Saturday, August 30, 2014

What are you trying to do?

Spending time with these lovely ladies is a huge "win".
Before I headed down to Tennessee this week for the Celebration, my husband had asked me why?  Why are you going?  What are you trying to accomplish?  I think the question stemmed from the fact that Halo wasn't really "ready."  And by "ready," I specifically mean ready to win the blue ribbon - to be extremely competitive.  But, no one knows what may happen in the ring, or who else will show up to compete.  And, while anyone who enters could win a class, its pretty absolute that you definitely cannot win if you don't go into the ring.  But Halo was certainly behind due to the fracture, and other two year olds more than likely had been worked all summer versus standing in a stall on the mend.  So, I had to think about that question. REALLY think about that question  What exactly was I trying to do?  Why was I doing this?  Scott offered me some choices. Do you want to win?  Just ride in the show?  Be with other people and socialize?  Or dress up in all your pretty outfits and ride on a pretty horse?

As I started to think about it, I guess at some level it was a little bit of all those choices - and a few more reasons too. But I took the question to heart and tried to do a little soul searching about it during my trip. I also took the trip as an opportunity to discover why other people are doing this too; going to the extreme of competing at the highest level at the Celebration.  It's not cheap. It's not easy. It's also not always fact as far as ribbons or more precisely BLUE ribbons or floral rings are concerned, there aren't many of them. In fact, per class there is a 1 in 10 chance that you will get a first place ribbon - and the stat goes down if there are more than 10 horses in your class.  And then there is politics and other dynamics, real, imaginary or otherwise.

Rachel puts a WC title on Eye on the Title
with proud dad here!  EOTT goes on to win
WGC with Krysta later in the week.
So, as my Celebration wrap up I'm going to share some things I observed and learned this week related to this topic. Spoiler alert, I'm not sure I've completely answered this question on a personal basis. However I found the exploration and thought process mesmerizing.

During the week I met many faces of competition. There is the cool, calm and confident. The one who is fairly strategic and has a master plan on how to win. How to pick and put the best horse(s) in the ring. Is connected, is knowledgable and has the resources and network to make it all happen. This really could be the most enviable position.  It seems so purposeful and for the most part very productive when it comes to blue ribbons and victory laps.

The opposite of this is the hopeful.  Many times it is someone new to the game. The type that is happy to be there, is learning, and believes anything could happen. Being part of it just may be more important than the win.  Each experience is exciting and brings the accomplishment of another goal or may mean another 'bucket list' item can be tick marked.

In between, you'll find the appreciative, the surprised, the happy go lucky, the just in it for fun, the I'm not playing, the hard worker, the in it for the love of the horse, the supporter, the frustrated, the disappointed, and so many more faces.

But that doesn't really answer the question of 'why.'  For why, we have to dig deeper, look for it more, and listen harder.  Here is a compilation of what I heard and learned as I searched for answers.

Katie "wins" the challenge
of carrying our entire dinner
order back herself!
Winning is an obvious reason. Who doesn't want to have the top horse?  I heard many stories. You get to pull out of the line up and go to the winners circle. You get the blue ribbon, the floral ring, or the trophy and all the accolades and honor that goes with it. Photos are taken and you ride the victory lap. Everyone notices the first place horse. Applause applause applause.  (Channeling Lady Gaga here…) But there is more than what we see on the surface of winning. It is the payoff for months, years or decades of hard work.  It means for many the accomplishment of specific goals.  There is pride that what you personally believe is a good horse with lots of talent, is a belief validated by others - judges, the audience, trainers, family, friends or foes. There is also a personal feeling of accomplishment of having a good ride or being a good rider.  Communicating well with your mount and being in harmony during your ride.  Or of being a good trainer. One so good that the horse performs flawlessly and delivers a max performance, and makes your amateur rider look good and feel good with the winning.  This week I looked into the eyes of a winner. She glowed. She smiled. She floated around for hours and days afterwards. She was in disbelief and said it wasn't real yet and hadn't sunk in.  A whirlwind.  A dream. Yes, it feels good to win. It can tickle you pink. Make you yell, scream, run, hug, cry, or throw a party.  If you expect it or are totally surprised by the wonderful turn of events that got you the top spot, it is
Mary is the "boss" of carrying
back her dinner too!
exhilarating. And you don't have to be the one handling or riding, I saw the delight by owners whose trainers were the ones in the ring and collected the blue.  And by trainers who celebrated the success of their clients. Pride and smiles of grooms who never even saw the ride.  In fact it reminded me again that it is a team that wins - owners, riders, trainers, grooms, parents, a whole bunch of supporters.  A whole group celebrates and jumps into the winners circle to get their photos taken or to pile on the congratulations on Facebook.

