This past weekend was the kickoff of the Gem State Stock Horse Association show series that we have been practicing and prepping for all spring long. Usually Gem State puts on one show per month in the summer, starting in May and wrapping up the season with the August show. The May show this year had been rescheduled to June due to bad weather, so we had two days in a row of horse show fun to look forward to.
Annabelle is going to be showing the wonderful Smart Chic Dot Com (Chic) in the Little Buckaroo class, and we are so grateful for the generosity of Chic’s owner Kris Troxel for allowing her to ride such an awesome horse.
Horse show preparations started several days before the show with riding practice. Kris brought Chic over to our friend Shane’s arena, and Annabelle practiced the pattern over and over again until we felt she had it down.
We resumed our preparations three days prior to the show with some shopping. Annabelle had outgrown her only collared western long-sleeved shirt, so we headed to Farm & City Supply to find some shirts for her to compete in.
The first shirt she selected was a beautiful little orange and yellow number, with a sort of snake skin mottled striping of the different colors. I knew we didn’t have a show pad to match this shirt, so before we purchased it we made a quick call to our friend Shane, who told us she had a pad that would go beautifully with the ensemble. A purple, pink and black checkered shirt rounded out the selections, and we were ready to move on to our hat choices.
Batman shopped too. But his focus was a little different than Annabelle’s.
Farm & City didn’t have any hats that fit Annabelle, so we headed off to D&B for another round of shopping. Annabelle settled on a nice palm straw hat that looked adorable on her and matched her new orange show shirt perfectly. Of course, she also needed a black hat to go with her pink and purple shirt, so we decided to try on what we had at home.
My (super nice, super expensive, from-back-in-the-day) black felt hat looked really cute on her, but it was so big I knew we wouldn’t be able to get it to stay on. An email to Shane prompted an offer of an equally nice but smaller black hat we could borrow, so our clothing plan was complete.
Annabelle still wore my hat around the house all afternoon, rubbing the brim and saying “Oh mama it is so soft!”
With our shirt and hat selections set, we moved on to the rest of what we needed to get done. I brought her saddle in the house and Annabelle carefully washed the whole thing with a wet dish cloth. She also washed her boots and her new belt (which wasn’t really dirty to begin with). We brushed the horse hair off her black show pad (also borrowed from Shane), and we were ready to go.
The day before the show we met up with Kris at the Idaho Center Horse Park where she had schooled her horses in an open show that morning. We used the super-nice bathing stalls there to give Chic a good bath and wash and condition his mane and tail.
The kids really got in on the action. Kris held Batman up high so that he could put conditioner all over Chic’s mane.
Both kids took turns spraying him with the hose and putting shampoo on.
When we were finished washing we drove to Kris’s house, where we clipped Chic’s whiskers and bridle path, and helped Kris load tack and hay into her big trailer for the show.
With our clothes assembled, tack cleaned and organized, trailer loaded, and Chic bathed and clipped, we were ready. We’d decided to leave our house at 8:00 on Saturday morning for the drive to Ontario, which we estimated would give us plenty of prep and warm-up time before Annabelle’s class started.
We were thrilled that my friend Tami had offered to come and help us for the first day of the show. Tami and I have been friends since second grade; she introduced me to Desperate Hubby, and she has traveled a bunch with me to barrel races and horse shows. She is a great helper, groom, kid-handler and friend. Little did I know just what an integral part she would play in our day on Saturday.
Day One: A Near Miss
We all got ready to head out in plenty of time. Batman wore his “cowboy outfit” complete with well-used felt hat, and he was pretty excited to be going with us.
Tami brought us Dutch Brothers hot chocolate and coffee, and we took our drinks and loaded up in the car. We were happy to be going, despite the terrible weather. It was cold and extremely windy outside, with rain drops falling intermittently as we drove out of the driveway.
We had gotten only a few yards out of the garage when the phone rang. It was Shane, already at the show, and she had ominous words. “Are you on the way?” I told her yes, we were just leaving. Then she said what anyone heading to a horse show does not want to hear. “You’d better hurry. There aren’t any horses in the class before you, and the show is going fast.”
The thought of us missing Annabelle’s class made me feel sick. It is my policy to get to a horse show at least a couple of hours before a class, so I can prepare in leisure and make sure everything is just right. I couldn’t imagine Annabelle’s disappointment if we missed her first show after all days we had spent preparing. I did the only thing I could do. Headed toward Oregon in the blowing wind as fast as I could safely drive.
