We have enjoyed a wonderful beginning to summer break here in the Desperate Household (DHH).
Annabelle and I kicked off our vacation with a long-anticipated trip to Paso Robles, California for the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby. I was hoping to conquer the cattle challenges that I had struggled with during my last couple of horse shows, and Annabelle just loves to go to the horse show.
Any horse show. Anywhere.
We traveled to the show with our friend Kris and her dog Chloe. Annabelle was in charge of Chloe for the trip, and she took her job very seriously. This was taken during one of our stops for fuel along the way.
After our nearly fourteen hour drive, we climbed out of the truck and immediately attended to the most important tasks, which were settling Freckles into her stall and watering and feeding her. I was tired from all the early mornings and late nights preparing to get out-of-town, but not Annabelle. She was all smiles, running around like a crazy kid with Chloe and eagerly manning the hose to fill up Freckle’s water tub. I thought she’d be tired after her 3:00 am awakening and subsequent all-day travel, but she was as happy as she could be. “Mom, this is so much fun!” she kept saying.
At the age of six, my girl is already a seasoned traveler. She sat quietly in the back of the truck for the entire drive, for the most part eschewing the DVD player and movies I had brought along in favor of watching out the window for cows and horses or dogs or cats or anything else she deemed interesting. She didn’t complain at all, and only asked two or three times how much further it was. I was really proud of her.
After settling Freckles in, we headed across the street to grab a quick pizza with Kris and then get checked into our hotel room. Once again exhibiting her travel savvy, Annabelle immediately laid claim to her choice of beds and stowed her suitcase and clothes where she wanted them.
Then she requested that I turn on the TV, where she discovered her favorite new program on Animal Planet (or Discovery, or one of those), which was a show starring a guy named Turtle-Man (I think) who has a wild-animal removal business somewhere in the south, and whose most prominent feature seemed to be the absence of several front teeth. She watched that show every night we were there, and loved every minute of it.
Here is a picture of her enjoying her own bed while eating dinner from the specialty hamburger joint across the street. We were both disappointed to find that our hotel didn’t offer room service, but we made do as best we could.
The second day we were up bright and early, and headed across the street to the fairgrounds. We were so excited to be there, all rested up and ready to ride.
We shopped around the vendors for a while, and I got a pair of new riding jeans since all of mine with en route to destinations afar with Kris, who had taken her trailer to LA deliver an extra horse we had hauled down for a friend of hers. Oops.
Once I was in proper attire we saddled up and went to the warm-up arena. Kris had brought the faithful Chic down for his first show back after his health challenges over the winter, and Annabelle was more than happy to help him stretch his legs after the long drive.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around, watching the horse show and socializing. It was this day that I discovered what would most intrigue me for the entire Paso Robles experience: if she was not on a horse, Annabelle would rather be sitting in the stands and watching every single run of every single event than doing anything else.
There was a big pack of kids running around the fairgrounds, playing together from dawn to dusk while their parents rode or did other horse show tasks. Annabelle knew a couple of the little girls well, but though the draw of playing with other kids was strong, she declined to spend much time with them at all.
She’d rather watch the show. Or bathe a horse. As many times as necessary (or allowed).
A Trip to the Beach
One afternoon when we were finished showing, we piled into Kris’s pickup with her dog Chloe, Chloe’s friend Hannah, and Hannah’s owners (and our new friends) Kay and Jerry. Kay and Jerry are from Washington state, so we don’t get to see them often, but Annabelle and Kay formed quite a bond during this California visit. (Incidentally, Kay came out Reserve Champion of the Amateur Derby in Paso, which is huge for a big national show like this with such a steep level of competition. She is my hero).
Our destination this afternoon was a walk on the beach.
A short drive later we were in Morro Bay, where we located a dog-friendly area with convenient parking. We unloaded the dogs and Annabelle, and we were off.
It was a little foggy and overcast, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm. Annabelle hadn’t been to a proper beach since she was old enough to remember the event, and she was enthralled. A little tenuous at first, but enthralled.
Jerry was a wonderful scout for interesting beach artifacts, and he helped Annabelle begin her collection of ocean refuse right away. Hannah found the process quite interesting as well.
Kay coaxed Annabelle out into the cold waves several times, telling her “Wait for it; wait for it!” before running back up the beach to avoid getting drenched.
Kris took her turn running out in the encroaching surf with my little girl, then running squealing back up the beach as the water approached. Actually I think only Annabelle squealed. Kris just ran.
Of course, it wasn’t long until I was also dragged out to the water’s edge.
We had fun.
We took pictures.
And more pictures. Why didn’t someone tell me my hat looked so silly?
Annabelle was fascinated by this group of horses moseying casually down the sand.
And she got a wonderful collection of sand dollars, shells, rocks and other stuff that filled up most of a plastic Wal-Mart bag.
When we were all cold, wet and sandy, we headed back up to the pickup to go in search of what the adults were looking forward to: fresh oysters. Before we could get in the pickup though, Annabelle rolled around in the sand several times just to make the cleanup interesting.
Jerry and Kay performed most of the brush-off duties. Thanks guys.
When we were mostly sand-free, we loaded back up and went in search of our favorite harvest of the sea. We found it at a cute little restaurant right on the beach, where they had all manner of fresh fish right there on display.
I took some pictures so we could show Batman how many different types of fish they had.
