So – I had my first show with Donny a couple of weeks ago. It was my first in ten years and his first indoors in America. It was a weekend show at Old Salem Farm, which I thought was perfect to get my feet wet and inconspicuously make my reentry back into the show world without embarrassing myself or my trainer too much.
The night before I anxiously polished my boots longer than necessary, had my outfit ready to go, ring bag packed and waiting by the front door. My fiancé watched me with such interest and probably a bit of fear as I converted back and forth between “I used to do this with my eyes closed, this is just a measly one day local show, I’ve shown at Harrisburg, I’ve been to WEF, I qualified for all the medal finals, I’ve totally got this…” to “oh god, what if he’s a maniac, what if I fall off or forget my course, what if things are different, I’m old now and falling off comes more to mind than it did when I was a carefree teenager, I just want to get around…”
For a guy that doesn’t know much about horses, he sure knew what to say to bring me back to earth:
“Taylor, if you don’t love it, don’t do it. This is all about having fun, and if you don’t have a good time, then you don’t have to do it again.”
I absolutely love riding. I used to absolutely love competing. I was setting myself up for failure by holding myself to the standards I used to have as a junior. My horse is green. I am green. What good would it do me to go in hoping to win with that? I simply wanted to get around and survive. To see how my new horse was without any prep. It was a fact finding mission, not a point chasing trip.
The next day I got up to the barn and went to check in at the show office. I felt like such a responsible grown up taking out a check and having my entries confirmed. #adulting
Thought #1: “How the hell do I tie my number through my button hole to make sure the bow doesn’t slip out? Oh yeah. Ok. Well should I put it on now? I guess so because I’ll end up dropping it.” *Struggles to put down backpack, take off puffy coat, put on number, recollect myself and head out the door* I probably looked like a lunatic.
My mom texted me as I walked out of the office saying she was here and had coffee and hot cocoa for me, my trainer and fiancé. Side note – my mom is probably the brightest ray of sunshine of a person in the entire world. It meant everything to me that she came, as she was always my cheerleader during the junior years through rain, sleet and snow.
I texted her back saying I would meet her at the in-gate so I could look over my course. The next thing that happened was one of those slow motion oh-my-god moments where you can’t do anything but watch in horror. The schooling ring is tight, it’s even tighter when horses are standing by the wall with coolers on. You have to walk behind those horses and avoid the other ones warming up, cantering right by you as you shimmy your way to the in-gate. I looked over to see if I could spot my mom, and right as I did, a rider proceeded to run her horse into my cute little mother, holding a tray of hot beverages, which flew up into the air and spilled all over my mom and the horse. I mean, she was drenched. Cocoa and coffee in her hair, face, sweater, purse… everything. It was like something out of a movie.
Thought #2: “What the actual fuck. Ok, she’s still standing and doesn’t seem hurt. I’m going to kill that rider. Don’t people know how to steer?”
THANK GOD she was okay. The horse’s shoulder ran into her, so she wasn’t run down or anything. Why the rider didn’t yell “HEADS UP!” is still beyond me. I don’t even think she got an apology until the rider’s trainer came over to see if she was alright. My mom being my mom was more concerned about the horse being okay after having hot drinks spilled on it. We laughed it off, she got herself cleaned up, and I prayed this wasn’t foreshadowing how the rest of my day was going to turn out.
I ended up not having to wait too long to warm up. Donny was great, but definitely “up”. No turnout, no lunge. Remember we wanted to see what he was like with zero prep. As we worked our way around he eyed the other horses in the small schooling area outside the ring, occasionally making a bitch face when one got too close, and normally where I’d have to push him to get going, he was firing on all cylinders. I made sure not to run anyone down.
Thought #3: “Ok, this is good. We have momentum. I can work with this, just harness the energy. Can I do that? Is that a physical thing or a psychological thing people say to make you feel better about a situation?”
I warmed up for the 3’ adult hunters with the adult Ariat medal and Adult M&S medal. My first trip was OK… my attempt to “harness the energy” turned into coming out of the turn and *pull pull add add* oops that is just a gorgeous chip right there! I still somehow ended up third so it must have felt worse than it looked.
My second warmup class I released that energy just a little too much. I asked him to open up his stride down the line a little too late, took off from an ok-distance but he jumped the bejesus out of the fence and pulled a bronc hopping disco party upon landing. My reins were too long, I think I peed myself a little and the great thing is I had a huge smile on my face. I got him together and marched around the rest of the course. I didn’t fall off, I schooled my horse and had fun jumping pretty hunter jumps in a nice warm indoor.
Then we lunged him.
He needed it.
Fifteen minutes and many rodeo quality bucks later, I was back on and ready for the adult hunters. He was a star. No bronc moves, no bitch faces, just a happy horse jumping around beautifully. I ended up second, third and sixth over fences out of about 12-15. I was on cloud nine. I didn’t care about the warmup class, or the fact we got sixth on the flat (out of six!) because he was very concerned about the other horses and jumps and wondering what the hell we were doing so trying to hack around all zen-hunter-like was a bit difficult. Oh, also, when asked to line up I did so backwards. That probably didn’t help either.
All in all I was so happy to be back in show clothes with a horse that loved to jump. My plan of quietly making my debut in the adult hunter ring may have not gone totally according to plan between the mom/horse drive by incident and short-lived bronc show, but at the end of the day I didn’t care. The minute I walked into the ring I stopped worrying about what people thought. There’s a silence that takes over and it’s just me and him, working our way around pretty flowered jumps in a warm indoor, walking out with a big smile on my face because I did what I came to do: get around and have fun.