Now, while winning feels good is seems it comes with baggage. I heard winners lament. Huh?  Yep it seems there is a downside to being the winner. Fear of staying there and not losing that spot. Pressure to do not just good but exceptional - not to let anyone else down (that whole team is counting on you - you are counting on you.). Expectations and pressure to keep it up.  Defend your title, keep the tradition, don't let the competition catch up.   In some cases it means you lose something, like your novice status. One person shared a secret desire for second place. Then they keep their novice status and can continue to compete  little longer with riders more at their level than the higher level group. Winning can also mean a fear of going back into the ring. As a return means a chance you don't win again - that maybe that win was lucky - but won't stick.   So holding onto the glory of the win as long as possible can motivate decisions of when to show again. Winning can also be expensive - there is pressure to advertise, to invest in another horse to stay in that spot, to keep up with the Joneses. Or it can have an uglier side - where competitors rally head to head, or go in to beat someone else specifically.  Even feelings of being the "target" was mentioned - everyone is out to beat you.  Well of course - YOU'RE the one to beat!  The bar that has been set for all - even for yourself.
Carlan and Lil' Wayne win their class and step into
the Winners Circle with Bobby and Emily.

So winning is definitely a reason for "why"people do this.  But it was interesting to see so many angles and definitions of winning. And, what I think I learned most - is that everyone pretty universally has fears and insecurities and hopes and dreams as they go into the ring, send someone into the ring, watch a loved one from the stands, or view it from whatever their perspective is on the "team."  And, many expressed that the most healthy attitude was to do their best, and let the (judges) cards fall where they may.  Personal goals and objectives seems to be the best, healthiest approach to winning.  Each person has to find success from within - by making winning self defined.   Winning can take many forms, besides a blue ribbon.  A move up the ribbons, a safe ride or staying in the saddle, no mistakes, doing a ride never done before - such as riding at the Celebration or in the big oval for the first time, or just getting in the ring to ride and overcome the fear of doing it in the first place.  So, you can get the lowest ribbon or no ribbon and still win?  Yep, apparently so - and it is true for so many I spoke to this past week. 
Jean!  Her dream is to ride until she
is 100!  What a win that will be.

So, besides winning (blue ribbons), other popular reasons of "why" that I encountered fell into these general categories:
- Love of horses and specifically the walking horse
- Overcoming fears (like speaking in public)
- Fun - as in enjoyment, happiness, laughter, doing something you LOVE to do
- Excitement - like getting a high…like jumping out of a plane
- People - meeting new people, making new (lifelong) friends, seeing old friends, socializing
- Learning - how to be a better rider, trainer, person - learning about the TWH, skills/techniques
- Challenging yourself - raising the bar, pushing yourself, upping the game
- Bling - yep, dressing up, shopping - all the encroutements and turning out perfectly in the ring or in the audience or as a ribbon bearer
- Belonging - feeling part of a bigger something, and being with others who like the same thing
- Making a living - from trainers/vendors, a job you love means never having to work a day in your life

For me, I think the topic is absolutely fascinating - and I would love to hear from you, what is your reason for showing - and most specifically for doing a big show like the Celebration?  What is your purpose, motivation and/or desires.    Feel free to email me, text me, or stop and chat with me about it the next time you see me.  

My take away is that maybe it IS all about "winning."  But, HOW you DEFINE winning is what matters.  Anything on the list above can be a win - from a blue ribbon, to doing what you love, to meeting people, to making a difference.   What's your definition?  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Maiden Voyage

Introducing Halo.
Zzzzt, Zzzzt, Zzzzt.  Wednesday morning arrived before I knew it, and I jumped out of bed on the search for my iPhone alarm.   Boy, I hate that sound.  But this morning it was a bit more welcomed, as I knew in just a few hours I'd be entering the show ring for the very first time aboard Halo.  Our maiden voyage into the show ring!  I got out of bed and slipped quietly through the room to the bathroom, trying not to wake Tami.  "Good morning," a smiling Tami greeted me.  She always has a smile.  Well, so much for being sneaky.   I washed up, carefully applied my makeup and then pulled my hair back into a show twist.  I pinned in the bow and tucked in my hair.  Then Tami helped ensure every little frizzy was sprayed or tucked in or pinned down.  With every hair and eyelash attended to perfection, I set about double checking my necessary apparel - show shirt, chaps, boots and hat.   I decided since I was in class #2, I would wear my western show pants and a t-shirt, I even put on my new Swarovski winged necklace  (in honor of Halo) so I'd have a few less items to pack and carry.

I loaded my show items into my car and double checked that I had everything again.  This time, I also tested my bluetooth ear piece, as well as buckled my spurs onto my western boots.  Even the concho on my white western show pad was double checked and tightened.  Yep, I think everything is here, everything is ready to rock.  I slammed the trunk, jumped into the drivers seat, and headed towards Shelbyville's downtown square for my morning latte fix.  As I ordered the large latte, I did wonder if caffeine was a good idea.  Maybe a Miller or shot of Jack would have been better choices in order to calm my nerves.  But I have to say, that latte was the best ever…smooth, yummy and frothy. Maybe nerves peak taste buds - but I quickly decided, this latte was the perfect choice.  And I enjoyed every sip, as I drove through town and up through the gates that lead onto the show grounds.  I waved at the security guards as I passed through the gates - and they tipped their hats and saluted as I passed through.  The same two guys who had been there all week - and so they start to recognize you after multiple days.  I guess I'm starting to be a regular.  Although it never hurts to stop to chat and offer a smile or two.  (Okay, I flirted with the gate guards…but at least they smile and wave and let me through each day! What else would you expect from me?)