We pulled up to the Malheur County Fairgrounds and I looked over to the arena where Annabelle’s class would be held. There was a kid a little bigger than her inside, wearing a helmet and loping the reining pattern. Sheer panic set it. I went right into action, and was so glad Tami was there to help.
I yelled for Tami and Annabelle to go get Chic’s blanket off and get him saddled. Despite the fact that it had been years since she saddled a horse, Tami grabbed the tack and ran for Kris’ trailer. I jogged over to the in-gate and asked where they were in the schedule. Annabelle was up in eight horses! I felt near tears as ran to the office, hurriedly wrote a check and picked up her exhibitor’s number.
Tami had Chic saddled perfectly and Annabelle’s shirt and chaps on by the time I got back. I fastened her number to the pad with shaking hands and we trotted over to the arena. There were still a couple of horses before it was her turn, so we ran to the warm-up ring next door and she loped a couple of quick circles, then rushed back over to line up.
She was third out in her class, so we had a moment to do final preparations and talk about the pattern again before she went in.
Despite the rush and lack of warm-up time Annabelle was perfectly calm and relaxed. I relaxed a little too, once I realized we wouldn’t miss the class. We even had a few seconds to pose for a family photo before she rode.
We had hurriedly recruited several people to help us out around the arena to coach and make sure Annabelle remembered her pattern. Molly was at the west end of the pen, neighbor Kay was north, Kris ran down to the east, and I jogged over to the north side beside the judges. Tami was manning the video camera next to the in-gate. I was so grateful for all the help, especially considering the frenzied minutes leading up to her ride.
Annabelle’s class went very well. She executed her pattern quite proficiently, and you would never know that Chic didn’t get a chance to warm up before the ride.
When it was all said and done I breathed a big sigh of relief.
Annabelle gave Chic a big thank you kiss.
Batman wanted his turn to ride, so I spent the next half hour leading him around the fairgrounds, watching other horses go and chatting with friends.
We had a peaceful rest of the morning, watching from the stands and enjoying the show.
Tami never got flustered or stopped smiling through the whole day. The kids loved her so much they wanted to spend every single second with her. Even when they went potty. She just smiled and took them. She is a gem, that one.
Batman watched the action attentively, never once taking his hat off, even while he ate lunch.
Even after all that, the kids weren’t quite done with horse shows. After we left, with everybody practically blue from the cold, they wanted to go to the Idaho Center Horse Park to watch our friends Karen and Bailey participate in a horse show there. We drove past our house and on to Nampa, where we got to visit with our friends and watch Bailey perform in one of her classes. We finally arrived home at around 4:00, with everybody tired and ready for dinner. Desperate Hubby took me and the kids out to the Outback Steakhouse to celebrate.
Day Two: Much More Relaxed
Without any help along for Sunday, I opted to leave Batman home with Desperate Hubby. Annabelle and I were planning to leave at 6:30 this time to make sure we had plenty of time to prepare before her class started. We got ready quietly, and left the house right on time Batman was still sleeping peacefully on the end of Annabelle’s bed.
About ten minutes later I got a text from Desperate Hubby, who said that Batman had woken up in a state of “Severe Emotional Distress.” He was absolutely devastated that we had left him.
I felt bad, but I knew Batman would recover and spend his morning trashing the entire house while Desperate Hubby sat with his cast propped on a pillow watching golf. Which is exactly what happened, by the way.
Our preparations were much much organized and relaxed this time. Annabelle had plenty of time to lope around the practice pen and work on her pattern before her class started.
I thought her new outfit looked super cute. It was a comparatively beautiful, though still chilly, day, so my little girl got to actually take her coat off and ride in her new show shirt on day two.
With the help of of our returning coaches, Annabelle’s pattern went even better than the day before. I was proud of my little girl out there!
I had to run the video camera as well as help to direct the pattern from the south side of the arena this time, so the video quality is of markedly lower quality than Tami’s work on day one. But you can still get the general idea.
After the show was over we stayed for a few hours to watch our friends. We were so thankful for the assistance that everyone gave us. We would never have been able to pull it off without all of our great helpers.
When we got home, Annabelle went right out and caught Grumpy. I saddled him up for her and she loped him around and around and practiced all the maneuvers she had used earlier that morning. Then she put him away and rode Reno bareback around the arena.
She does love to work a horse.
So I guess she deserved the two First Place finishes she earned this weekend.