Sunday, November 9, 2008


Darling hits the dusty (arena) trail

I hauled Darling out of bed at quarter of 11 this morning.

"Time to get moving!" I told her. She grumbled something about ten minutes as I walked out the door. I'd left Sandy locked in a stall overnight to keep him dry. Today we were going to do something new. We were heading to our first horse show!

Because these little local shows can really drag, I hadn't really thought much about getting there early. I probably should have. The arena in Lynden is my least favorite to ride in. For whatever reason, horses that go well in any other venue will get a little nervous in Lynden. The chain link fencing with bright yellow bleachers on the other side seems to create an occasional case of nerves in even the seasoned horse, let alone a greenie like Sandy.

By the time we hauled in and tacked up, there was but 5 minutes left in the lunch break. Sandy had been quiet enough walking through the parking lot among the crowd of horses, but once he set foot inside the arena, that changed. His ears were up. His head was up. He was on full alert. Yellow bleachers eat mustangs, it seems, just as easily as domestics. Sandy did everything he could to avoid coming within 20' of the rail along the bleacher side. He was like a hairy land crab working his way sideways along that side of the arena.

Not only did we travel sideways, but we went fast. Very, very fast. An under control fast, but I'm certain there were people with wide eyes out there wondering if we were going to crash into their little kid as we careened around. I pulled Sandy towards the center and had him circling left and right, attempting to stay out of everyone's line of traffic so that I could get him to focus on me rather than his surroundings. Alas...there was just not enough time before everyone was asked to leave the arena so the show could resume.

I'd entered Sandy and I in the 18 and over western equitation and western pleasure classes. After that poor performance warming up I ran into the show office to ask if we could bump down into the walk trot levels in an effort to save everyone else the trouble of me ruining their go as Sandy was obviously not going to work at a lope today. The walk trot equ class was up first. I felt rather funny, but it wasn't restricted to any one age and there were a few other women with green horses in there. Sandy raced and was nervous, but we still managed to pull a second place regardless of me needing to hang onto him.

Sandy shakes off the first class jitters

We stepped outside with the other horses to wait for our next class. Someone commented that Sandy looked like he was thinking about things. He must have been, because when we walked back into the arena 15 minutes later for pleasure, he sized everything up, took a deep breath and listened to me. His whoa button was still malfunctioning, but he dropped his head and worked on the rail all the way around in both directions. Beautiful! I glanced around to see what the other horses looked like. None could compare. Of course, I wasn't watching everyone like the judge was watching, but I knew Sandy should have no problem being in the top three.

We lined up and waited for the judge to finish. As the ring steward went to hand in the results, the judge faced us and said, "Some of you are using training aids, and that's okay, but I have to place those without the aids ahead, despite the fact that your horses may have been working better."


Sandy was wearing his running martingale. Which was okay. I knew going into this that depending on the judge or the particular rules, we may or may not be disqualified for it. It didn't matter, really, because the improvement from that five minute warm up to his pleasure class 30 minutes later had far surpassed anything I could have asked.

Darling came up to me after the class and asked why no ribbon. I told her it was because we'd used the martingale. "Why? Why would you use it if you knew you'd be disqualified?"

"Because sometimes the ride is more important than the ribbon," I answered. "A good ride with no ribbon is a far greater reward than a ribbon received for a poor ride."

I'm sure Darling will munch on that one for awhile. As for Sandy, he got a bucket of beet pulp all to himself on the ride home and is now happy to be wallowing in the mud with his friends.


Lea and her Mustangs said...

Wow, your first horseshow. How awesome is that. You did good. The ride IS the most important. Good you know that. I have placed low and wanted to throw something at the judge because I knew I had a good ride. Good for Sandy.

Tracey said...

Oh, I've placed high when I didn't think I deserved it and gotten a good chuckle. And I do believe the judge realized we were having a good ride or she wouldn't have mentioned anything. We were there for the experience of having other horses on the rail with us and learning how to handle ourselves, and I'm very pleased with how Sandy worked his way through things mentally.

Katee said...

Really nice helmet modeling, Tracey and Darling! Wearing a helmet is a safe, smart thing to do and I always like to see pictures of people wearing them.

Rising Rainbow said...

Congrats on your first horse show with Sandy. That's very cool. And don't worry about being out of place in those walk trot classes, that's where I always start with a green horse.

I so agree with you on the quality of your ride being more important than a ribbon. That's great value to be passing on to your kid. Way to go, Mom!