Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The First Show

Everything was mapped out, from the trailer ride, the feed bags, and even the "show clothes". I was so eager and excited for the show the next day I laid in bed for hours trying to force myself to go to sleep.

Koalt had attended many, many shows before. I had not - this would be my first show ever. I had no worries over how our performance would go, or if he would be "hot". I didnt know of such things at the time. I was just nervous for the unknown.

Early morning came and I outfitted myself in tan breeches and a white t-shirt with a horse on it. I was able to borrow a pair of rubber field boots to complete the look. This seems appropriate for a horse show, I thought. I pedaled down the street on my bike to the pasture Koalt was kept at. Mom would meet me there soon with the car. It was a warm and sunny August morning. I had eaten breakfast quickly, but "show nerves" were making my stomache flip and gurgle. The nice lady who had been giving me a few jumping lessons lined up a ride for Koalt in one of her client's trailer, who was also going to the schooling show. I hand carried all the tack and grooming brushes I would need down the long and steep driveway from the pasture to the road, then dropped it all on the ground in a heap as I raced back up the driveway to retrieve Koalt.

He looked up from his pile of morning hay as I approached him quickly, panting and heart racing from the steep incline and the nerves. I slipped the halter over him and lead him down the driveway. Mom was now parked at the base, but the trailer was still no where to be seen. Across the street at the community baseball field parking lot was where we were to meet. So with an arm-full of equipment and a horse on the end of my lead, I crossed the street and waited in the empty parking lot.

Mom got impatient as we waited. "When are they supposed to be here?" she asked. "Now" I replied. With no cell phone and no contact information we were waiting with a hope and prayer that they would arrive. And arrive they did shortly thereafter.

I suddenly realized as the lady opened up her red and white striped straight load trailer, that I had never loaded a horse before. Was there a certain protocol to follow? What if I did it wrong in front of this lady, my mother? I gulped and gently tugged the lead line, walking into the trailer. Koalt stood steadfast on the ramp. "C'mon, Koalt" I pleaded, tugging more firmly. He sighed and loaded up. With barely two words passed between myself and the hauler, she was off.

I stood in the empty parking lot, my Mom now asking if I knew how to get there. I swallowed. I had been to the Bainbridge Saddle Club once with LF, and thought I remembered how to get there. With the trailer out of sight there wasnt the option to follow it.

We did end up making it, although almost missed one turn. Mom pulled her white Toyota Camry into the showgrounds and found a place to park. The place seemed huge and maze-like. I was in a frenzy trying to figure out where my horse was, where I was the sign up, and all the other full things associated with a horse show. I had brought my close horsey friend along with me more some support in tending to Koalt. She too had never shown, but was a great help nonetheless.

I managed to find the gal who hauled, she had a bucket of water in tow. "Thanks!" I said reaching for the bucket. She responded, irritated, saying it was for her horse not mine. I blushed and quietly followed behind her to where the horses were. She had put Koalt into a day stall, and fortunetly, had an extra water bucket for me to fill for him as I had forgotten, as well as an extra lead rope to close off the stall front with, also another necessity I had not been prepared with.

Now that I knew where my horse was who was safe and sound munching on hay, I had to find the show office to sign up for classes. My Mom in tow, we set off across the grounds in search of the show office. We found it, located next to the arena. I proceeded to look at the class shedule and was really confused by what they meant. Hunter on the Flat? 18" Cross Rails? Equitation? I didnt know what any of this meant. I stared blankly at the sheet, embarassement for my Mother to see my ignorance creeping up. I got lucky and a kind trainer who was friends with LF and generally knew my riding level chose four classes for me to enter, telling me the numbers of each and handing me the patterns to memorize for my two hunter courses. The $50 I handed over to the show steward felt huge, and my Mom's watchful eyes showed her agreement in that assumption.

My Dad pulled up in his blue Oldsmobile, and I was happy to see that he was able to make it, camera in tow.

I returned to Koalt, finding my friend and sister doting on him. Friend had groomed him nicely, while Sister was bounding around and petting him. I thanked my Friend for her help, and proceeded to tack up. In my excitement and nerves, I began saddling without putting the halter on. It wasnt until I went to bridle I realized my oversight, then sheepishly mumbled something about how it was intentional so he could continue eating. My horse knowledgeable friend simply smiled back at me.