Hannah's barn is 20 and 21 right inside the entry gates and across from the grassy area where the day-trailers park.  She has two full rows of stalls - that faced each other.  So, it is convenient to see all the way down the row to all the horses.  We parked our cars all along the edge of the stalls, keeping the center open for vehicles to still pass through as necessary.  As I pulled in, Halo was already in the cross ties and waiting for me.  My heart beat a few extra fast beats and I got excited again.  I parked and jumped out, and grabbed all my show garb.  I noticed one of the golf carts was getting loaded to go up to the warmup - and I hung my shirt bag, laid my show pad on the cart and tucked my boots and makeup on the cart seat.  I put my bluetooth in my hat box and tucked my iPhone in there too.  Okay - please - I hope I remembered EVERYTHING.  I then set about making sure my saddle and girth were put on the cart too.  While that seems like an easy task - when you look into Hannah's tack room you realize there are a dozen or more black saddle bags that all look the same.  I tried to get smart by tying a blue bow on my bags - and that has turned out to be a grand idea - and I can immediately see my saddle and bridle bag among the rest. (Besides the blue is my reminder to go for the blue ribbon - just in case I forget…LOL.)

So, with everything loaded on the golf cart, and with Halo already on the move towards the DQP under the hand of Bub - I jump into the passenger seat of the golf cart and got a ride up to the warm up with Van Barnes hanging off the back holding saddles while we drove.  We parked at the entrance, and proceed to move everything up the long dirt aisle and into the warmup.   When I walked into the warmup, I noticed that they had things set up differently than the last few years.  The DQP was set up on the far end of the warmup - so the horses had to be led across the entire area to that far end.  At first that seemed strange, but then I thought, it actually was a better place, and more out of the way than the near side.  Once Halo was through DQP and back to the area where Hannah had her tack set up along the wall - I watched as all his tack was put on and fit.  I have a new saddle and tack - I used it for the first time at the International on B and D.  But today it would be placed on my little boy for his first show ring appearance.  And, I must say - he looked so dapper!  What a pretty boy to start with - and then decked out to the max in this gorgeous tack - well - oh my my.  If nothing - he is going to be one the best looking in the ring. :)  Even Hannah said that I did an awesome job selecting the tack - that it was the prettiest she'd ever seen.  And she wasn't the only one who mentioned that about his saddle and bridle set.  I  looked so long for that exact set - and couldn't believe I got such a good deal and was able to have the bridle, reins and breast collar made to match by Dale Chavez.  Thanks honey for indulging me and making this little girl's dream come true once again.

Hannah began to warm him up - but in short order, she was back to the team, and instructing his bit to be changed. So the search for the bit she wanted, and for screwdrivers to get the job done ensued.  With the bridle being new, the conchos were a bit tight and it took a bit of extra work to get the reins and bridle off and the new bit refit and the screws all tightened back up.   Hannah warmed him up more afterwards for a bit more and then I was directed up into the saddle.  The HP team set about getting my chaps zipped down, shoes wiped, Halo's mane, tail and face sprayed with Peppy - and our number put on.  It was like a busy bee-hive - and I was not the only horse going into class #2 from the barn.  So Hannah was busy warming up other horses and the team was busy putting the final touches on other riders.  Me, I pulled out into the warm up and took a test ride on Halo.  We had good sections and difficult corners - and I struggled a bit to get him to take a clean curve around the poles to make the oval.  Of course other horses were riding - and stopping and starting and oh my gosh - BUMPER CARS.   But, I pull over and out of the way of two riders, and get serious about getting a feel for this boy.  Would we have the bad ride, or the good ride. We are 50/50 this week so far - and I'm hoping this is the good variety today.  It has to be the good variety - I have to make it the good variety - my head has to be in this game - my hands have to do the right thing - my butt has to feel him, his steps, and I need to make the correction or know when to let him go.  I want so badly to make a good ride - to show off this pretty horse and all the work Hannah has put into him - put into bringing him back from his injury.  He's not where he should be yet - he's behind, but he's in a good place - and things could be so much worse.  From fracture to Celebration in just weeks.  Its a miracle.  And there sure is an angel watching over this little Halo - and her name is Hannah Pulvers.

Halo in his first show class EVER!  Check out his
pretty saddle and tack!  Pretty boy - Love.  XXOOXX.
Hannah is calling my name and signaling that I should turn on my bluetooth and we'd connect.  My phone rings, I reach up to click on the earpiece - and say "Hello, can you hear me".  "Yep" "Yep" - "Okay get him back out and let's see you go for a lap."  And, I pull back out, and ride him around the bumper ring - "Okay, slow down, that looks good, check him, slow, okay - don't worry it'll be much better once you get out there in the ring and you can ride forward without this crowd. Okay, come on back in, we'll get you ready to go - we're just a few minutes they are in the lineup now for the first class."   I pull back in and the busy bees are checking me over - a wipe, an spray and lots of well wishes and smiles.  I straighten my hat and someone notices my number isn't on - I reach back and feel it under my shirt - so I unzip, pull it out and rehang it on the outside of my shirt this time.  Jana rolls her eyes at me and smiles.  I know - right!?  I even roll my eyes at myself.  Breath.  Breath.  Try to relax so you can remember the ride - its our first.

