Buddy and I were the first ones on C's slate of classes - she was riding her horse Trinity shortly after, so the two of us headed out to the main arena to longe the two horses. Surprisingly, neither of the two wanted to play. Buddy settled into a workman-like trot, not even bothering to snort at the pinto gelding circling at a brisk lope next to us.
The footing where I ended up was deep, and since he didn't show any signs of wanting to bounce around, I let him stay at a trot. I didn't have a watch on, but we did somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes in both directions - long enough for him to be warm-ish and not quite puffing.
Back in his stall with a cooler on, he sighed, cocked a hip and went to sleep. It was a brief nap, however - very quickly it was time for braiding and for tack for him and another quick change for me.
One of the weirdest things about showing with a group? I didn't get to tack my own horse. I saddled, unsaddled, wrapped legs, brushed, watered, fluffed tails, distributed hay, and tacked Buddy for Eric's rides, but for my classes someone else saddled him - I was supposed to stay clean.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've had someone else saddle my horse for me since I was tall enough and strong enough to tighten a cinch myself, and I can honestly say the novelty won't grow on me. While I appreciated the luxury, it was definitely strange.
There was plenty of time to warm up, and Buddy felt smooth and confident under me. I remember thinking, "I hope he feels this good in the class!" I suspect he heard me, because he was certainly suspiciously cooperative - until our class was called.
Once again, I entered first, but this time I managed to count how many were in with me. It was easy enough, since we'd already made most of one lap by the time the other two entered. Circling, I did my best to keep Buddy rated back, but he wasn't interested in slow. His nap was a lot more effective than my morning caffeine!
I did manage to keep him in better frame than the night before, I think, but Eric kept signalling me to slow him down. The best I could do was steady him and try to make my ride look as effortless as it really wasn't. The first canter transition I didn't get his hip in enough and he caught the wrong lead, but I felt it and was able to bring him back to a trot and ask again with better luck. Either the judge missed our bobble or one of the other riders did something more unforgivable, because when she called for a line-up I left the ring with another red ribbon. Her only comment to me? "Fresh this morning, isn't he?" Yup.
E untacked Buddy and threw a cooler on him while I changed. Then it was all hands on deck to get the western pleasure horses and the reiners wrapped, tacked and over to the warm-up ring. C rode and took a blue, but I missed it holding a horse. Eric was in and out, hopping on to warm up the Country English horses and then changing gears to the more sedate western pleasure. I went where pointed, held what was handed to me, ran for electrical tape to fasten wraps and forgotten numbers, and just generally had a great time.
Sunday's judge was a brisk one, and classes clicked by at a steady rate helped by the fact that the numbers were a bit thinner than on Saturday. For some, I think the regional show for Region 10 in Saint Paul is a much closer drive than the the one in Lincoln, Nebraska for Region 6, so they didn't stay.
Eric's second ride on Buddy resulted in another blue ribbon. He made it look effortless. Back in his stall, I took Buddy's mane down for the second time and turned him loose to eat, drink and nap until it was time to get ready again. In the meantime, the six or seven junior riders scrambled in and out of Country English, costume, show hack and western pleasure garb and back in again, sometimes multiple times. Parents scurried around, E and C ticked off classes, shuttled horses, and made the whole machine run smoothly. I don't think either of them sat down once all day for longer than 30 seconds at a stretch.
Time flew by - helped out by the decision to cut the supper break to 15 minutes - and it was time for Buddy and I to go out again. Eric shooed me off to dress, although at least I managed to fly through my change quickly enough to get back in time to at least help get Buddy tacked up. We didn't do much warm-up, I just walked some easy circles in the hold area outside the ring. Buddy was alert and paying attention, and when the gate opened, in we trotted, me prepared for a repeat of the morning's tug-o-war.
What I wasn't prepared for was how tired he was. Our trot was great. The canter transition was correct, but it felt like the transition to hand gallop wasn't coming and wasn't coming, and he broke to trot in front of the judge before I could catch him. I sent him right back up, but when he did it again going the other way, I was pretty sure we wouldn't place well. In fact, we did better than I'd anticipated, ending up with a third place ribbon.
Eric was disappointed, as he'd wanted me to qualify for another class for regionals - I was more than satisfied. Buddy was tired, I was tired, and he gave it a good effort. I just wasn't prepared for him to run out of steam, and I didn't help him enough. Eric saw it too, and although he'd intended to ride him in open hunter pleasure later in the evening, he scratched. Buddy was done.
Once again, someone else pulled tack. I rehung my soggy shirt and breeches, played a completely different kind of tug-of-war getting my boots off, stepped into my jeans and yanked my much slobbered upon, very dirty sweatshirt back over my head. Buddy was standing patiently in his stall, tied and still braided, but it was the work of only a few moments to fingercomb his braids out and resettle him in his blanket. A clean damp rag to wipe off the shiny eye goop, and I turned him loose so he could relax.
The handful of classes left went by in a more relaxed fashion. C showed me how to braid and sock tails, and I helped with that, then made the rounds with more clean damp rags to make clean faces. Parents started trailing by with garment bags full of show clothes. The girls emerged from the dressing room in jeans and sans glittery hair jewelry. Horses dozed standing, hips cocked or in a couple cases, flat out in their stalls. The show was winding down, and with the last of Eric's horses back, suddenly it was time to start packing up.
I stayed to help with the breakdown, both because I hate being one of those people that lets someone else do all the dirty work and because quite frankly I was having a good time. I wasn't the only one. Many hands made lighter work, and by nine the first load of horses was well on the way home, tack was packed, and all of the curtains were down, rugs folded, and everyone had a chance to finally sit down for a bit. With enough hands left to do the final load out, I headed for home, another hour's drive in front of me before I could call it a night.
All in all? It was an interesting experience. Everyone was more than kind, and made me feel really welcome. I learned. A lot. I'm still pretty sure I'm not cut out for showing on that level, but it was an adrenaline trip I won't forget in a hurry.
I took a Tylenol and fell into bed, waking up this morning to the reality of a ton of dirty laundry, a lawn with knee high dandylions, and two lawn mowers that refuse to start. Gotta love Mondays. And Sunny, Thunder and I are going to do this again next weekend? I must be nuts!