Once again, like the opportunity to go foxhunting, this event was courtesy of my second-to-last lesson barn. I had been riding there for about nine months, I think, when I was told about the Academy show they had coming up. I wasn't sure what "Academy" meant but turns out that means strictly for lesson students. I double-checked to make sure but yes, I was eligible! I instantly knew I wanted to participate, even though the thought made my stomach churn.
Time to drag out and dust off my tall boots. These had been languishing since after my first couple of lessons at this barn (I had quickly learned that everyone lessoned nowadays in half chaps and paddocks, which suited me fine). I also purchased a new pair of breeches and black gloves. Other than that, no fancy attire was required so I was all set. I actually could have showed in the half chaps and paddocks but since I had the boots I wanted to wear them, dorky as they are.
I signed up for the Age 18 & Up division (hah), which consisted of two OF classes and one flat class, all Hunters (I don't think there were any Eq classes at this show, or maybe I wanted to skip them). I didn't know what horse I'd be riding but I figured it would be the famous red-headed mare Polly, since I'd been put on her quite a bit in lessons. This was okay; she was a pain in the neck but when properly motivated - and I had hopes the show atmosphere would help - she was a lovely jumper and mover.
The big day arrived and I arrived early at the barn in a state of high anticipation, excitement and nerves. My family tagged along for moral support as did my friend C, who had recently become LiRoi's mom and didn't want to ride in the show. I went to pay my fees and get my number and was told that sure enough, I was supposed to ride Ms. Polly. However, when I went to her stall, guess what?? Someone else was there. The person who was grooming her who told me, "I don't know what the deal is because *I* am supposed to be riding Polly," and she didn't seem inclined to budge. Uh-oh...
Along came my trainer, who looked at me standing in the barn aisle holding my saddle and grooming bag and appearing somewhat stupefied. She laughed, jerked her thumb in the direction of another stall and said, "What about Marbles? Have you ever ridden him?" I was a bit taken aback because no, in fact, I had NOT ever ridden Marbles and I didn't necessarily think the day of a horse show was the best day to "break in" a new mount! However, if I wanted to show, and I really did, it looked like this would be the case. My trainer told me I should do fine with him and that I wasn't too tall to ride the pony, for that is what he was (about 14.1 and a half, but definitely a pony).
I went in the stall and introduced myself to Marbles. He had a bit of a sour expression but he seemed to appreciate my grooming efforts, especially the Grooma being used on his neck. That elicited a nice stretch and a flappy lip. I laughed because the top of his rump was filthy, something I've often found to be the case with school ponies who are often groomed by little kids who can't reach there. I tacked him up and climbed aboard, with only about ten minutes to go before the first class which was OF. The pony felt absolutely wonderful; I've always liked the small ones and he had smooth and pleasant gaits. I felt an instant connection with him. We did a little W/T/C and hopped once or twice over the jump set up in the warm-up area. I found out he had auto-changes and was given the world's fastest lesson in how to ask for them. Auto-changes were something only one other horse I'd ever ridden (American Mare) had as an option and to be honest, I really didn't know what I was doing! All this hurrying-up was actually a good thing because I literally did not have time to be nervous.
Into the ring we went, for eight fences. It wasn't a large (2') or long course but in my mind it might as well have been the Grand National. Somehow we got around, in halfway decent form, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when we exited. Wow! I'd done it! Actually completed a jumping course at a show (keep in mind, at this point I could barely make it around five jumps in lessons).
When the other adults were done (there were five of us altogether) we awaited the results. To my utter and complete shock, my number was called first. FIRST!! What? I didn't even know the horse I was riding, for pete's sake! As I was handed my blue ribbon and cute green picture frame trophy, I told the judge, "You've made an old lady very happy today," and she responded, "Well, you earned it!" While Marbles still wore his grumpy expression (which I soon learned was typical for him) I was grinning from ear to ear, as you can see in that photo.
I wish I could tell you I went to further glory in the show but I left too long for a fence in the next jumping class, causing me to lose a stirrup and some control, and finished fourth. Then Marbles tried to bite everybody that came near him in the flat class, causing us to be yelled at several times by my fellow riders and us to finish dead last in fifth place. I was a bit disgusted with Mr. Crabby Pony following the latter excursion but still floating on a cloud after that first big win.
Here we are with all our loot:
It truly was one of the proudest days of my life.
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I'm sorry I have been absent from the blogging scene. I have something going on physically (still in the pending diagnosis stage) that makes typing (and would make riding) a bit painful, and also some other "life happenings" that have left me in not much of a mood for writing. However, recalling happy events and thinking about horses helps me to stay positive, so I'm going to try and put some stuff up here. I have more to say about Marbles, for one thing. The little curmudgeon became extremely dear to me!
In the meantime, here's one last photo from a much earlier horse show of mine, when I was about seven. I assume I was in mid-clap, given the ring-side location, but it looks a bit like I was praying (that I would be assigned Grey in my next class, maybe?). At any rate, I think this appropriate because I'm definitely appealing to The Man Upstairs right now for help and guidance in dealing with things. Here's hoping He is listening. Thank you for reading!