Then the flurry of excitement comes over you - as you hear Hannah call your name and wave you over.  I step up by her and she grabs Halo and we walk in.  "Now remember to have FUN - this is all supposed to be fun!  I'll be right on the line with you the whole time," she says to me.  "Okay - go…".  I step up the steep ramp into Calsonic arena and head out into the ring. The 5 judges are all lined up facing the entrance and watch you as you enter and take the rail.  You can see their eyes follow you and turn to watch as you ride by.  He's doing great - a little check, but he feels like he is walking and moving forward nicely.  Yeah!   The footing is softer than I had expected it to be, and I can feel him dig in just a little as he goes along.  This footing can be very very hard - so this is welcoming.  And probably because its only class #2 - and class #1 was weaning in-hand - so the rail is all fresh uncharted footing.  Hannah comes back on - and compliments us on our entrance pass.  15 or so horses are in this class (I think - or roughly in the low teens) - and we stop along the far straight-away to allow the remaining horses to come in.  As they close the gate and start the class - the judges all walk to their appointed section of the arena - and the horses begin to move as the announcer asks for us to take the flat walk.  Hannah comes back online and coaches me through - check him, good, slower, good, good, you're doing it!  I'm so proud of you." - hey, I notice its all pretty positive - and to be honest, I feel a smile come across my face.  Yes, my serious riding face, cracked a smile.  I am doing it - and we are working and riding as a team.  Its more the good variety of us riding this week - and none of the bad variety.  Yeah!   I am on the rail, I have a pretty good spot - once or twice I have a horse pass me, but in spots that are not right in front of the judge.  But, more than anything - I'm so comfortable with this horse - I never feel as if he is scared or would do anything like shy or bolt - and it never crosses my mind that this little 2 year old - who's never been in a show ring ever before - is now riding in the biggest show of the year - and is being a perfect little angel.  I don't think our ride was flawless - but we had a clean ride - a good solid ride for a 2 year old - and I'm still IN the saddle. Oh, and I even smiled.

We do the flat walk, the running walk - and the reverse is called.  Back to the flat walk, the running
In Class #2 at the Celebration.
 Yes, I am smiling!
Halo looks like he's having fun too.
walk.  But, as soon as we begin the running walk, the announcer calls for a halt.  A halt?  Okay, so I stop.  "Go at ease - rider has asked to be excused," says the announcer.  And, I look up for the first time and look behind me to see a rider off her horse and the gate being opened.   I coo'd to Halo, and tell him he's a good boy.  And he just stands there and looks around as if this is all part of a normal day.  I smile.  Yeah - I have a calm one!  Then the announcer starts the class again - calling for the flat walk, running walk and flat walk again.  And all too soon, our class is over and we are called to the line-up.  Hannah had been taking to me the entire time - and in her parting words she says - "Okay, go find yourself a good place in the line-up and ready him early when you see the judges coming for the back…so you get a head start at that."  And with a click, she's gone.  Which of course leaves me wondering - hmmm, where exactly is the "good" place in the line up?  I make a split second decision - and decide its the middle.  So I pick that center destination - the half way point in the curve and head Halo to that location.  And then I realize, I don't think I have tried to back him before.  I'm sure this will be interesting.  LOL.   As the judges come down the lineup, I pick up my reins and say a quick prayer as they are backing the horse two horses away from me.  Halo's ears flick back towards me - good, he's listening for my instruction.  By the time the judges get to me, I pull and attempt a back - and tug a few more times….to which Halo amiably backs a step.  I ask him 2 more times, even though the judges are past me and moving down the line up - and then I step him back into the line.

As I exhale for probably the first time - I realize I'm soaked to the skin - and I can feel sweat trickle down the back of my knee and a few other unmentionable places.  I look over to my left and the rider next to me says what I'm thinking - its HOT and I'm sweating!  I smile and we make a little small talk.  I really hadn't noticed how hot it was until that very second.  And then it seemed to be unbearably hot.  And the wait for the results unbearably long.  But soon the announcer comes on - names all the ribbon and trophy sponsors - and provides instructions on who should go where when the winning numbers are called.  The winning horse was the girl to my left who I had been chatting with - and as she pulled out, I thought to myself - I guess THAT was the "good" place on the line-up - I was off by one slot. LOL.   Then the 2nd place was the women to my right.  I guess THAT wasn't too bad of a spot on the line-up either - again, off by 1 slot. LOL.  The ribbons kept being called, and after 6 and 7, I thought perhaps our ride wasn't as good as I had thought it felt.  But then #341, Jose's Halo for the 8th ribbon was called, and I pulled out of the line up and to the left.  Well, let me correct that, I asked for Halo to pull out - but he kinda just liked it there, so I squeezed, and he took a step - but really didn't care if he stayed or went.  So, I gave him another little kick and and he started to move forward.  But truly, I may think back one day and wish to have this moment back.  The one where the horse doesn't bolt for the exit.  He just didn't even know that we were leaving.  and he could care less.  So, I coaxed him most of the way - and eventually, he moved forward to the ribbon person to get our ribbon (with no issues), and then out the door.

