The last time I rode in a horse show was about 25 years ago, maybe more. My daughter Annie told me yesterday that she couldn't remember ever seeing me on a horse in a show. She'll be 30 in less than a month.
The Thank Goodness It's the Last Show of the Season Show took place over the weekend. A week ago, my sisters told me there was a walk-trot class for all ages. I asked what day it was. They said Saturday. Knowing I had a busy weekend with company, I put the idea out of my mind.
Saturday when I went to the show for a few minutes, I learned that the class was Sunday instead. That started my mind going. I could see myself riding Lily in a walk-trot class because we have walked and we have "jogged," as they say for Western classes. We have never broken into a lope, and a horse show is no time to try that for the first time. I doubt I'll ever lope Lily anyway cuz I'm 61 and know how the body reacts when falling off a horse at a run. I'd like to keep my body in one unfragmented piece.
As I said, I could see myself riding in the class, but I couldn't see any clothes in my closet that would suit the situation. So, I asked my sisters if they could help. By 6 p.m. Saturday, they had found the necessary items: chaps, hat and Barbara's $200 sequined, shimmering shirt. We were about to eat at Second Avenue Pizza when Laurie called to let me know.
I drove home and thought about it. The more I thought, the more I thought that I shouldn't put Lily through something like this and that I get too stressed to put myself through something like this. So, I called my sisters and told them "thanks," but I'd better be sensible.
That allowed me to get a good night's sleep. With adequate sleep and a beautiful day ahead, my mind started in on the horse show scenario once more. I went about my usual morning business----blogging, reading the paper, throwing out some breakfast for the guests and thinking more and more, that I could do this. I asked Bill to hook up the horse trailer.
By 10 a.m. I had washed Lily. By 11 a.m. I had arrived at the fairgrounds. By noon we had saddled up and ridden through our first class. It turns out there were two walk-trot classes at the show: one honoring the memory of a beloved horse show mom and horse show announcer's wife: Elizabeth O'Brien. It's called the red hat-pink shirt class.
Well, I had a pink hat after Annie brought it from home, and my blanket was red. Somehow, I didn't quite meet the dress requirements, but that was okay. Lily and I were getting some experience inside the arena. With 16 other horses, we spent a lot of time dodging in and out of clusters where getting too close could mean a kicking Lily.
I also spent a lot of time kicking Lily on the outside rib. She's a bit on the lazy side, and she needs constant reminders that when asked to jog, that means to jog for more than three steps. I kicked on that outside leg so many times that a cramp suddenly seized up my hip in the middle of the class. An old body just isn't used to such things, but perseverance took over and I dealt with the pain. We ended up seventh and reserve. Six ribbons were given, but everyone was given a beautiful red rose. Lily later ate most of the stem.
In the afternoon, I made a mistake. I hurried to get ready because my class was the second one listed after lunch. I rode Lily to the gate steward who couldn't find my number listed.
"I signed up," I told her. "Ask Maureen."
Well, it turns out that she couldn't find my number because the second class after lunch was walk-trot for 9 and under. Maybe I would have stood a chance in that one, but I've been accused of trying to outrank kids before, so I left and spent the next hour riding around the fairgrounds and doing some trail riding in the woods.
Finally, the class came. Laurie gave me a few tips: fingers on the bit, bend the elbows, don't give her her head, that collects her . . . .
I tried to remember my coaching, used my rein when the judge wasn't looking, gave Lily a few love taps on the rear to remind her to keep going, and dealt with Jack, the announcer's queries of "Are you going to stay on?" and his daughter Anne's quips about "biting that tongue off."
When the class ended, I heard the judge (who's from Sandpoint) say, "I've never seen her on a horse before."
Later, when I heard, "First place, no. 152, Marianne Love," I hugged my horse and smiled for the rest of the day.
So with something borrowed, with some helpful tips and a wonderful horse, that return to the horse show arena after 25 years turned out A-Okay.