, halter and other essential items like boot polish and braiding kits. My Tahoe is filled with camping chairs, standing wraps, beer coolers and dog pillows covered in shavings. As I went to pack for the schooling show this past weekend, I found that the duffle bag I took to Ledges two weeks ago was still full of clean and dirty clothes – saved me some time so I could clip him before we left.
Horse show season does mean I miss some other fun things with non-horse friends, and I do cringe every time I receive a text that asks when I am free for drinks or would I like to go to the beach today. But as much as I love and miss them, there’s no place I’d really rather be than braiding my naughty pony at 3:30 on a Saturday morning before waiting hours on end for my fifteen minutes of fame later that day.
This year we have a new show – Capital City Challenge in Madison – which will mark the start of the local calendar in Wisconsin the first weekend of May. A new indicator that the season is upon us. And now that I’m an older amateur, maybe we should start Champagne Sunday or something similar at the show, as a kick-off tradition. What could possibly go wrong with that?!?!
Sure, the weather is finally starting to cooperate for outdoor rides. Most days, it seems. And yes, the pounds of winter hair that cling to you after a solid grooming session are tell-tale that Spring has sprung. But there are other indicators, for me at least, that my waking hours will be consumed wholly with thinking about and preparing for our next competition. As if somehow this isn’t true the other 8-odd months of the year…
I know you are as excited as I am to welcome the best time of the year – horse show season. No matter your discipline or the amount you intend to compete, there is a thrill in the preparation that dramatically ramps up as the days get longer and warmer. So I encourage you to take an extra moment to commemorate those little things that help build the anticipation of getting in the show ring.
Good luck out there this summer. More importantly, have fun.
And may all your rounds be blue ribbon!