Me, I was so happy we got recognized.  It was a big class - and just like our spot in the line-up - we were right about in the middle.  More than anything - we got in that ring, we had a good ride, and we got a Celebration ribbon - woot woot!   For a 2 year old - we can chalk it up to a perfect ride with no shying or other misbehaving.   Later that day I checked the judges cards - and one judge had even placed him 5th - which was nice validation.   He's a good horse - he's busting with potential.  And, I'm so pleased with his performance - and our performance as a team on our maiden voyage in the show ring.

Now that my class is over - (actually, my Celebration is over - as I'm 1-and-done - as I only had this 1 class that I'll ride in this year).  It is kind of like the little firework that they shoot up into the sky - the little one that signals that the fireworks are going to begin.  My Celebration is that first little firework.  But for me - there aren't anymore fireworks that follow.  Just that one little one - right at the start.  :)   AND, we got a ribbon.  I walked back and gave Halo a hug and a pretty yellow apple from the big bowl Hannah had out in her client suite.  He didn't know what to make of that at first - but after I bit into it, and offered him a little piece, the sweetness won him over, and he took little bites until it was gone.  I'll probably wish for this day back too - when he's gentle and takes little bites of apples as opposed to grabbing it out of my hand.  The more time I spend with this boy, the more I'm falling for him.  He's really sweet, so pretty and so likable in every way.  I really think we'll make a great team.  And once he's back and strong and we get everything behind us from his summer fracture….I can't wait to see what he's capable of accomplishing - especially under Hannah's tutelage.  For now, I just can't resist giving him a hug.  And, he even leans in and takes that like a champ too.

I spent the rest of the morning watching the other classes, cheering on other riders from HP stables, as well as Carlan and Emily.  In fact Emily wore one of my show tops - and she made it look so good!  There are such great horses at the Celebration - amazing horses - I swear every year they get so much better and more talented. If that is even possible!   So, watching in the warm-up, and in the show ring is just an experience in learning.

I'll share more in my wrap-up blog next.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect?

Getting ready for a practice ride.
Moi and Halo.
I drove down to Tennessee on Sunday - to get ready for Celebration 2014.  The show starts on Wednesday morning - and my class is on the first day - class #2.  Since I have only ridden Halo 3 times since I bought him in February (yikes) - I felt it prudent to get a few practice rides in before I showed (at the biggest show of the year!).  So, off to Tennessee early on Sunday, so I could practice Monday and Tuesday.

Jose's Halo is listed
in the program!
I decided since I was driving on Sunday that I would try to shave off a little time, and go the shorter route that goes through Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville.  Bad decision.  Although Chicago was a breeze - I ended up losing 30 minutes in construction, and then another hour sitting in traffic in Louisville.  I still don't know why the traffic was so backed up in Louisville - all I know is that I sat and inched forward for an hour - and then all of a sudden, the traffic started to open up and I was doing 65-70 again.  Go figure!  Note to self - just take the Rockford/Paducah way…(which I will do on my return - to skip the issues or delays!)   The only saving factor, was that I downloaded a book on tape onto my iPhone - so I listened to a detective book the whole way - which really helped pass the time on the drive.  It was a book from the TV show Castle.  The story of Nicky Heat - which is the character in the books that Castle writes on the TV show.  It actually was pretty good!  :)  Besides I love mysteries, detective, or murder stories.

Meet Scarlet - notice Mary looking on
while she makes me sausage!
I arrived at Mary Pickhardt's home about 7pm - and stayed with her the first few nights I was in Shelbyville.   Upon arrival, I was met by her two golden retrievers - who made it difficult to drive up the driveway in my car.  Then they proceeded to tail wag, as I unloaded my suitcases and pillow, and moved into the guest room.  Or, as Carol Olp insists - "her" room.  But, no worries Carol - I'll be gone before you even land in TN later this week.   The evening was spent catching up, watching reality TV and laughing so hard we were crying.  I love staying with Mary - its always fun.  And I think all her cats and dogs like me too.  I enjoyed the newest member of her clan - Scarlet - a calico kitten she just picked up a week earlier.  SO cute!

Monday morning I had to work a half day, and Mary made me a hot breakfast - yummy!   I then headed over to the Celebration grounds to ride Halo.  Hannah was expecting me and I headed up to Champions arena where she was working horses already.  Soon, Halo arrived, and I watched as Hannah warmed him up.  She makes it look so easy - and she makes him look really really good.  While you can definitely tell he's young and still figuring it all out - he definitely looked more advanced than when I last saw him a few weeks ago during the International.  My turn was next.  And, I struggled to get into the groove with him.  Arghh…not now!  I need to be showing in a few days.  Hannah provided some instructions and I continued to ride and try.  But, honestly, I was not getting a good feel of him.  I'm sure it was a combination of the pressure, the long trip…and just trying to remember how demanding it is to ride a 2 year old - my ride ended with me pretty frustrated.  Hannah was probably pretty frustrated too - although she provided encouragement, and sage words.  I will definitely need to work this out in 24 hours - or forget showing.