I mounted up but seemed to forget about warming up. I stood at the in gate for the arena waiting to hear my class number called and watching the classes being run. Mom, Dad, and Sister found a seat on the bleachers, while my Friend stayed with me for company. My first class was an Equitation class, so I didnt have to worry about the pattern yet. My class number was called and we all filed into the class. This was a walk/trot/canter class judging equitation, but I just knew to listen to the announcer as he would tell me what to be doing. We walked, trotted, and cantered as instructed and had a direction change. Koalty was performing just as I asked him to do and just like at home. We were asked to line up, and I had to watch the other riders to understand what that meant.

We stood in line for a while in the warm sun. I looked around to the girls next to me, then asked what we were waiting for. One looked down her nose at me and said "The placings, of course." "Oh" I responded. I looked to the girl on my other side and smiled a nervous, crooked grin. She rolled her eyes and looked away from me. I wondered if they were hot in their long coats, and was happy to be wearing my light t-shirt.

The announcer called out the numbers, and I froze, forgetting what the one pinned to my back was. Oh right, 272, I remembered. 272, 272, 272... My number was never called, but there were other people in the class who were called either, it was a rather large class. I wasnt too disappointed, as this was my very first time out. We left the arena, and I waited for my next class again.

Back in the arena for another "flat class", I spotted the gal who gave me a few lessons on the rail. She smiled at me as I passed, saying quietly, "Tighten your reins". I did, but didnt like feeling like I was pulling on Koalt's mouth. I passed again, "Pick up more reins" she offered again. I did, but was really concerend about the feel I had on my horse's mouth now. Koalt didnt care though and kept working for me. We were asked to line up again. My number was called for fifth place! I was super excited as I retrieved my ribbon, my Mom and Sister smiling down and waving at me from the bleachers.

I still didnt have any idea about why I placed in that class, not knowing that in English riding, contact was required.

I memorized my pattern for the pole rail class coming up.  I had jumped before, but never needed to remember a pattern. I watched the other competators complete the course before my turn, and had a good idea of what the pattern was supposed to be. I entered the arena and trotted a circle before starting, as I had seen the other girls doing. These were just trot over poles set on the ground, but Koalt jumped over them anyways.I positioned Koalt over the first few poles, constantly running the pattern over and over in my head. We finished on course and received a sixth place ribbon. I was super excited and ready for the next class.

I read over the pattern for the next class, 18" cross rails, and felt prepared again to enter. Trotting the first circle, I asked Koalt to canter and pointed him at the first cross rail. The small jump felt huge but after a few jumps I started to relax. I relaxed too much in fact, and soon was blindly looking around the arena, not remembering which jump came next. Do I approach this one? Or that one? I crookedly maneuvered Koalt towards one the wrong direction and jumped the cross rail. Immedietly the announcer said "Thank you, rider". I loped around a little longer, not sure what that meant. Seeing the exit gate open up, I realized my mistake. Exiting at a slow walk, I felt embarrased.

Mom, Dad, Sister, and Friend all encouraged me anyways, and I led Koalt back to his day stall to untack him. I rubbed his sweet face and slipped the bridle off.

We had a bit of time to waste before the hauler was ready to leave, so we watched a few more classes. I wasnt sure what I was watching, exactly, but enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Then it was time to load up and bring Koalt back home. I was pretty proud of our first outing, after the slight embarrasments were cast aside, and now had an itch to go out and do it again, proving I could stay on course. 

18" cross rail class at the Bainbridge Saddle Club, August 7 2004


Rising Rainbow said...

That's just too sweeet! Thanks for sharing.

Story said...

That is really cool. I wish I remembered so much from my first shows but they are a blur...actually now that I think of the few details I do remember, I'm probably fortunate to not remember more lol. So neat that you even have an action shot to remember the day, I think all I have of my first show is me posing with the wrong horse lol.

Anonymous said...

Well Story, I dont have that fantastic of a memory, as there are few other shows I can remember in such detail. However in my young mind the importance of this first event was great, I remember absorbing every part of the day that evening at home. Other shows, not so much.

in2paints said...

What a wonderful story! What a good boy Koalt was... he sounds like a great horse. :)