We ordered our snacks, fresh oysters for all of us girls, grilled oysters for Jerry, and a corndog for Annabelle. We sat outside on the deck listening to live music and sharing a bottle of lovely local wine. Well, Annabelle had water. We had wine.
It made us happy.
Jerry’s oysters looked scrumptious. They were lightly grilled with garlic, olive oil and a little lemon. I was pretty surprised and impressed when he actually talked Annabelle into tasting one of them.
Her smile didn’t last long though after the oyster was in her mouth. I guess they really are an acquired taste!
Our day at the beach wrapped up with a visit to a local t-shirt shop, where we got a couple of fish shirts for Batman and a matching one for his dad. It was a perfect afternoon and a lovely break from the horse show madness.
Chic Makes a Triumphant Return to the Show Pen
Friday morning was an exciting morning. As I mentioned earlier, Kris had brought Chic to compete in the Non Pro Limited competition. This would be Chic’s first return to the show pen since he had acquired a joint infection last fall, and we were all anxious and excited to see how he would do.
Annabelle was heading up the clean-up team to get him all ready to enter the arena. She single-handedly got him all polished up before it was his turn to go.
Chic was wearing so much Pepi coat gloss that I am pretty sure the judges had to shade their eyes against his shine.
When Kris and Chic were ready to enter the arena they looked fantastic.
And, beyond that, they were fantastic. Chic looked just like his old self out there. And I am sure he was thrilled to be working a cow again. Chic LOVES to work a cow.
Kris took it easy on Chic, loping him slowly through the pattern so he wouldn’t be too tired by the time they got their cow. Chic was right back in the game, marking scores high enough in the reining and boxing to place him third in their class! Of course, since there were over fifty horses in the draw it took awhile for us to find this out.
Annabelle rode Chic back to the barn.
And gave him a nice rinse after Kris got him unsaddled.
The Show Goes to the Dogs
With Chic taken care of, Annabelle was eager to turn her attention to her next event of the day: The Dog Costume Contest. We had spent an afternoon earlier in the week searching out a store that carried luau items, since Kris and Kay had decided that would be an appropriate theme for Annabelle and Chloe, who they insisted must enter the contest. After about our third store we hit the jackpot, picking up matching grass skirts and a whole bag of paper leis.
Poor Chloe never knew what hit her. Annabelle was all practiced up from her week of washing horses, and any extra dirt on Chloe didn’t stand a chance!
Then the dressing began. I have to admit, they looked pretty darn cute.
When it was time for the contest, Annabelle was the first to be called into the arena. I was worried she would balk and make me walk in with her since the competition was slated for the large indoor arena where the main horse show events were held. My little girl continually amazes me though, and she strode proudly out to the middle of the arena, dragging a reluctant hula-corgi in her wake.
One by one, nine or ten other dogs joined the contest, some bounding happily out for their judging, others being coaxed along with the help of a parent or multiple kid handlers.
There were many tough competitors, like this little porcupine, and another corgi dressed up in a dinosaur costume named Lefty-saurus, who was led in by our friends Shawny and Sierra.
When the judging was complete, the top three teams were announced. Annabelle was thrilled that she and Chloe had won first place. She was awarded a big bag full of loot, which she wasted no time in rummaging through as soon as she got out of the arena.
I made her stand for a picture with me, too. Even though she really didn’t want to.
It was a fun afternoon (for everyone but probably Chloe).
I Showed Freckles
I had originally written this post with a blow-by-blow recount of what had happened each and every day during our trip. This included, naturally, an excruciatingly detailed description of each of my three days of showing, what had gone wrong, what had gone right, how I felt before, after and in-between.
Fortunately for anybody reading this now, I did go back and read my original post before publishing it for public viewing. At that moment I had an epiphany…..which was this:
The details of each run during a horse show are really only interesting to the person who performed said run. For everyone else, the general highlights and conclusion are fine. Sort of like hearing about a friend’s colonoscopy.
So I’ll just say this, I had a lot of fun showing in Paso. I love everything about these big shows, from the atmosphere to the superb organization, the fantastic horses and the world-famous riders. Where else could I enter the cutting pen with four World Champions to help me with my work? (Thanks Jon, Dan, Todd and Jake).
The show was an amazing learning experience for me. My horse was very good and we improved in some areas where we had struggled in our last couple of outings. We didn’t win any big checks this time, just one small one. But as one of my favorite trainer friends says “Any day you win a check is a good day.”
And so it was.
Meanwhile Back at Home….
Desperate Hubby was in charge of entertaining Batman for the week. They started off their time together with a flight to the small town of Murphy in the Cessna 172. DH was excited to take Batman flying again, and anxious to see how his new “kid headset” worked in the plane. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Batman was not very impressed.
When I asked on the phone how he liked the flight he sighed. “It was super boring mom. All I got to do was just sit there.” I guess he expected to land the plane or something.
Fortunately, DH had a backup plan. This plan involved the other new items that Batman had recently received: tiny waders, fins, and his new birthday fishing pole. The happy duo spent one or two afternoons while we were gone floating around the lake in search of dinner. While they didn’t catch any bass, Batman still pronounced it a success. DH says he is a natural.
All I know is that he is so cute it makes my eyes tear up.
Happy Summer Everyone!
I hope you are enjoying yours as much as we are.