The whole line-up of banners at the HP Stables.
Halo hangs with EXCEPTIONAL company.
That evening, Mary and I went out for mexican for dinner, and then afterwards headed back over to the Celebration grounds so she could meet Halo.  He was all tucked into his stall with a huge mound of hay. He looked up and walked right over to us when I slide the door open.  He's so sweet, and very friendly.   We pet him and he just hung out for more attention.  We then took a walk to see what was happening on the grounds.  Despite it being dark, after 8pm, and the grounds mostly quiet and shut down for the night, Hannah was still working horses up at the Champion arena!  That women does not stop - she's so dedicated.  She came over and I introduced her to Mary and we talked a little while.  But in no time, Hannah was back to working the horse, and we took a stroll around the grounds before heading back to Mary's place - and turning in for the night.

Ready and waiting on the cross-ties.
On Tuesday, I again worked all morning, and headed back to the grounds to ride Halo after lunch.  He was in the cross ties all tacked up and ready to go at the barn.  I volunteered to walk him up to the Champions arena.  Hannah Pulvers Stables was in barn 20/21 - which was on the East end of the show grounds - and at the bottom of a hill.  So, we had to walk slowly up the hill, and then back down - in order to get to the arena.  This wouldn't be so bad - as maybe the walk is 3-4 blocks in distance - but the  road had been sealed recently, and it had been raining off and on - and so the pavement was very slick. Hannah had mentioned that she had a few horses slip and slide over the past few weeks on that walk - so the directive was to walk slow, and try to get the horse to walk on on the stone or grass along the side of the road as much as was possible.  It also meant, navigating trucks, golf carts, plants, garbage cans, people, and all kinds of scary signage, banners and such.   I was so impressed that Halo took it all like a champ.  He just walked along, as if none of this was any big deal.  His head was low, he placed each step carefully, and just navigated it all so calmly.  Not once did he shy or spook or even bat an eyelash.  Amazing for a 2yo.  With every step, I liked him more and more.  He's a sweetie, and a level headed one.  How did I get so lucky again!

When we got to the arena, Hannah started out riding Halo.  As I watched, I could tell she was working hard to get him where she wanted him - and he was not necessarily hitting his gait correctly all the time - or keeping it long once he did.  Oh boy - I'm not feeling very good about how my practice ride will go today on this youngster.  When she stopped and got off him - I wasn't sure if I would even be riding - but she nodded to the stirrup and indicated I should get on.  We won't know until we get me up there - how we'll do.  So, this would be a good chance to see how it goes, and decide if we'd be ready enough to show tomorrow.  I had my druthers at that moment.  And my visions of showing this year were fading fast.   We started slow.  I was dog walking him, and then started to push him up a bit.  I could feel him go out of gait, and set him to try to correct him.  It worked!  I then got on the rail, and began to work him around the ring.  He'd fall in and out of gait - but I could feel him much better today and make the corrections (sometimes even before Hannah had to prompt me).  And although it was constant work - we seemed to be working as a team.  And, once I got into a groove with him - I could release more in the reins, and felt the great work Hannah has done with him.  He'd hold his gait, and on a loose rein.  Cool.   Hannah's comments were also very positive - and after riding for a while, I was gaining more and more confidence.  As my ride ended, I tossed my fist up in the air in success.  I felt a lot better today - and Hannah said that was the horse and ride we needed to put in the ring tomorrow.  Oh, I better start praying that THIS is the ride I accomplish, instead of the one I had yesterday.  Whew.

Halo meets his banner self.  I think he likes him!
That evening I went out to dinner with Mary, Tami Steinbrecher, Kim and her daughter.  We had a great Italian dinner in DT Shelbyville - just off the square.  It was so nice to see Kim and catch up with her - and we all shared horse stories.   Kim used to show up in the WWHA, and her and Jim moved from Illinois to Tennessee a number of years ago. They were currently in the midst of building a new home - so it was exciting to hear about the progress!  I don't think anyone wanted to end the night - we continued the conversation outside the restaurant out on the sidewalk….and then finally said our good-byes.  I followed Tami back to Clearview after dinner - as I was moving into a villa with her for the balance of my stay. It was just a 5-10 minute ride into the country.  Then a left turn and a long gravel driveway ride up to the building where the bed and breakfast rooms all existed.  Our room was great - and more than ample room for the two of us - and Lola, her dog.  Lola was pretty happy that we arrived!  We talked awhile about showing and horses - but I headed to my room soon, to get a good night's rest, before my big day - and my very first show ride on Halo.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Fun and Games @ the Show

There is always something fun going on outside the ring. Hanging out watching the classes from the rail or the stands.  Standing around watching horses in the warmup or going through DQP.  Hanging out by the stalls, visiting Halo or Carlan's weanling and horses.  And, the list goes on. One thing I know for sure, is that little to no time was spent sleeping or being at the hotel. It was rise and shine early to feed , and going until after midnight riding Halo. But who needs sleep anyways. We were running on adrenaline and spotted cow. 

Halo checking out the show.

