Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Showing Horses

So last weekend was an “Up” and this week started out with a “Down” that will hopefully end with an “Up.”

We decided last Friday to do a one day schooling show in Menlo Park.  The San Mateo County Horseman’s Association was sponsoring a Western Schooling show at Webb Ranch off Alpine Road and we decided to go.  We figured it would be a good, pressure-free way to ‘tune-up’ for the Diablo Association’s show the following week in Elk Grove.

We went low key, and enjoyed the opportunity to show without all the extras that go with A-rated shows.  We wore nice black jeans and pretty button down western shirts and our straw Cowboy hats, but we left the chaps and blingy tops at home.  We looked nice, but without all the glitz and glam of A-rated shows.

The show started at 9am and Todd got there at 7:30am – so early, in fact, that he beat Sharon and I there!  He had all the horses out (he brought Blu, Nazz and Rocky).  And that that reminds me, have I mentioned that we had two Appaloosas with us?  Both named Rocky!  One is owned by Sue and one by Sharon’s husband Bill.  Anyway, I digress… Todd had the horses out when Sharon and I arrived shortly after 8:00am.  We went to the show office and registered for our classes and got our numbers.  They were all very nice and gave out bags of molasses treats for the horses.  And there was a basket of carrots, too.  They know how to make horses (and their owners) happy!

Our first class was # 14 and we knew the Halter classes would go slowly so we didn’t saddle up until about class 3.  We worked the horses for a good 30-45 minutes in the warm up arena and were all having really nice rides.  When we felt like we were all warmed up we headed our horses over to the show arena so we could watch for a bit.  That was when we realized that they were still only on class 4!  Yikes. 

We knew they were having “clinic” classes before each of the judged classes (in a clinic class the judge critiques everyone and gives advice on what a judge looks for in the type of class) and that it would add extra time.  But wow!  Turns out each of the clinic classes lasted a minimum of 30-40 minutes.  I’ve never been to a clinic before (not counting Clinton Anderson’s clinic because I’m one of hundreds in the audience and I don’t have a horse there) and it was interesting.  Really.   The judge took the time to critique every horse and rider in each of the clinic classes.  And she was good, too.  But I’ll get to more of that in a bit.

When we realized that we’d have a long time until our first class we went back to the trailer and tied up the horses, gave them water and their hay nets and let them relax while we did the same.  We watched some more of the classes, enjoyed watching Sharon’s niece Emilie win a few classes, and eventually got hungry and ate lunch.  It was 12:30....and they were still only on class 10....

They announced a 30 minute lunch break after class 13 so we knew we'd be first up after lunch.  We took the time to practice in the show arena during lunch.  The footing was odd - a mixture of wood chips and who knows what - and full of hills and valleys.  I'm glad we got in the arena for a bit to get used to it.  Blu was good.  I was riding him in a snaffle and draw reins.

As the judge was getting ready to walk into the arena to start class 14 Todd switched Blu's snaffle for the bosal.  I love riding in the bosal and was happy.

But yep, I have to admit that my happiness didn't last through the clinic class.  Remember I mentioned that the judge critiques every horse and rider in the class?  I'm thinking that all I want to say is that she spent a LOT of time on us.  Blu and me.  OK, mostly me.  But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't talk about what she said.

Remember I also said she was good?  She was.  Looking back (as I have been for a few days now) and even right then, I can tell you she was spot on.

To give you and idea of what happened, let's see if I can re-create it....we were already in the arena because we'd been warming up during lunch, they announced that they were still looking for 3 horses and said the numbers (which turned out to be Sharon, Sue and my numbers) and we let them know we were already in the arena.  They told the judge the class was in, with 14 horses.  My biggest class with Blu.  Ever.. (ok - I realize I've only been showing Blu for a year, but it's still "ever")  So she has us all jog and she starts on the critique.  She is saying all this over the loudspeaker so the audience, and the riders, can hear.  It's actually really cool, and I think a great thing for people who don't know what a judge is looking for to learn with....but again, I digress.  So we're jogging around and around and around.  I'm really happy because Blu has such a nice jog...then I realize the judge is talking about me ("the paint gelding") and saying something along the lines of "most horses have one gate that is really good, and another that isn't so good.  In a lot of horses it's the jog, in others it's the lope."  (I'm thinking to myself 'how cool - she likes Blu's jog) when she continues with words to the effect of "the paint gelding doesn't have the best jog, so hopefully his lope is better" (huh?! - Really?  Maybe she ISN'T so good....!)  (I'm also thinking to myself that pride is a sin, by the way.)

