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Monday, November 14, 2011

Behind The Scenes At The National

Following the Grand Prix, I was not ready to go home yet. It was time to do some exploring, specifically of the Arena and any other interesting area I could get into... like, say, the barns. I had little hope of accomplishing the latter since I figured there'd be an Exhibitor pass required, but I thought I'd scope things out anyway.

But first I had some other urgent business: what was for sale here? Checking out vendor booths is always lots of fun for this dedicated window shopper. I figured if the prices of stuff I liked were anything like they were at the WEG I wasn't going to buy a thing (e.g. $25 for a commemorative t-shirt), but it never hurts to look. I started out on a circuit around the Arena. It really is a nice setup, with a wide concourse just made for exhibits around the whole place.

My faux-shopping plans were derailed in a hurry, though, when I quickly stumbled upon a hospitality area set up for the VIPs. There were a number of presumably well-heeled individuals present in black tie and they needed to be wined and dined while watching the show. Apparently they were willing to include the riders in this little bash post-GP because I spotted a couple right away. I am not embarking on a career as a paparazzo anytime soon, since these blurry pictures were the best I could do (without looking like some kind of weird stalker - I'm not shy but taking someone's picture when they don't know it is icky). I kind of recognized both of these guys but I do not know who they are. If YOU do, please tell me!
Balding rider in blue jacket w/ burgundy lapels is the one who caught my eye, but I guess the fellow in the red vest was also a competitor.
This guy was young, good-looking and holding court for a bevy of attractive females. A rough life, indeed!
A local fine art gallery had some works on display in this VIP area for sale. I literally gasped aloud when I spotted this group of pencil sketches:

Holy cow! I instantly recognized these as original illustrations by CW Anderson, one of my most favorite horse artists ever. These were done for the book "The Blind Connemara" which I probably read a half-dozen times, just like all of his books. Boy, would I like to own something like this... but at $6,000 for the set, I guess it's not going to be anytime soon (try ever). There was also this print, which I thought was interesting because it reminded me of the fabled "dogs" painting that inspired the Jacksons to name Barbaro and his brothers after them (not sure why, because I've never even seen that painting!):

There were a number of people selling jewelry, but further along the concourse I came across this vendor's wares. Ooh la la... I could just go crazy over this stuff.

It was truly the nicest equestrian jewelry I think I've ever seen; all the proportions were just right (a frequent error in this genre, I've noticed) and the details were perfect. This is my dream pendant:

Those are tiny diamonds set across the tread. I like English stirrup motif pieces because they aren't generic "horse" jewelry. I also like things with horse shoes, for example, and have several, but a Fillis iron clearly proclaims the wearer as an English rider and I think that's cool. Right now I have a cheapo Finish Line brand gold-filled stirrup pendant which is starting to show silver edges. Some day I hope to replace it with the real deal but with the price of gold skyrocketing, that, too will have to wait (and of course I'd rather be financing a real horse, anyway). (I wonder if the gold chain is included for $655? I didn't ask because unless he was going to give me a 90% discount I couldn't afford it anyway, LOL).

I went past a restaurant that was part of the complex and it was really hopping with people and more riders. I spotted Richard Spooner near the front of the throng. This affair was clearly the big apres-Grand Prix event. Lots of throbbing heads on Sunday morning, I would bet!

While I was wandering around, the Arena jump crew was busy taking down the GP fences and dragging the ring. All of this was done at warp speed. Seriously, there were about 25 crew people and they were unbelievably fast and efficient. The dudes driving the tractors were hauling around at about 30 mph, neatly avoiding the people on foot. I would have been petrified to be in there but this group operated like a well-oiled machine.

The Maclay contenders were then allowed in to exercise their horses:

And look what I found on display? The very thing they were all aiming to win. What a gorgeous trophy!

Solid sterling silver. Used to be lots of horse events handed out silver - I have a few itty-bitty plates myself - but not anymore! Glad the Maclay still does it right.
It was time to head out so I returned to my car and drove out of the Arena parking lot. As I said, I figured I couldn't get near the barns. So imagine my surprise when I noticed as I cruised slowly by that there didn't seem to be any security checkpoints near them (located very close behind the Arena). Hmmm... I parked again (in the media area, which was largely deserted by then) and headed that way. Nobody stopped me. I was wearing an equestrian-type jacket and my paddock boots with some khaki pants, so I guess I kind of looked the part - maybe that helped? But actually there was simply no one around. It was kind of spooky, to tell you the truth. Usually barns are full of activity and it was only about a half hour/45 minutes since the GP had wrapped up. Where were the grooms? How come some stranger was allowed near what I'm sure was some very costly horseflesh?

Soon, I was standing in a barn and checking out this fine fellow and his neighbor:

I'm pretty sure both these horses competed in the Grand Prix. Why else would they be standing in such massively-bedded stalls, with heavily-poulticed legs? Both of them also had buckets of concentrates that they were not eating. One held grain, and the other what I would assume was a mash or else soaked grain. It made me sad that they weren't eating. Again, why were these guys by themselves? All I can say is if it was MY horse, I would have been hovering nearby to see if he cleaned up his after-work meal. They both looked completely disinterested and ignored me to boot.
Bran mash? 
The barns and stalls were really nice here and obviously well-maintained. I left the barn where these two horses were (not just without human company, there weren't even any other horses there in the whole rest of the structure) and went into another. A few more horses were to be found, also sans any human presence. I said hello to them and then lit out for my car before anyone did come around and question me. The whole experience was a bit unsettling; I mean, even here at home at our C-rated shows there are always people in the barns. I guess the quality of the parties at the NHS was a lot better, and everyone was out whooping it up? I just know if I was an unscrupulous sort or God forbid, a representative of PETA, I could have caused a lot of mayhem when nobody was looking!

Here's another horse resting in his spacious stall:
And last but not least, a close look at the National Horse Show ribbons:
While these are pretty nice, and do have the medallions in the middle, would you believe this type is ALL the winner of the Grand Prix got?? No neck ribbon, no extra-long regular ribbon. I'll tell you, I may not agree with everything/a lot of what the gaited horse people get up to, but by golly, they DO know how to properly adorn their winners! Come on, hunt seat world, get a clue: people actually do like all that folderol. It makes for attractive stabling areas if nothing else. :-)

I finally left the KHP and headed back to my friend's house. I had a fun excursion planned for Sunday morning...

 Next Up: My Visit To A Fellow Blogger's Barn!

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