I did get to ride Halo a few times. We'd wait until the show was over and bring him into the warmup. It was exciting to watch Hannah warm him up, and I rode a few times too. The last night we were there I rode. Scott watched and encouraged me to keep going. I felt like I was riding jello, but both Hannah and Scott said he looked good. The young ones always feel so tipsy. He feels different than my others, and I wasn't sure what he knew and didn't. But I did know he was floaty and fun, even though my power steering was hit or miss. Lol. I got him to hit it a few times around, and so that made me happy. And for a young boy he sure wasn't spooky, just went where you tried to point him.  He needs saddle time for sure, but Hannah really believes he'll be ready to show at celebration. So my first official ride on him just may be in the celebration ring. Yikes!  Not the original plan - to have the first time I show him be at the biggest show of the year. What a way to start!  Can you say.... P.R.E.S.S.U.R.E.  (insert nervous laugh here.)

Scott pulled halo out a few times during the days we were there. Hannah encouraged us to take him out and let him see the show and acclimate to everything. He was amazingly calm and inquisitive about it all. He was so good. Scott loved all over him and kept saying how sweet he was. And he really is sweet. But you can't take your eye off him for two seconds without risking him nipping you. He is  like a baby - everything in the mouth. Lol. 

My show string.  What a lucky girl I am!
L to R - Diva, Bourbon, me and Halo.  (Fash - not shown)
One day we got all three of our horses out and took some photos. This may be one of the only times they are all in one place together to be able to do a good photo.  So we took advantage of the opportunity.  I felt bad that Fashion wasn't in the photo too. He's back at home in Wisconsin, holding down the paddock, but he was there in my thoughts as I stood holding three lead ropes.  My B, D, and H.   Scott took photos, Carlan tried to get ears to come forward, and Katie just ran around to help however she could.  In the end, we captured the money shot. My heart overflowed with happiness. I love this newest photo. A treasure. Or maybe I loved the look Scott gave me as he smiled watching me see it for the first time. ;).  Thanks honey for encouraging me to chase my dreams. I love you. 

Socializing is the other constant. You do the rounds, visiting stalls.  Between Carlan and Tami and myself, we not only had our row of AOT horses with Gale and Eileen, but Tami and I also had horses with Hannah Pulvers, and Carlan had horses with Joe Lester and Bobby Richards. So we had three trainer barns to visit on top of AOT row, to socialize at all day.   A swing by Halo's stall in the HP aisle.  A stop to see SNB by Joe's for Katie to pet a nose, and then a drop-in by the weanling for Carlan to show me her mare's baby.  

 It was fun to see friends and meet new people too!  A cocktail with Janet and Jordan Howell up in the Miller Suite.  A hug from the pretty Kimberly Coult who always has a smile. Catching up with a Bobby and Stacey.   Then hanging out just about anywhere you bump into someone you know, to share a story of a ride, a win, a horse for sale, or to admire a saddle.  It was fun to introduce Scott to many people he's only heard me talk about. 

Carlan and I share a "cappuccino" - that's
our secret code for beer incognito.
(yes, I'm wearing a halo.)
As the week wore on, I think we all relaxed a lot more. Show baths become small parties, as everyone walks along to help.  Katie spraying, Emily instructing, Scott with the scraper, and me washing or spraying show sheen. You meet the person washing a horse next to you. Laugh together as everyone is getting wet by accident or on purpose.  Terry the farrier stops, meets Scott and the two of them chat about the Packers.  I love this.  Charlie and Cindy stop to say hi. They are AOT riders too and we see each other in the ring, or at other shows.  Darden stops by our stalls to say hi to Scott, and to grab a Spotted cow that he opens on the side of my trailer and then hangs out for a while and opens more cows for the rest of us.  There is Dr John in his English suit getting ready to harness drive in the next class.  Carlan needs me to fix her tie. Emily checks my hair and tucks the frizzes and sprays them down with hair spray. Bub stops to shake Scott's hand and compliment us on the nice new colt.  We come to the aid of Jane who can't get her horse, Power-aid, in the trailer to take him home.  And, Katie does the water runs with the pink heart shaped pail to top off all the horses water buckets, wearing her halo.  This is what all of this is really about. 

We hang some show clothes out for sale, and by the end of the week Carlan and I sell almost everything we had put out there.  And then turn around and buy something someone else had hanging -  like a spontaneous tack swap.  I end up meeting Tracy Pinson, who purchased a pretty new blue shirt from me.  Tracy rides the top versatility horse in the world, and represents the walking horse in an amazing way!  Hope the shirt brings her more wins.  

Meals sometimes happen . Hannah invites us over for pizza or fajitas. We stop up at the consession stand or grab a donut in the show office.  Late night dinners definitely happen.  Even those are filled with stories and laughter. The last night we went to Red Robbin with Carlan and her girls and Rachel Allen.  I think we laughed so hard, we were crying. Scott has a knack of making us all laugh, and in the process teaches Katie a few new thing that I'm sure Carlan will hate him for later.  