She continues on to other horses and eventually asks for the lope.  I set Blu up by collecting him and he picks up the correct lead perfectly!  Whoo Hoo!!  We keep up the lope for what felt like forever (I even started getting a charlie horse in my left calf) and the judge starts talking about Blu and me again - mentioning that I'm holding him too much (I was) and that I needed to circle him (because he was starting to get a bit unruly - my words) and I look to Todd who is on the rail nodding his head.  I realize I'm getting very nervous and am holding him more than I should (ok - I realized this after the fact, looking back on it after the show) and I follow the judges instruction.  It works.  Eventually we reverse directions (this all seems to have happened in the blink of an eye) and do it all over again.  This time the judge is telling me I need to sit back (I'm thinking that I AM sitting back - but I find out later that I really wasn't).  Again, I try to listen, but eventually the class is over (Bill said it took over 40 minutes).  It wasn't one of my best rides.  OK - it was really a humbling experience.  I wanted to quit right there. (what a ninny, right?  And looking back it wasn't THAT horrible, just wasn't as good as it could have been.)

But I didn't.  Todd was great, Sharon was great, and during the break between classes they both walked me through the issues that I had and encouraged me.  And helped me realize that they were MY issues, not Blu's.  (and I realize that didn't give Todd a chance to talk to Sharon or Sue about their rides....sorry!)

Then it was time for class 17.  It was a walk/jog class.  I thought it would be good for my confidence.  And it was.  I tried to use the tools that Todd and the judge had given me, and I think the class went fairly well.  I was truly amazed when I was called for 4th place.  Though I still wasn't confident in myself, so much so that I left the arena, even though I was in class 18 and could have stayed in.  I gave my ribbon to Todd, wanted so badly to say "can I skip this one?" But I didn't!  I turned around, checked in for class 18 (a walk/jog/lope class) and went for it!

Todd told me that I didn't need to try to keep Blu slow (one of my issues in the clinic class), that I could let him go, that Blu had learned enough on his own to be slow.  With that, and the judge's instructions ringing in my ear from earlier, I focused on US and had a fun ride.  I can tell you that I tried REALLY hard to leave the reins loose.  To sit back.  And to sit solid.  And we had a nice ride.  I was, while not quite smiling, happy when we made it into the lineup.  Then the judge came up to talk to me (and only me).  She told me that I was pushing my horse and that I needed to trust him.  It was me causing the issues.  I accepted her comments with grace (they were true, and I truly hope I was graceful in accepting them) and looked at the lineup of horses and realized that there were more horses in the class than ribbons would be given to (they gave ribbons to 6th).  I knew that meant she was explaining to me why I wasn't going to place in the class.  And I was perfectly content with that because I'd overcome my mental blocks and rode a good ride for myself. I was happy!  And that is what Sharon and I planned for when we wanted to do a "fun" show.

When they started announcing the the winners, starting with 6th (the judge had been talking to me as they called 6th through 4th) I was all smiles for them, clapping as much as I could with reins in my hands, when they called out 2nd place - "Red White N Blu with Kathy Lordier" !!!!  Really?!?!  Us!?!  OMG!!!

It may have been a schooling show (which, sadly, to some people is not a "big deal", but is to me) but to me it was AMAZING!  I'm still not sure what we did to deserve 2nd place, but I've heard that going back into the arena after the clinic class issues, and riding a very nice ride (yes it's weird to say that), showed the judge that I was willing to try, and that I did learn from what she said, and utilized that knowledge.

Regardless...that 2nd place was as amazing to me as the 1st place at Rancho Murieta a month ago!

On the high note, Blu and I were done for the day.

Now I wonder, are you trying to figure out if that was the "up" and "down" that I mentioned in the title?

It wasn't all of it.

Right now I should be in my camper after my first day of classes at the Diablo Association's show in Elk Grove.  But I'm not.

Instead I'll home.  And I'll be going to see Blu at the ranch on Friday.  Why?  Because Blu and Nazz both are sick.  We're hoping it's just a cold, but it isn't worth the stress of putting them through a show to find out if it's more than a cold.  The vet has been to the ranch and given us a certificate excusing them from the show and we've notified the show manager.

Now we wait, and see how they do.  I should know more when I get to the ranch on Friday.


  1. Hey Kathy! I need to catch up and what's been going on with you and Blu. Congrats on the 2nd place finish. Sounds like it was a valuable show in more ways than one. Hope things are okay with Blu.

    I am slowly getting back to blogging and started a new blog.

    1. I'm looking forward to catching up with you, through your blog too. I miss chatting with you. :-)