Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our first Celebration Ribbon - 2012

Calsonic Arena - home of
the Pleasure classes at
The Celebration!
The 2012 Celebration has arrived!  And since I can't contain myself, I'll jump right to the punchline....Day # 1 delivers our very first Celebration ribbon!  A fifth place in the 3yo Trail Pleasure English class.  Yippee!

Here I am hauling that BEAUTIFUL pink ribbon out of the Calsonic arena.  ;)

So to rewind a bit. I came down to Shelbyville, TN on Sunday, and got in a few practice rides on Bourbon before the festivities began. Great rides and Hannah certainly has B in a really, really good place. Every time I come down to see him he just is better than the last time I was here .  The weather is pleasant - it's been in the 80s.  And, the overall mood in the barn is relaxed but with definite excitement in the air. Many customers are arriving and riding and I get the opportunity to meet a few I haven't yet, and reconnect with a few others I have. I also got to have lunch with some fellow barn-mates, including lunch with Wayne, her husband and friends at Bell Buckle cafe, salad bar with Jane, Carlan and Stacey, and a mexican dinner out with Sheryl and Krista, both of whom have WGC horses. I am hoping that just spending time with all of them will be lucky for me.   ;)

So, Monday and Tuesday are practice and prep days, and of course horsey SHOPPING. And, I've been weaving in half days of work, but I'm going to leave those details to your imagination.  

This week I am staying at a little B&B that is literally one block down from the Celebration grounds.  I lucked out on a room and while I miss Jane and our fun camaraderie, it is only 3 minutes from Hannah's and B, and a few minutes walk to the show.  Plus, there are other guests here for the show as I have been enjoying morning breakfast along with horsey conversation each day. Lisa and Kevin are from NC and have a park horse with a trainer named Patrick Thomas...and they got a blue today in fact. So, excitement of WC (world champion) titles here at the B&B as well.

The owner/breeder of
Strolling Jim's mamma!
Another fun fact is that the proprietor of the inn has walking horse history. Her father was the man who bred his mare to Wilson's Allen to bring us Strolling Jim, the very first world grand Champion horse at the very first Celebration. A photo of her father and mother hangs in the guest room I occupy. Which is very cool.  This too could be a lucky charm for me. 

That basically brings us today. I woke at 630am for breakfast at 7am. And shortly after 8am was hiking down the lane to The Celebration grounds. Conveniently Hannah's trailers were all parked in the grassy area right in the corner closest to my B&B. And there was Bourbon, tied to the trailer and enjoying his bag-o-breakfast hay amoung the 19 other horses from Hannah's barn that would compete today.  Yep, I said 19, umm, and thats only today!  I helped hold a few horses to be hoof polished and then walked into the Calsonic arena to catch a few of the first classes of the day.   Unfortunately, as those close to the walking horse industry know, there is poor publicity surrounding the breed, and so the place was occupied by the media. In fact, when I was watching the first model class a woman came up to me and was asking about the class and if other riding would take place, etc.  I came to find out quickly that she was from the media.  In addition, a few photographers were seated in my section who were taking photos inside the arena as well. I think they weren't  finding much "dirt" today, since it was all pleasure classes, which are less susceptible to the controversies of the moment. 

B gets swabbed!
Anyways, I went back to the trailer to collect B about class number 7 and proceeded to take him through DQP, the checkpoint. But what's this?  A swab station? As I entered the walkway up to the DQP, everyone was being stopped and a team approached with a Q-tip and swabbed it on both of Bourbon's feet, and sealed it in a tube that they made me verify was marked correctly. All very CSI forensic like. Interesting. The test is used to uncover any agent that shouldn't be used, aka for bad reasons. I'm confident Bourbon will 'pass', but the rumors say that even fly spray or other common horse related products can test against you. So, obviously everyone is a bit paranoid. The result of a failed test is loss of your ribbons, fines and other penalties from showing.  Very serious consequences. 

Entrance to the DQQ and
warm-up ring at Calsonic.
Next, it's on to the DQP checkpoint where they have you walk the horse in a figure 8 around cones and hoof test and palptate the feet. Again looking for signs of abusive training methods. Of course we pass. So, with a green thumbs up we are into the warmup ring to tack up and warm up before my class. Dozens of trainers are dotted around the warmup area, and dozens more horse and riders are in the middle riding. It's mass chaos at it's finest. I watch Hannah warmup B and then climb aboard myself to test run him through his gaits. I hated this tiny, chaotic warmup pen last year and once again I will confirm that opinion this year.  The next 30-45 minutes are filled with warmup ring loathing, standing around, and waiting. Even B was fed up with it all and decided he'd try to chew his way out, starting with the bit in his mouth.  Oh please call our class soon before he succeeds at his little knashing task. Yeah!  Finally they call class 11, the 3 yo trail pleasure English class. 

The ramp into the ring.
Hannah walks in her mom, who
wins a WC on Sky in this class.
Hannah had ridden her lite shod horse in the class prior, and had won!  So literally she exited from her victory lap, handed off her horse, and ran to the entry gate so she could shuffle her clients, including me, into my class. I don't think she blinked twice about it, and that victory lap was her very first WC ride she ever had personally.   What a shame she couldn't have reveled in that moment longer. But, she is unbelievably dedicated and of course this is all the territory of her job. So, one by one she waved us up the famous ramp that you go up as you enter the ring. I was about the fifth or sixth horse into the ring of about 15 entries in my class. So up, up and in I went, with a few last sage words of advice from Hannah. 

B was ready to roll, maybe a bit too ready. But I squeezed the rein a bit to adjust his speed and we made a great entry pass for the judges. And once everyone was in we took the rail and the flat walk was called. I was lucky to set myself up well away from other horses to give the judges an uncrowded view of Bourbon. And our first way of the ring went well, except for some head shaking by B.  He must still be a bit perturbed from the long pre-class detainment, I thought. Or was it water in his ears....his mane tickling him or 3yo fidget fit?  Not really wanting to truly learn the answer, I went about the class keeping him in rhythm at a perfect tempo with his hooves.   The reverse was called which restarted the work of me getting my little fidget meister under control and then we were called into the line up in the East curve. Whew. He was a handful today. But he sounded good and I felt in sync with his stride and shake.  So now the long wait to find out what the judges thought. And as the starting statement of this blog entry professed, we got fifth, a pink ribbon, our first ever ribbon at the Celebration!  Way better than our non-placement of last year. Yippee.  And he made EVERY judges card, including two 4th place ties from 2 of the 5 judges. Double yippee!

So, Day #1 brings my very first Celebration ribbon. And another huge accomplishment for B and me in our showing adventures. Tomorrow I have two western classes, so we'll have to see how we do in those classes, certainly with hopes that our fine progress continues.  Until then....

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