Tami and My Little Black Dress
get the roses in the AOT all day pleasure
championship class.
Then there is the winners circle. The small, single place that everyone hopes to find themselves.  Eileen's 2yo wins his class, ridden by Gale, that takes them to the winners circle for photos.  Its so exciting to have a blue going home to Wisconsin!  Carlan and Emily get blues on Lil Wayne. And the roses are worn by Tami as she takes the victory lap with her AOT all day pleasure mare - Little Black Dress.  It's fun to be part of the celebrating that ensues after these successes. And your heart doubles with happiness for those who have smiles spread across their faces - if it's the first or
Eileen & Gale with Hot Diamond
after his 2yo class win! 
20th time there.   

So many happy memories are going home with me again. And deeper friendships than I could wish for continue to grow.  They say it was approximately 2000 entries this week.  The largest event in many, many years .  Congratulations to everyone who won a blue, or achieved their own personal goals. And thank you to Tommy, Sis and the entire WHOA team for putting on this outstanding show.  The DQPs who checked about 4000 hooves.  Dee Dee, the best ever WHOA board ambassador who ensured we were all having fun.  Truly, this was the BEST International so far….and its so sad it over.  Can't wait for next year.  Next stop, Celebration!

The International Report Card

Although I had good blogging intentions, once the showing starts it gets tough. Since I'm in the passenger seat on my way home and Scott's at the wheel., I thought I'd write my wrap up on my classes for the week. 

Diva in the line-up at the end of our
western AOT country pleasure class.
Diva showed on tues and weds nights and was in the ribbons - 5th and 6th in larger classes in the country pleasure division.  Doing better western than english.  We sparkled more in the western bling i guess.  On Thursday Scott arrived and B had his first class of the week.   His 1st class was english and the competition was deep with grand champions and world grand champions- yikes!  That is always intimidating when you see them warming up before the class and know they will be in your class.  Such great horses.  He pulled out a 6th placement behind WGCs  like Firecracker, Suiza and Leo Decaprio. So all said, not too shabby in a large class that counted in the 'teens. We got a piece of it. 

On Friday both Diva and B showed in western.  In the same hot competitive field B got 5th...and one judge even placed him 2nd ahead of a few WGC, which was exciting!  There are three judges, so it's always interesting to see what each placement is, as well the final standings. They post the judges cards in the show office, so you can go see them each day. 

Love my mare - showing my
affection with my
heart western attire.
Next on board was Diva, in western. I slipped into my blingiest bling bling western shirt to ensure we wouldn't be overlooked and rode her on in.  She did an awesome job, and she gave her all in this class. She felt good and I was all smiles as I pulled into the lineup. She got 8th in the class, which was a little disappointing for how great she felt, but in the ribbons nonetheless.  And again among some super outstanding horses.  I couldn't be prouder of her, my shaking machine. Love this mare. 

B hit the rail for the trail AOT class and this time pulled a 3rd.  This was probably his best ride of the week as far as performance.  Although our grand entrance was a trip as we entered the  ring. I guess we got that out of the way right away. Doh!  But then we picked it up and were in sync for the rest of the ride. Since B is 5, western is one-handed, and that's new for us this year.  So I'm happy we made it both ways of the ring and stayed on the rail without mistakes.  The third placement felt good, we were climbing the ribbons.  He was such a good boy as usual and we are really starting to click. 

B is the 2014 Reserve Grand Champion
AOT/OAT Trail Pleasure horse!
On Saturday we decided to enter one championship class.We would show back with B to give him one more go at it. Scott picked his favorite shirt for me to wear and we decided we'd definitely do the western class. I pulled out the Dale Chavez tack and moved his bit onto the matching headstall. Our class was about halfway through the noon set. We readied everything and went through DQP and into the warmup rIng to tack him up.  I then worked him in the warmup for a few classes prior to his. Then our class was called and we all lined up to enter the ring. It was a smaller class, many riders that don't fair well typically don't show back.  It was only 4 horses who came back.

 We entered the ring second in line and before we reached the opposite end of the ring the gate was closed and the class was being judged.  B was moving along, although he felt a little sluggish, so I asked him to move on up. There, better. Flat walk, running, walk and reverse and do it again. I focused on setting his speed the best I could to get max head shake.   Before I knew it, the lineup was called and we rode to center ring to park and back. Firecracker won the class and the judges gave B the reserve. Yeah!,  I pulled B out of the lineup and over to Sis, who reached up and put that red ribbon around Bs neck. It reminded me of the time D won a reserve championship.  And for the championship classes, both the reserve and the winner get to do victory laps. So off I went, and as I took the rail for my solo victory lap Tommy Hall announced the reserve, Watchin For The Storm and Renee Stasiewicz, and we took the rail at the curve and rounded to the straightaway and rode right out of the ring. Those laps are so much fun. A bit scary-as now eyes are all on you-but fun. And it's great to hear the cheers and clapping as you go out. As firecracker exited, Wayne
The Red & Blue ribbon winners in the 'circle!
Bourbon, me, Wayne and Firecracker.
Westbrook jumped in the winners circle with me, and both of us got our photos taken together with our horses. I know Wayne from when we were over at Hannah's with theses horses.  So it was nice to see Hannah's horses move to AOT division and continue to perform well with their owners. 

So that wraps up the show report on our classes for 2014. Another great year. And our horses were always in the ribbons and made every judges card, even in the largest classes. Plus we got to take a reserve championship lap.  Woot woot.